I enjoyed this book from start to finish. The main thing I liked was the prose--very confident, poignant, dripping with black humor. As many others ha...moreI enjoyed this book from start to finish. The main thing I liked was the prose--very confident, poignant, dripping with black humor. As many others have commented, Jorg has a magnetic personality. The oftentimes horrible things he does only make the reader want to know more about what makes him tick, and by the end of the book we find out there is actually quite a bit more to his behavior than is originally explained. The pacing is perfect, moving right from tense situation to tense situation without feeling rushed or forced, and the worldbuilding is some of the best I've ever seen. There are perhaps some things which stretch believability, such as Jorg killing people too easily and some others which won't be mentioned due to spoilers, but Lawrence succeeds so beautifully in winning the reader's trust as a storyteller that they doesn't much detract from the experience. Can't wait to read the sequel.(less)
I was excited to read Rust because I've always thought that Christopher Ruz's voice was made for horror. Horrific imagery leaks through in bits and pi...moreI was excited to read Rust because I've always thought that Christopher Ruz's voice was made for horror. Horrific imagery leaks through in bits and pieces in his other speculative fiction, and he has propensity to get very personal with thoughts and desires, as well as hold nothing back from a character's raw experience, even at the expense of making the reader uncomfortable.
All I can say is that I was not disappointed. Horror is one of those love/hate genres for me-if done well it can be amazing, but almost all the time you see it it's not done well. And if making good horror movies is difficult, then writing good horror must be nearly impossible, because I can count on one hand the number of horror authors I've read who really got under my skin. With Rust, Ruz has joined an elite cadre of authors including King and Barker who can do horror well.
There's a lot to like here, starting with the setting. Rustville is a suitably disturbing playground for all manner of macabre adventures had and yet to come, and the brilliant decision to place the series in the mid-1980′s only ramps up the creepiness and sense of dread (horror is so much better when no one has a cell phone). The plight of the main character Kimberly, waking up in a life she assumes must be a lie but which all evidence points to being real, adds a mysterious touch to the heart-pounding, skin-crawling action. But most of all, the story just flows in that typically Ruz-ian fashion, events transpiring at just the right pace to draw you in and not let go.
I'm also a fan of the serialized format, mimicking how shows like Lost follow one continuous storyline, while also delivering a separate climax at the end of each season. One thing I would like to see for future seasons would be an expanding of the cast to be more of an ensemble, though the focus on Kimberly and Fitch this time around works well as an introduction.
So I see that Goodreads encourages authors to review their own books, but that they encourage us to "consider posting a brief essay about your book's...moreSo I see that Goodreads encourages authors to review their own books, but that they encourage us to "consider posting a brief essay about your book's inspiration in the review space."
The first sentence I ever wrote to describe The Reintegrators was: "An inter-universe coming-of-age story."
I still like that phrase, because it captures what I think is the main theme of the novel: marrying a character's process of self-discovery with the external discovery of strange and fantastic realms.
Even though I enjoy reading for many reasons, I've always had a soft spot for books that make me think. This is something the SF/F genres do especially well, because they force readers to understand the intricacies of entirely new worlds in order to appreciate the story.
In the case of The Reintegrators, I went a little further by designing the novel as mysteries within a mystery; on top of the overriding question of what happened to Teddy's father, each world Teddy visits is its own mystery, because each holds a secret which reveals it to be more than it initially appears.
In addition, the book challenges readers by imposing a bit of an unusual narrative structure--not with the usual flashbacks and flash-forwards, but done in a way most have probably never seen before.
I'm the first to admit that the above elements may surprise readers who go in expecting a straightforward adventure tale. But personally, I love being surprised when a book ends up being more than it seems, as long as the story itself remains coherent and satisfying.
However, if you do find yourself growing confused, I offer this tip: pay attention to the bold chapter titles underneath the chapter numbers, because they're rather important :). As long as you remember to do this, I don't think many experienced readers of SF/F should have trouble following the plot.
That's about it! Thank you for your interest in my book, and happy reading.(less)
Science fiction, for all its great successes over the decades, has at times earned a reputation for producing too many works that are cookie-cutter or...moreScience fiction, for all its great successes over the decades, has at times earned a reputation for producing too many works that are cookie-cutter or derivative. That’s why it’s refreshing to see a book like Khe which, while taking the form in interesting new directions, still nails the basics—a sympathetic main character, exciting adventure, and world building that unfolds gradually and leaves room for surprises at the end.
The book opens with Khe, a female humanoid alien on a distant planet, living as a laborer in one of many agricultural “communes” (actually, it opens with a prologue which consists of a tense scene from the middle of the book, but the story proper begins at the commune). Khe’s species differs in a few ways from humans—the most notable being the mating ritual known as Resonance, where fertile females are guided to their mates by colors that appear to them in the sky. Khe’s life is turned upside down when, despite being of age, she fails to experience the Resonance, leaving her “broken.” An operation intended to allow her to mate appears successful, until she realizes its side effects: a mysterious power over plant life, and seemingly accelerated aging. Facing premature death, she sets out across the Wilderness towards the city of Chimbalay in search of help.
Aside from the detailed world, what I enjoyed most about Khe were the unconventional themes. Topics such as the meaning of fertility, acceptance in one’s community and self-sacrifice are rarely touched on in science fiction, and may resonate (sorry) with female readers. However, I found myself wishing at times that some of them were explored more fully, or some situations or characters fleshed out before Khe moves on to other parts of her journey. The ending in particular resolves very quickly, and doesn’t leave much room for closure on some of the topics explored in the narrative.
Also, Khe contains a set of illustrations interspersed throughout the pages, and while I thought they were generally well-drawn and helpful for visualizing the story, the last one sort of gives away the ending of the book. Reader be warned.
Still, I would recommend Khe to any fan of science fiction or science/fantasy adventure, especially those bored of the typical “man on a spaceship” archetype. I look forward to what Ms. Razevich’s wild imagination produces next.
The Haunted Horn is an entertaining, sharp ghost story with a setting and characters that many kids will easily relate to. Although the target audienc...moreThe Haunted Horn is an entertaining, sharp ghost story with a setting and characters that many kids will easily relate to. Although the target audience is a bit young for my tastes, I would recommend it to any middle school reader who enjoys modern adventure with a bit of spookiness mixed in.
The story follows Alex Mitchell, an awkward, skinny boy troubled by both the malevolence of a school bully and the indifference of his own distant father. Alex finds the titular horn at an estate auction and, while trying to impress a rebellious girl named Annie, ends up loosing a supernatural presence that wrecks increasing amounts of havoc on his town each night. It’s up to Alex and Annie to figure out the mystery of the haunted horn and placate the ghosts they’ve unleashed, if bullies and overbearing parents don’t stop them first.
With more than 40 books to his name, Willett is clearly no dilettante. His polished prose and excellent characterization make Horn a fun, quick read. Kids will enjoy the convincing small-town America setting, and the troubles Alex has making friends and dealing with bullies will likely seem familiar as well.
That being said, I do have an issue with the way The Haunted Horn was presented to me as “YA,” because after reading it, I’m finding that categorization to be a bit of a stretch. One might make an argument that young adult fiction can cover ages as low as 12, but the fact remains that most junior high schoolers would find this book exceedingly tame (heck, my nearly 13 year old niece likes The Hunger Games, for Pete’s sake). And I don’t just mean in terms of language or sexual/violent content, either; Horn’s ghosts are not especially scary or threatening, and the plot itself takes few risks. While I’m sure many middle schoolers (or their parents) will count these attributes as a positive, actual young adults (or the young adult at heart) may want to look elsewhere.
One last complaint: the book presented to me did not contain chapter markers in its status bar or a table of contents, so readers who like to see when they are nearing the end of a chapter should be warned that they are in for an irritating time.
Score: Four (colorized) Lassie reruns out of five.(less)
Now listen good, you ugly mugs–this here is a review of a book going by the name of The Troubleshooter. Subtitle? Well that’d be New Haven Blues, no r...moreNow listen good, you ugly mugs–this here is a review of a book going by the name of The Troubleshooter. Subtitle? Well that’d be New Haven Blues, no relation to Connecticut if that’s what your beancan is pondering. It just happens to be the story of a private dick with the name Mick Truble, and how he travels the mean streets of the far future, cracking off lead and putting the moves on beautiful dames in a tangled stumper of a caper.
Cough, excuse me, must have had something in my throat; too many unfiltered cigarettes, I guess.
The Troubleshooter is told in first person perspective though the eyes of Mick, who at the outset is offered a case with high enough pay to get him out of debt with the Russian mob. What happens next involves plenty of noir staples–seedy nightclubs, gangsters, and more gun battles than you can shake a fedora at. Mick begins by chasing a MacGuffin called “the leg,” although his quest eventually shifts to intercepting some lightly-explained technological doohickey with the power to save the entire yadda yadda. More guns are fired, buildings explode, and many things turn out not to be what they seem, incidentally leading to a flashback that shows an event which we’ve already been told all the details of (whoops).
Really though, it doesn’t make much of a difference whether Mick was trying to find a super-powerful techno-artifact or a Maltese falcon or anything else. This book will likely appeal to those with an affinity for hard-boiled old-time detective novels (at several points, Mick waxes nostalgic about the merits of cars shaped like Duesenbergs and six-shot revolvers), and the sci-fi setting, especially in the first half, is almost incidental. But the good news is that Constantine’s writing is clever and readable, and doesn’t take itself too seriously; Mick’s sense of humor is evident in the form of many, many one-liners, most of which made me chuckle while only some made me roll my eyes and groan. The plot whizzes by with plenty of action, and I really liked the twists and thought the ending was well done.
The trouble (Truble?) is, Mr. Constantine has a bad habit of dropping information about characters and surroundings in the form of expository paragraphs. While this can sometimes help by moving the plot forward quickly (and hey, maybe Mick just happened to be thinking of New Haven’s power shortages, or having an internal narration about the socioeconomic conditions of a neighborhood he’s been in hundreds of times), the paper-thin supporting characters decidedly do not. In particular, Mick’s two comrades-in-arms, Poddar and Rob, have the combined personality of a corpse, and the rest of the cast barely fares better. As a result, Mick is left to carry the entire story by himself, and while he pulls it off to some extent, parts of the middle felt like a drag to me; it’s tiresome to have too many gunfights in a row where we don’t care what happens to most of the participants. I would like to see Mr. Constantine continue to utilize his skills with biting, humorous prose in future works, while also focusing more on the emotional conflicts of both his heroes and villains.
Rating: Three darb bioguns hidden in a nimrod’s flogger out of five.(less)
As Century of Sand opens, we are presented with a chilling scene: a man, clutching the limp body of a young girl, escapes a castle by cover of night....moreAs Century of Sand opens, we are presented with a chilling scene: a man, clutching the limp body of a young girl, escapes a castle by cover of night. Nothing is said about who he is or where he is going, but through the language of well-chosen details we sense the seriousness of his crime and the precious nature of his cargo. A glance back over his shoulder makes us feel his anxiety; we are in his shoes now, facing the guards ahead with feigned assurance, knowing that any break in our resolve will spell certain disaster.
And that’s just the first two paragraphs.
Century of Sand is nothing less than a triumph of well-crafted storytelling. It succeeds on several levels, boasting elegant prose, entertaining adventure, well-drawn characters and a consummately developed fantasy world.
The story follows a soldier named Richard, who has betrayed his regent, the Magician, and stolen two items of immeasurable value: a magical stone which may or may not contain the secret of eternal life, and his own daughter, a mute girl named Ana who was being raised in the Magician’s “care.” His goal is to return the stone to its place of origination: the Ant Tower, a colossal, demonically possessed termite mound deep in the desolate Meritran desert. Even in the best of times the journey would be impossibly perilous, but Richard has many additional complications to deal with: the Magician’s deadly forces on his tail, his daughter’s mysteriously distant nature, and his own flaws and foibles, some of which were responsible for leading him to such a desperate situation in the first place.
While all the major characters in Century are fleshed out and interesting, the real star of the show is the relationship between Richard and Ana. A major theme of the book is Richard’s failing as a parent, and Ana’s innocence (which works in contrast to the darker aspects of her nature) as a possible redemptive agent. Their relationship is subtle and touching, and develops nicely as the story progresses. I will avoid discussing some of my favorite scenes to prevent spoilers, but suffice to say Ruz does an excellent job communicating some of the horrible paradoxes of love and frustration that come with having a child.
According to Ruz’s website, Century of Sand took four years to write, and it shows. The prose is polished and honed, with barely an extraneous sentence or word to be found in its 400+ pages. If Ruz puts the same amount of shine on the next two books of his proposed trilogy, then readers will be in for a treat, once more of them discover this diamond in the desert wastes.
Rating: Five burnouse-covered demon hearts out of five.(less)
HYM and HUR is a somewhat whimsical short story involving two fairy-like beings who make a pact with Death, and in the process cause trouble for an in...moreHYM and HUR is a somewhat whimsical short story involving two fairy-like beings who make a pact with Death, and in the process cause trouble for an innocent human and his girlfriend. Despite its sometimes uneven characterization, it succeeds as a light read with brisk pacing.
The story revolves around a prank, planned by the titular characters, who are a pair of seemingly immortal young lovers with magical powers. They meet Death, who offers to help them, as long as they agree to some slightly more complex terms than they originally envisioned (hey, there’s no way anything could come of that, right?). After a bit of a false start, they decide on a subject: down-on-his-luck artist Archie, who refuses to paint in color. After Archie prevents his beloved from dying using the power over death he has unknowingly been granted, things quickly start to get out hand thanks to Death’s shenanigans (how surprising), and Hym and Hur must scramble to fix what they’ve set in motion.
What exactly Hym and Hur are or where they get their powers is never explained, although there are some clues scattered throughout the story if a reader wishes to form his or her own conclusions. Perhaps less compelling from a novelty standpoint is Death, the personification of which is certainly a very well-worn fantasy trope. But at least Frey’s incarnation is more lively than most, with a personality that could be best described as making him seem like a bit of an asshole (which is no less than he deserves). The human protagonists are likable enough, and their narrative makes an interesting counter-point to the supernatural plot-line, but they are treated with kid gloves, and never put in real jeopardy that might broaden their characterization.
The impression that HYM and HUR left me with was: amusing and quick, with some nice touches here and there, and written in a simple, straightforward voice (which I like). Unfortunately, I feel like Frey’s writing style became more sloppy as the story went on, almost as if his enthusiasm got the better of him. Wayward participles, misused words (“reeking havoc”) and typos became more noticeable. If Mr. Frey slows down and puts more polish on his work, and tries to plumb some deeper emotional depths, I’d like to see more from him in the future.
Rating: Three ambulatory cadavers out of five.(less)