As CEO of the world's most successful energy company, Lowell Bracken is at the top of his game and beginning to plan for his children to succeed him.As CEO of the world's most successful energy company, Lowell Bracken is at the top of his game and beginning to plan for his children to succeed him. But when a small upstart solar power company enters the scene, it triggers a series of political dominoes that will completely destabilize the power structures of the entire planet, and Lowell will be lucky to escape with his children - and his skin - intact.
This one is hard to pigeon hole. Part eco-drama. Part fantasy. Part political thriller. It's set on an alien planet, but with a tech level similar to our own. There is some kind of pseudo-magic, and dragons, but both are kept fairly low key in this first installment.
Despite these promising elements, this one didn't quite grab me. Lowell in particular seemed rather inconsistent. He's touted as a ruthless and ultra-savvy CEO who built his company up from ashes, against heroic obstacles. But when the chips were down, I never saw any of that heroic ferocity and competence in evidence. If anything, he comes across as a has-been who is now easily duped and slightly bewildered. It's one of those cases where the author describes the kind of character we all love to admire, but doesn't actually write him in a way that's consistent with that hype. And while some of the other characters do live up to their billing, they are so uni-dimensional that I wasn't able to bond emotionally with any of them.
Overall, I felt like this book took me to the brink of a really enjoyable ride, but left me standing there. It didn't quite have the horsepower to tip me over the edge and deliver....more
When Grif Vindh and his crew pull into the Tylaris system to celebrate after pulling off an impossible heist, all hands begin dreaming of what they'llWhen Grif Vindh and his crew pull into the Tylaris system to celebrate after pulling off an impossible heist, all hands begin dreaming of what they'll do next. But the one thing nobody expected was that they'd have to go back and do it all over again. And worse: this time, the mark knows they're coming.
If you told me that Mike Resnick was going to adapt The Sting, and set it in space, this is the book I'd expect him to deliver. Quite simply, it's one of the best indie books I've ever read - and I've read hundreds. The only blight on the entire experience was the odd choices for title and cover art. Once you've read the book, the title makes perfect sense, as it's a reference to a running gag in the story, but it sets entirely the wrong tone for what the story is actually about, which is probably causing a lot of potential readers to skip on past it. And the cover art, while professional looking, fails to convey the frenetic drama of the grown up action adventure that lies inside. (IMO, Resnick's covers offer much better examples of how this kind of story should be packaged.)
But ignoring the issues of packaging, if you like cocky heroes, witty banter, a fast moving plot, and enough twists to braid a yak, then your reading list is incomplete until you've put this one on it....more
Rather than go on again about the emotional paralysis that governs every single character and causes 90% of the drama in this series, I'd like to mentRather than go on again about the emotional paralysis that governs every single character and causes 90% of the drama in this series, I'd like to mention something more positive. I am truly enjoying the cultures of WoT. While it's true that the Aiel warrior people have the most richly explored culture so far, there is a real sense that every single culture in Jordan's world is just as nuanced, just as riveting, and just as impenetrably odd.
On the surface, each of the peoples seem to have distinctive body types and facial features, not unlike the Arabs, Asians, Indians, Americans, and Europeans of our own world. In fact, some of the races seem to draw their inspiration from these Earth cultures. But Jordan goes much deeper than that, exploring their economies, their music, social graces, class systems, and many other aspects. And each time he touches on one such issue for one race, you realize that the same facets probably exist in all the other races, too.
In my mind, Lords of Chaos marks a turning point for the series. It's a small shift, and subtle, but it's important. In this instalment, we finally see the characters beginning to shift from the defensive to the offensive. Not a lot, and not in any grand, trumpeted way. But it has happened. Will this be the end of the secret-keeping and the inner hand-wringing? Probably not. But at least they aren't acting like punching bags any longer. Or at least, not much. ...more
The story is interesting enough but the character dynamics are pathetic. The gender politics is juvenile, and frankly, there isn't a single member ofThe story is interesting enough but the character dynamics are pathetic. The gender politics is juvenile, and frankly, there isn't a single member of the scattered alliance of good guys who is open and forthright in his dealings with others. Everyone from Rand himself down to the lowest novice of the Tower is so tightly wrapped, secretive, and mistrustful that they do not deserve to win the fight. I am beginning to loathe each and every one of them. Drama should never come from characters behaving stupidly and withholding information from each other. This is just a camouflaged form of Deus Ex. The only reason I am going to continue with the series is to see how things might change under Sanderson....more
Ichiro Sato has committed a terrible sin. He survived.
When the crew of the Aurora makes unexpected first contact with a hostile race, midshipman SatoIchiro Sato has committed a terrible sin. He survived.
When the crew of the Aurora makes unexpected first contact with a hostile race, midshipman Sato is spared from the slaughter in order to serve as the alien race's Messenger, harbinger of humanity's impending doom. They are going to invade. On the planet Keran. In two years. What kind of aliens are these? They kill everyone aboard and then give us enough warning to prepare for the coming fight? But is mankind ready to take the warning seriously? Or will politics and power jockeying leave us with our pants down when the fighting starts?
I'll start by saying that space war is not really my thing, but even so, First Contact is a wild ride. One of the strongest indie books I've read this year. This is an ensemble piece, with a number of POV characters carrying the camera through a frenetic interweaving of politics, military operations, and human drama. But despite the scope, it still manages to stay up close and focused on just a very few of those humans. The pace is excellent, the aliens are sufficiently alien, and the people are varied and distinct. For the most part. At times, I found myself struggling to remember which general was which. Or were they admirals? And who it was who still had the grenades. But that's exactly what I would expect to experience in the fog of war, as events accelerate and outpace our ability to keep it all neat and tidy in our heads. Ultimately, this is the story of one young man, and the choices he makes that will effect us all. I can only hope that when the time comes, we have somebody like Ichiro Sato on that first contact ship....more
I sincerely like the cover image. Unfortunately, I can't comment on the story because I can't push far enough through the purple prose to actually getI sincerely like the cover image. Unfortunately, I can't comment on the story because I can't push far enough through the purple prose to actually get to the story. It's like no detail is too small and everything must be described. Sentences already over-burdened with too many adjectives then interrupt themselves with parenthetical asides to over-describe unnecessary bits of background detail. What's here is grammatically sound and the events I did read give me some hope that the plotting might be decent, but it's like trying to enjoy a picnic during wasp season. I spent so much time trying to ignore the buzzing distractions that I never even found out what we were supposed to be eating. I bailed early and ran back to the car. ...more
Having recently been accepted into a secret fraternity of thieves, Duchess must now learn the ropes quickly, to fend off several rivals who have alreaHaving recently been accepted into a secret fraternity of thieves, Duchess must now learn the ropes quickly, to fend off several rivals who have already moved against her. But as she sets the wheels of her vengeance in motion, Duchess discovers plots within plots and is forced to confront a disturbing possibility: is she turning those wheels? Or are the wheels turning her?
Every bit as enjoyable as the first one. The authors have found an interesting structure. Rather than lead their protagonist through a series of problems in the usual way - one after the other - they opt instead to give Duchess half a dozen problems all at once. Then they sit back and watch as she tries to untangle them all without hanging herself in the process. The result is surprisingly engaging, but with a different feel from most plot-driven rogue stories. This structure allows for a greater sense of uncertainty and a more palpable conviction that, this time, Duchess might not be able to handle everything that's thrown at her....more
Lannon Sunshield is a reclusive boy, living at the edge of nowhere, with unhappy parents, no prospects, and no ambitions. But whenColor me frustrated.
Lannon Sunshield is a reclusive boy, living at the edge of nowhere, with unhappy parents, no prospects, and no ambitions. But when the three greatest Knights in the land stop by to visit, everything changes, and Lannon's rare gift for a forgotten form of magic earns him a place in the knightly training halls. Just in time to save the kingdom from certain doom.
I like youth-in-training stories, and I wanted to like this one. The thing I like about them is the slow build. I like getting to see the hero putting in his time, paying his dues, and stumbling through a surprise adventure or two along the way. The adolescent boy in me can relate to that. Lannon, however, had too much of the adventure and not enough of the dues-paying for my tastes.
More importantly, the dramatic tension in this story only works because the trainees are too stupid to tell their superiors what's going on, so they end up running around, little more than untrained farm boys. They battle big bad monsters that would normally make a full Knight tremble. And then they win. They are in no way confronted by the consequences of their selfishness, and I find it very hard to like characters who get rewarded for being selfish and stupid. I just want to kick them all down a flight of stairs - not follow them into their next misadventure....more
Imagine Clint Eastwood as an Old West Zombie Hunter.
That pretty much sums it up. Nathaniel Caine is a sort of high plains drifter, or maybe he's a palImagine Clint Eastwood as an Old West Zombie Hunter.
That pretty much sums it up. Nathaniel Caine is a sort of high plains drifter, or maybe he's a pale rider. Either way, when the stage coach he's riding in stops at a way station for supplies, Caine and his fellow travellers get more than they bargained for. And from there on in, it's pretty much all zombies, all the time. This has all the usual suspects: the cocky young man, the timorous merchant with the beautiful daughter, the megalomaniac zombie priest, and of course, a stout-hearted cast of redshirts - the stable boys and coach drivers who give their lives for the furtherment of plot.
But what it doesn't have is anything new.
Don't get me wrong, what Bahle has done here he has done very well. The writing is crisp and confident, the gore is present but not overdone, and his zombies shamble with the best of them. But I believe each book in a genre should attempt to do something more than simply restate the classic themes of that genre. Show me a zombie who can fly. Or a voodoo priest with a heart of gold. Or have the plucky young waif girl turn out to be the mastermind. I don't sail with the zombie navy very often, so maybe I'm out of step with the expectations of all the real zombinistas out there, but from my perspective, Nathaniel Caine needs a bit more of the unexpected.
Yeah, that'd do it. Flying zombies. Put a twist like that in and I'll jump on that stage coach with both feet....more
Raised in isolation by his mother at a private university, Ishmael Wang is singularly unprepared for the world when she dies suddenly. With no family,Raised in isolation by his mother at a private university, Ishmael Wang is singularly unprepared for the world when she dies suddenly. With no family, no friends, no skills, and an impending eviction from the company facility that has been his only home, Ishmael's desperation drives him to a life in space, serving as kitchen swabbie aboard the Lois McKendrick. What follows is the coming-of-age story of a lonely genius, set against the slow unfolding of shipboard life, and surrounded by the one thing Ishmael has never had before: friends.
I thoroughly enjoyed Ishmael's tale and the diversity of people he encounters along the way, but there are aspects of the story that shout "Mary Sue" at me.
My biggest problem is the lack of adversity Ishmael faces. Sure, his mom dies unexpectedly and he has no clue what to do for a while, but he quickly finds his way into space aboard a freighter, and thereafter, everything goes magically for him. Ishmael appears to be the classic wish-fulfilment character, who steps from success to success to success without ever encountering a hint of opposition or risk of failure.
But having said that, he's a likeable hero, and I did indeed read on to the next books in the series. I think the strength of the writing overshadows the somewhat unrealistic rise of our hero, and demonstrates that it is possible to provide an entertaining and affecting story without the usual injections of violence, skulduggery, and galaxies in peril.
As for the science fiction elements, they definitely take a back seat to the story, which for the most part, could just as easily have taken place on the high seas of sail-powered Earth. In fact, I would go so far as to say this is more merchant fiction, than science fiction, as Ishmael's journey offers a text-book case study of how to set up and succeed in a small space-business.
So, if you like your fiction science-driven, or if you crave heroes who have to fight their way to the top, you should probably pass this one up. But if you like warm stories of good things happening to worthy people, or you're a sucker for a good rags-to-riches story, then this might just do it for you....more
The premise is that Corwin, one of the Lords of Fae, has been trapped in the mortal realm for a few centuries, living in his version of Hell and suffeThe premise is that Corwin, one of the Lords of Fae, has been trapped in the mortal realm for a few centuries, living in his version of Hell and suffering from amnesia. He wakes up and slowly recovers his memories, just in time to learn that his claim to the throne is about to be usurped by his older brother. So he enlists a few of his other brothers and goes to war against the usurper, in an attempt to recover his perceived birthright.
Can you say "entitlement issues?" This entire book reads to me like a painful episode of Silver Spoons, or maybe 90210. One spoiled rich kid isn't getting what he wants, so he throws a tantrum and drags the rest of the family in, forcing them to choose sides, and causing a major rift in the family, all so he can try to take the ball away from his older brother, who picked it up first.
To be honest, I don't see what the fuss is about. The Amber Chronicles have appeared on so many lists of must-read fantasy, for so long, that I just had to check it out. Well, I've done that now, but I'm thinking, "Is that it?" I understand that it's only the first book, and that amazing stuff may be waiting for me in Book 2. Or Book 8. But I would only bother to read those if Book 1 had done its job, dragging me into a story that I feel compelled to see through to the end. Well it didn't, and I don't, so I won't....more
In a world where people swap bodies as casually as they change shirts, relationships are complicated, especially for a group of young adults who strugIn a world where people swap bodies as casually as they change shirts, relationships are complicated, especially for a group of young adults who struggle to hold their childhood friendship together against the constant rip-tide of total identity chaos. When Eduard is forced to kill a powerful man in self defence and then disappears behind a screen of rapid identity flips, his friends rally to protect him, but there's just one problem: how can you help someone if you don't know who he is today? And while they search, the authorities are closing in.
The premise of hopscotching makes for an interesting world, and some of the implications of that technology are explored, but I don't think very believably. The profound upheavals that would follow such ubiquitous and casual identity shifting would completely destabilize society and it would reassemble in some bizarre and unrecognizable new form. The characters are rather unshaped, and there was little to keep me engaged and concerned for their well-being.
Well enough written for those who don't want to think too deeply about the situation, but it falls apart pretty quickly for those who do....more
My Blurb: The rules used to be simple: bad guys broke the law and super heros kicked their asses. But that's all changed, now. When a used-to-be up-anMy Blurb: The rules used to be simple: bad guys broke the law and super heros kicked their asses. But that's all changed, now. When a used-to-be up-and-coming super hero returns after a mysterious twenty-year absence, he finds a world where master criminals post their fiendish plots online, heros bid for the right to oppose them, and the public follows it all in a complex Franken-merger betting scheme that is one part stock market, one part reality TV empire, and all kinds of crazy. But when Mr. Big destabilizes the entire system and threatens to bring Capital City to its knees, only our washed up used-to-be hero can save the day. If he can just convince everyone that he himself is not Mr. Big.
My Review: Make yourself a score-card, you're going to need it. Everyone you are going to meet has at least two names, possibly three: hero names, alter egos, and some even lead a complex life with multiples of each. A knowledge of comic book hero lore is not required, but frankly, if you're not into DC, Marvel and the rest, you probably won't like this, either.
Told in a first-person, noir style, this satirical take on pop culture moves at a frenetic pace from start to finish, with precious little down time along the way. In the end, it was a bit too frenetic for my tastes. It's trying to be too many things at once: a whimsical "what if comic books were real" tale, an exploration of the roots of heroism and civic responsibility, a commentary on our media-drenched culture, a broken family drama. Too many characters, too many agendas, and too many plot twists have all been crammed into a non-stop plot line, where none of the themes get enough page-time to resonate fully, which left me breathless and disoriented. It teased and tempted me a dozen different ways, but never gave enough of any one thing to satisfy me....more
It's been sixteen years since an experiment gone awry turned Klondike-era Seattle into a walled prison fGet ready for the steam-punk zombie apocalypse
It's been sixteen years since an experiment gone awry turned Klondike-era Seattle into a walled prison for zombies and degenerates, while the survivors huddle together on the outskirts, clinging to a hard-scrabble existence. But when Zeke Wilkes, son of the man responsible for it all, comes of age, he cannot accept the story of his father's crimes. So when Zeke runs away to the zombie zone in search of the truth, his mother Briar risks everything to go in after him, but neither one of them is prepared for the truths that await them inside.
On the surface, this appears to be a delicious genre-blending adventure - steam punk with zombies - but while it delivers on the mash up, I found it weak on the engagement, and by the half way point, when all hell seems to be breaking loose for our heroes, I found myself still indifferent to their plight. I just didn't care about Zeke or his mother. One struck me as a whiny teen with too much entitlement and not too little agency for me to look past his shortcomings, while the other was mired so deeply in her own self-recriminations that I found myself agreeing with her. It is all her fault. In the end I got bored enough to put the book down, and I haven't had the urge to go back to finish it, so I won't.
The prose is competent but lacks subtlety or elegance. So if zombies do it for you, or annoying protagonists are your thing, then this might just be your ticket. But it isn't mine....more