I don't listen to a lot of audio books, but on occasion I will drive some lThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.5 of 5
I don't listen to a lot of audio books, but on occasion I will drive some long distances and during those times I like to listen to a book.
I'm a little slow to the John Scalzi bandwagon, but I've been aware that he has quite a following. This is only my second Scalzi book (the first being Redshirts) but I am already hooked. Scalzi's writing is very approachable and his story-telling smooth. He is able to create identifiable characters and his plots build nicely.
Agent to the Stars tells the story of a Hollywood talent agent who is assigned the client(s) of a lifetime -- an alien race that is looking to find a way to introduce themselves to humankind. The alien race, while acting benevolent and kind, doesn't have an appearance that would normally suggest such kindness, so the agent, while learning about the aliens, must find a way to safely introduce them to the world.
Scalzi has fun with the Hollywood stereotypes and let's face it ... stereotypes come about because of the truth within the type. But Scalzi plays with the stereotype and builds each character so that they become less stereotypical and reveal some depth. At the same time, the silly sci-fi comedy becomes a serious commentary on human biases and prejudices, comparing the anticipated human reaction to the aliens with a horrific human historical event (I don't want to give too much away.)
As I mentioned, this was an audio book, read by Wil Wheaton. It took me by surprise, even knowing Wheaton was reading the book, when I first heard him and I couldn't help but picture the smartass kid from the Star Trek: The Next Generation series. But it didn't take me long to put that image aside and simply enjoy the book. Wheaton does a nice job, and although his character voices aren't necessarily distinctly different (not everyone can be Jim Dale reading the Harry Potter series!), his reading is very easy to listen to (I can't the same for the book I started listening to after this, nor for the book I listened to prior to this -- both with narrators that had voices difficult to listen to).
All in all, this was a nice way to spend a long drive ... listening to a very decent story.
Looking for a good (audio) book? Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi and read by Wil Wheaton delights and surprises and should appeal to fans of light, humorous science fiction. ...more
This is one of those books that you might not normally decide to pick up anThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.5 of 5
This is one of those books that you might not normally decide to pick up and read because it just looks a little too -- 'off' (for lack of better word). But the reality is that this is poetic, haunting, and beautiful.
This book, a novelette, really, is a sci-fi/fantasy story in which all the women of the world have died and the men gather around and tell stories. One story catches their attention and it turns out not to be a story, but a stranger truth ... a fungus is growing from the corpses of the women and providing a strange comfort to the men.
Not everyone likes this, of course, but the storyteller is consumed by his 'beauty' and tries to convince the others how wonderful it is.
The book examines gender issues and gender roles by removing one of the genders ... an interesting tactic. And the language is lyrical and poetic, making this easy to read. The characters, however, were not quite so wonderfully defined. The most interesting of all the characters in the book was the Beauty ... a fungus/spore. The men, despite the efforts to examine gender, were bland and boring ... nothing more than a means to bring about the Beauty.
I enjoyed the read while in the moment of reading, but it won't linger long with me.
Looking for a good book? If you enjoy books that are concept-driven, then The Beauty, a sci-fi/fantasy book of poetic prose that examines gender issues, is perfect. ...more
First, a big "thank you" to Netgalley and publisher Nan A. Talese for makiThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.75 of 5
First, a big "thank you" to Netgalley and publisher Nan A. Talese for making this book available. Margaret Atwood is not an author who needs advance reviews from the average 'Joe' or small-time blogger. Still, it's great for us to have the opportunity to see a copy of a book like this, from a well-known, well-respected author. So thank you.
I've written before about how much I enjoy reading short fiction. One of the first collections of short stories that I remember reading and really enjoying (surprisingly, at the time, as it wasn't sci-fi genre fiction which was all I read for a time) was Margaret Atwood's Bluebeard's Egg. it was, in fact, the book that turned me on to her writing. Fortunately, for anyone who enjoys good writing, Atwood hasn't lost a step through the decades. Stone Mattress is a strong, strong collection.
Some of these stories, much like her novel The Handmaid's Tale, have a slight sci-fi bent to them, while there is also a hint of horror and touch of mystery. Each of them is a strong story, and while not all will resonate with every reader, every reader is bound to find something that appeals among these nine tales.
The first three stories are related. In "Alphinland," a widowed writer (Constance) is continually thinking of her late husband (Gavin) and how he'd react as she moves throughout her day. She recalls sometimes painful memories, such as when she discovered his infidelity. In the second story, "Revenant," Gavin is a grumpy old man who doesn't think much of Constance's 'pulp' writing work, despite the fact that it supported them. The third story of the trilogy, "The Dark Lady," is told through the eyes of the woman with whom Gavin had his affair.
Any time I read a collection such as this, I can't help but try to determine which stories were my favorites. That's difficult here because I liked all the stories so well. I would probably look at "Alphinland" and "The Dead Hand Loves You" and "Stone Mattress" as my top three picks. "The Dead Hand" is the story of a successful horror writer who forged an agreement as a youth with his friends that each would share, evenly, their financial success should they achieve fame/success. And "Stone Mattress" is a revenge story of a woman who accidentally runs in to a man who ruined her life and she plots ways to kill him.
Many (MANY) years ago I attended a conference/convention of noted authors. At a panel a question was asked, "Other than length, what are the differences between short stories and novels?" One author (I'll leave his name out of it in case I am remembering it incorrectly) said that he had heard, from another author considered to be a 'grand master' that the short story was about things people do and the novel was about people who do things. I've often thought back to this and realized that there is a great deal of truth to this. A novel, by virtue of its length, gets to explore people in-depth, while they are doing things, while the short story doesn't allow us the time to get to know people and we only see snapshots of what they are doing. However... Margaret Atwood bucks this simplified version of the difference between the story and the novel. Atwood's stories are about people, and as I read through this collection and came to that realization, I also realized that this is why her stories stand out so much from other short fiction I read. A story about people, especially when well told, will often be much more interesting than a story about 'things.'
The stories (about people) in this collection are:
"Alphinland" "Revenant" "Dark Lady" "Lusus Naturae" "The Freeze-Dried Groom" "I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth" "The Dead Hand Loves You" "Stone Mattress" "Torching the Dusties"
Looking for a good book? Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood is a collection of nine tales that you really should own and read. ...more
Lots of stars on Goodreads, and so many praise-raving reviews, I really expThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.0 of 5
Lots of stars on Goodreads, and so many praise-raving reviews, I really expected to sink my teeth into this one, but sadly it was just another YA moan-fest with an interesting twist. (Uh oh...I think I just earned some angry feedback!)
The story: Em and Finn are in prison. Despite being spunky teenagers, they out-smart the prison guards and escape, to travel back in time in order to destroy the time machine that they use to travel back in time to destroy the time machine. This is their fourteenth attempt. Of course it's not as though the guards have been fooled fourteen times... it's new each time it happens, although only Em seems to be able to remember anything from the previous attempts to change the course of the future. This time they are intent on killing the doctor who created the machine, James. Except...James and Em were childhood friends and despite feeling she's tough, Em might have trouble pulling the trigger on someone who is still 'innocent' (in the past), despite what he will go on to create.
Yes, I get a thrill out of reading these kinds of paradoxical stories. Author Cristin Terrill does a good job of navigating these tricky waters (though I still don't think anyone has done it [write about time travel paradoxes] better than David Gerrold in The Man Who Folded Himself) and the science fiction aspect of the book was right on target. But because it's a YA novel, there is the requisite angst and budding romance, which I felt just got in the way of a good story.
"Em" is just exactly what you might expect from a teenage heroine. She's a little bit like Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, and a little like Tris from Divergent, with a touch of Hermione Granger thrown in. I'd really like to see a heroine who is different. (Actually, I have seen a heroine who is different, and still strong and likeable ... Lucy Carlisle from Jonathan Stroud's Lockwood and Company books.) And ultimately I think that this is the biggest problem with the book ... there's nothing 'new' here. The characters are a YA pastiche. Most YA readers probably haven't invested themselves in too many time-travel stories, so the general story is of interest.
Giving the characters different names for themselves ("Em" is also "Marina") was confusing for a while and actually almost backfired, for me. I never thought of them as the same person in (or from) a different time and I had to work much harder keeping the characters, and when they were from, straight.
This is an interesting book with come classic science fiction themes, but it doesn't rise above the very plebeian YA characters.
Looking for a good book? All Our Yesterdays challenges with its science fiction time-travel theme, but has some rather typical characters. ...more
I knew going in to this book that it was part of a series that I have not read. Fortunately this is written in**WARNING -- POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD**
I knew going in to this book that it was part of a series that I have not read. Fortunately this is written in such a way that it manages to be a complete story. Yes...there is some back story that would be nice to know, but author Carlson fills us in on a need-to-know basis.
Essentially: Jessica McClain, a werewolf, must search through the many layers of hell, and face off against the Prince of Darkness himself, to rescue her twin brother (who was apparently taken at the end of the previous book). We start with Jessica making preparations for the journey, with some associates, but being sent to the underworld ahead of schedule and alone. What Jessica doesn't realize until much later is that she is lured to hell, as a pawn in a power-grab, because of an ancient prophecy that suggests she might take control of hell.
There are many interesting characters within and Jessica meets everything from chupacabras to wyverns (and the devil himself).
The story itself was interesting: Hell. Power grab against the devil. Werewolf heroine. Twins lost and facing incredible odds for survival. All manner of demons in the lowest pits of deathly Gehenna. This sounds to me like the makings of a fantastic adventure.
But the action is dull.
First, we have a werewolf who never becomes the wolf. She does converse with her inner wolf, and follows her wolf 'instincts' but become the wolf...? No. In fact, I wondered if she really was a werewolf.
Second, Jessica descends to a place with a legion of demons, and yet, other than descriptions of the stench, we never feel the full brutality and fear that such a place should project. Of course it makes sense that a "wolf" would concentrate on the smell and not be too afraid, but it doesn't do much for the reader.
Third, we expect our literary heroes and heroines to survive after being put through their paces, but this felt as though Jessica was almost 'blessed' as she continually escaped one confrontation after another through some deus ex machina interruption (or perhaps I should say "diabolus in singulis est"). She doesn't survive because of her own skills but because of the others around her.
All in all, this felt like a good, interesting short story that was padded with unnecessary (and uninspired) fight sequences to fill out the word count to make it a novel.
Looking for a good book? Red Blooded, book four in the Jessica McClain series, should be hell-raising excitement, but isn't....more
Number two in the "Whispers" short stories series by Lisa Unger, "The BurnThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.25 of 5
Number two in the "Whispers" short stories series by Lisa Unger, "The Burning Girl" is a highly charged follow-up the first story, "The Whispers." Now, ten years after the events in the first story, Eloise has moved on from the devastating loss of her husband and one of her daughters, and she has learned to use her new-found gifts to help people. She has a partner and a business. But there's one special vision that she can't seem to help and can't get rid of...the burning girl.
Unger's writing is crisp and sharp and she certainly knows how to build a story. Whereas the first story worked on the reader's emotions and we were caught up in Eloise's tragedy, with a hint of a mystery ahead of us, this story is all about the mystery. Who is the burning girl and what is her connection to Eloise?
I was definitely captivated by the story and Unger's prose. However, the story didn't finish as cleanly as the first one did. This definitely needs a resolution which isn't in this work. And if that's the case, why not publish it in a longer form -- one that has a beginning, a middle and an end?
The concept and the writing have me hooked and I look forward to seeing where this goes. Mystery and paranormal. This makes for an interesting combination.
Looking for a good book? While not a 'book,' this story, part of a series, builds intrigue and will have you eager for more. ...more
You might think that there would be a lot of over-lap between the books -- both claim to be presenting the best of the year -- but in fact, there is very little over-lap. And the difference between the two books boils down to editorial choice. Having read both of these collections, I would have to say that my own tastes tend to be more closely aligned with Rich Horton's, as I enjoyed more of the stories in this particular collection.
Although Joe Abercrombie's "Some Desperado" may be my favorite of the two collections (it was in Jonathan Strahan's collection and not in this one) I enjoyed more, overall, from this.
My favorite story here was also in Strahan's collection, "Rosary and Goldenstar" by Geoff Ryman. My having a strong, professional theatre background (having worked with a Shakespeare festival and on an original play featuring John Dee) likely has influenced my appreciation for this story.
It's been a long since I read anything by Eleanor Arnason, but her "Kormak the Lucky" is a great way to finish this book. it was like reading one of Snorri Sturluson's Eddas!
"Grizzled Veterans of Many and Much" by Robert Reed was a tremendously interesting story.
E. Lily Yu is deservedly featured twice in this book, once with "Loss, With Chalk Diagrams" and with "Ilse, Who Saw Clearly." Both are marvelous stories. Yu is quite masterful at hitting the reader with some subtle emotions that take root and grow in the reader.
I've become familiar with Peter Watts through the book Echopraxia, and his story here, "Firebrand," is a really fun look at spontaneous combustion (if such a thing can be 'fun').
Linda Nagata's "Out in the Dark" is almost a classic sci-fi story in the sense that it explores some theoretical ethics issues. This was very interesting!
"Call Girl" by Tang Fei and translated by Ken Liu was really interesting and had me wondering what was happening and where the story was heading.
All in all...if you like sci-fi, you really can't go wrong with this collection.
This collection includes:
"Soulcatcher" -- James Patrick Kelly "Trafalgar and Josefina" -- Angélica Gorodischer "A Stranger from a Foreign Ship" -- Tom Purdom "Blanchefleur" -- Theodora Goss "Effigy Nights" -- Yoon Ha Lee "Such & Such Said So & So" -- Maria Dahvana Headly "Grizzled Veterans of Many and Much" -- Robert Reed "Rosary and Goldenstar" -- Geoff Ryman "The Bees Her Heart, The Hive Her Belly" -- Benjanun Sriduangkaew "The Dragonslayer of Merebarton" -- K.J. Parker "The Oracle" -- Lavie Tidhar "Loss, with Chalk Diagrams" -- E. Lily Yu "Martyr's Gem" -- C.S.E. Cooney "They Shall Salt the Earth with Seeds of Glass" -- Alaya Dawn Johnson "A Window or a Small Box" -- Jedediah Berry "Game of Chance" -- Carrie Vaughn "Live Arcade" -- Erik Amundsen "Social Services" -- Madeline Ashby "Found" -- Alex Dally MacFarlane "A Brief History of the Trans-Pacific Tunnel" -- Ken Liu "Ilse, Who Saw Clearly" -- E. Lily Yu "The End of the World as We know It, and We Feel Fine" -- Harry Turtledove "Killing Curses: A Caught-Heart Quest" -- Krista Hoeppner Leahy "Firebrand" -- Peter Watts "The Memory Book" -- Maureen McHugh "The Dead Sea-Bottom Scrolls" -- Howard Waldrop "A Fine Show on the Abyssmal Plain" -- Karin Tidbeck "Out in the Dark" -- Linda Nagata "On the Origin of Song" -- Naim Kabir "Call Girl" -- Tang Fei "Paranormal Romance" -- Yukimi Ogawa "The Dicovered Country" -- Ian R. MacLeod "The Wilderness of Antarctica" -- Alan DeNiro "Kormak the Lucky" -- Eleanor Arnason
Looking for a good book? I believe that this is, as the title suggests, The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2014....more
Initially I was going to refer to this as a dark version of Toy Story. ButThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.0 of 5
Initially I was going to refer to this as a dark version of Toy Story. But Toy Story is actually pretty dark. Instead, I would call this Toy Story with an edge.
Isaac Bodkins is an old toy maker who specializes in toys for special children who face extremely difficult lives and need an extra special friend. The toys are called "Oddkins" due to the special living nature and the play on the toy maker's name. But Bodkins passes away before he can turn over the toy factory to his intended heir, Colleen Shannon. Bodkins does, however, manage to appoint one of the Oddkins, Amos, as their leader and warns them to watch out fo the evil toy maker. And so, on a dark and stormy night, Amos leads his fellow Oddkins to find Colleen while a plot is under way to get control of the toys and the factory by the evil toy maker.
For those who are familiar with Dean R. Koontz, this is a tremendous departure from his horror novels, though you can see the 'darkness' that will come out in his later books (this is a reissue from the 1980's).
The illustrations by Phil Parks are wonderful and do a lot to help remind us that this is intended as a children's book. The pictures are very picture-book-appropriate.
But this does raise a question... for whom is this book intended? The thread-bare plot and simple story line and morality lessons, suggest that it is for younger readers, but the darker themes and the longer narrative would suggest this is for older readers. I found the middle portion of this to be dull and plodding, though there were snippets of something intriguing, which is what kept me going.
While I do think that younger readers are more open to darker themes and storytelling now than they were 30 years ago (thank you, Neil Gaiman!), it still seems a little odd (no pun intended) to reissue this book.
Looking for a good book? Oddkins is a children's story reissue that you may enjoy reading once, but doesn't have much re-read potential. ...more
Jonathan Stroud has done it again ... he has written a spell-binding, terrThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.75 of 5
Jonathan Stroud has done it again ... he has written a spell-binding, terrifying novel in a world where ghosts are real and quite threatening.
In The Whispering Skull, book two of Lockwood & Company, our intrepid ghost hunters Lucy, Lockwood, and George investigate the hauntings of a Victorian doctor who raided graveyards and built a special 'bridge' between the living world and the dead world, with the bones of the dead. In order to get through this mystery, Lockwood & Co. will need to follow the advice of a 'Type 3' skull who talks only to Lucy, and they'll need to work with agents from the Fittes Agency, which may be more difficult than facing death by ghosts!
Jonathan Stroud has really created a marvelous alternative world, and I still feel that he has done for ghosts what Anne Rice and then Charlaine Harris did for vampires, and The Walking Dead and Max Brooks and Mira Grant have done for zombies. He has created a world, with rules, that are completely acceptable and will become the 'bible' for future ghost stories.
The story alternates between fast-paced, breath-taking action and a flow of story-line information, seeded with an appropriate amount of humor to relieve tension. No one is super-heroic and thus everyone is completely believable as a unique individual.
One of the really nice aspects is that in addition to a really good ghost story, we have a story in which the characters grow, as people. They learn from mistakes, show a human side, and are completely 'real' to the reader.
I would give a slight edge to the first book, perhaps because it completely caught me off-guard and with this second in the series, I knew what I was going in to. But I think that Stroud has done a most remarkable job of world-building, character-creating and story-telling and I will buy every book in this series, to share with friends and family, to hopefully get them hooked as well. I am most eager for book three!
Looking for a good book? The Whispering Skull is a great book. ...more
In the mid-1970's if I ever thought of cartoons, one name came to mind...Gahan Wilson. His wit was wicked and his drawings deliciously simple but a taIn the mid-1970's if I ever thought of cartoons, one name came to mind...Gahan Wilson. His wit was wicked and his drawings deliciously simple but a tad off-beat.
Reading through a Gahan Wilson book is for adults who enjoy speculative fiction, what reading through The Far Side comics is for others: fun, unexpected, and the sense that you are 'in' on something slightly 'naughty' and that only you and Mr. Wilson understand. Sometimes this felt a little dated, though I'm not entirely sure why
This brought back fond memories as I read through it, undoubtedly for the first time since I bought it in 1975.
Looking for a good book? If you can find a copy of Gahan Wilson's Cracked Cosmos, you are in for a treat....more
Who hasn't imagined themselves as a spy? Spy books are great escapist fictiThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.0 of 5
Who hasn't imagined themselves as a spy? Spy books are great escapist fiction because most of us, at one time or another, have secretly fantasized about how much fun it would be to be a spy. Here in Etiquette & Espionage, the first book in the "Finishing School" series by Gail Carriger, Carriger combines spy training with Victorian manners and etiquette and a splash of steampunk thrown in for good measure.
And while this sounds like a really great recipe for a series, I mostly just found this dull.
Carriger works hard to write this in a 'proper' fashion (very turn-of-the-century in language and style) but that propriety doesn't lend itself to exciting reading. Not that fiction must be 'exciting' but one would hope that spy fiction has some level of excitement and/or intrigue.
Perhaps it's because I'm an older male and not a typical young YA reader (though I generally enjoy YA fiction), but I was overwhelmed with a sense of dull-ness with this book.
While I like books that take an idea and push them to the extreme, I guess I need to clarify that ... to push the idea to heighten a sense of conflict and to make strong dramatic tension and suspense. Here the ideas that are pushed to the extreme are things like practicing eye-lash-batting "six rounds of one hundred each before bed." Okay...I suspect that's there to be slightly humorous, but it a book that sees and encourages young women to be strong, it's also a set-back to ask them to be more Victorian-lady-like.
If there's a plot here, I missed it. There are girls practicing to me more lady-like. Girls dressed as boys. Handsome boys that capture the attention of girls. Robotic animals. Werewolves as teachers. But not so much a plot to stand on. And because of the style of the writing, the sense of propriety and perfection, we aren't really allowed to get close to the characters. We must remain proper observers. And so without a plot that keeps us turning pages to find out what happens next, and without being able to get close enough to care about the characters, what we have is mostly a book with some clever ideas.
I'm not at all familiar with Gail Carriger, though after reading this book and looking through her catalog of books, it appears that her adult fiction is thought to be better. I hope so. I like the ideas. Now if there can be some interesting characters and a plot....
Will I read book two? Maybe. But only because I already have the ARC in hand.
Looking for a good book? As much as I like the ideas behind Etiquette & Espionage, I can't recommend it. ...more
I'm very familiar with The Dresden Files, having seen episodes of the serieThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.5 of 5
I'm very familiar with The Dresden Files, having seen episodes of the series on the SciFi Network; read some of the graphic novels; and read short stories of the series in various anthologies, but I'd yet to read the actual book series. And while I've been fortunate to receive a LOT of Advance Reader's Copy of new books from many publishers, this particular title has been around for a few years, so scoring a 'free' copy from the publisher wasn't likely. Enter Benjamin Franklin and his FREE Public Library.
I have to admit that I was a little surprised to discover a science fiction/fantasy series that was well over a dozen books in to its series and yet I hadn't read any of the books. I'm very pleased to find that this series (at least this first book) is well worth the attention it has been getting.
Harry Dresden is a wizard. Harry Dresden is also a private detective. occasionally the two work together.
A council of wizards is keeping a close eye on Harry, believing that Harry is performing black magic and killing people. When the local police call Harry in on a double homicide case, he discovers that there is someone with incredible magic powers and because the council believes Harry is the one responsible, Harry is on his own to find and take down whoever it is.
Author Jim Butcher captures a noir-ish detective 'voice' for the character while keeping him modern with the magical abilities.
This isn't deep, intensely provacative literature, but it is great fun. Those Harry Potter fans who are now in their mid-twenties might really enjoy this step up in fantasy literature.
Looking for a good book? Storm Front, the first in the Harry Dresden series really satisfies. ...more
What might a Luddite look like in the future? Possibly like Daniels Brüks,This review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.75 of 5
What might a Luddite look like in the future? Possibly like Daniels Brüks, the central character in Peter Watts' novel Echopraxia.
Brüks (not called a Luddite, but 'baseline') is a human who doesn't enhance himself with a lot of technology, which is unusual in his time (and ours, really). Considered an odd throwback, Brüks is out in the desert of Oregon doing biological research to see if there is still evidence to non-technically advanced life in wildlife, or if everything has become infected with technology?
When a squad of zombies, led by a vampire general threaten Brüks, he takes refuge in a nearby monastery full of medically advanced humans that are super intelligent. So intelligent that they aren't able to converse with others and need a translator. Brüks isn't sure they comprehend the danger of the zombie/vampire assault, but the monks activate a tornado to push them back.
And then things get strange.
The zombies, vampires, and monks band together and head in to space, taking Brüks with them (fearing that those who they are fleeing from would interrogate Brüks in not so pleasant ways). But in space, Brüks has no skills to offer but becomes our observer, despite not being able to understand all that is going on around him. What he observes is that his odd crew of human-like shipmates are in search of a god-like alien life form. The existence of these 'gods' are deduced from scientific interpretation. A once-great race that may have spread the seeds of humanity. But the odd juxtaposition here is that the humans have altered their own being in such ways to hardly be recognizable as human. The zombies are intentionally modified military to be turned on and off and to lose any sense of humanity when fighting. Our vampires and monks are likewise intentionally enhanced.
This is not a simple, easy read. Brüks, our guide on this adventure, is like us... a moderately intelligent human with no technical, modified enhancements. But Brüks doesn't completely understand what is happening around him, and therefore, we don't either. We take the journey and trust that we'll survive it, just as Brüks does. But that doesn't mean we get to participate. We are only observers.
Watts tackles some age-old sci-fi themes of searching for god and what it means to be human, but he does it in a hyper-advanced way, using a lot of science that is available today. (His end notes are a book unto themselves!) Imagine combining the works of Philip K. Dick and James Morrow and Theodore Sturgeon with the science of Larry Niven and Isaac Asimov and then swirl it around a little and paint it as a black-light poster from the 1960's, and you get an idea of what it's like to read this book.
It's really a wonderful read, though a little confusing at times, and getting lost at the story, like Brüks, is sometimes unsatisfying. But the general concept and the envisioned world make it worthwhile.
Looking for a good book? This is science fiction on a grand scale that might confuse you at times, but will likely also make you want to read it a second and third time....more
Young man, Clay, gets in hot water at school when worThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.0 of 5
Bad Magic is good fun.
Young man, Clay, gets in hot water at school when words from his journal appear as graffiti on a school wall. Clay is blamed for the tagging (even though he didn't do it), labelled as a problem, and sent to a summer camp for troubled kids. The camp is on a remote, volcanic island and everything, and everyone, there is just a little bit off-kilter. Clay wonders if he'll ever get off the island safely and seeks to solve as many of the islands' riddles as possible.
There is a lot of fun in this book and it offers up a really nice introduction to Shakespeare's The Tempest, hopefully encouraging the reader to seek out the play. But I can't help but wonder who the target audience is. Looking at the style of art on the cover and the interior illustrations, and at the marketing, and even the style of writing itself, it would appear that this is targeted toward the younger readers -- 4th or 5th grade. But some of the concepts (specifically the association with The Tempest) and the additional little sub-plots, and the length of the book, would suggest middle school readers. Finding its niche may be the toughest job for this book.
The story contains a nice blend of mystery and fantasy while rooting it with a main character who is a young Everyman. The additional characters are just that ... characters (and I mean this in a good sense) -- each with unique traits and qualities that help the reader identify them. Among the cast of characters is the island itself -- as one might expect if you are familiar with The Tempest.
The book is a bit slow at times (I have to admit I got bored shortly after Clay arrived on the island), in part I suspect because there's a great deal of set-up. A lot of set-up. I suspect that there are intended sequels and we're being set up for all the future books, and not just this one. That said, once the set-up is over, we do get to have some fun. I personally enjoyed the library scenes and the characters there the most, though we don't get to them until after half way through the book.
As a reader, once I got settled on the island, I had good fun, but it took my awhile to get there. I am not familiar with the author "Pseudonymous Bosch" (sounds more like a marketing gimmick than a pseudonym), but I am not overly impressed. It was a fun book, but I'm not eagerly anticipating the next installment.
Looking for a good book? Bad Magic is a fun fantasy/mystery read for young readers that may take a little while to get in to, but should be fun along the way and will hopefully tempt the young reader to seek out some Shakespeare along the way....more
Reading Dragonfly by Charles A. Cornell reminds me of some classic adventure fiction such as Mike Mars or Tom Corbett. Just as our heroes and heroinesReading Dragonfly by Charles A. Cornell reminds me of some classic adventure fiction such as Mike Mars or Tom Corbett. Just as our heroes and heroines get out of one scrape, they are immediately tossed in to another. It is a story full of action and adventure, which will keep the reader turning pages. But it also has a slight twist... instead of the usual
Author Cornell manages to write a World War II history/adventure book that is also sci-fi in nature (heavy on the 'sci'). The war will be fought in the air, between super powers Britain and Germany, with each side creating new and monstrous air vehicles. For England, the secret weapon is the DragonFly plane. Only three exist and they are piloted by a crack team of female pilots (including a young Princess Victoria) led by Veronica "Ronnie" Somerset. But every time the DragonFlys head out, it seems the Germans are intercepting them. There must be a spy in the Royal Air Force!
For the most part, Cornell does an excellent job keeping the story moving forward and leaping from situation to situation. However, he could most likely help himself a little bit by not over-explaining details that aren't necessary. I found myself bogged down multiple times with too much description. I first made note of it with this paragraph:
Beside the apparatus was a brass stand about two feet tall supporting a small glass plate covered by a glass dome, like a cake stand just big enough to hold a single raspberry tart. Under the glass was one of the crystals, a large one about the size of a walnut. I slowly circled the crystal in its glass-domed home, my eyes transfixed by its beautiful, radiant qualities.
It is not unusual for a writer to think that giving us this much detail helps to create a reality, but if what you are writing is an adventure piece, detail about the furnishings of a home or office slow down the reading, not add to it. Especially given the first person narrative. Why would a first person narrative bother describing the stand? What's important in the paragraph is the crystal, which isn't described (except for its size) ... but we know it's on a two foot tall brass stand under a glass dome.
Another over-told moment not too much later is when our heroine gets a delightful surprise. Instead of moving the story forward, we get a short paragraph with her equating this good news with the first time, as a child, she saw a pony. Getting to fly a new, rare, impressive airplane is like seeing a pony. Yes...it is explained a little further (it's about the 'awe'), but the metaphor is a bit limp.
One other aspect of the writing troubled me... point of view. Most of the time, the book is being told in first person from the point of view of our heroine, Veronica. As one might suspect, telling a story only through the eyes of one person can be difficult, it means you can never get any information or storyline unless the focus of the book, our heroine, is in the room hearing or seeing something happen. Well...almost never. Cornell gets around this by telling the story in first person AND third person omniscient. When it is not convenient for Veronica to be in the room, the narrative changes to third person ("he" "they" "she"). When Ms. Somerset is in the picture, it's all first person ("I"). This is Creative Writing 101. I don't mind a writer breaking writing rules, when breaking the rule is the point. But to break the rule out of laziness (there really was no need for the first person narrative, it should have been third person) or lack of editing is one of those negative hallmarks of a self-published book. An editor at any respectable publishing house never would have let that revolving narrative format through!
A good editor would really help this story. It is a good story and has much promise to it, but there are simple things that detract (as well as the above issues). Mis-placed modifiers ("He sported arms bathed in tattoos of naked ladies and had a beard..."), un-necessary hyperbole ("...was a certified racially pure Aryan..." Certified?), and inappropriate colloquialisms ("at midday on the dot" from a military person instead of "twelve-hundred sharp") are sprinkled throughout and would presumably be cleaned up by an editorial hand.
On a positive note... the trio of flying ladies is wonderful and fun and it will be delightful to read more of their adventures. The future science in aviation is well thought-out and very clever. "Oxygel" doesn't seem like too distant a reality given the science of 'heavy water' at this time. My illustrated edition includes some really beautiful paintings that deserve to be acknowledged. It definitely adds to the atmosphere in creating a realistic world
I would definitely be interested in reading more adventures of Veronica and her partners, fighting for the Allies in WWII, but hope that some of the technical aspects of the writing can be sharpened in the future.
Looking for a good book? DragonFly by Charles A. Cornell is an alternative history, adventure story with lots of action and lots of potential but does get a little bogged down with some writing mechanics issues.
Kameron Hurley is a relatively new name in the sci-fi/fantasy world, but hThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.75 of 5
Kameron Hurley is a relatively new name in the sci-fi/fantasy world, but her first series (The God War trilogy) took the genre by storm. The question now, of course, is can she repeat her success? The Mirror Empire, book one in her new "The Worldbreaker Saga" suggests that the answer is "yes."
There's no doubt about it ... the saga is on an epic scale. Book one starts with 539 pages, and we really are only at the beginning of a 'saga.'
Hurley creates a world that manages to be utterly foreign and unusual and yet the reader is able to identify with it. A difficult task.
Our story ... *sigh* how do you sum up a an epic saga? Let me quote from the goodreads.com page:
On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.
In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin.
As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war, a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.
Through tense alliances and devastating betrayal, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.
In the end, one world will rise – and many will perish.
This is a decent summation, and yet it doesn't fully cover the expansive work. What this doesn't explain is that forces from a mirror world are in the mix.
One of the aspects that I liked the most is the way Hurley treats gender. This isn't simply a case where females take on what has traditionally been a 'male role' in fantasy, but the whole treatment of gender takes on a completely new outlook.
I have to admit to one thing, however. I have to admit that I have a very particular reading disorder. I recognize that not everyone has it, but I don't think I'm the only one. The disorder? I struggle with proper names that have an unfamiliar appearance, and especially names which resemble one another. It is only recently that I've been able to read an enjoy Tolkien (because of a great deal of research I've spent on Nordic mythology). Other fantasy books are similarly difficult for me, as is some of the great Russian literature, for the same reason.
In this book we have: Hofsha Daolyn Zezili Anavha Roh Ahkio Caisa Omajista Ohanni Kai Ghrasia Arasia Lilia Taigan Gian Tulana Dhai Dasai Nasaka Kirana Gaiso Yisaoh
That's a lot of names/titles and they all look very similar to me (that's my reading disorder). I've seen where others talk about the 'breakneck' speed of the book, whereas this book took me weeks to read (this from someone who has been reading/reviewing six books a week!) because I constantly had to check and double-check who the characters were. As I say, I have this problem with any fantasy with multiple main-focus characters with unusual/made-up names.
Even with my issue of the names aside, this is not light reading. The book is a bit dark in nature and the reader will have to work a little here, and that's okay, there is a pay-off, and that is that we have a remarkable saga that will be much talked about in the fantasy literary circles.
I will look forward to the next book in the epic, and this time I will know to prepare a cheat sheet of characters (though I wouldn't mind of the publisher included a list of dramatis personae[I remember when the Niven/Pournelle epics included such a list]).
Looking for a good book? Kameron Hurley's The Mirror Empire is the beginning of an epic fantasy that readers of the genre will definitely want to include on their reading list (but keep a scorecard of the characters)!...more
I don't know what took me so long to read this book (other than I'm reallyThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.75 of 5
I don't know what took me so long to read this book (other than I'm really backed up with Advanced Reading Copies), but now that I've read it, I can't wait to dig in to book number two (which just recently appeared in my ARC queue).
Author Jonathan Stroud has created an alternate England that is so real, so believable that it was easy to get caught up in the characters and the story because the world seemed so 'right.' And his take on ghosts is incredibly original and terribly frightening!
The countryside is plagued with "visitors" -- ghosts that haunt, terrify, and kill anyone in their path. The living stay indoors after dark but even homes are not always safe. Combatting the ghosts are trained investigators, people with special abilities in detecting the fiends. Lucy Carlyle, a young girl, is one such investigator. After a horrible experience with her mentor, who failed to heed her advice and cost the lives of a team of investigators, Lucy heads to the big city where she joins Lockwood & Co., a Psychic Investigation Agency run by Anthony Lockwood and his associate George Cubbins, young adults such as herself.
After a particularly poor decision in ghost hunting, which resulted in the destruction of a customer's home, Lockwood & Co., are on the verge of being forced out of business and the bad publicity has other cases leaving for other agencies. When a major case by one of the largest manufacturers of ghost-fighting equipment, in the most haunted house in all of England comes to them, they have no choice but to take it. But it will challenge them beyond their expectations, and even ghost hunters who typically don't fear their foe, will struggle just to survive.
I loved, absolutely loved, the presentation of the ghosts. Stroud has done for ghosts what Anne Rice did for vampires, Bruce Coville did for unicorns, and The Walking Dead did for zombies. Fearsome, gruesome, and deadly he has put the term 'haunted' back into the genre! And it worked! It was so believable I was sure that it had always been this way. He has created the new norm for ghosts. He has also created the means to combat, control, and rid the world of ghosts (iron, salt, and magnesium flares) which works exceptionally well under controlled circumstances.
So I loved the set-up and the establishing of a new world order for ghosts, but I also loved the characters. Not only are Lucy, Lockwood, and Cubbins fun characters (just a little bit stereotypical for a YA book), they all hold a few secrets which is appropriate and adds an air of mystery about them, but they also all grow. How often do you see character growth in YA fantasy? Too often it's about action and adventure and CTPP ("Cool Things Per Page" [thanks, Bruce Coville]). But character growth is what will keep the reader coming back.
The book also has the perfect blend of humor and horror. The humor comes from the characters and the horror comes from the situations. I love a good horror story and it's been awhile since I read one in which the horror really had me uncomfortable. The sequence in the Red Room, beginning the climax of the book, was terrific! I couldn't believe this book was targeted at a YA readership given how frightening this story was!
And though it's part of a series, and the second book is clearly set-up at the end of this adventure. It is a self-contained story, and I really appreciate that.
This is a remarkable read and I will encourage it to anyone interested in fantasy, dark fantasy, horror, or just well-written YA fiction.
Looking for a good book? Lockwood & Co. book #1, The Screaming Staircase is a fantasy/horror, young adult book that is excellently written, with fantastic characters, and establishes a new 'norm' for ghost hauntings. It is highly recommended....more
We know we shouldn'tjudge a book by a cover, but you can look at the coverThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.75 of 5
We know we shouldn't judge a book by a cover, but you can look at the cover of a book to get a general idea of what you might find inside, and Lungs Full of Noise here is a great example. Looking at the cover as pictured above you might get the impression that the contents within will be a little bit different and highly imaginative, and perhaps a touch frightening. And you would be right!
Tessa Mellas' collection Lungs Full of Noise is everything I like in a collection of short stories. While you can't really pigeon-hole any of these stories (some might try calling these stories speculative fiction ala Harlan Ellison or Thomas Disch) there is something unexpected at every turn. We start out with "Mariposa Girls" which seem like the perfect beginning. The realism of the story sets a mood reminiscent of Margaret Atwood or even Anne Tyler but the story ... no the people in the story ... slowly descend in to a state obsession and competitive fortitude that they alter their bodies, beyond repair, to give them a competitive edge. It's eerie. It's a bit revolting. And it's all too possible.
"Bibi From Jupiter" steps a little further into the science fiction realm, as Bibi is indeed from the planet Jupiter, now rooming in school with our narrator. But what Mellas does as a writer, a very talented writer, is give us a sideways glance at our own society through these stories. "Bibi From Jupiter" isn't so much about Bibi from Jupiter as it is about how we react (poorly) toward something that is at first 'different' and then find a way to take advantage of that difference.
All the stories herein take realism and skew it slightly, just enough to make us sit up and take notice. A child with flowers growing from his head; girls who over-indulge in specific fruit-eating in order to develop a color tint to their skin in order to get prop dates; the sky becomes white and residents assume it's an anomaly, waiting for it to become blue again.
In addition to telling strange stories, Tesse Mellas tells a story well. Her prose is very poetic:
The ponds in the park untidy with chickadee bodies, breasts buoyant, claws branching up without leaves. A gull bursts his larynx murdering sound.
This is a sample of her lyrical prose.
This is easily some of the best science fiction I've read in a very long time. Perhaps Mellas wouldn't appreciate her work being labelled "science fiction" but then neither does Harlan Ellison or Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and yet the three of them (Ellison, Vonnegut, Mellas) write some of the most powerful prose out there, which happens to have a science fiction bent to it.
This collection includes:
"Mariposa Girls" "Bibi From Jupiter" "Blue Sky White" "The White Wings of Moths" "Quiet Camp" "Beanstalk" "Landscapes in White" "So Much Rain" "Six Sisters" "Dye Job" "opal one, opal two" "So Many Wings"
It is highly recommended.
Looking for a good book? If you like short stories with some bite and that will take you beyond the edge of reality, then this collection is a must for you. Keep an eye out for the name, Tessa Mellas, because her work is worth watching for....more
Comparison's to Harry Potter are going to beThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.0 of 5
**WARNING -- SPOILERS AHEAD!!**
Comparison's to Harry Potter are going to be inevitable as The Iron Trial deals with a young man going to a magician's school to learn how to use (and control) his magic abilities. There's also a prophecy about the return of a 'bad' magician and a group of students thrown together who become friends and rely on one another's talents. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
The similarities run throughout the book, but as I was reflecting on this it occurred to me that the primary reader that this book is targeted toward is typically young enough that s/he will not have remembered the first few Harry Potter books. They may have read them, but more likely, they will be familiar with the movies more than the books. And in the grand scheme of things, if the similarities are what draw the young reader, ultimately it is the quality of the story-telling that will hold the reader. Fortunately, the story moves along swiftly and the plotting will hold the reader's interest.
Callum Hunt is a young man about to take his entrance exams for a magic school. Callum's father is encouraging Call to fail the exams so that he will not be admitted. Call does everything he can to fail and becomes the laughingstock of the students and no one wants to be near him. But as the entrance list is announced, Call is not only in, but will be taught by the best of the teachers (which earns Call scorn by some of the students who wanted that position for themselves). At his father's encouragement, Call works to get expelled, but slowly, and certainly not unexpectedly, he comes to like where he is and the other students he is learning with. As the school year progresses, Call finds a letter from his father to his teacher, encouraging the teacher to 'bind' his magic so that Call will never be able to perform magic. Call also meets an older student who many believe may be the fulfillment of a prophecy. And the appearance of a dreaded evil sets a number of things in motion that promise a whole series of books.
It took me a little bit to get involved in the story. The premise of trying NOT to get in to the school didn't work well for me. I understood what it was trying to set up, but I think I understood that within the first few paragraphs, and so it dragged on. It seemed pretty clear that Callum would be in the school or there probably wouldn't be a book, and so to spend much time on this was counter-productive.
I very much liked the style in which the students (at least those in Call's group) were taught. This somehow felt more 'real' to me for magic, rather than sitting in classrooms the way our students do. Call's ability to strike out on his own and even steal a few things from his teacher's room never felt too believable, and the confrontation with the evil character(s) didn't quite build to the climax that it should have and was a little too easily resolved.
And yet ...
And yet I was completely in to the book. The characters, and the situations they were in, felt completely believable and likeable, and these two components will carry a book (and a series) a long way. I DO want to know what happens to Call, given some of the information he's received and the choices he has to make. I'd like to know what magic he'll learn in his second year, and how his friends will support (or turn on) him.
We know that I am not a fan of books that don't have endings ... books that are so clearly pieces of a larger story that you have to read more books in order to get the conclusion. We'll see some of that here, of course, since this is the first book in the Magisterium series. But the book does a good job of wrapping up the internal story while keeping the door open for more books with an overarching story. Yes, there are a few too many questions left unanswered to be a solid, stand-alone book.
In the meantime, I'm hooked and I want to read more.
Looking for a good book? Book 1 in the new Magisterium series, The Iron Trial, by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, begins a fantasy series you won't want to miss, and brings a new school of magic that you will want to attend. ...more
How do you hook early readers who are raised in a culture of social media aThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.5 of 5
How do you hook early readers who are raised in a culture of social media and at-your-finger-tips-videos? You hook them with books such as this, Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan.
Roan is in his second year of Jedi training and young Roan deals with everything that the average middle schooler has to deal with ... bullies, fickle friendships, teachers who seem to have it in for you, and cafeteria food! It's kind of the same plot as so many other pre-teen readers books, but of course with one major difference: Roan is hoping to become a Jedi Knight and there are a plethora of Star Wars references tossed in to the mix.
One interesting aspect of this book was that it didn't always follow a straight narrative line. The storyline was interrupted (or amended) by Roan's journal entries, school newspaper pages, "Things Yoda Said This Week," twitter-type discussion posts, etc. It is all clearly designed to capture the feel of a modern student, and it does this quite well.
Although not specifically described as a graphic novel, that is precisely what this is. The main story is done in comic book format with multiple panels per page, and even the additional pieces have the same style of drawing to them. This is a graphic novel, and as such, the perfect vehicle for the target audience.
The art in this book is very much a comic book, or even a comic strip style, aimed at the elementary school readers. Very cartoonish, meaning friendly and un-threatening and whimsical at all times. It works very nicely.
What doesn't work (for me), is the lettering. Wow ... who ever talks about 'lettering' in a graphic novel? While I assume the decision to hand-letter, or hand-write, this book was done to keep the book feeling as though it were being written by a twelve-year-old, or to connect with the twelve-year-old reader, the book is actually difficult to read because of this. I am making the assumption that this was done by hand rather than choosing a hand-writing font, as I can't see consistency in the individual letters. I read this book in electronic form, on a 10" tablet screen, and reviewed it again on a large computer screen, both which are likely larger than the print format, and there were times I had difficulty making out the words. Making something physically difficult to read is never a good obstacle.
The characters were fun and the cast of students each seemed just different enough to provide some variety, but over-all most elementary school readers will be able to identify with the trials and tribulations of school, and anyone who's already taken the step to pick this up will love the Star Wars universe as presented here.
This is only year two and so clearly there is the opportunity for Roan and his friends to continue their education and for young readers to continue to have fun.
Looking for a good book? Elementary school readers will love to be able to identify with their 'peers' in the Star Wars universe as they begin their Jedi Knight training in this graphic novel. ...more
It is books like Meteor Men that have restored my faith in the graphic noveThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.5 of 5
It is books like Meteor Men that have restored my faith in the graphic novel as a literary form. This book is beautiful to look at and delightful to read. To me, this is precisely what the graphic novel medium is intended to be. I know that the bulk of the graphic novels out there are compilations of superhero comic books, but the more I've been reading lately, the more I really appreciate the non-superhero graphic novels. A book such as this might be just the ticket to get the young adult/teen readers in to the graphic novel market.
The story is a rather basic 'first contact' story. A group of teens gather to watch the annual meteor shower only this year it appears that one has struck the earth. Bright, loner Alden discovers that the meteor has landed on his property. After exploring and experimenting with the meteor, he intends to give it to a local museum. But when Alden learns that similar meteors have struck the earth all over the world and there are coinciding reports of disappearances of local people, Alden realizes that there may be more to this than a random meteor. When Alden discovers and befriends an alien, neither Alden, nor the Earth, will ever be the same.
The story flows so naturally and author Jeff Parker not only creates an interesting and page-turning story, but he has also created unique, distinct, and involved characters. Even our minor characters here have more personality and depth than some of the long-runnig superheroes I've read lately! And while it's a teen-type book, the adults are not always the villians here.
The art is really delightful. Appropriate and effective and the sort of book you might thumb through just to look at the art.
This is one of those books which I didn't know what to expect when I requested it from NetGalley and it turned out to be a beautiful surprise. This is highly recommended to graphic novel fans and teen readers.
Looking for a good book? Meteor Men is a beautiful graphic novel with compelling characters and a strong story. ...more
I really enjoy reading short stories. It used to be that I subscribed to juThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.5 of 5
I really enjoy reading short stories. It used to be that I subscribed to just about every science fiction and fantasy magazine on the market, just because of the volume of short stories i could then read. But of course as time went on, my reading time dwindled and about the same time, more and more magazines were hitting the markets. now of course there's no end to the number of on-line magazines available as well. I still read from all these occasionally, but I've found that it helps me a lot if I let some other person spend the time to weed through the volume of short stories and give me the 'best' of them. Of course the 'best of' is really dependent on that particular editor's tastes. But as much as I enjoy short stories, I must admit that I tend to look at a collection such as this as a way to find 'new' authors for me to
Jonathan Strahan is no stranger to editing and I've read some of his edited works before and am comfortable with seeing his name on the by-line.
All the stories here are well written and generally interesting, but there were no stories that made me sit up, take notice, and do a quick google search on the author. In other words, there was nothing so stellar that I had to tell everyone I knew to hurry out and read it. There were, however, a few stand-outs:
The book begins with a Joe Abercrombie story, "Some Desperado" that might make you wonder if you didn't pick up a western/thriller collection. Almost. In fact, it was this blurring of the genre lines that first appealed to me, and the general story-telling was a heck of a lot of fun ("The world's a mean bully, alright, and the lower down you are the more it delights in kicking you." ).
Yoon Ha Lee (who is new to me) has a clever little tale called "Effigy Nights" in which a city (planet?) under siege comes up with a clever means of creating weapons out of paper that disintegrate over time.
Being a theatre professional, I caught on very quickly to the characters in "Rosary and Goldenstar" by Geoff Ryman. There isn't much to the story about the misunderstandings in language but the cast of characters is fun. Dr. John Dee is a great, little-known source for a character!
Rounding out my personal favorites would be "Water" by Ramez Naam, in which the term "Smart Water" is taken to a new extreme; "Sing" by Karin Tidbeck (an outcast with a beautiful singing voice captures a stranger's interest); and "Social Services" by Madeline Ashby, which definitely caught me off-guard as a social worker in the future is sent to check up on abused/at-risk children in an abandoned development that once was quite luxurious.
There are many familiar author names here (Neil Gaiman, M. John Harrison, E. Lily Yu, Eleanor Arnason, etc) and you know you aren't likely to be steered wrong with a collection such as this. But maybe next year we'll get that stand-out story that everyone is talking about and everyone has to read.
This collection includes:
"Some Desperado" - Joe Abercrombie "Zero For Conduct" - Greg Egan "Effigy Nights" - Yoon Ha Lee "Rosary and Goldenstar" - Geoff Ryman "The Sleeper and the Spindle" - Neil Gaiman "Cave and Julia" - M. John Harrison "The Herons of Mer de L'oUest" - M. Bennardo "Water" - Ramez Naam "The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling" - Ted Chiang "The Ink Readers of Doi Saket" - Thomas Olde Heuvelt "Cherry Blossoms on the River of Souls" - Richard Parks "Rag and Bone" - Priya Sharma "The Book Seller" - Lavie Tidhar "The Sun and I" - K J Parker "The Promise of Space" - James Patrick Kelly "The Master Conjurer" - Charlie Jane Anders "The Pilgrim and the Angel" - E. Lily Yu "Entangled" - Ian R Macleod "Fade to Gold" - Benjanun Sriduangkaew "Selkie Stories Are for Losers" - Sofia Samatar "In Metal, In Bone" - An Owomoyela "Kormak the Lucky" - Eleanor Arnason "Sing" - Karin Tidbeck "Social Services" - Madeline Ashby "The Road of Needles" - Caitlin R Kiernan "Mystic Falls" - Robert Reed "The Queen of Night's Aria" - Ian McDonald "The Irish Astronaut" - Val Nolan
Looking for a good book? If you enjoy science fiction or fantasy even in the slightest, this collection should be on your 'must read' list....more
Not too long ago I read and reviewed Honor Among Thieves, the second book in this particular Star Wars series. That was such a rollicking good time that I knew I had to go back and read the first book in the series and that I'd be anxiously awaiting the third book. Razor's Edge, by Martha Wells, is the first in the series and I'm glad I read James S.A. Corey's book first or I might not have read any other Star Wars book if I'd begun with this.
In this book, which is supposed to take place between Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Leia Organa and Han Solo head off to purchase some badly needed materials for the struggling Rebel Alliance. While en route, they are forced to try to evade a pirate ship which Leia recognizes as a former fleet ship from her (now destroyed) Alderaan. Although forced in to piracy in order to survive, Leia tries to convince the captain and her crew of the importance of the Rebel Alliance while the pirate coalition and the Empire are looking to take control of Organa, Solo, and the Alliance.
My biggest 'issue' with the book was author Martha Wells' handling of the established characters. Leia gets to step out of her maiden-in-distress role and show us the leader that we see later in the movies, and this is nicely done. Leia as an active leader is much more interesting than a damsel in distress. But none of the rest of the established characters get to stand out in any way. In fact, their dialog often sounds poor and it's hard to hear the actors' voices in what it written here.
Han jerked his chin toward the screen that was tracking the Wastrel and the captured merchant ship. "They're going to another berth on this side. I bet it's that big one right there."¹
"I bet it's that big one right there"? Is it possible to say that like Han Solo? Or how about:
From behind them, C-3PO translated, "He says that Captain Solo said to wait. He was very rude. Captain Solo, I mean, not Chewbacca. Not that time, anyway."¹
The attempt to be cute and C-3PO funny just doesn't translate. Instead it just seems weak. While I haven't read any books by Martha Wells prior to this, I am aware that she is a recognized and awarded author in the genre, but her work here seems weak and rushed.
Metara walked up onto the dais. "I'm Captain Caline Metara and this is Leia Durane." Durane was the false name they had agreed on earlier.
I haven't had one doubt that what I was doing was right. Right for me, right for my crew, the right thing to honor the memory of our dead. But ... when I spoke to you, it was as if ... I woke up from a dream. Since then, I haven't been sure about anything.
The imperials must have thought these were concussion grenades, too, because the scramble to get away was violent. ¹
I made numerous notes on my Kindle about the amateurish writing, the three quotes above highlighting some of the dialog and description that really nagged on me while I was reading. I might expect writing like this in fan fiction, but not in a commissioned work by an established author.
There was also very little build to the pacing. We seemed to always be on high alert and in mortal danger and so, when the true climactic sequence comes it doesn't feel any different from the rest of the book.
On the plus side (yes, there are some positives to this book) ... the actions taken by Leia and her group seem perfectly fitted to the Star Wars saga and her mission makes a great deal of sense. Also, the new character of Captain Metara is quite nice. She, too, fits the Star Wars universe nicely. The only thing disappointing about this is that we don't see Captain Metara in the films and she certainly seems enough of a large figure that we ought to come across her again.
Over-all, this book highlights why I haven't read more Star Wars universe tie-ins. We become quite attached to the figures as presented on the big screen and it can be easy to find fault in the way they are presented when done so in a different format. Martha Wells' interpretation of Leia, Han, Luke, Chewbacca, and the droids was not how I would see them react and speak and so it didn't ring true to me.
Looking for a good book? Razor's Edge, the first book in a Star Wars series, Empire and Rebellion, is surely a must for true Star Wars devotees, but lacks the strong hand of plotting and characterization that might otherwise get the attention of other readers.
¹All quotes are from an Advance Reader's Copy and may not reflect the final, printed version....more
Writing jacket copy and ad copy about a book can be an art form that rivalsThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 2.0 of 5
Writing jacket copy and ad copy about a book can be an art form that rivals the writing of a book itself. In this case, the paragraphs about the book are much more interesting than the book itself.
Bloodlight is actually two books. The first book, which takes 80% of the book, is about high school student Robert Goldner. Robert, an African-American student feels out of place. He is on the school wrestling team and has high hopes for a trip to the State competition.
Robert struggles with all the typical high school problems. Girls, class work, friendships, sexuality. His being African-American adds to his social struggles. But it's his little moments of distraction that bother him the most. He's having headaches/visions/problems focussing.
The second book, which is the remaining 20% of the book, is a metaphysical/existential romp in an ether world in which we learn the God is possibly going insane -- he might be getting better; he might be getting worse...no one is quite sure.
Confused? Yeah, that's okay. So is author Grey-Sun.
The confusion isn't in the metaphysical world. For anyone who enjoys reading speculative fiction or the strangest of fantasies (think Harlan Ellison, Philip K. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut, James Morrow), this kind of adventure isn't anything too unusual, or at least unexpected. So it isn't the fact that it's "metaphysical" that's the problem. The problem is in the planning and the execution of the work. We don't need 80% of the book to be a character study. And if the time is going to be taken setting our main character up as a champion-quality wrestling student, wouldn't you expect a metaphysical/existential book to see a climax where the character wrestles literally and figuratively with God? Major missed opportunity.
The general writing is readable. I actually found Robert Goldner an interesting character and was moderately interested in the book. Even though what attracted me was the 'metaphysical' description, the 'plain-ness' of the YA aspect were more interesting. But here too, the author and/or publisher, doesn't understand what this book is. I read two 'warnings' that this was not a Young Adult novel. Yes it is! The author may not be intending it for young adults, but a book about a 17 year old boy in school with 'issues'? So what that it has a metaphysical aspect to it? Some teens really would enjoy that and empathize with the school struggles. Don't under-estimate the power of teen readers!
But while it is readable, it is far from exciting or powerful. There is one, sorrowful, bitter tone through the entire book (this alone is typical for classic YA books) and neither the wrestling scenes nor the metaphysical confrontation scenes build with any energy. The closest we get to anything powerful is when Robert declares, "Maybe I couldn't win the state of Virginia ... but I'll damn sure win the state of my soul."
This book will rate two stars because, although the author's intent didn't play out well and the metaphysical aspect (which should have been the most compelling part of the book) felt tacked on at the end, the longer first portion, the teen struggles of Robert Goldner, was actually an interesting read.
Looking for a good book? Bloodlight by Harambee K. Grey-Sun reaches out to be something 'deep' and 'metaphysical' but it only gets there through a tagged on ending after a book full of teen angst....more
It is going to be hard for me to pick a 'best book of the year' with all tThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.75 of 5
It is going to be hard for me to pick a 'best book of the year' with all the quality books I've managed to read of late. This will definitely be in the running!
Astronaut/botanist/engineer Mark Watley is stranded on Mars when a mission is aborted and Watley is (believably) presumed dead. Thus begins a page-turning book of Man vs Nature in an incredibly hostile environment
Astronaut Watley begins a journal to log his thoughts and plans for future missions to learn his true fate. Immediately the journal takes on a personal tone, rather than a dry, scientific narrative. Watley's alternating between his desire to give up and his perceptions that there might be a way to survive, are completely believable. I'm not an engineer, physicist, or botanist, but the science in the book (and there is a great deal of it) reads very plausibly. Given the nature of many science fiction readers, I suspect that if there were errors they would quickly be pointed out and ridiculed.
Before you think it must be incredibly boring to read about a lone man trying to survive on Mars, know that author Andy Weir does give us glimpses of NASA, Mission Control, and even the rest of Watley's crew on their return trip to Earth. Weir expertly balances the scenes, giving us mostly Watley and his efforts, then giving us a glimpse of Watley through the eyes of NASA. And while the supporting roles are just that, supporting, Weir gives them all personalities.
One of the main attractions to the book is Watney's personality. He's a little bit irreverant. He isn't the stereotypical boring scientist personality. He jokes and makes off-beat 1970's references (for a reason that will be evident when you read the book). For the purposes of this story, it all works. Alone on an alien world, with zero percent chance of survival or rescue, allowing irreverent personality shine through feels entirely natural. It actually had me laugh out loud at one point, which I very rarely ever do while reading.
The only downside to the book is that most of the personalities display the same sense of humor. It's fun. Most people will enjoy it. But when the astronauts aboard the return ship display the same sense of humor and some very lowly NASA officials 'talk back' in a similar vein of humor, it's fun at the time, but when thinking back on it, we realize that they are all mostly the same. It certainly makes me like author Andy Weir, as I assume this is his personality shining through.
There's nothing too unexpected happening here, at least in terms of potential plot twists. Watley is alone against Mars and time and the plot twists are the obstacles Mars throws at him. There are times we know that something bad will happen (even astronaut Watley comments on this) and it's simply a case of waiting to see what it is and then what ingenuity will get him out of it. This ingenuity is as much a part of the fun of the book as Watney's character. For all the engineering and careful checking, re-checking, and checking again we do with our engineering, things will still go wrong and survival depends on our being able to think outside the box (to use a tired phrase). NASA is a leader in this ingenuity and author Weir, through Watley, shows us a little of this.
I've taken a quick look at the reviews on this book, and they are meteoric. It's a great book, but how is it that so many people see it so similarly? I think the answer is in the book itself. It is hopeful. It reveals the best of mankind -- that indominable never-say-die spirit and the coming together in the case of a disaster, and at the same time, it is fun.
I truly did not want to put this book down. I would steal minutes from my day in order to read just a little bit more. I actually read one chapter in my car in the grocery store parking lot, and I immediately ordered a hardcover copy to give to my children. It is that kind of book.
Looking for a good book? This is it. The Martian, by Andy Weir, is a science fiction novel, filled with science, fun, and hope that will have you eager to turn the pages to see how it will end. ...more
It is very possible that I am the only person who will read this book who hasThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3 of 5
It is very possible that I am the only person who will read this book who has never read a single "Pern" book in the Anne McCaffreey canon. I am, of course, familiar with the books...in large part due to the awesome covers by Michael Whelan, whose art I relished at a time I had hopes of becoming a professional artist. But I was not really in to fantasies filled with dragons at the time. But now...well, now... after reading this collection of remembrance essays on Anne McCaffrey, it seems that my impression of the Pern books may be flawed, and I just might really enjoy them after all. Add MORE books to my reading list -- check.
But to this book in particular... this seems to fit in the biography week theme because we not only learn a great deal about Anne McCaffrey as a person and a writer, we learn a little about a number of the people who offer up their thoughts as well. Sometimes a little too much.
We learn about Anne's interest in music and singing and her early desire to be an opera singer (and how she fittingly wove this interest in to the book The Ship Who Sang). We learn a little about Anne's being one of the first, respected women writing in a genre that was then dominated by men. We learn about Anne's generous, giving spirit and her ability to make long-lasting friendships. She definitely comes across, not just as a talented, gifted writer, but an incredibly wonderful human being.
The book does exactly what it sets out to do, which is to pay tribute to an author and one of her more popular creations (Pern). I was often moved by the stories, and I'm definitely intrigued to get to know Pern now.
What the book also does, though, is give us just a fraction of insight in to a number of other people, whom Anne knew. There's a the writer who learned to write by writing fan stories set in Pern. There's the artist, famous for his covers of many of McCaffrey's books. There are television writers. Book writers. Famous fans. And family.
Sometimes the stories are a little more about the author of the essay, rather than about Anne ("I met Anne once; she told me <blank> and so I did this and this and this and got all this ackowledgement...all thanks to Anne").
There's a saying -- you probably know it -- "You can measure a person not by how much they love, but how much they are loved by others." Anne clearly measures greatness.
Looking for a good book? This tribute book is clearly a must for fans of Anne McCaffrey and her Pern stories, but will also be of interest to anyone who enjoys biographical essays....more
**WARNING -- POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD (FOR BOTH THIS AND THE PREVIOUS BOOKThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 4.0 of 5
**WARNING -- POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD (FOR BOTH THIS AND THE PREVIOUS BOOK IN THE SERIES THREE**
I raved, not too long ago, about Three, the first book of the Legends of the Dustwalker series by Jay Posey and I was both excited and fearfully nervous about starting this second book. After all, Three was so good, it would be impossible to follow it up with something equally fantastic or even better, right? Right?
So Morningside Fall didn't quite live up to all that Three offered, but it was still an incredible read that had me hooked as soon as I began. You don't have to read Three first ... I think that Morningside Fall covers all that is needed to know to understand the current batch of characters, though I do think the reader might get a better grasp on why the characters act as they do if Three is read first.
A quick summation:
The child, Wren, is the Governor of Morningside. His mother, Cass, is his constant companion and advisor. A board of officials are mostly respectful to Wren, but it becomes quickly clear that Wren is nothing more than a figurehead to them, despite his having shown the potential for incredible power. But this is a book of politics, power, and war, and typically a child will come out on the short end in such a struggle. But as is usually the case, there are always those few who will serve, follow, and protect the leader no matter what is age might be.
This book takes a turn from what we had in Three, but the turn is a natural progression of the story. This will seem like a bit of a departure, but I am reminded of the movie Alien. If you are over 40, you might remember when Alien came out. It was awesome. It was like nothing else at the time. And then they came out with a sequel, Aliens. There was no way it could live up to the first movie, right? The sequel had soldiers, with massive weaponry, as opposed to the first movie's rag-tag crew and solitary heroine. So it was clearly a different movie, with a couple of the same characters and settings. And it worked. Here, we have something very similar. Instead of the small party working their way across a landscape riddled with dangers, we have some of the same characters in most of the same setting, with armed guards. And it works. Mostly.
It feels like there's a lot of set-up here. Once in the (relative) comfort of Morningside there isn't a lot of physical action. The physical action of Three (and 'the three') against the odds in the first book really moved the pace along. Here we spend more time with political backstabbing and the introduction of a few new characters. Author Posey does introduce a character, a blindfolded man, who would rival Three for pure action. After reading the first chapter with this new character I thought: 'Yes! Posey definitely knows how to write an action sequence!' I think I was holding my breath during the entire chapter! It is these scenes that keep us going, and we can sense the simmering unrest in Morningside, and this is what keeps us turning pages, waiting for climax.
We do learn just a little more about the Weir (a strange, electrified zombie) and they take on even more of a dominant role here. And, as we see with the Weir, it seems, in science fiction, you can't count anyone down, even if they die, so it isn't unrealistic to expect a few familiar faces.
I mentioned, in my review of Three, a connection to a Christian theme, and I see that continuing here, but I'll wait for the final book before remarking more on this.
My biggest issue with this second installment in the Legends of the Dustwalker series is ... (if you've been reading my reviews you can probably fill in the blank before I do!) ... that it isn't a complete book in itself. Whereas in Three you could read to the end and feel satisfied that you had a complete book, with an ending to the story, Morningside Fall ends with a big question mark. There are too many unanswered questions to feel like a satisfying conclusion to the story at hand. There is clearly another book to come. Instead of a beginning, a middle, and an end there is a beginning, a middle, and an open door. And while Posey sets up the blindfolded character tremendously, he could easily be written out of the book without disrupting the current story. I can only assume (and hope) he plays a much bigger role in volume three.
But even with these criticisms in mind, Jay Posey still writes one heck of a darn good yarn! I'm sold on this Legends of the Dustwalker series and will eagerly read the third book when it comes out. I'll also read anything Posey puts on paper. For me, the highest compliment I can think of for a writer is that I would buy his/her book in hardcover as soon as it's released. There are only four writers for whom that currently holds true for me. Now five.
Looking for a good book? Jay Posey's follow-up to Three, Morningside Fall, continues the high adventure in a dystopian world and is a fantastic read. It is a part of a series and a book that should be on your read list!...more
Divided, by Elsie Chapman, is the second book in a YA series. I have not reThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.5 of 5
Divided, by Elsie Chapman, is the second book in a YA series. I have not read book one (Dualed), though a sampler was provided by the publisher, through NetGalley, which did give me a little taste of what the series would be about.
What we have is a future/alternate world in which a community is controlled by a corrupt governing board. All children are born with a genetic alternate ("Alt") twin. To become 'complete' each youth must kill their Alt. This insures that the children who succeed will grow up to be battle-tested and strong enough to be good members of society (survival of the fittest).
It would seem that our heroine, fifteen year old West Grayer, has already succeeded in killing her Alt and is hoping to move on with her life. But some members of that board have other thoughts, needing West to assist in the elimination of other Alts. She balks, but is made some promises which put her on a path she's never comfortable moving along. When one of the Alts she's been assigned to eliminate turns out to be someone she recognizes...someone who is NOT an Alt but a 'Complete' ... she knows she's been set up. Failure to follow through on her assignment means the board has issued a reward for her death. West has to survive, and get some answers.
The book is pure teenage girl YA; filled with anger, angst, confusion, love, betrayal. I'm pretty sure these are the ingredients necessary to make a classic YA book, and we definitely have them here.
West can't wait to start her private life with her boyfriend Chord, and while she's already planning having children with Chord, she hides everything from him. She doesn't tell him what she's doing, or why. But of course that's part of the YA-ness here...the fifteen-year-old making mistakes and not trusting in the right people, and thinking she can handle it all on her own.
West is a well-defined, though clearly flawed, character. (Flawed is okay...we're all flawed.) Chord is a bit of a patsy. He clearly cares about West and is willing to do anything he can to support her. Including not asking too many questions when he knows he won't get answers from her anyway.
The board members we meet are all appropriately slimy and grouchy government types.
Other friends and persons we come in contact with are generally not particularly memorable but serve their purpose and no one strikes me as poorly created, just not full of depth.
The story is very unique. I read a lot of sci-fi/fantasy/YA and I don't recall a theme quite like this. It's perfect for a YA book...I love the idea of survival of the fittest by the necessity of killing your own twin. How perfectly manipulative! And the reason West is asked to do the additional 'strikes' also comes across as very believable in this world, but what West learns in the process not only throws open the door wide for another book, but really helps identify what sort of world we are in and what West and Chord might have to deal with.
There's plenty of action, including an obligatory sword fight! West is well-trained and the fighting action really keeps the story moving along quickly.
And while I enjoyed the book, there's something just a little bit hollow inside of me. I don't know that I will take any of this book with me once I close the pages and finish this review. I wasn't particularly attached to anyone here, and while I very much like the new-ness of the concept and the creation of the characters, this will never reach too high on my favorite books lists. I will rate it well (3.5) and I can definitely see where it will get a decent fan base, but it falls short when compared to other books I've read recently in the same genre. It just lacked that little extra 'kick' for me.
Looking for a good book? Divided by Elsie Chapman has all the ingredients for a superb, classic YA book and keeps the door open for book three in the Dualed series....more
The premise for this graphic novel/comic series is really wonderful. A teaThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. Rated 3.25 of 5
The premise for this graphic novel/comic series is really wonderful. A team of scientist have developed a dimension-traveling machine. It works well, except that they can't control where it will take them. We start the first book right in the thick of things, with two dimension-hoppers running for their lives from some very unusual looking creatures. One of the travellers doesn't make it and we know right away that this isn't going to be your ordinary book where everyone survives each new threat that comes their way.
Grant, who tends to be the leader of the group, is traveling with his children. Given the dangers of this dimension-hopping, I'm not clear why it was that the kids were ever permitted to go along. Of course the danger will be heightened when children might be in trouble.
The device use for hopping is referred to as 'the pillar' and it becomes clear that the pillar was damaged, sabotaged, which is why they can not control the destination or the timing of the hops.
The book moves along a little too quickly for me, with each comic book (this graphic novel collects the first six issues of the comic series) basically taking up one unique story. This gives it an episodic feeling, much like television shows like Land of the Lost or Lost in Space (this could be titled Lost in Black Science). I think that if I were buying the individual issues on the comic stand, I'd probably appreciate this quality, and it would certainly make it easier for someone to pick up a current issue and not feel as though they'd missed out on too much. Unfortunately, that has a less than positive effect on reading the series as a longer story in a graphic novel. Here, as the issues went on, I thought to myself...okay, what are we going to get this time? And sadly, nothing was ever as intriguing as the world and creatures we encountered with the first few pages!
There is, of course, the overarching story of the pillar, its invention, and the sabotage, that we haven't fully investigated, and hopefully, in future issues of the comics and graphic novels, more of this will come out, rather than spending so much time escaping each new dimension's baddies.
Whereas the story leaves a little something to be desired, the art is beautiful. Matteo Scalera and Dean White have teamed up to create something really spectacular to behold. While the character's aren't in the utmost realistic mode...a bit on the caricature side...it works really well here. The colors are stunning.
The book has as many possibilities as author Rick Remender can imagine, and that limitless quality can really be an asset. I only hope that he doesn't try to burn through all his ideas in just a few issues. Give us, the reader, a little time to digest the locations and the implications of the locations. It can also mean that we'll meet some characters, other than the scientist team, that we might come to appreciate.
Looking for a good book? Black Science, Volume One is an original series concept of dimension travelling, with gorgeous art, and promises to be a strong series....more
Often, when I pick up a new book, by an author who is unfamiliar to me, theThis review originally published in Looking For a Good Book. rated 5.0 of 5
Often, when I pick up a new book, by an author who is unfamiliar to me, there is both a sense of excitement, wonderment, but also a little sense of dread, wondering what I might be about to throw myself in to. It's a game of trust betwen me, the author, the editor, and the publisher. And when the author, and his/her book hooks me and takes me on a fantastic adventure and in to a land of people and places that I don't want to leave, I am thrilled to have been so surprised.
Rod Duncan's The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter, has thrilled me.
Our protagonist is Elizabeth Barnabus, a spy/detective who disguises herself as her own brother. We meet her as she takes on a new job for a Dutchess, the Lady Bletchley, tracking down a person while avoiding capture and the loss of her home and discovering what makes a few new machines so valuable. Along the way she encounters a travelling circus that may be concealing some of the information she's looking for, and an agent for the Patent Office ... perhaps the most powerful of all agencies.
Elizabeth is resourceful and intelligent. If she can't talk or disguise her way out of trouble, she likely can use guile and prowess to physically escape. Author Duncan weaves in Elizabeth's back story with masterful ease. So nicely intertwined, we often don't realize that we've stepped out of the present story to get some background. This is precisely how it should be done - it is a wonderful balance of being story-driven and character-driven.
Everything about this world felt real. Elizabeth and author Duncan don't spend time marvelling over little things that would be very natural to them (and as Elizabeth was raised in a circus environment, even the most strange would appear natural to her). Instead, the world/environment is created through the action of the story. It ocurred to me at some point that this book might be considered 'steampunk' given the era and the modern marvels within. Typically, I haven't been impressed with steampunk precisely because so much attention is paid to showing off how 'cool' the concepts are. But when a story isn't about concept, it is much easier to make it real.
It's almost impossible to have a book without some sort of romance, but here again, Duncan gets it just right. There are hints of romance that satisfy, amuse, and promise more for another time.
There wasn't a single moment that I felt bored or wanted to skip ahead a little. I was mesmerized early and the story and characters blossomed before me with precision. This is the book I was hoping to read back when I delved in to The Night Circus and again with Hang Wire. Now it's been done correctly and I want more!
Looking for a good book? Mystery, duplicity, secret societies, alchemy, romance, action ... The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter by Rod Duncan has it all and promises to be the talked-about/must-read book for sci-fi/fantasy enthusiasts this year!...more