The second book in the series is a sad disappointment compared to the first book, His Majesty's Dragon. The author, apparently bored with her alternatThe second book in the series is a sad disappointment compared to the first book, His Majesty's Dragon. The author, apparently bored with her alternate version of 19th century Europe with dragons used in the conflict between Napoleon and Britain, decides to go haring off to China instead so we can play inscrutable Chinese politics. Whereas the first book offered and interesting alternate world of Napoleonic warfare and British naval custom meeting Dragon-flying aviators, the second story just sort of muddles along without innovation or charm.
The one interesting point the story raises, a contrast in how Chinese dragons are treated as citizens, to come and go as they please and make a living and buy what they wish for themselves, rather than the European concept of them as property of the King/Emperor, isn't given a chance to unfold since the story ends prematurely in China, consigning Temeraire's returned to England as mere epilogue....more
Shootout, fist fight, shootout, explosion, car chase, shootout, explosion, fistfight, shootout, car chase, shootout, explosion, boat chase. Sort of liShootout, fist fight, shootout, explosion, car chase, shootout, explosion, fistfight, shootout, car chase, shootout, explosion, boat chase. Sort of like one of those Expendables movies, but without all the tedious character development :) Like the previous book, all set in an alternate world 1980 Cold War but with Nazi Europe as well as Russia and China, with superpowers sparing with bionic super agents. Definitely not boring, just the antidote to lit-crap sf....more
This anthology contains the following stories, all of which are about Yamada no Goji , a "Demon Hunter" in Heian Japan (tho he doesn't hunt only demonThis anthology contains the following stories, all of which are about Yamada no Goji , a "Demon Hunter" in Heian Japan (tho he doesn't hunt only demons - he's more a private eye). Yamada is a very low ranking noble who's always broke (and drinks a lot.) The stories in this collection were written over a period of five years. Yamada starts out a little Noir PI, but ends up a little more Sherlock.
In all but one of the short stories in the collection, Yamada teams up with Kenji, a monk who doesn't take his vows very seriously but seems handy with magical wards and seals, for a price.
I liked the collection overall. The stories are very readable, light entertainment.
These stories are all in the order they were originally published, except for "The Bride Doll", which is the most recent story but appears in the middle of the anthology.
The ancient Japanese setting (Heian period, 794-1185 CE, is pretty-much pre-samurai, coincident with ancient Japanese novel "Genji Monogatari"). (It's interesting Parks calls that book "Tales of Genji" when he refers to it in "Yamada Monogatari", but doesn't title the collection "Tales of Yamada" - "Monogatari" being Japanese for "saga" or "tales".) At any rate, before I digress, I was going to save the non-European setting was refreshing for a sword and sorcery saga. Parks does a pretty good job with the culture as well as the Japanese-flavored fantasy elements (yokai, rei, fox spirits, wards.)
The stories are all told the largely straightforward manner, using the general structure of a mystery story, but of course tailored for the short story format (meaning not too many suspects, not too many clues.) On the negative side, Parks doesn't always play by the rules of the Mystery genre. The foremost of which is you're supposed to slip into the story the facts necessary for the reader to solve it. Some of these things may be cultural that someone in Japan would automatically know. ...more
A very engaging novella in which Priest images how the Mississippi steamboat Mary Byrd came to be lost in 1870. PoV shifts nicely among those aboard:A very engaging novella in which Priest images how the Mississippi steamboat Mary Byrd came to be lost in 1870. PoV shifts nicely among those aboard: captain, kitchen girl, gambler, and nun who find themselves trapped with a monster....more
A giant fantasy of ultraviolence in an alternate modern world of different geo-political powers. Alix, aka Agent Scarlett, is a cross of the bionic woA giant fantasy of ultraviolence in an alternate modern world of different geo-political powers. Alix, aka Agent Scarlett, is a cross of the bionic woman and James Bond, enhanced with prosthetics, drugs, and cyberware, the CIA's Extreme Operations' new up-and-coming superspy. She kicks, punches, sprays bullets, drops grenades, chases and gets chased (on land and in the air) to spread nearly indiscriminate death & explosions faster than a Michael Bay film.
The action is occasionally interrupted by interstitial background information on the alternate world. Not a lot of character development, though, beyond Alix loves her mother (dad was also an elite superspy, bt has gone MIA, so you can guess where that must inevitably lead.) Mysteries, such as who is the man code-named Winter and who is the double agent within the agency, are basically resolved with reveals the reader can't anticipate since the clues are inscrutable in this alternate world (almost as if trying to prove legendary editor John W Campbell's assertion on why mystery and science fiction couldn't coexist.)
The prose is serviceable and delivers a straightforward narrative. A good book to pick up if you really wish you could punch someone,. Be careful where you set this book down because of the blood splatter....more
An enjoyable light read, answering the question, "what would happen if Napoleon had dragons?" With a hint of the flavor of a Hornblower or Sharpe per An enjoyable light read, answering the question, "what would happen if Napoleon had dragons?" With a hint of the flavor of a Hornblower or Sharpe period adventure story, this tells the story of a British sea captain who captures a dragon egg as a prize, and ends up in the Royal Aviator corps. Not quite the detail for tactics as Forester or Cornwell, but retains much of the period feel for the British officer corps discipline....more
I think this is one of those books that is incredibly original at the time it is written, and then is so often imitated that it seems rather pedestriaI think this is one of those books that is incredibly original at the time it is written, and then is so often imitated that it seems rather pedestrian when read in hindsight. One of the first of the Steampunk genre, it envisions a mid-19th century London that runs on coal and incredibly sophisticated Babbage difference engines (a mechanical computer based on gears rather than electronics) and fed by punchcards. It reimagines history (though doesn't do a great deal with much of it) into an alternate world where not just the technology but the politics and personages are totally different. A fascinating exercise in world rebuilding. (And yet reading it for the first time now, the idea of an alternate Victorian London (without Queen Victoria, In this case) now seems quite familiar being the setting of numerous Steampunk as well as Gaslight Fantasy stories since.)
On the other hand, I had some trouble getting traction with the story. The first hundred pages seems a preamble, immediately forgotten as the plot switches to a different character and drops the character from the beginning until only a few dozen pages from the end. For the most part, the story seems far less imaginative in its details than the setting, revolving around a mysterious McGuffin whose purpose is only unveiled in the last few pages. With the sole exception of that McGuffin, the story makes scant use of its interesting setting....more
This is a pretty good read, a story set in an imaginative alternate version of Europe around 1820, a world whose history is only vaguely recognizable.This is a pretty good read, a story set in an imaginative alternate version of Europe around 1820, a world whose history is only vaguely recognizable. A young woman, orphaned as a young child and fostered by her aunt and uncle, is living the life of a poor noble house. Suddenly, her world changes as most of what she thought she knew of who she was seems to have been a lie.
Catherine is a pretty well-written character, though I confess some distaste for the old "girl falls in love with her kidnapper" trope. But Catherine's relationship to her cousin Beatrice, a young woman about her age in whose home she was raised, is the strongest part of the story (it's a shame the plot separates them for an overly long period.)
And the setting is definitely unusual, with political power in Europe balanced precariously between the nobility and the mage houses while a new force, the proletariat, begins to rise. Aside from magic, there are also trolls and the unseen court to enliven the brew....more
Cherie Priest wrote the heck out of those first four chapters with some amazing character exposition. Her sense of detail completely drew me into theCherie Priest wrote the heck out of those first four chapters with some amazing character exposition. Her sense of detail completely drew me into the world of Briar Wilkes, a pariah because of her late, crime-of-the-century husband (the 19th century) and only slightly less notorious father. A woman clinging to the edge of poverty, trying to raise an equally ostracized teenage boy despite her fatigue (and, by her own admission, not doing I very good job.)
This was not what I was expecting when I read "steampunk with zombies". After an awesome introduction to widow Briar Wilkes, I was ready to follow the woman wherever she went. And this does turn into a rather exciting adventure story as Briar is forced to venture into the wasteland that was once downtown Seattle. There, a toxic gas seeping from below the ground turns those who breathe it into "rotters", the zombies we were promised, who turn out to be merely a backdrop to the plot that becomes more intriguing as it progresses. (That toxic gas was released 15 years ago by the "boneshaker", an excavation contraption created by Briar's husband. Strangely, that's about it for the title.) Priest's portrayal of a mother desperately looking for her impetuous, runaway son was totally convincing, despite the transformation to action hero. And she creates a number of memorable supporting characters along the way.
I found "Boneshaker" to be a very entertaining read. ...more
"Boilerplate" is certainly a unique work of alternate history science fiction.
This book is lavishly decked out as an oversized coffee table book, in f"Boilerplate" is certainly a unique work of alternate history science fiction.
This book is lavishly decked out as an oversized coffee table book, in full color with thick, glossy pages. Like those coffee-table books, it documents the history of an invention, a mechanical man nicknamed "boilerplate". Only in this case, the invention is fictional, though the history in which it's been inserted is real.
The invention of this fictional mechanical man was, we are told, unveiled in 1893 at the Chicago world's fair, though the story begins in a couple of decades earlier with some biographical information on the equally fictitious inventor. The story of boilerplate (and his inventor) is woven carefully into actual history, such that it's often difficult to distinguish the fiction from the fact.
The book is about a third text and two-thirds illustrations: drawings, paintings, photographs, maps, diagrams. Like the text, these are often actual historical records, or more likely actual historical paintings or photographs with the robot, boilerplate, deftly inserted into the image. And there are plenty of original illustrations, all carefully in the style of turn-of-the-century drawings.
In not quite three decades, boilerplate certainly gets around: From the great Chicago World's Fair, he visits the Klondike gold rush (and meets Jack London, where they story to his collection on boilerplate), participates in the historical Pullman labor unrest, which is the South Pole, China's Boxer Rebellion, British Gen. Kitchener's battle for Khartoum, joins Theodore Roosevelt that San Juan Hill and Poncho Villa in Mexico, TE Lawrence in the Arabian Peninsula, and finally Gen. Pershing in World War I Europe. All this is meticulously "documented" with paintings, photographs, excerpts from letters and newspaper reports, and so on.
Like all glossy, oversized coffee-table books, it looks very impressive and is quite convincing. It's not intended so much to be read from cover to cover, as to be glanced at from time to time. It's possible to open to almost any page and read a few captions and paragraphs concerning some actual historical event into which a mechanical man has been inserted. In fact, it's much better when digested in small pieces over a long period....more
Ends the series with a solid wrap-up that takes the Leviathan and our two young heroes Around the World in Eighty Days. Westerfeld still ahs some plotEnds the series with a solid wrap-up that takes the Leviathan and our two young heroes Around the World in Eighty Days. Westerfeld still ahs some plotting surprises in store, blending some actual history with a heavy brew of imagination, though nothing so fantastical as the clever setting he created and introduced in the first book....more