A friend gave this to me out of interest because I also wrote a book of the same title. This one is an enjoyable YA involving a form of time travel to...moreA friend gave this to me out of interest because I also wrote a book of the same title. This one is an enjoyable YA involving a form of time travel to an alternate Venice.(less)
There was nothing actually bad about this book, but there was also nothing fresh, hence the three-star rating.
The premise (a virtual-reality game give...moreThere was nothing actually bad about this book, but there was also nothing fresh, hence the three-star rating.
The premise (a virtual-reality game gives access to the Faerie Realms) has been done before, notably by Clive Barker. The prose is mostly competent - I only spotted a couple of minor errors - and the descriptions are multisensory, but to me it seemed conventional and predictable in its imagery.
The heroine is a rich girl whose worst problem (outside being targeted by the Fairy Queen) is that she might have to leave her expensive private school and go to an ordinary high school with no choir, because her father is being transferred for work. (Her father is obviously extraordinarily well-paid for an IT project manager, or else has inherited money; they have at least three staff.) That doesn't make her any kind of underdog, so it's harder to root for her success.
She's also, partly by her own choice, socially isolated. She's had a falling-out with her best friend because of too much honesty about the friend's boyfriend, her crush hardly notices her, she pushes other people away and hides things from her father. This isn't conducive to character development through interaction and dialogue.
The real-world part of the setting is generic, with made-up cities in an unnamed country, which served, for me, to diminish the story's grounding in reality and thus the contrast between the real world and the virtual/fey world.
The plot is linear and unsurprising, and, in this short prequel story, ends up introducing a lot and developing very little. There's one moment of forced character development as the main character realises a very obvious parallel between the two worlds and her actions in both, but otherwise, she doesn't grow or change.
Finally, characters named Jennet, Thomas Rimer, and Tam Lin are just a bit unsubtle.
If you love this kind of thing and want more of the same, or if you've never read anything like it before, it's a perfectly OK book, though the plot is nothing special. But if you're looking for something fresh and original, I wouldn't look for it here.
I got a free copy of this book from the Digital Book Day promotion.(less)
Lindsay Buroker is incredibly prolific at the moment, and since she's almost an autobuy for me I find myself reading her stuff fairly frequently. I'm...moreLindsay Buroker is incredibly prolific at the moment, and since she's almost an autobuy for me I find myself reading her stuff fairly frequently. I'm in some danger of eventually burning out on her brand of entertaining, amusing but somewhat coincidence-ridden adventure, but this will not be the book that proves the tipping point.
I enjoyed the previous book in the series more than this one, but that's not to say that I didn't enjoy this. There's only one convenient coincidence (the one that puts the heroine in the pilot's seat of a pirate craft), and it isn't so big as to be overwhelming. There's plenty of adventure and a reasonable amount of romance, and a Buroker romance is less silly than average. I did find the ending a bit too neat and easy, but take it for all in all, this is an enjoyable book and I hope she keeps them coming.(less)
Jim Butcher is at the top of his game at the moment, and he's the only author I still buy in hardback (having switched almost completely to ebooks oth...moreJim Butcher is at the top of his game at the moment, and he's the only author I still buy in hardback (having switched almost completely to ebooks otherwise). Of course, I buy in hardback not only because I have the earlier books in that format, but because the ebooks are overpriced and I can't lend them to my wife, but never mind.
This is a fine continuation of the Dresden Files series, with all the classic elements. Harry Dresden starts out in trouble and gets deeper and deeper as the book progresses. Before we even get to the heist (I love heists!), he's broken his arm and is in generally bad shape, he's been forced to work with one of his greatest enemies, and one of his allies has been so badly injured that he has to go to the bench. Fortunately, by this point he has a deeply impressive bench.
Things go boom and catch on fire, extremely powerful supernaturals find it amusing when Harry is tricksy, dark deeds are done and then avenged. It's classic Dresden all the way around, and I look forward to rereading it multiple times.
I went back and forth on whether it was a five-star book, and eventually decided it's high up in the fours. It's very good, but it's very good in the same way as a lot of the earlier books in the series. It doesn't bring anything particularly new to the table, and it's not so profound as to win five stars that way either.
There was also one thing I thought was out of character towards the end. I find it hard to credit that the "righteous" Michael would accept a cut of the proceeds of a heist under any circumstances. Otherwise, well done.
"These stories are guaranteed to surprise, thrill and delight," says the blurb, which also has a couple of other errors in it. I was surprised a numbe...more"These stories are guaranteed to surprise, thrill and delight," says the blurb, which also has a couple of other errors in it. I was surprised a number of times, but neither thrilled nor delighted. These are excellent stories, varied, original and well-written, but most of them are not a kind of story I particularly like, as a matter of personal taste. Hence the three stars; it's a subjective three rather than a more objective four, because I give four stars only to books I enjoy.
It isn't just that they're often dark, or tragic, or even pessimistic. It's more that I feel they set out to be shocking and disturbing, rather than just following their premises into shocking and disturbing places. Also, some of them just stop abruptly, rather than coming to a conclusion.
I spotted few errors. The introduction has "principal" for "principle", the last story has "wretched" for "retched", there are a couple of typos, and one of the stories refers to Sir Bolivar Walczak as "Sir Walczak," which is never correct under any circumstances. On the whole, though, it's well-edited, and the writers are competent at all aspects of their craft.
A number of the earlier stories, in particular, deal with colonialism and post-colonialism, and people's resistance to being ruled by outsiders (to the extent of taking actions that will harm themselves and their people rather than accept such rule). Several of the other stories have a parallel theme of sticking it to The Man or resisting authority. My lack of identification with those viewpoints (I'm a New Zealander of British descent, who's used to living in a colonised country nominally ruled from overseas but in practice independent) may have something to do with my lack of overall enjoyment of the stories.
In brief: I didn't like them, but lots of other people will.(less)
I went into this having read the two previous books, and expecting something light and amusing. I got that, but it was perhaps a bit too light, and no...moreI went into this having read the two previous books, and expecting something light and amusing. I got that, but it was perhaps a bit too light, and not as amusing as I'd hoped. It's very short, and even then the last 10% consists of advertisements for the author's other books and the small press that put it out, so the $2.99 price comes out looking a little high. (I know that's the lowest price that gives 70% royalty. However, I'd normally expect more content, and more substance, for $2.99.)
I mentioned in my review for the previous book that there's an inherent problem with protagonism in these stories. Worcester, the narrator, is completely incompetent, while Reeves is competent. This is inherited, of course, from the model, but Wodehouse managed to make it not matter - I think by putting his hero through suffering and humiliation, mainly. Here, especially where the plots require the heroes to actually do things that matter (unlike Wodehouse), the fact that the problem is resolved by Reeves being competent off-screen doesn't work quite as well. It feels like a letdown.
I was distracted, also, by a few typos, despite two editors being credited. There were half a dozen or so in this very short book, which to me is too many. Mostly missing words, but sometimes missing apostrophes, too.
Is this an enjoyable book, though? Yes, in exactly the same way as the previous two, no more and no less. It's written to the same formula, in other words. I'd advise waiting for a collected edition of all three, unless you're already a big fan of that formula.(less)
From Lightspeed's "Women Destroy Science Fiction" issue, Charlie Jane Anders shows how it's done. This is, at one and the same time, "women's fiction"...moreFrom Lightspeed's "Women Destroy Science Fiction" issue, Charlie Jane Anders shows how it's done. This is, at one and the same time, "women's fiction" (all about relationships, romantic and otherwise) and nearish-future SF (full of neurological meddling). This is a non-arbitrary pairing, and what she does with the two things together is something that couldn't be done with either of them separately. (less)
I've liked the earlier books in the Cassie Scot series, and I have to admit that I didn't enjoy this one quite as much. If I was giving each book a ra...moreI've liked the earlier books in the Cassie Scot series, and I have to admit that I didn't enjoy this one quite as much. If I was giving each book a rating out of 10, though, they would be 8, 9, 8, 7, so I'm by no means saying I hated this, just that the others were better.
It opens with several passages of telling rather than showing to catch us up on events since the last book. (This is the kind of series that has to be read in order, or else it's incomprehensible, by the way. There's very little "who are these people and why are they fighting" recap, and even having read the third book relatively recently, I was flailing slightly for a while there until my memory caught up.) It soon settles down, though, and moves forward at a similar pace to the previous books.
It's difficult to critique the rest of the book without spoilers. I'll just say that I felt that the author, who usually manages to dodge romantic cliches, didn't dodge quite as well in this volume. At least the characters did talk to one another, but then, they had to in order to get to the resolution. That resolution, I thought, was a little too neat and pat in the end, and required the series' main character and narrator to give up several desires and several attitudes that she had been hanging onto very firmly up until that point. The changes were justified within the story, but I didn't quite have the sense that she had won all the respect she deserved in the end to make up for her losses and concessions.
Again, let me say that this is very much an above-average book, and I did enjoy it. It just suffered in comparison to the earlier books in the series.
I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an independent review.(less)
I received a copy of this book for purposes of review via one of the authors, A.C. Smyth.
I've been reading and reviewing a lot of anthologies lately,...moreI received a copy of this book for purposes of review via one of the authors, A.C. Smyth.
I've been reading and reviewing a lot of anthologies lately, mostly Best Of collections of classic or recent SFF, so I was pleased to find that these stories mostly stood up pretty well in comparison. As in any anthology, some worked better than others, and some had more editing issues than others (note: I received a pre-publication ARC, so some edits were done between the time I read it and the time of publication), but overall it was a good collection. All of the stories had narrative arcs and endings, which is not inevitable these days, but which I personally prefer.
The theme is simply "zoo". Given such a broad theme, the contributors have come up with remarkably varied stories, mostly science fiction but a couple of fantasies. There are some very general commonalities; the contributors seem united in their view that being in a zoo is not a good thing, and nobody really emphasised the conservation aspect of zoos, which surprised me slightly.
The opening story, "A King in Exile" by Bridget McKenna, was a good choice for the opening. A Victorian tale of the last T-Rex intertwined with the frustrated love of a couple kept separated by social convention, it was moving and well-told, with no glitches to take me out of the period or the plot.
"Echoes of Earth" by D.J. Gelner (one of the two editors) was less successful for me. It contained the old trope, old even when Isaac Asimov parodied it in "Playboy and the Slime God" in 1961, of the earthman kidnapped by aliens who is joined by a beautiful woman; he immediately forgets about his wife and family, she is immediately attracted to him, and they pair up without, apparently, any thought about children born in captivity. Also, the first-person narrator refers to "this journal" without any indication of how he has a journal to write in or something to write with (he's keeping track of days by scratching marks on the wall with his fingernails), and the ending is such that the journal idea is inexplicable. It's been a very long time since first-person narration needed such framing devices. These days it's enough to just narrate in first person without implying an audience or a transmission medium.
I enjoyed "Bestiarium" by Sarah Stegall. Its theme of the transmission of tradition from one generation to another and the importance of a connection to nature - not just for reasons of humanity, but as a necessity for survival in the future - worked well, and the generation-ship setting was sketched competently.
"Ignoble Deeds" by A.C. Smyth is the first story in the collection that isn't straight science fiction in its premise, though the fascinating idea of a "ghost zoo" is treated science-fictionally. I was completely blindsided by the twist, and thought it might have been over-enthusiastically hidden by the author, but looking at the opening quotation again reminds me that it was, in fact, signalled in advance.
"At Home in the Stars" by S.E. Batt sets out to be humour in the vein of Fredric Brown, but for me fell a little short, in part because I was distracted by several typos, and by odd phrasings that made me wonder if English is a second language for the author. The joke itself is a mild and predictable one, but it was somewhat entertaining.
"The Most Dangerous Lies" by Ken Furie has the "zoo" inhabited by great tyrants and serial killers from the past, abducted through a handwaved technology. The premise is an interesting one, marred for me by the fact that the central character is Jack the Ripper, and the author doesn't seem to have spent much time familiarising himself with the actual Jack the Ripper case, or with other historical points. For example, a woman wouldn't be addressed as "Gov'ness" in the same way a man was called "Gov'nor". At one point, Jack "knew that adrenaline coursed through her body," which seems slightly unlikely given that the earliest usage of the word "adrenaline" occurs several years after the Ripper murders ceased, and Jack is depicted as uneducated. Possible, I suppose, but not likely. If one ignores these research issues, though, the story itself is a good one.
"Playing Man" by Scott Dyson is set on a voluntarily depopulated Earth, with most of the human race living off-planet, and is the classic story of the clash of large corporate interests with ecological concerns. I enjoyed it, and liked the protagonist.
"You'll Be So Happy, My Dear" by John Hindmarsh is science-fictional horror, not my favourite thing. It's in second person, which can be a gimmick, but here is justified. The link to the theme of "zoo" is tenuous.
"Skipdrive" by Morgan Johnson manages to invoke the Cthulhu Mythos without once mentioning it or using any of its key terms, for which alone it deserves applause. I found some of the incidental ideas implausible: that someone could be so badly injured that half their brain needed replacing with computer circuitry and still survive; that this could be done with no change to personality or loss of memory or need for long-term rehab; and that the victim (who had also lost an arm and a leg) would be, not just allowed, but more or less forced back into the military afterwards. However, setting those issues aside, I found the arc of the story held my attention well, and I enjoyed the way in which it was told.
"Demon Rising" by R.S. McCoy is a strange little story, in mostly a good way. The themes of loss of innocence and shapist prejudice are well handled, and the connection to the theme is clear. I liked the protagonist, too.
"Your Day at the Zoo" by Frances Stewart was doing something that I never quite figured out. Something to do with the continuity between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom, I think. It was beautifully described, though, and enjoyable.
"Serpent's Foe" by J.M. Ney-Grimm (the second of the two editors) was unfortunately afflicted with multiple typos and some needless pseudo-archaisms. I didn't feel that the viewpoint character had much protagonism; she suffered through a number of events and learned a lesson, but made few meaningful choices other than to accept the lesson. It could also have been trimmed slightly. This is the risk when a contributor is also an editor, and this is why professional anthologies usually keep the two roles separate: we are never as hard on our own work.
Overall, though, Quantum Zoo is a collection of good writing from authors you've probably never heard of. In a number of cases, it's well worth your while to hear of them so you can track down some of their other work (which the editors make easy by providing links after each story, as well as collecting them all at the back). While I had some quibbles with several of the stories, there weren't any that I outright disliked - not the case with several of the pro anthologies I've read recently - and some of them were very good indeed.
On my 10-point scale within the four-star range, where 0 is "just above mediocre" and 9 is "just below amazing", I place Quantum Zoo around the middle at a four or a five.(less)