As I’ve been moving lately, I find my writing time has declined somewhat. I’m sure things will settle down soon. Until then, here’s three quick reviews of some recently read stuff.
Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach
Rachel Bach is also Rachel Aaron, author of the more young adult oriented Eli Monpress Trilogy. She’s taken the name Bach to brand her science fiction as separate, at least in part because it’s quite a bit more mature. That is to say there’s sex and swearing.
Devi Morris is a power armor mercenary with plans to become one of the elite warriors in the galaxy, but it’s tough getting noticed. To speed up the process, she takes a job on the aptly named Glorious Fool. Known for attracting trouble like bees to honey, one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years anywhere else. And so begins Fortune’s Pawn.… Read the rest
Whenever I see the name Wesley, I think of Carey Elwes (Dread Pirate Roberts!), which inevitably leads me to Robin Hood Men in Tights. RHMT, as I call it, is quite possibly the finest spoof film of our time. In it, Robin Hood is captured during the Crusades and is imprisoned at Khalil Prison in Jerusalem. With the help of fellow inmate Asneeze, who is in for jaywalking, Robin escapes and frees the other inmates. Robin is asked by Asneeze to find his son, Ahchoo (Dave Chappelle, in his first major professional role). Upon returning to England, he discovers that Prince John has assumed control and doing a terrible job. Shenanigans ensue.
Now, what do this have to do with The Deaths of Tao? Almost nothing. except the author’s name is Wesley. Wesley Chu. Also, I had a bet with Jared Shurin that I couldn’t mention Dave Chappelle in a review.… Read the rest
So, when it comes to voice in fiction, I feel I can only speak to my opinion of what voice is and how I use it in my writing. The answer, simply enough, is music.
When I was little I remember sitting at my father’s feet as he played the guitar. He could play lots of classical pieces, but my favorite was when he would slowly piece together something we had just heard, a TV theme song or a recent radio hit. It, quiet literally, was magic. One day I went upstairs and picked up the flute that I hated to play, just to see if I could do it. If I could take my favorite song and somehow channel it through to the instrument with no guide, with no notes, just me. It took a long time, but eventually I did it. The next day I tried another one, and another, desperate to channel whatever it was I was doing.… Read the rest
I’ve read more young adult this year than ever before and by and large it’s been a tremendous decision. I continue to be impressed with the quality of character and story, demonstrating why the genre(?) continues to garner attentions from readers of all ages. I would note Angry Robot imprint, Strange Chemistry has been the source of the vast majority of my young adult reading, and T.L. Costa’s Playing Tyler is another example.
Tyler MacCandless has a nasty case of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He can only seem to focus when he’s playing video games or in the sky with his Civilian Air Patrol Mentor, Rick. His mom checked out after his dad was killed in an auto wreck, and his brother, who survived the crash, is institutionalized after extensive drug abuse. The only things he wants are his brother to get better, and to join the air force. Just when it seems like his life is falling apart, Rick asks him to test a video game.… Read the rest
Since the moment I finished Wesley Chu’s debut novel, The Lives of Tao, I called reading it ‘the most fun I’ve had this year.’ I wouldn’t call it the best novel, and maybe not even the best debut, but it’s one of those reads that puts a smile on my face that won’t go away. In reading Mur Lafferty’s ‘debut’ (I put that in quotes since it’s only a debut in that it’s her first novel published by a SFWA approved house) A Shambling Guide to New York City, I found myself less joyful despite nearly identical character arcs and plot structures. My responses to myself ranged from ‘well everyone’s mileage varies’ to ‘oh my God these two books are incredibly similar why do I love one and not the other?’ Considering that question is what this review is about.
Lives of Tao tells the story of out-of-shape IT technician Roen who hears a voice in his head that turns out to be an ancient alien life-form named Tao who’s hitching a ride.… Read the rest
For once I’m only going to say nice things. . . mostly. I didn’t really love Adam Christopher’s Empire State. It was a novel that didn’t seem entirely sure about what it wanted to be. However, I can do nothing but bow down to this Forbidden Planet limited edition exclusive cover:
Holy crap. Am I right? I mean it’s beautiful on its own, but having read the book it’s also perfectly appropriate.
While I didn’t like Empire State so much, there’s one book series this blog has had nothing but good things to say about — Howard Andrew Jones’ The Chronicles of Swords and Sand. I consider both novels something of a revelation. So was the cover for the Desert of Souls hardback by Charles Keegan. The covers that followed in trade paperback and the sequel Bones of the Old Ones, were less spectacular.
Thankfully, Jones’ UK publisher has redeemed the series visually by commissioning Keegan to revisit his style for Bones of the Old Ones across the pond.… Read the rest
In an effort to “catch up”, I’ve compressed several books into a single post. I hope this will be the last of my omnibus reviewing.
The Kassa Gambit by M.C. Planck – Held back by an ending that doesn’t quite capitalize on the exceptional beginnings, Kassa Gambit remains a very entertaining debut effort. It works best as a narrative of distrust between the two central characters, dealing with one another disingenuously and often convincing themselves of their own paranoia. When the story moves beyond that interplay the plot doesn’t hold up that well, but it’s really not any less fun for it.
Nexus by Ramaz Naam – It’s pretty clear that Naam is attempting to blow his readers’ minds with his idea for nano-virus telepathy. I won’t argue, it is a pretty cool idea, but beyond first blush when it gets into the actual telling of a story, Nexus ends up reading an awful lot like a half dozen other Angry Robot science fiction books I’ve read over the last couple years.… Read the rest
I’ve fallen behind a bit in my reviewing, with some ten books read as yet unreviewed. In an effort to catch up, I’m going to do write three short reviews here. It isn’t just a matter of catching up, the truth is books don’t always have a thousand word review in them, and who would want to read a thousand words about everything I read?
Armor by John Steakley
Steakley’s classic often stands in the shadow of Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War. It’s true that all three feature power armor and have military forces gallivanting across the galaxy killing wacky aliens, but Armor is an all together different kind of novel. That fact is not clear at first, featuring Felix, an Earth soldier encased in special body armor designed to fight an insectoid alien horde. This part of the novel is much like the Heinlein and Haldeman novels, describing the horrors of war from an ‘in the thick of it’ point of view.… Read the rest
How much of a novel’s success or failure is predicated on its voice? I would argue there’s a compelling case to be made that it’s a primary one. The problem is that voice is an extremely subjective measurement defined in semantics. I ask the question because Cassandra Rose Clarke’s The Assassin’s Curse is written in a voice that I couldn’t stand. Unfortunately, it’s not the only thing about the novel I didn’t like.
Assassin’s Curse is the story of Ananna, a teenager daughter of a pirate captain who runs from marriage with an allied clan. She wants what every pirate wants — her own ship. Her escape, while easy, has an unfortunate side effect when her scorned fiance’s father sends an assassin after her. In the process of being assassinated, Ananna triggers a curse that binds her to Naji, her former assassin and now begrudging protector.
Thus, the story is centered around breaking that curse, freeing Ananna to resume her pursuit of her own ship and Naji to continue being an assassin for hire.… Read the rest
Having been on a work trip, I find myself spending a lot of time in the car commuting and driving to various meetings. The result is a lot of time with audio books. It’s been a nice break and an opportunity to catch up on a few things I haven’t been able to get into in print. The following three books are what I’ve recently finished. Before my trip is over I suspect to finish two more, John Steakley’s Armor, and probably Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint.
Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregellis
I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m pretty much done with World War II. It’s just been done to death, hasn’t it? The History Channel might as well be Hitler Channel for crying out loud. Or at least that’s what I said before I listened to Ian Tregellis’ Bitter Seeds.
Beginning in the early stages of World War II, Bitter Seeds shows the secret history of the conflict between Germany’s Gotterelektrongruppe (Nazi mutants, a la X-Men) and Britain’s warlocks.
… Read the rest