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 Soulshardback 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.
I tend to write long reviews for everything I read, but I’ve found that difficult, particularly with second and third book in a series. From time to time I’m going to do posts like this one where I bundle a bunch of reviews together. Most of them will be part of a series, but occasionally I’ll throw a standalone in as well. I’ll also write up novels in this space that I didn’t finish (very rare) and I’ll try to explain why without actually reviewing it. Enjoy!
Suited by Jo Anderton
Last year’s Debris was a fascinating debut novel. In it, Anderton developed a world that reminded me of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, particularly in the mystery surrounding the world’s mechanics. Her main character was a powerful woman, cast down from the heights of society to work in the dreary underbelly of a city literally falling apart. The second novel, Suited, picks up soon after the end of the first, suffering from middle book syndrome and falling short of its predecessor by a reasonable margin.… Read the rest
Now that we’re at the halfway mark for the year, I thought it would appropriate to point out all the novels coming out from August-December that strike my fancy. I’ll be breaking my posts down by publisher. Below are the novels coming this Fall and Winter from Night Shade, Angry Robot, Baen, and Pyr that will be must reads for me. I’ll mention that there are likely some books from November and December here that aren’t currently listed on the publisher’s websites that I’ll end up wanting (Anne Lyle’s Merchant of Dreams is an example). Either way, I can’t read them all. So I’ll be looking forward to seeing what interests you. Here’s what caught my eye:
The Constantine Affliction by T. Aaron Payton (NSB – August)
1864. London is a city in transition. The Constantine Affliction–a strange malady that kills some of its victims and physically transforms others into the opposite sex–has spread scandal and upheaval throughout society.
Earlier this week I reviewed Anne Lyle’s debut novel Alchemist of Souls. It’s an excellent piece of historical fiction that she blends with fantasy elements to create something wholly unique. A lover of historical fiction during a long stretch in my 20′s, I found myself quickly drawn into the background of the novel. Before long I was neck deep in a Wikipedia wormhole following Lyle’s historical threads and their real world simulacrums. After my supplementary reading, I wanted to ask her a few questions… Lyle agreed.
When Tudor explorers returned from the New World, they brought back a name out of half-forgotten Viking legend: skraylings. Red-sailed ships followed in the explorers’ wake, bringing Native American goods–and a skrayling ambassador–to London. But what do these seemingly magical beings really want in Elizabeth I’s capital?
Mal Catlyn, a down-at-heel swordsman, is seconded to the ambassador’s bodyguard, but assassination attempts are the least of his problems.
Before I became re-enamored with fantasy, I was an avid reader of historical fiction (or as I like to call it — fantasy for people who don’t want to be seen reading fantasy). I read Shogun (Clavell), Pride of Carthage (Durham), Musashi (Yoshikawa), Gates of Fire (Pressfield), and their ilk. It’s exciting to me now when I come across a fantasy concoction that blends that historical sensibility with the speculative. Anne Lyle’s debut novel is just that kind of brew. Set in historical Elizabethan England, Alchemist of Souls shows what might have happened if the Virgin Queen had children, secured her rule, and made an alliance with a heretofore undiscovered alien race from the New World.
Lyle’s protagonist is Mal Catlyn, a down on his luck swordsman with a checkered past and an unfortunate family connection to Catholicism. The skraylings, a new race from the New World, have been allied with England for a generation, but an ambassador had yet to treat with the Queen.… Read the rest