Scott Lynch tackles something in Republic of Thieves that falls flat on its face. Politics. This doesn’t mean the novel fails. It’s actually a wonderful addition to a series that continues to excel with Lynch’s unique voice and kinetic narratives. Where Republic of Thieves falls short, MJ Locke’s Up Against It knocks it out of the park with the best portrayal of authentic politics I’ve found in the speculative genres.
At its roots, Up Against It is an asteroid colony disaster movie. When an accident occurs, destroying precious ice reserves, the entire colony is at risk if they can’t replenish it. Phocaea’s resource manager, Jane, is tasked with making that happen, while keeping the colony’s residents from tearing each other, and the government, apart. Add to that Mars’ mafia trying to move in, a group of teenage kids caught in the middle, a rogue AI coming to life, social structures based on internet popularity, and ubiquitous cameras beaming reality TV back to Earth.… Read the rest
Razor’s Edge by Martha Wells
I last read a Star Wars novel in 1998. I was seventeen and still very much enamored with notions of the Force. I lost interest, at the time, because the ‘expanded universe’ began moving further and further away from the core of what made Star Wars special–its characters.
The problem with an ‘expanded universe’ is that at some point authors run out of time and space to tell stories about beloved characters. It becomes impossible to find a new story to tell without continuing to age them to the point they’re no longer capable of performing the feats required by an interesting adventure tale. Of course, Harrison Ford pulled it off in The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Right?… Read the rest
I’ve read approximately thirteen novels by one Mr. Raymond E. Feist, making him, along with Piers Anthony, the most read author of my life. This is somewhat of a disturbing realization on my part. I would note here that while I’ve read thirteen novels set in Midkemia and Xanth respectively, I’ve read even more set in Krynn. . . well over thirty. For the uninformed, Krynn is Dragonlance, the role playing game novelizations that I (and Jared Shurin) would argue as the face that launched a thousand ships in the hearts and minds of budding fantasists. I’m not really selling myself as a connoisseur of literature am I?
While my memories of the Xanth and Dragonlance novels feel accurate, namely that they are by and large unreadable to an older audience, I have continued to feel adequately warm and fuzzy about Raymond Feist’s work. So much so that I’ve actively waited for the day that his older novels would cross the electronic divide so that I might re-avail myself of them.… Read the rest
I’m cutting it close getting this post done before my Hugo ballot is due. It’s a shame I’m only now finding the time to recognize the best books of 2012 three months in to 2013. Such is life.
Last year, I gave the Juice Box to Maureen McHugh’s After the Apocalypse, a collection of her short fiction, including three new stories. It really blew me away. I didn’t find a short story collection that impacted me nearly so much this year, although I regret that I did not read Karin Tidbeck’s Jagannath. Thus, this year’s list is strictly novels.
Sadly, with the exception of one, all of this year’s short list are fantasy, which is likely a result of not reading 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson, or M. John Harrison’s Empty Space. I’m certainly going to endeavor to read them in 2013. Among the science fiction I did read this year, the near misses include Faith by John Love (which I named best debut), Rapture by Kameron Hurley, Caliban’s War by James SA Corey, Chimera by TC McCarthy, and Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds.… Read the rest
I write this post with trepidation It’s a gross departure from what Staffer’s Book Review has been about since day one. Nevertheless, the new job, the death of my father-in-law, Christmas, an increasingly needy three year old, and my general slacking of my duties as a blogger, has found me desperately far behind in my reviewing. In an effort to catch up, and get back on top of my pile, I present my “as-yet-unreviewed-reading-log-from-late-November-to-February”, or at least half of it:
Rapture by Kameron Hurley — Of all the books on this list, Rapture is the one I’m most comfortable reviewing in a few sentences. That’s mostly because I’ve done nothing but sing Kameron Hurley’s praises with the previous two volumes God’s War and Infidel. Rapture continues the pattern and provides a tremendous ending to the series. I can’t help mentioning that there are moments in all of Hurley’s books that will scour your soul with moments of utter bleakness.… Read the rest
Admittedly, this is the Juice Box no one wants to drink. It’s like the equivalent of the Coastal Cooler Capri Sun. No eight year old should have to suffer that abomination in their lunchbox. By the same token, the books that make this short list really shouldn’t have been foisted on to unsuspecting genre fans. Nevertheless, here we are. Unlike our eight year old comparison points, it’s pretty hard to do a lunch room swap with a bad book.
But, this Juice Box Award isn’t for bad reads. No, sir! It’s for books that promised to be great and fell flat on their face. Sometimes that means an average book. Sometimes is just means it isn’t as good as it could be, which was surely the case with last year’s winner (er.. loser?) George R.R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons. Regardless, onward!
I present the Most Disappointing Books of the Year:
#5) Railsea & Redshirts
Both of these novels clearly fall into the ‘not as good as they could be’ category because neither is particularly bad.… Read the rest
What separated The Warded Man from the detritus of epic fantasy was that it was written with intent. Not only intending to tell a wide ranging and intricate fantasy story, Peter Brett wrote a novel about fear, and terror, and how people respond under those circumstances. At least partially inspired by the events of September 11, 2001, it’s my contention that the positive response to his first novel had more to do with that resonance, and his execution of it, than any particular fantasy epicness. It would also be my contention that the progression of the narrative, beyond that theme, has fundamentally diluted that theme, leaving subsequent volumes to rely far more on how effectively they engaged as epic fantasy.
By that statement I’m not implying that there’s something wrong with Desert Spear, Brett’s follow up to the Warded Man. It is in many ways a better book, but Arlen can’t always be the brave boy daring to go into the night, and his father can’t always be too afraid to save his wife.… Read the rest
I owe Terry Brooks a lot, so much so that I hesitate to write this review. In 1991, I read The Sword of Shannara and opened the door to two decades of imagination. I still rank it as one of my favorite books ever written. I went on to read Elfstones of Shannara and Wishsong of Shannara, both superior novels to the original, as well as the subsequent Heritage of Shannara quartet, a spectacular follow-up series to my memory. Thirteen years later I haven’t read any further. Encouraged by Aidan Moher of A Dribble of Ink to give Brooks another go, I picked up Wards of Faerie to see where the wind would take me.
Given that fourteen Shannara books filled the gap between The Talismans of Shannara and Wards of Faerie, I was moderately concerned that I’d be lost among the history of Brooks’ creations. I’m happy report that fear unfounded.… Read the rest
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
In 1999, I was a freshman in college at the University of California, Santa Barbara. We Gauchos have a bit of reputation, but I think that first year more students spent time indoors that ever before. We were in the midst of the file sharing revolution and I was at ground zero.
A lot of files were shared that year from music to movies to games. Napster was catching fire, but for the lazy college student it was as easy as peeking into another’s public folders and grabbing what caught the eye. I don’t think most understood what they were doing. It was the Wild Wild West back then, long before the narrative of intellectual property theft began in the public eye. Nevertheless, in Rob Reid’s Year Zero, they’d be in the same dicey position as the universe’s non-Earth population. That is to say, in a severe legal conundrum as it relates to copyright law.… Read the rest