Will McIntosh wrote a book about love and I’m wondering whether I’ll ever read another that does it better. Love Minus Eighty isn’t a romance. In fact, it’s often antithetical to that idea. Instead it’s a charming, frightening, and all together confusing (as only love can be) treatise on the nature of relationships, their unpredictability and capability for crippling despair.
Based on McIntosh’s Hugo Award winning short story, Bridesicles, Love Minus Eighty is set years in the future where cryogenics and life extension technology have reached the point that the only thing standing in the way of death is money. For the particularly beautiful and female, dying young means ending up in cryogenic dating farms where the creepiest rich men briefly resurrect them to determine how depraved they’ll be in exchange for another chance at life. It’s a horrific idea driven home by the character of Mira, who throughout the novel is killed and awakened untold times by curious ‘Johns’ (for lack of a better words).… 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
Sharing an editor at Orbit Books, Brian McClellan got a nice boost when bestselling author Brent Weeks called Promise of Blood, “a hugely promising debut. . .[and] the finest flintlock fantasy I’ve read. . .” For the first part, I really couldn’t agree more. McClellan’s debut novel reads much like something I’ve come to expect from Weeks or Brandon Sanderson, lacking perhaps only the confidence that comes with seeing your name in the New York Times. To the second, well, I’ll find it difficult to oust Bradley P. Beaulieu’s The Winds of Khalakovo from that perch, but I won’t object to having Promise of Blood in the conversation.
McClellan opens in the aftermath of a military coup, told from the perspective of Adamat, a private investigator and struggling small businessman. Ordered by the coup-master himself, Field Marshall Tamas, Adamat must discover why with their dying breath the Royal Cabal whispered: “You can’t break Kresimir’s Promise.” Throughout Promise of Blood the phrase becomes something of a “Who is John Galt?”, urging the narrative forward with a need to know the answers.… Read the rest
With Andre Norton’s aged novel Star Guard, Tom Holt’s new novel Doughnut, and Howard Andrew Jones’ Pathfinder tie-in novel Plague of Shadows, I’ve found three authors and books to review that have almost nothing in common. We all have our crosses to bear, do we not?
Andre Norton, a great forerunner (get it? Because she wrote Forerunner.) of science fiction, and considered by many to be the Grande Dame of SF, wrote a novel in 1953 titled Star Guard. It was actually the second novel in a world later dubbed Central Control, in which Terrans, considered to be the ideal mercenaries of the galaxy, are forced to pay for access to the stars with blood. Of course, the two novels in the ‘series’ have almost nothing to do with one another, making the ending of Star Guard unduly incomplete.
Told from the perspective of Kana Karr, a newly enlisted Swordsman sent to an un-extraordinary planet to quell a common rebellion, Norton spins a story that reminds me of legendary marches across hostile territory from the ancient world.… Read the rest
One of the things I like about novels is that they’re excessive by nature. My creative writing teacher in college made the point that short stories are snapshots – perfect little bubbles in time – and novels are more like films, much larger, with much larger scope, and not necessarily as clean; but I still don’t think this really captures the expansive nature of novels, which are capable of going down rabbitholes and exploring avenues of thought film just doesn’t have the resources or time or even the ability to do.
This is not to say that all novels, by nature of their medium, contain excess: Dashiell Hammett’s work is as efficient and engineered as a scalpel, without a trace of fat on it, neither needing more nor wanting it. Nor does it mean that excess is a virtue in novels: tepid navel-gazing will always be an offense, without question.… Read the rest
It wasn’t that Nola’s vision had changed: it was that her vision had changed without her even knowing it. There were all kinds of things happening around her that she’d never known about, that she was blind to. Though her experience of the world had seemed whole and certain to her, in truth it had been marred, filled with blind spots, and she’d had no idea.
I rarely begin my reviews with quotes, but this one, pulled from a relatively early section of Robert Jackson Bennett’s American Elsewhere, so perfectly represents the author’s style. His work captures the shadowed substance that always lurks in the corner of our eye, that we feel over our shoulder, and makes our skin crawl without cause. He did it in the novel I called the best of 2012 — The Troupe — and he’s done it again with American Elsewhere.
Mona Bright is just short of middle aged, a former cop without a lot going for her.… Read the rest
I enjoy trolling various forums to get a look at upcoming cover art. Some weeks give me lots of material I want to highlight, other weeks give me nothing. For someone who hasn’t bought a book based on a cover in five years I find the entire exercise a little odd, but I’m a sucker for good paintin’. And I love almost nothing more than a tragically bad cover. I found three this week that felt deserved some commentary.
The first that caught my eye was this beauty from Michal Karcz for Kim Stanley Robinson’s forthcoming novel, Shaman:
I mean look at it. . . a novel of the ice age? With a guy on a snow drift with a big fucking space ship about to land on his head? Are you kidding me? The whole concept just sucks me in. It’s also a really well composed cover, coming off more like a movie poster than a novel.… 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