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
It’s been a long time since I used this particular trick. Cheryl is back.
Why do I use Cheryl? Because I tend to finish everything I start. If I only read things that I enjoy, how will I ever stretch myself? I’m also loathe to spend 800 words eviscerating someone’s baby. Thus, Cheryl was born. Cheryl is my imaginary personal assistant who helps me “review” novels I really did not like. Instead of just doggedly attacking a novel’s failures, I try to have some fun with it.
What follows is a conversation I had with Cheryl about Mira Grant’s new novel, Parasite.
… Read the rest
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
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
Books like Zachary Jernigan’s No Return are the primary reason why the Night Shade Books collapse was a crying shame. It is bold, edgy, daring, and uneven in spots, making it both exactly the kind of book that demands to be published and one that is likely to be passed over by larger houses. In all, No Return is a quirky mash-up of speculative genres drawn into a thoroughly compelling package before petering out in the last twenty pages. While that might sound damning with faint praise, I insist that it’s a book that should be read.
The reality is Jernigan had no shortage of capable hands guiding him as he wrote No Return. Written mostly, if not in full, during his time in the Stonecoast MFA program, his advisers were Elizabeth Hand and David Anthony Durham. But, despite exceptional writing and a mind blowingly original concept, the novel ends abruptly with little resolution (if any) of the two disparate plot lines.… Read the rest
I read a lot of novels. They can blur together, particularly reading in a genre that sources the same texts again and again. It’s a distinct treat when a novel so deeply rooted in science fiction surprises, rips away any sense of déjà vu, and adopts another frame of reference. Ann Leckie’s first published novel, Ancillary Justice, does that and more.
Breq, a soldier on a quest for information, searches an icy planet. The information Breq requires is how to kill Anaander Mianaai, the near immortal Lord of the Radch, a galaxy spanning empire that Breq once defended. See, Breq used to be Justice of Toren, a self-aware starship that controlled thousands of corpse soldiers known as ancillaries. Now, the Justice of Toren is alone inside one of those soldiers. Justice of Toren is just Breq.… Read the rest
Put simply, Jacqueline Koyanagi’s Ascension is one of those books that marks a change. The cover alone seems to say, ‘this is science fiction unlike what you’ve read before.’ After reading it I can attest that notion is fulfilled, although not exactly as I expected. The first novel from Prime Books’ new digital imprint, Masque Books, Ascension is equal parts science fiction and romance.
Alana Quick is a sky surgeon in Heliodor City, but repairing starship engines stopped paying the bills when Transliminal and their new fangled inter-dimensional technology came along. When the desperate crew of a cargo vessel stops by her shipyard looking for her sister, Nova, Alana stows away hoping for a chance to ply her trade among the stars. Her trip proves to be more than engine repair.
Nova is the target of Transliminal, and they’ll do anything to get Alana’s sister. With a chief engineer who thinks he’s a wolf, a pilot who fades in and out of existence, and a captain Alana can’t keep her eyes off, it’s up to the Tangled Axon and her crew to stop them. … Read the rest
If you’ll recall, I wrote a post about the demise of Night Shade Books in which I admitted to being sent two manuscripts by the publisher to give my feedback on. Michael Martinez’s The Daedalus Incident was one of those titles. As a result, I’m not going to review it. Not really. Suffice to say I really enjoyed it despite an extremely unconventional narrative.
The nature of that narrative is two seemingly disparate story lines connected through space and time. One is in an alternate dimension set during the Napoleonic era, where, instead of plying the oceans, ships of the line sail between the planets powered by alchemy. If that sounds like a trip, it is. On the other side, Martinez tells the story of a research team on Mars in the 22nd century dealing with unexplained geological events. How these two stories collide is the telling of the tale and I won’t go into any greater detail except to say that there’s a very Lovecraftian solution to it all, which should come as no surprise to those familiar with Night Shade’s love of such things.… Read the rest
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