Review: Jade City

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Posted on : 11/25/2018 09:06:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Jade City Jade City by Fonda Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fonda Lee hits one out of the park! Almost....

Jade City is the story of rival criminal gangs. The gang members are genetically capable of using pieces of jade to give them near superpowers. They go through 8 years of intense training to be able to hold and use jade for that purpose.

The gangs maintain a tight control on who gets the jade and who gets trained to use it. Effectively, the gangs run the city in a way.

The author did a ton of research on real criminal gangs as well as depictions in movies and books over the years. The Asian influence is apparent as the gangs are on some sort of Asian island, draw inspiration from wuxia and use a version of kung fu (my interpretation).

The characters have multiple motivations and are well developed. The plot holes are few and minor.

The one thing that holds me back from giving this 5 stars is that Ms. Lee didn't trust her readers to get all of the subtext of the book.

It is apparent from the story that these gangs are largely male dominated. Yet as the society evolves with improvements in technology and exposure to other cultures, women find that they are able to create their own roles in that gang culture. It is harder for them at times. It is also just different.

Rather than let those features be self-evident, Ms. Lee put in a few direct statements confirming that the gangs were dominated by men. Well....yes....all the other words around those statements made it pretty clear.

Authors, trust your readers to "get it". You don't have to rub their faces in identity politics to get your point across.

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Review: Skin

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Posted on : 11/25/2018 08:49:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

Skin Skin by Peter Fugazzotto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good novella from horror/grim-dark fantasy author Peter Fugazzotto.

A group of men guarding a border outpost find that they have invited some creature into their keep. The creature can mimic any person. And it is killing them off one by one.

Well constructed story. Compelling characters and decent world building.

As the author readily admits, this story seems to be a close parallel with John Carpenter's movie "The Thing". That was apparent to me early on in reading the story. But the writing was compelling enough to keep me interested in seeing how Peter would reveal his version of the story.

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Review: Fool's Assassin

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Posted on : 11/25/2018 08:43:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Fool's Assassin Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A great opening book for this trilogy. Interesting world building and character development.

The biggest drawback was the lack of inventiveness for the magic system. Called it "wit" and "skill" was a bit lazy.

Otherwise, this is a great book and I look forward to the rest of the trilogy.

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Review: 12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers

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Posted on : 11/02/2018 01:25:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers 12 Strong: The Declassified True Story of the Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fantastic and awe-inspiring recounting of the early days of America's involvement in Afghanistan. The book illustrates how putting a few highly capable individuals in just the right position with the authority to get the job done results in the job...getting done.

The book also illustrates how the difference in cultures creates many opportunities for missteps.

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Review: Beren and Lúthien

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Posted on : 10/31/2018 09:14:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Beren and Lúthien Beren and Lúthien by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was hoping for a more refined tale that was more in keeping with The Hobbit and LotR. This was not that.

I read the first version of Beren and Luthien that is included in the book. It was interesting but not as tight as the later works. The origin story for the conflict between dogs and cats was pretty good.

If you are a hard-core Tolkien fan, then this book is for you. If you had a hard time getting through the Silmarillion, then this book probably is not for you.

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Review: Paper Girls, Vol. 3

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Posted on : 10/22/2018 02:39:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

Paper Girls, Vol. 3 Paper Girls, Vol. 3 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another great entry in this series. Top-notch writing and great artwork combine to tell an unusual tale of gritting and determined young girls surviving in a world gone sideways.

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Review: Saga, Vol. 7

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Posted on : 10/22/2018 02:37:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

Saga, Vol. 7 Saga, Vol. 7 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The artwork is good, but not really all that great.

The story continues to be a pedantic tale of human sexuality with some sci-fi/fantasy tropes slathered on.

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Review: Low, Vol. 1: The Delirium of Hope

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Posted on : 10/22/2018 02:30:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Low, Vol. 1: The Delirium of Hope Low, Vol. 1: The Delirium of Hope by Rick Remender
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Our sun will eventually expand until it consumes our entire solar system. What will humanity do in those final few years as the sun slowly expands towards our orbit? Will we seek a new home? What if the search isn't over, but we have to hide? Where can we hide?

We can go....Low. Deep into the depths of the ocean.

Fantastic artwork and writing present a tale of humanity where optimism and hope fuel our final efforts to escape the coming conflagration in a world where optimism and hope are in short supply.

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Review: Blackbird #1

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Posted on : 10/22/2018 02:25:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Blackbird #1 Blackbird #1 by Sam Humphries
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Great start to a new series. Looking forward to where the author and artist want to go next.

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Review: Redlands, Vol. 1

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Posted on : 10/22/2018 02:23:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Redlands, Vol. 1 Redlands, Vol. 1 by Jordie Bellaire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Going on my Hugo nomination ballot for 2019. It was that good. Great art. Great story arc.

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Review: Six Wakes

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Posted on : 9/09/2018 07:49:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,


Six WakesSix Wakes by Mur Lafferty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a 4-star review. That is an accurate description of my experience with this book.

I read this book as it was a finalist for this year's Hugo Awards. While it was very enjoyable, it only made it to third place on my ballot.

The premise of the book is a crew of 6 people that run an interstellar spaceship. It will take generations to get to the destination. The passengers are all packed away in a sort of hypersleep so they won't age during the trip.

The crew are all clones. In this fictional world, only one instance of a person can exist at one time. And if a person gets cloned, then they are not supposed to procreate. Essentially the bargain is that a clone can effectively live forever...once. The technology saves their memories from time to time so that if they die, their memories can be re-uploaded into a new clone and off they go.

The book deals heavily in the idea of what it means to be a person. It also leans into ethical issues such as genetic modifications and hacking of a person's brain (memories, personalities, etc.)

Each of the 6 crew members has a feature that makes them unique as a clone. The book does an excellent job of pacing as these features/histories are revealed.

The bones of the story is that the entire crew wakes up after being re-uploaded into new clones. Their most recent memories are from decades earlier. Yet they can clearly see that their prior clone bodies died in an orgy of violence. The question is...why? This turns into a bit of a murder/mystery as the characters go through a process of eliminating motivations and methods.

No spoilers,  but the ending really undermined all of the work that the author had done throughout the book. After all of the increasing tension and finger pointing, the crew decides to sit down and be nice....for reasons.  It was a good ending...but not a great one.


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Review: Planetfall

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Posted on : 9/09/2018 07:33:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Planetfall Planetfall by Emma Newman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a charitable 3 star review. It isn't really at 2 star level, but it isn't really at 3 star level either.

The premise of the book is that Earth is crowded, polluted, and noisy. One of the characters picks up a plant and has a "religious" experience. She claims that she knows where "God" is. A group of followers assemble a spaceship and the technology needed to make the trip to this other planet.

The story after they get there devolves into a murder mystery. This book might be more aptly described as science fantasy than science fiction. The mainline story is engaging enough. Our protagonist is also a hoarder. Her hoarding is related to some of the larger story, so no spoilers.

The plot also involves a lot of discussion about 3D printing. As this technology is pretty old at this point, it just didn't seem to add a futuristic element to the story.

Other elements that seemed a bit off were:

The colony has a lot of advanced tech that ensures a minimal biological footprint. They also enjoy advanced medical technology that allows them to live much longer than humans currently do. Part of the plot is that Earth was rapidly degrading due to a lack of resources/lack of recycling/etc. Yet the colonists leave Earth in possession of all that tech that could have made Earth a better place. The lack of logic here is disappointing.

The colony just exists. They build a little village around the base of a structure where "God" is supposed to be. They don't explore. They just sit there waiting for their leader to come back from "God".

Then there is the ending. If you have ever watched the movie "Mission to Mars", then you've pretty much got the ending.

I've loved other books written by Ms. Newman. This is just a bit too much of a mish-mash to be truely worthwhile.

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Review: The Wandering Inn: Volume 1

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Posted on : 9/09/2018 07:32:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

The Wandering Inn: Volume 1 The Wandering Inn: Volume 1 by Pirateaba
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

This is a brief, unstarred review. I don't want to influence the average.

This appears to be LitRPG. LitRPG apparently isn't my thing. Reading about characters that are aware of when they level-up isn't very interesting to me. I only made it through a few chapters.

This book first appeared as a series of blog entries. I highly recommend that you read the first few chapters there before buying the book. The premise was interesting enough that I bought the book. The execution just wasn't there.

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Review: Provenance

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Posted on : 9/09/2018 07:32:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , , ,

Provenance Provenance by Ann Leckie
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a 2-star review for a DNF book.

I read this book due to its being a finalist for the Hugo Awards this year. It ended up below "no award" on my ballot. It was that bad.

The protagonist is an entitled girl who is fixated on showing her adoptive mother that she can be as useful as her other adopted siblings. She has access to wealth and opportunity to pursue anything else. Instead, she wanders from one half-baked "plan" to the next. Why anyone goes along with her plans is mystifying.

There are several secondary characters that seem like they might be interesting. Yet they slide easily out of the story and beyond the reader's attention.

One major plot hole was the number of incidents where characters were confessing their closely guarded secrets to her for no discernable reason. These secrets always involved crimes that for which the characters had not been captured or punished. Our protagonist didn't need the information and didn't use it in any way. The characters weren't put in a position where they had to reveal their secrets. They just did.....reasons I guess.

Dorothy Parker's ghost demanded justice.



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Review: Freehold

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Posted on : 7/03/2018 04:37:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Freehold Freehold by Michael Z. Williamson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a 2-star review. That is a reasonable estimate of my experience with this book. I made it through 24.5% of the book before the ghost of Dorothy Parker arose and seized it from my hands.

The book purports to tell the story of our main character, Sergeant Kendra Pacelli. She finds herself accused of inappropriately transferring military property to non-authorized persons. It appears that she was working for the people performing the actual transfers, but guilt by association brought her the attention of law enforcement.

Rather than face the music in a system that apparently has little interest in justice, she runs.

She runs to the embassy of Freehold; a non-aligned planet that generally refuses extradition requests from the Earth. They help her make it to Freehold for unexplained reasons.

It is heavily implied that the Earth government knows no bounds with respect to regulation and few bounds with respect to taxation.

In contrast, Freehold operates with a minimal government where everyone chooses to get along and all problems are resolved by contractual arrangements and the courts.

The book suffers from too many "it/they wouldn't work that way" moments. As a point of comparison, Heinlein's works generally did a decent (and better) job of communicating how less government might work. The key here is that Heinlein included a few warts. He also included some sort of justification for how things operate.

In the case of Freehold, the society works because of handwavium. Mr. Williamson purchases it in bulk. Kendra is essentially walked through the world while other characters point out the differences between Freehold and Earth while never finding an issue where Freehold has had to make adjustments that were more difficult because of their live and let live attitude.

I started checking out of the story when Kendra shifts from being a driven protagonist to being an object being moved around the table at the author's convenience. Earth cultural norms in the book are generally opposed to public nudity, casual sex, prostitution. Kendra comes out of that environment, exhibits some reticence with Freehold's more relaxed perspective, and quickly transitions into a three-way experience that is followed closely by her first lesbian session. This change happens not because she affirmatively seeks the new experiences, but because the Freeholders start in and Kendra doesn't resist. That sort of unmotivated character shift represents a lower quality of writing.

The other major event was when her neighbor Rob takes her up in a military aircraft. I was expecting a check ride experience. Instead, they take someone with no flight training out on a high-intensity training mission and flip/flop them all over the sky while firing training munitions all over the place.

This was the capstone of the wish-fulfillment adventure....as far as I read. Rob is a handsome and available guy. He willingly gives advice to Kendra on how to fit in on Freehold; advice that he points out others would routinely charge a fee to provide. At one point, he leads the rescue effort after a three-car pile-up. he has a day job that doesn't involve police/fire/rescue, he does odd jobs around his apartment complex (that he eventually buys), and he's the fearless and faultless flight lead on this training mission. Might he have any flaws? None that we are presented to the reader in the first quarter of the book.

I'm a big fan of individual liberty. This book should fit right in my wheelhouse. The opening few chapters suggested a lot of promise that subsided into titillation (pun intended) interspersed with episodes of wish fulfillment. Aside from the conflict at the beginning, the story becomes more like a travelog that views the locals through definitively rose-colored glasses.


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2018 Hugo Fancast

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Posted on : 6/12/2018 04:43:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

My review of this year's fan-casting nominees.  I began listening before the packets were issued.  I selected roughly two hours worth of material based on the episode descriptions.  If the descriptions sounded like a topic (or topics) that might interest me, then they got added to my list.

By selecting episodes that attract my interest, I'm hoping to give each nominee the best chance to engage me.

As that is the process that I began using, I think it would be unfair to change my approach and use whatever is in the packets to guide my listening.

As with my indispensable podcast listing, my ratings are based on three factors; production values, entertainment, and information.*

  • Doctor Who: Verity! (Episodes 143 and Aug 2, 2017) - The hosts seemed to be having a great time discussing their perspectives.  They shared the microphone well and were entertaining.  If I were inclined towards Doctor Who, I would be very inclined to make this a regular part of my podcasting habit.  One modest word of warning.  The rampant objectification and sexism displayed in the August 2nd episode served as a pointed reminder of the importance of including a diverse range of opinions.  
  • The Sword and Laser (Episodes 277, 282, 284, and 310) - This show was quite delightful.  The hosts are engaging with one another and with the audience.  They covered a lot of ground with respect to new books being published and discussions on Goodreads.  If I weren't already fully engaged in the genre, I would consider these folks to be a good starting point.  My only criticism is that most of the "information" in the information part of my assessment ended up being an invitation to join them on Goodreads.  It sounds like a lively group.  If I had the time, I would definitely consider engaging with them.
  • Galactic Suburbia - (Episodes 163 and 168) - This is a podcast that I put below No Award last year because of their fixation on identity politics.  That factor was dialed back quite a bit in these two episodes.  The hosts were lively, shared the microphone quite well, and covered a broad range of properties and topics within the genre.
  • The Coode Street Podcast - (Episodes 315 with Liz Bourke and Niall Harrison, and 317 with Irene Gallow) - Episode 315 suffered from a dry erudition that one might imagine occurring in a stately library furnished with overstuffed chairs with the vague aroma of pipe tobacco floating in the air.  The thoughts of the hosts and the guests were mildly entertaining and reasonably informative.  Beyond that, there isn't much to recall.  Episode 317 was much better as the hosts asked interesting questions and then got out of Irene Gallo's way.  Her responses to their questions about her career and her role in the industry were quite interesting.  [Before someone asks, yes, I know about Irene Gallo's past pronouncements.  There are some areas where she and I clearly do not agree.  Those issues were not addressed this episode and I am unwilling to discount the Coode Street Podcast due to her disagreeable past.]
  • No Award
  • Ditch Diggers - (Episodes 42 and 50) - This was a tough one.  One of the hosts grinds on my ears a bit.  He is a bit on the pompous side.  However, Episode 42 provided some fantastic role-playing to illustrate how writers (and other creatives) and reject offers of working for "exposure".  The flip side was Episode 50 which used precisely the same situation to provide a "fuck you" to authors that choose to work for exposure.  Intolerance and uncompassionate perspectives are unworthy of awards.
  • Fangirl Happy Hour - (Episodes 81, 85, 101, and 102) - The primary problem with this podcast is that the range of discussion was somewhat limited.  Quite a bit of discussion ended up being "I liked that thing" followed by "I liked that thing, too.  I also liked this other thing" followed by "I liked that thing, too!"  That is a bit of an oversimplification, but not by much.  There wasn't much of a discussion about why the "thing" was liked.  A secondary issue was that the hosts seem to be only able to perceive the world from an identity politics/intersectional perspective.  The most prominent example was a discussion of the movie Stargate.  There was a brief discussion lamenting that the plot involved "white people saving brown people".  The hosts overlooked the fact that the team sent through the Stargate was diverse.  They also overlooked the fact that the people being saved in this particular case were being held as slaves and therefore could not save themselves.  There was also an offhand comment along the lines of "White people are creepy".  That sort of enabling of racism really needs to be rejected.
  •  
*Entertainment - Are the hosts engaging with one another and their audience.  Do they leave you wanting to listen more.

Information - Are the hosts presenting new information.  Are they at least providing a fresh perspective on an old property.

Production values - Do they share the microphone well.  Is there distracting background noise.  Are the levels on the microphones equalized so all of the personalities are speaking at the same relative volume.

There are some factors that might influence two different categories such as a host that is less than engaging as a speaker.


2018 Hugo Graphic Novel

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Posted on : 6/11/2018 04:17:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,


Updated as I complete and rank each entry in this year's Graphic Novel competition for the Hugo Awards.

  • Monstress - Volume 2 - Yet another great entry from this team.  The artwork is awesome and the story is fantastic.  Most importantly, they didn't let the sub-text step in front of the text.
  • Black Bolt - Volume 1 Hard Times - Wonderful artwork, compelling narratives, and engaging characters.  This was very hard to put down.  What separated Black Bolt from Paper Girls was that the story didn't need an explanation that only existed in other works and the art was just a touch grander.
  • Paper Girls - Volume 3 - Although this is the third volume, the team does a good job of getting the reader up to speed.  The characters, as always, are very engaging.  The plotlines keep the reader interested.  The artwork is good, but not quite as good as Monstress or Black Bolt.  Glad to see this series back as a contender.
  • No Award
  • Saga Volume 7 - Yet again, the authors seem intent on letting the subtext of their story bleed over the genre-related presentation.  It ended up seeming to me that they had a perspective to present and slathered on a layer of science-fantasium over the top of their narrative.
  • Bitch Planet - Volume 2 - A classic example of letting the sub-text get in front of the text.  Uninspiring artwork.  And quite frankly the sci-fi elements seem like they are splashed on as an afterthought.  I didn't bother finishing it.
  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters 1 - Artwork that borders on awesome and "meh" in turns.  I got a quarter way through it and couldn't really discern much of a plot.  The artwork, in particular, reminded me of some of Frank Cho's fine-line art efforts.  If all of the artwork had been at that level, then I might have invested more time in the book. 

Review: The Rise of the Fallen

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Posted on : 5/31/2018 10:17:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

The Rise of the Fallen The Rise of the Fallen by Peter Fugazzotto
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the second book that I have read from this author. I think he's steadily progressing.

The world of this book includes a heavily overgrown jungle. As with a lot of dark and warm places, there are lots of fungi. The characters in this book have discovered how to use various fungi as armor, health restoratives, stimulants, etc.

The story centers on a group of disgraced palace guards. They were dismissed and sent off to experience torture at the hands of some noble. The king eventually decides to end their torture and let them live out their lives in exile in an old fortress.

A couple of the group leaves the fortress and wanders around with a group of pirates. They eventually come across a mysterious boy who eventually turns out to be the only surviving child of the king.

One of the disgraced guards had been captured as a child when she was abandoned (perhaps) during one of her father's pirate raids on the kingdom. She is adopted by the queen where she is repeatedly abused and demeaned. Eventually, her size makes her a likely candidate for training in the palace guard.

The other disgraced guard views the boy as a way for them to recover their honor. He suggests that returning the boy will mean that they will be welcomed back by the king. On the other hand, she is skeptical about that result and resists taking the boy home. She would rather just drop him off with the first government agent (or safe village) they can find.

The inventiveness of the worldbuilding was really quite good. Using fungus in so many ways was quite unique. The author adeptly engages the reader with interesting characters living in a jungle environment.

My single largest complaint is the attitude switch that occurs for no reason in the middle of the book. Where the male guardsman sees the return of the king's son as a rare chance at redemption early on, he is against the idea in the latter half of the book. Conversely, the female character is against returning the boy to the king in the early chapters as essentially switches positions with the male guardsman and becomes devoted to protecting the boy and dedicated to his return at the same point in the story.

A lesser issue has to do with the motivation of the disgraced guards to return to an honorable position. They have been so thoroughly abused and discarded, it is hard to see them as ever wanting to return. The lead character who was adopted by the queen was additionally abused as a child, yet she believes this queen loves her and longs to return to her. Those motivations make little sense within the context of the book.

With the significant exception of those "what the what??" moments, this was an enjoyable and engaging book.

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Review: Her Sky Cowboy

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Posted on : 5/31/2018 02:12:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

Her Sky Cowboy Her Sky Cowboy by Beth Ciotta
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Did not finish. 2 stars to be charitable. I think I made it to chapter 5.

Steampunk is a difficult genre for me. An author does not necessarily have to explain how all technology works in their fictional world. But some of it should be explained and the explanation needs to make some sense as well as being reasonably consistent. (the same goes for magic, but that doesn't apply here)

In this case, the author just assumes the reader will buy in by just talking about technology as if it were window dressing.

I also dislike characters that emote their way to a solution.

In this case, the character went on ad nausea about how socially constrained she was. It wasn't something that was evident from her interaction with other characters. The extensive internal monologues were mind-numbing.

I have read many stories with characters that were similarly constrained by social constructs. The best stories not only feature an illustration of those constraints via interaction with other characters, they also feature constrained characters that spend more time figuring out how to escape those constraints than they do complaining about being constrained. In that way, the characters explain how those constraints were a detriment to the society as opposed to a personal impediment to "fulfillment".

Strong female characters escaping social constraints don't bother me. Whiny female characters do.

While I don't read a ton of romance, I have read some. I can't comment on the quality of that aspect of the book as it had yet to develop.

I might have stuck with the book if it were a stand-alone novel. As the first of a series, I just couldn't see investing myself in it.

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Developing That Curriculum Vitae

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Posted on : 5/09/2018 05:30:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

After writing most of this, I came to believe that there will be many readers that won't be interested in the "longer version".  Here is the short version:

  • Hillary Clinton is a misogynist.
  • Her achievements as a legislator are vanishingly small.
  • Her stint as Secretary of State was unproductive.
  • She either believes herself to be above the law or she is incompetent when it comes to obeying the law.
  • Her financial history reeks of corruption.
Here is another "short version".  Those that supported her bid for the Presidency are good and decent people.  They are not "otherwise good and decent people"; just good and decent people with whom I disagree.  We have a fundamental disagreement about what constitutes good and legitimate government within the US.
Progressives are not stupid and evil. Conservatives are not racists and misogynists.
The sooner we stop using disagreement as an excuse for maltreatment of others, the sooner we might find some common ground upon which we can all move forward.  Treat one another well.

If you must.....the longer version follows.

Review: New York 2140

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Posted on : 4/06/2018 11:34:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , , ,

New York 2140 New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a 2-Star review of a book that I DNF.

I read this book in preparation for voting in the 2018 Hugo awards. I'm familiar with KSR's general outlook on the world and have purposefully avoided reading his works as a result. But he's nominated this year and I try to give each author as much of an equal shot as possible.

The premise of the book is that global warming has melted the icecaps. The seas have risen. And New York is largely underwater. Or at least the water is high enough to cover the first couple of floors of most buildings. And then there is a story told within that milieu.

The book deviates from reality, science/economics, you-name-it so many times that is felt like the ghost of Dorothy Parker was reading over my shoulder.

Spoilers
(view spoiler)



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Review: The Collapsing Empire

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Posted on : 4/06/2018 11:10:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

The Collapsing Empire The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a 4-star review. A 3.5 star rating represents my experience with this book.

I read this book in preparation for voting for the 2018 Hugo Awards.

John Scalzi once again tells an entertaining and serviceable tale. The book relates the story of an empire that is about to collapse; hence the book's title, natch. The empire in question is based on human travel through the "Flow" to reach solar systems that would otherwise take decades to millennia at sub-FTL speeds. Human habitation in those many systems trade among one another for various goods necessary for their mutual survival.

The empire is threatened when access to those systems is about to end as the Flow undergoes a periodic but unpredictable shift. Those habitations are about to be cut off from one another as the Flow will presently shift in a way that stops all trade between those systems.

That ability to trade is controlled/regulated by the monarchy-based Interdependency, ruled by an Emperox, that controls who can access the Flow at the central hub, or Hub, world.

If you don't think about it too much, the story is quite a satisfying little romp. The characters engage the reader by being sufficiently complex in their motivations and experiences. There is political intrigue between the ruling house of Wu, the various other trading families or houses, and the religion that ties the worlds together.

When you consider some of the details, large and small, the story begins to unravel a bit.

Spoilers
(view spoiler)
As long as you don't put a lot of thought into the mechanics of the world building, this is an engaging and entertaining story. Be entertained and then move on.

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2018 Hugo Novel

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Posted on : 4/03/2018 03:33:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

This is where I will review and rate the nominees in the novel category for the 2018 Hugo awards.

I make a point of purchasing all of the nominees in the novel category.  Authors should get paid whenever possible.

  • The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin - More later.  Very well written while being disturbingly negative in outlook.
  • Raven Strategem by Yoon Ha Lee - This is the second book in a series.  The first book was also nominated.  I believe this book benefitted from literary inertia; people that enjoy the first book in a series are likely to find and read the second book in the same series.  I read this year's installment as a fantasy novel wrapped in a sci-fi cloak and had a much better time.
  • Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty - More later.  Almost certainly not making it to the top of my ballot due to some plot holes.
  • No Award
  • The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi - longer thoughts to come soon.  The short version is that while it is enjoyable, it is not one of the five best books of 2017.  It isn't even close.  The longer version is that the world building was poorly executed, there were problematic characters, and there were features in the storytelling that undercut a more serious reading experience.  While reading this book was an enjoyable experience, it was not of the stellar quality that one associates with being a Hugo Award-winning book.  [For the record, I have found other works by Mr. Scalzi to be definitely worthy of such recognition.  This book is just not in that category.]
  • Provenance by Ann Leckie - I made it through about a third of the book before I gave up.  The main character was uninteresting and not terribly inspiring.  She was essentially flailing about in pursuit of some way of lowering the status of her adoptive brother.  She had no plan, she just jumped from one "idea" to the next.  Add to that the incidents where characters were confessing their crimes to her for no valid reason whatsoever.  
  • New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson - The level of utter nonsense in this book made it a Do Did Not Finish tome worthy of Dorothy Parker's best.
This was a disappointing group of nominees.  Just off the top of my head, the following are easily as good as (if not better than) the works that I put below "No Award".
  • Tyrant's Throne by Sebastien de Castell
  • The Core by Peter V. Brett
  • All Good Things by Emma Newman
  • Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

Trump - A Year Plus In

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Posted on : 3/09/2018 04:39:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Here we are a year and several weeks into the Trump Presidency.  It seems like a good time to account for where we seem to be going.

I could probably write a couple pages on each of the topics below.  To keep this from getting too tedious, I'm only going to keep it as brief as possible.  If there is a part of a topic where you, dear reader, are inclined to say "except.....", please assume that I am not suggesting that successes (or failures) are being offered as without flaw (or completely flawed).

Where are we experiencing progress - 

Judicial Appointments - Mr. Trump has largely been appointing men and women of experience, probity, and temperament to apply the Constitution as written.  The US Constitution was written to think expansively of individual liberty and restrictively towards the size and scope of the federal government.  His appointments mostly are pointed in the correct direction.

Tax Cuts for the Middle Class - The recently passed tax cuts appear to be largely aimed at folks that are not rich.  The updated tax laws apparently will increase the total tax burden on the folks at the top of the income scale by limiting SALT deductions.  Those are reasonable changes.

Cutting the Corporate Tax Rate - Our corporate income tax rate was one of the highest in the world.  It discouraged companies from bringing overseas profits home.  It discouraged overseas companies from investing in facilities and jobs in America.  That is no longer the case with positive results, thus far.

Reductions in Regulations - Just as we are Taxed Enough Already, we are similarly regulated enough already.  While there are areas where new regulation might be useful, there are far more areas where existing regulations are numerous and counterproductive.

Trade/Treaties - I support free trade.  I believe that our general trend towards engaging in free trade agreements has largely served to improve conditions in the United States while also benefiting our trading partners.  At the same time, I also believe in fair trade.  It is hard for American workers to compete in a global marketplace where other nations do not have the same level of environmental and employment regulations.  Persuading our trading partners to embrace worker and environmental protections should be a part of crafting effective trade agreements.

The Economy - I am generally of the opinion that a President's actions take months and years to impact the economy.  I am generally of the opinion that government policy has less impact on the economy than some people imagine.

But you have to admit that the US economy came busting loose starting in November/December of 2016.  Mr. Trump wasn't even in office and things were improving.  Why?

Because we knew that we would not have to face another 8 years of an administration that could not express a limit as to how much government should collect in taxes, how much government should spend, and how much government should regulate.

Couple what Mr. Trump's administration is not taxing/spending/regulating with their other actions and I am hopeful for our economic future.

But not everything is rosy...see below.

Beating the ISIS/ISIL "Caliphate" - ISIS was in control of regions of Iraq and Syria before Mr. Trump assumed the Presidency.  Our military had been supporting local efforts to undermine ISIS for years without much measurable progress.  Within 10 months of taking office, ISIS no longer controlled cities in Syria or Iraq.  The US military can accomplish a great deal worth accomplishing when they are unfettered by overly restrictive rules of engagement.

Foreign Policy/Diplomacy - Right at the start, I want to point out that Nikki Haley is precisely the sort of person that we need at the United Nations.  She fearlessly highlights abusive and despotic regimes with precision and passion.

It is also useful to note that our belligerent administration has caused Iran to cease harassing our ships in the Persian Gulf.  It has motivated North Korea to begin a rapprochement with South Korea without conditioning that action on meeting with the U.S.  Neighbors should talk without the US having to be at the table.  This is what diplomatic progress looks like.

We could also include the change in attitude in the Middle East following our recognition of Israel's capital of Jerusalem as their legitimate capital.  There is a growing recognition that the PA has little interest in a negotiated solution.  As such, the world is moving past their concerns and forcing them to re-evaluate their perspective.

As with every diplomatic issue, events will unfold over time.  History may well render this reading as overly optimistic.  One year in and things appear pointed in the right direction.

Cabinet Appointments - From Jim Mattis to John Kelly, Rex Tillerson, Ben Carson, and Betsy DeVos, the cabinet seems to be staffed by people that are capable and competent.  Mr. Trump appears to be listening to those people...at least some of the time.

Immigration - While a bit of a mixed bag, we have seen some progress in this area.  The Obama administration's DACA program was illegal.  Only Congress can establish our immigration standards.  By terminating the DACA program, Mr. Trump has put the proverbial ball back where it belongs; in Congress.  I'm generally supportive of giving the DACA kids a legal path to residency.  Citizenship begins at a US embassy or consulate.  Not by jumping a fence or overstaying a legitimate visa.

I appreciate the desire to move towards a merit-based immigration system.  I also think we need to re-balance our immigration quota system to make it fairer for people in more populous countries.  (A special hint for those in need, that means that we'd have more legal immigrants from Mexico and fewer from some European nations.)

We need to discuss positive changes to our immigration system.  But at the core of that discussion needs to be the twin principles that our representatives in Congress get to determine the conditions of immigration and that respecting US immigration laws is a pre-requisite for eventually becoming a US citizen.

Where things are off the rails:

Immigration -  This issue can get just flat divisive.  Normal folks just want to know that the government is reviewing potential immigrants to filter out criminals.  I know too many people that have followed US immigration laws to become valued and productive US citizens to want that process to be shut down.

Mr. Trump's insistence on shutting down immigration from south of our southern border while simultaneously signaling that people from Norway would be welcome gives the appearance of racism in public policy.  Given his history, this is probably something more than "appearance".  And it is a deeply disturbing distraction from the process of negotiating sane changes to our nation's immigration policies.

TWITTER! and other acts of randomness -  There just isn't enough space to list all of the weird "ideas" coming out of the White House these days.

There was his idea for a military parade like the one he saw in France.  I will bet that the number of folks serving in the military that would be willing to trade a long, holiday weekend with the chance to practice drill for a couple of months before participating in a general cluster of a parade could be safely contained in a public restroom.  A very small public restroom.

The most recent weirdness was Mr. Trump's praise for Xi Jinping effectively declaring himself China's "president for life".  Mr. Trump suggested that he'd have to try that sometime soon.  Ummm...no.  Just....no.

And as a final example, there was his approval of eliminating due process considerations when seizing guns from people deemed a threat.  Has he never read the Constitution?  On second thought, don't answer that.

We will all have another group of bizarre proclamations to discuss by this time next week.  Fixing that problem will not be easy.

Constant brinksmanship and randomness - While some of his "tactics" have yielded positive results, his other tactics are downright ghastly.  Challenging North Korea was sound.  The use of diminutions like "rocket man" and discussions about who has a bigger red button ought to be beyond discussion.  The man has impulse control issues on a staggering scale.

Again, fixing that problem will not be easy.

The Economy - This was originally rolled into the Twitter and Randomness above, but it rates its own entry.  Now we are going to engage in a trade/tariff war?  Has the man never heard of Smoot-Hawley?  Is he unfamiliar with American history?

I am all for fair trade, but that support ends when it morphs into outright protectionism.  I predict that this "trade war" will not end well for anyone if it continues unchecked.

Racism/Sexism -

My outline for this section used the phrase "whiff of racial animus", but that is a poisonous use of euphemism.  Donald Trump may not be actively racist in the vein of the Klan or other such groups.  His comments in the wake of events in Charlottesville, VA may only represent his being habitually and/or reflexively racist.

The racism is there either way.  His history as a New York landlord also suggests that he is as committed to classifying people based on their race as any left-wing activist engaged identity politics.

His denigration of women from claiming to grab 'em by the pussy....we're going euphemism free here....or cheating on his wife with a porn star are easy indications of how he perceives women's roles in our modern society.

I have no desire to have either perspective as a part of our national leadership.

What are the alternatives?

A Republican could certainly enter the primary against Mr. Trump.  As I didn't vote for Mr. Trump in either the primary or the general in 2016, I'm certainly willing to look at alternatives.

The Democrats could run a viable candidate for a change.  Had they done so in 2016, I believe that Mr. Trump would have been significantly less likely to win.

What would a "viable" Democrat look like?  Not Hillary Clinton.  Not Bernie Sanders.  Not Elizabeth Warren.  They need to find someone willing to supporter lower tax rates and a simpler tax code.  This prospective candidate needs to appreciate the sterling benefits of free markets.  They need to support simplifying and modernizing government regulations.  They should support a position of American strength on the global stage...diplomatic, economic, and military...to support oppressed people that are denied their individual human rights.  They should be focused on broad-scale public policies aimed at blue-collar voters.  They need to abandon the left's obsession with identity politics.

If the Democrats run a candidate that displays most of those qualities, then they might well get my vote.

If they don't, then at the least we will have a President that is guaranteed to have at least one success every day as soon as they get out of bed.  They will not be Hillary Clinton.



Reviewing: My Star Guideline

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Posted on : 3/02/2018 05:09:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

A recent post by Lela Buis prompted me to recover my personal guideline for using stars in my book reviews.  I had originally posted this in the comments over at Clarkesworld.

As Goodreads uses a 5 star based rating system, all of my reviews use up to 5 stars.  I'll note in my review if a book might fall in between by calling it an x.5 star review or by indicating that the book is either "weak" or "strong" relative to a given number of stars.

My use of 5 stars...
1 star - really....bad. (probably did not finish)
2 stars - poorly told story, but it might work OK for someone else (possibility that I did not finish)
3 stars - good story. if I loan you the book, you can keep it or pass it on
4 stars - really good story. if I loan you the book, I expect it back so I can read it again
5 stars - really, really good story. I might just buy the book for you so you can read it.

I am not shy about giving out 1-star and 2-star ratings.  If my experience with a book is bad for reasons beyond a surface level reaction, then I'm going to pass that information along.  I try not to be stingy with the 4-star reviews as authors put a lot of effort into completing their work.

A good sign that a book will end up with a 3-star rating....or lower... is if I start making notes via Kindle.  That activity generally means that the book has plot holes or discontinuities, and/or it has a slew of spelling or grammar errors.

As of this moment, my starred ratings on Goodreads are:

32% (120)
41% (153)
17% (66)
7% (27)
1% (6)

Edited to add the paragraph about 3-star ratings.

On The (political) Spectrum

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Posted on : 2/08/2018 02:20:00 PM | By : Dann

I took this particular political quiz back in 2010.  I'm sure the questions have changed some.  So I'm not sure if the change in my score is due to changes in the questions or changes in me.  Both are reasonable options.

My complaints remain the same as before.  Some of the questions are loaded to get a specific emotional response.  Other questions ask the respondent to endorse A and B where I was inclined to support A but oppose B.  So which one do you choose; support both or oppose both?

Formerly, I was Economic Left/Right: 4.12 and Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -2.92.  Now I seem to be Economic Left/Right 4.5 and Social Libertarian/Authoritarian -4.46.


They also had a series of graphs of various governments and political parties for comparison purposes.
The US presidential candidates in 2016.  No wonder I voted for Gary Johnson.



The UK in 2015.  I'm not close to anybody there.



Germany in 2017.  Same story.  Glad I'm an American.




France in 2017.  Curiously, Macron is close to Gary Johnson.




Australia in 2016.  Again, I'm all alone.




Canada in 2015.  I could manage there OK.




Ireland in 2011.  I'd manage there as well, oddly enough.




And a conglomeration of European nations.  I'm assuming that they are plotted based on government policies rather than on any specific party.  Here's an odd thing.  Of my interlocutors regarding political subjects that live within the EU, the most earnest opposition that I receive comes from people in countries like The Netherlands, Sweden, and Germany.  And those are the countries to which I am more closely aligned politically!

Mostly these are folks that perceive of their nations as being essentially "socialist".  The truth is that those nations clearly are not socialist.

-------------

I modest note.  I've added the word "political" to the title of this post.  As it was originally posted, the title was a bit too "click bait-y" for me.

Hugo Awards Nominations - 2018

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Posted on : 2/06/2018 01:25:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Nomination season for this year's Hugo Awards has opened.  The Hugos are the annual award presented by the WSFS for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy.  Nominations will continue until March 16, 2018.  Shortly thereafter, the short list of nominees will be released on March 31, 2018, with voting in the final round continuing over the first half of the summer.  The awards will be presented at the WSFS Worldcon.  This year's Worldcon will take place in San Jose, CA.  Information on participating in the Hugo Awards is at the Worldcon website.

Should you choose to participate, please only nominate works that you have directly experienced.  Don't nominate something just because I (or someone else) recommends it.

There are several categories where I do not expect to have a nomination.  I just do not believe that I have either experienced something that is noteworthy or that I have a broad enough experience to make an informed nomination in those categories.

My list of nominations will be updated as I go through the process.

I hope to have nominations in most of the following categories:

Your nominations for Best Novel:

  • All Good Things  - Emma Newman  - Diversion Books
  • The Core  - Peter V. Brett  - Del Rey
  • Tyrant's Throne - Sebastien de Castell - Jo Fletcher Books
  • Wizard's Sun Rising - Damien Black - Amazon Digital Services LLC

Your nominations for Best Short Story:

  • Empty Nest - Brian Keene - Aliens - Bug Hunt / Titan Books 
  • Chance Encounter - Paul Kupperberg - Aliens - Bug Hunt / Titan Books 
  • The Divine Death of Jirella Martigore - Alex Marshall - Evil is a Matter of Perspective / Grimdark Magazine


Your nominations for Best Series:

While not a requirement according to WSFS rules, I will not be nominating a series unless it has been completed.  I might vote for an incomplete series in the final round, but I do not expect to nominate an incomplete series.
  • The Split World - Emma Newman - All Good Things - Diversion Books
  • The Demon Cycle - Peter V. Brett - The Core - Del Rey
  • Great Coats - Sebastien de Castell - Tyrant's Throne - Jo Fletcher Books


Your nominations for Best Related Work:


Your nominations for Best Graphic Story:


Your nominations for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form):
  • Bright - David Ayer - Netflix
  • Logan  - Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, and The Donners' Company
  • Stranger Things Season 2  - Netflix


Your nominations for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form):
  • The Mission - Styx (band) - Blackbird Studios

    Styx is one of my favorite bands.  This album tells the story of a mission to the planet Mars.  I think it that is worthy of consideration from both a musical and story-telling perspective.


Your nominations for Best Professional Editor (Short Form):
  • Jonathan Maberry - Alien: Bug Hunt (anthology)
  • Adrian Collins - Evil is a Matter of Perspective (anthology); Grim Dark Magazine


Your nominations for Best Fanzine:


Your nominations for Best Fancast:
  • SinCast - by Cinema Sins - Chris Atkinson, Jeremy Scott, Barrett Share
  • The Sarcastic Voyage - Ron "Algar" Watt, Matt Rowbotham, & cast
  • The Grim Tidings Podcast - Philip Overby and Rob Matheny Ron "Algar" Watt, Matt Rowbotham
  • The Horror Show with Brian Keene - Brian Keene, Dave Thomas. Geoff Cooper, Mary SanGiovanni, Mike Lombardo, Phoebe, Dungeonmaster 77.1
  • Tea & Jeopardy - Emma & Peter Newman

I changed my ballot at the last minute to include The Grim Tidings Podcast.  As a result, The Post Atomic Horror Podcast with Ron "Algar" Watt & Matt Rowbotham got bumped off the list.  PAH has become a bit repetitive in their discussions of more recent Star Trek properties while GTP had some outstanding author interviews last year.  And there are only 5 nomination slots to be filled. The edit of this blog entry reflects that change.

Your nominations for Best Fan Writer:


Your nominations for Award for Best Young Adult Book (not a Hugo):


Your nominations for The John W. Campbell Award (not a Hugo):
  • Damien Black - Devil's Night Dawning 2016/Wizard's Sun Rising 2017
  • Nicholas Eames - Kings of the Wyld 2017
  • JR Handley - The Legion Awakes 2016

Review: Aliens: Bug Hunt

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Posted on : 1/15/2018 07:37:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Aliens: Bug Hunt Aliens: Bug Hunt by Jonathan Maberry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a 4-star review. It is a weak 4-star book; closer to 3.5 stars.

The premise of the book it a series of short stories told in the Alien universe. While the aliens are not all xenomorphs of the type shown in the Alien movies, most of them are close to that.

A few of the early stories are quite good. They expand on the premise of humanity discovering a harsh and dangerous universe and present characters that are short-sighted in their pursuit of success.

The weakness of the book is that the stories trade extensively on the standard premise of the movies. An evil corporation sends an unwitting military patrol to someplace where the corporation knows is the home of an evil critter. The military discovers that they are suckers far too late in the game.

Mayhem...ensues.

If you enjoy the Alien franchise, then you will largely enjoy this book. The stories are largely entertaining even if it becomes a bit repetitive by the end.

Two standout stories were by Larry Correia and Brian Keene. Larry's story was the most disappointing as it ended up being largely gun porn. Brian's story was the best of the bunch as it delved deeper into his characters rather than focusing on the aliens.

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Review: Evil is a Matter of Perspective: An Anthology of Antagonists

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Posted on : 1/15/2018 07:37:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Evil is a Matter of Perspective: An Anthology of Antagonists Evil is a Matter of Perspective: An Anthology of Antagonists by Adrian Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a 5-star review.

The premise of this book is to tell stories from the vantage point of the antagonist. It is supposed to present a logical, if not sympathetic, perspective on why villains do what they do.

The stories in this book largely deliver on that premise. I believe that all of the stories take place in fictional worlds that were used to write longer books. So each story ends up being a vignette into a world that already has a book in place. If you like a story, then the chances are that you will like the book (or books) that also take place in the story.

I found the stories by Peter Orullian, Alex Marshall, and R. Scott Baker to inspire much greater interest in their work. If I wasn't already a fan of Brian Stavely, then his entry would have caused me to want to read more of his work as well.

Every story delivers on the premise of the book. Even if you never quite buy into the justifications that the antagonist has for their evil, you will eventually appreciate the logic that supports their actions.

I fully expect this to be a book that I will read again in the future.

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Review: Kings of the Wyld

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Posted on : 1/15/2018 07:36:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Kings of the Wyld Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a 5-star review.

Kings of the Wyld is a lovely bit of farce. Bands of adventurers are treated like rock and roll bands. They show off. They "tour". The "play" big halls. They have groupies.

They get old. They retire. They have kids. And then those kids...or at least one of them...decides to show old dad exactly how many poor life choices a person can make.

And one of the bands has to come out of retirement to go save a wayward daughter intent on having her own adventure. Even if it kills here. Which it probably will.

The old bandmates aren't exactly enthusiastic about going back on the road and into the "Wyld". The Wyld is where all the dangerous monsters live. In truth, all the younger bands avoid going into the Wyld because it is dangerous.

Instead their lives are an imitation of how the old bands used to do it. The young bands fight creatures from the Wyld in stadiums where it is easier for the humans to win. The young bands focus on putting on a good show with parades instead of actually going out into the world and having adventures.

In some respects, the book is a great reflection on our modern society where real risk is managed almost to the point of avoidance. Where individuals seem less likely to experience a larger world first hand.

While being a bit of a farce, the book also deals in deeper truths regarding the bonds of friendship, how success can be a bit illusory, and why doing things for real matters more than doing things just to look good.

Saga rides again! Hang on for a wild and entertaining ride.

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Review: The Grey Bastards

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Posted on : 1/15/2018 07:36:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

The Grey Bastards The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What happens when a group of half-orcs stands between full orcs and the destruction of humanity? Are the orcs willing defenders or dupes? Is there something else holding back the tide or orcs?

These and so many other questions get explored in this outstanding book from Jonathan French.

The story revolves around a group of almost exclusively male fighters that are loyal to the cause. They know how to fight the orcs and win. They are defending their homeland; bestowed upon them by the humans they protect.

It is only somewhat later that the reader learns that not everything is as it seems.

One one level, this is a straightforward story about males doing male-oriented things and living male-oriented lives. On a second level, this is a story about being cautious about accepting the narrative that you are handed. Both levels are entertaining, engaging, and intriguing.

I recommend this book to everyone except one type of reader. That would be the reader that disdains reading about masculine characters being happily masculine. 'Cause there's a fair amount of that here.

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Review: The Mussorgsky Riddle

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Posted on : 1/01/2018 05:49:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

The Mussorgsky Riddle The Mussorgsky Riddle by Darin Kennedy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked up this book due to it using the suite, Pictures at an Exhibition, by Modeste Mussorgsky as a framework for the story. One of my teachers in junior high taught a section on Mussorgsky using the same music suite.

Each movement of the suite was inspired by a series of paintings done by Viktor Hartmann. The teacher told a unique story about each painting that related the visual work with the music written by Mussorgsky. As an example, the fourth movement is entitled "Cattle". The movement features a steady deep bass and percussion beat that mirrors the imagined feet of the ox pulling a cart. The music crescendos just as the oxcart reaches the center of the painting with a bit of a crash before slowly fading as the oxcart goes off into the distance.

The teacher suggested that the crescendo as the oxcart reaches the middle of the painting coincided with the oxcart running over the legs of the man that was sitting against a hut by the side of the road. I guess he should have pulled in those legs.

So now Darin Kennedy decided to use the same musical work as the basis for his book. In this case, an abused boy is experiencing episodes where he travels into an imaginary world described by Hartmann's and Mussorgsky's works. An investigator and spiritually "sensitive" person is hired to help solve the riddle of the boy's episodes. The story was interesting, but a little muddled.

It had a detective style murder mystery. It had some sort of mystical world traveling. It had some sort of spirituality. It tried to have some sort of "science". It has witchcraft.

But all of the elements are rather loosely connected. The resolution was decidedly unfulfilling. The protagonist was successful largely because she emoted enough.

If you have an attachment to any of the features above, then you will have a pleasant time with this book.

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Review: The Forgetting Moon

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Posted on : 1/01/2018 05:10:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

The Forgetting Moon The Forgetting Moon by Brian Lee Durfee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a 4-star review. That is a reasonable estimate of my experience.

This is the start of a standard sword/sorcery epic with multiple point-of-view characters. The world building is phenomenal.

The short version of the story's hooks is that there are five of everything. Five ancient heroes waiting to be reborn. Five pieces of armor (helm/crown, armor, axe, sword, etc.) worn/used by the lead hero waiting to be recovered. Five sacred stones that also need to be recovered. Five different theological views of the actions of those ancient heroes. Five islands. Five cultures. Five armies (although some are already broken).

The author does a good job of hiding the protagonists. Characters that are presented as being good are also shown performing decidedly non-good actions; calling their motivations into question.

Which of the five theological views of the past is correct? Which has been twisted by the hands of time and machinations of humanity/elves/etc?

Along with the usual sword and sorcery activities, there is also a mystery that one of the protagonists has to solve to save her friend's life.

A personal issue I have is with the tendency of authors to put diminutive female characters up against big, burly male characters and expect the smaller characters to measure up. The author does a very good job of describing why all of the characters are the way they are. He provides an appropriate backstory for each character that meshes well with the events that follow.

One nitpick and one criticism.

The nitpick has to do with the dominant religion. It makes a big deal out of having every person be the product of a known union. Being a bastard significantly reduces the social status of the character.

Under such a religion, there should be a whole lot more focus on chastity. While there is a significant focus on marriage, some of the characters are quite willing to engage in pre-marital sex. The theology doesn't mesh up with the social norms as a result.

The criticism is that an awful lot of names of people and places are thrown at the reader in the first few chapters. Rather than slowly bring the reader into the world and natively building familiarity with geography and personalities, the author tosses a lot of detail at the reader in the first few chapters.

The series is promising. People that enjoy epic fantasy should give this a try.

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Review: Dust

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Posted on : 1/01/2018 05:10:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Dust Dust by Hugh Howey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a brief 3-star review. More like a 2.5-star experience.

This book could not overcome the serious defects in Silo, #2 (Shift). The engineering/construction flaws in the imagining of the silos is made ever clearer as the story progresses.

Read Wool.....stop there.

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