The Best of Joe Haldeman edited by Jonathan Strahan
Stories by Joe Haldeman are always a good things and Subterranean Press has recently put out this “Best of” collection edited by Jonathan Strahan. The hardcover book has 504 pages and includes a general introduction by Joe Haldeman and 19 of his stories. Each story also has a short introduction which reveals some insight into its crafting — perhaps where the idea came from, or some trouble he had writing or placing it, or how he did his research, or his interactions with his agent or editor. I’m not a writer, but I always find these author introductions interesting.
The stories are, in order:
“Hero” — (1972) This is the opening of Haldeman’s best-known novel, The Forever War, which I loved. I skipped this story since I’d read it before (it takes up about 50 pages in this collection). “Hero” will give readers a sense of what to expect if t... Read More
The Best of Joe Haldeman edited by Jonathan Strahan
Blood Song by Anthony Ryan
I purchased Anthony Ryan’s Blood Song because it showed up in my Goodreads "recommended" list with a ton of 5-star reviews. I'm usually suspicious, however, when the reviews so overwhelmingly endorse the greatness of a book. Based on my experience with Blood Song, I was right to be suspicious.
While Blood Song is not horrible — I probably would've slid it 3 stars had I finished — I'm totally clueless as to how it earned so many 5-star reviews. Granted, I'm long past the age where I enjoy coming-of-age stories, if I ever did like them much. So maybe that's the reason I don't understand why Blood Song is getting so much love.
I read about 60% of the book, and it still seemed like it was in the prologue. I get that the harsh military training the characters endure is a big part of the story, but does it have to be so much of it? Call me... Read More
The Book of Lost Tales 1 by J.R.R. Tolkien
My first attempt to read The Book of Lost Tales 1 was made way too early in my life and made certain that my response was to put it on the shelf and decide that all of this background stuff, especially taken from this early phase in Tolkien’s life as a writer, was way too different from the Middle-Earth stories that I loved for me to waste any time on it.
Looking at where the bookmark from my first attempt still sat when I picked it up again, I noticed that I didn’t even get much beyond the first several pages of the introductory chapter “The Cottage of Lost Play.” I remember thinking that it was just altogether too twee for me, what with the Eldar of Middle-Earth still being referred to as ‘faeries’ and the, to me, bizarre structure of a wanderer coming to a tiny cottage (bigger on the inside than the outside) peopled by dancing and singing children and adults who primari... Read More
The Goddess Inheritance by Aimée Carter
Aimée Carter’s GODDESS TEST series has always been a bumpy ride for me, with its sometimes baffling take on Greek mythology and its focus on petty bickering even in the face of potential worldwide catastrophe. Yet I always felt there was enough of a seed of a good story here that I wanted to see how Carter would finish it out, so I decided to read the final book, The Goddess Inheritance. I’ve now gotten a little over halfway through the book and am giving up. I’ve decided I simply don’t care anymore.
We pick up as Kate is on the verge of giving birth in captivity — having been kidnapped by Calliope and Cronus at the end of the last book — and the other gods having just realized she’s actually missing. Then she does give birth, in the most Mary Sue manner one can imagine, i.e. with none of the commonplace annoyances that come with childbirth. Labor only lasts a few mi... Read More
Hex and the City by Simon R. Green
Hex and the City is the fourth novel in Simon R. Green’s NIGHTSIDE series. I’ve been listening to NIGHTSIDE on audio lately because I’ve been doing a lot of home improvements, especially painting, and NIGHTSIDE is such an easy read that I don’t ever have to stop and rewind, which is something you don’t want to do when you’ve got paint all over your hands. Audio readers know what I mean.
In Hex and the City, John Taylor is moving on to his next case in the seedy and decadent Nightside where it’s always 3 AM. This time Lady Luck has hired him to discover the origins of the Nightside, something Taylor wanted to do anyway. During his investigation he meets some people/creatures who were fundamentally involved in the establishment of the Nightside. He begins to confirm his suspicion that his own mother, whom he doesn’t even remember, is someone ... Read More
Fury by Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore
1946 had been a very good year indeed for Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, with a full dozen stories published plus three fine novels (The Fairy Chessmen, Valley of the Flame and The Dark World), and in 1947, science fiction's preeminent husband-and-wife writing team continued its prolific ways. Before the year was out, the two had succeeded in placing another 15 stories into the pulp magazines of the day, in addition to the novel for which Kuttner is best remembered: Fury. A classic of Golden Age science fiction, Fury originally appeared in the May, June and July issues of Astounding Science-Fiction under one of the pair's many pseudonyms, Lawrence O'Donnell. The story goes that legendary editor John W.... Read More
The Human Division by John Scalzi
The Human Division is a fast-paced roller coaster of a book. At the Nebula Awards this weekend in San Jose, California, John Scalzi politely informed me that this was the fifth book in a series, which starts with Old Man’s War. I haven’t read the other four (which I will be correcting soon) but I understood pretty well what was going on in this universe, although I may have missed some nuance.
The Colonial Union left earth to colonize space about two hundred years ago. During that time, space-faring humans met several other races who didn’t like humans very much. They also met some who did, or were at least willing to trade with us. From Earth, the Colonial Union recruited people over the age of seventy to create soldiers, decanting them into younger bodies with enhanced features like “smart blood” and a BrainPal computer in their skulls. Earth is also the source of the c... Read More
Kalimpura by Jay Lake
Kalimpura is the third and supposedly concluding book in Jay Lake’s series about Green, the young girl who becomes enmeshed in both worldly and godly politics, much to her dismay. I had lots of issues with the first book, Green, fewer but still some issues with the follow-up, Endurance, and I have to say that Kalimpura, while better than Green, didn’t wrap up the series in any way that would have me recommend readers pick up the trilogy.
Kalimpura picks up soon after Green has given birth to twins, a son and daughter. Still unresolved from Endurance is the fate of the two girls stolen away and taken to Green’s homeland city of Kalimpura. After several attacks in Copper Downs, and attempts by Green to resolve her standing issues with the gods of that city, including Divine and Blackblood, Green takes ship with a small group of allies... Read More
Morlock Night by K.W. Jeter
K.W. Jeter’s Morlock Night (1979) is often cited as the first novel to be categorized at “steampunk.” In a 1987 letter to Locus magazine, Jeter coined the term in an effort to describe the types of stories that he and his friends Tim Powers and James P. Blaylock were writing:
Personally, I think Victorian fantasies are going to be the next big thing, as long as we can come up with a fitting collective term for Powers, Blaylock and myself. Something based on the appropriate technology of that era; like ‘steam-punks’, perhaps.
As Tim Powers explains in his introduction to Morlock Night, Jeter wrote this book in 1976 for a British publisher who requested ten novels about King Arthur being reincarnated to co... Read More
Chasing the Prophecy by Brandon Mull
Chasing the Prophecy is the final book in Brandon Mull’s BEYONDERS series aimed at a middle grade audience. Jason and Rachel have joined a group of rebels who hope to take down the evil emperor Maldor. An oracle has told them that they have very little chance for success, but she’s also told them exactly what they need to do to have that small chance. Therefore the group has split up into separate teams which hope to fulfill different parts of the oracle’s instructions. Rachel is trying to muster up an army while working on her magic and Jason’s team visits a library (I loved the library!) to try to find the location of an ancient seer who has information they need. Both kids face hard work, difficult decisions, and life-threatening circumstances. Each must be willing to bend a lot to accomplish their goals.
Readers who’ve enjoyed the first two BEYONDERS books, A... Read More
Endurance by Jay Lake
Endurance, Jay Lake’s follow-up to Green, is in some ways an improvement and in some ways marred by similar issues. Overall, though, I found it a more consistently enjoyable read, if still not a great one.
Endurance picks up not long after Green, with the titular character lying low in the High Hills outside Copper Downs, growing more and more dismayed by how her ongoing pregnancy is affecting her physical abilities. Lying low, though, is not an option for Green, and soon she is drawn back into a host of problems (and I mean a host) bedeviling Copper Downs: gods being killed, political infighting, increased crime and chaos since Green killed the centuries-old Duke (who is still hanging around in ghost form), a troublesome rise in Pardine (the feline race of Dancing Mistress) anger towards being displaced by humans and robbed of a great magic. Then there are the is... Read More
Thistle & Thorne by Ann Aguirre
Mari Thistle is just trying to survive and take care of her two younger siblings. Because she lives in the Red Zone and not in the safety of the walled and guarded fortresses where the rich people live, she has to take on some dangerous jobs. Her latest job, which involves sneaking into one of the fortresses and stealing something, has gone bad and she knows she’s likely to be killed by Stavros, the boss who hired her. When she’s rescued by a guy named Thorne Goodman who’s planning to challenge Stavros’ leadership, she finds herself caught in a brutal turf war.
Thistle & Thorne is a novella which was originally published in the post-apocalyptic anthology ‘Til The World Ends earlier t... Read More
John Constantine, Hellblazer: All His Engines by Mike Carey (writer) & Leonardo Manco (artist)
There are so many options available to the reader who wants to meet John Constantine for the first time. He was created by Alan Moore in his groundbreaking run on Swamp Thing (Moore's entry into American comics). Another good place to start is with Jamie Delano’s Hellblazer: Original Sins, the volume collecting the first issues of Constantine's solo title Hellblazer — the longest running title in the history of Vertigo, DC's line of comics with adult content and adult themes (both in terms of being explicit and being intellectually complex). Unfortunately, DC just recently canceled this title at issue #300 and has replaced i... Read More
The Red Plague Affair by Lilith Saintcrow
It is never easy to start a series with a sequel, and The Red Plague Affair is the sequel to the first book in Lilith Saintcrow’s BANNON AND CLARE series, The Iron Wyrm Affair, which introduced these characters. (The Damnation Affair is a related novel set in the same world with different characters.) I haven’t read The Iron Wyrm Affair, but The Red Plague Affair was still pretty accessible. Saintcrow takes the steampunk London we love and creates a different, almost mythological spin.
The 19th century city where these stories take place is called Londinium, and it is ruled by Queen Victrix, who is a human but also the Vessel for Brittania. Brittania is the deity or spirit of the land, who rules through a human agent. Emma Bannon is a Prime Sorceress, trained in the college of sorcery, and her arts are those of the Endor... Read More