Green by Jay Lake
Green, by Jay Lake, follows the sometimes horrific, sometimes savage, sometimes victorious story of its titular first-person narrator. As a toddler, Green (that only becomes her name well into the novel) is sold off by her single-parent father and taken by ship from her vaguely Southeast-Asian country to the city of Copper Downs, a cold northern kingdom full of pale-skinned people. Over a little more than a dozen years, she discovers the purpose behind her training, returns home, trains to be an assassin, and faces multiple gods.
Lake divides his novel into three major sections. First is Green’s time in Copper Downs, ruled for the past four centuries by a seemingly immortal Duke under whose rule some are beginning to chafe. There she is kept isolated in a walled compound and trained by various Mistresses (including a non-human known as Dancing Mistress) in a plentitude of arts and knowledge, not learn... Read More
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Green by Jay Lake
Loki’s Wolves by K.L. Armstrong & M.A. Marr
I’m going to start this review of Loki’s Wolves, the first book in a new series entitled THE BLACKWELL PAGES, by K.L. (Kelley) Armstrong and M.A. (Melissa) Marr, by saying that there is a good chance it really is a pretty decent Middle Grade book that a number of readers that age will enjoy. Not being that age, it is kind of hard for me to tell. That hasn’t stopped me from reviewing Middle Grade books before, but the truth is, if the book had strong characterization, a vivid sense of place, an internally consistent and well-paced plot involving a nice mix of action and quiet, rich language, I didn’t have to worry about its targeted age group; it was just “good” and I assumed those younger readers would fall in line. Based on m... Read More
How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card
Orson Scott Card is an award-winning author of dozens of science fiction and fantasy books, including the Hugo and Nebula award winning Ender’s Game. So who else would you turn to for instruction on how to write a science fiction and fantasy novel? I’m working on a novel — isn’t everyone these days? — and picked up How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy for some instruction. I’m used to writing for an academic audience, so bridging the chasm between peer-reviewed journals and publicly read books is a big step for me. I have to say, though, that I’m not sure this book is really worth all the kudos it has in the writing community, and I think that’s mostly because it hasn’t been updated. The original publication date is 1990. Whole genres of fantasy have come out since 1990, not to mention the advent of the Internet and its revolutionary changes to t... Read More
Earthseed by Pamela Sargent
Earthseed, by Pamela Sargent, is the first in a science fiction YA trilogy that follows the inhabitants of a seed ship from Earth sent out long ago to colonize other planets. We pick up the story as Ship (the AI mind which is the vessel personified) is nearing its destination and thus as its young inhabitants must begin their preparations for life outside of Ship’s watchful, protective eyes.
Up to this point, Ship has been the kids’ parent and teacher, birthing them from artificial wombs and then raising them — there are no adults aboard. Now on the cusp of adulthood, the adolescents will soon move into “The Hollow” — a huge open-space area (Ship is a large asteroid) where they will build their own shelters, grow their own food, etc. in order to learn the skills necessary for when they are landed on their new planet. They soon discover, though, that learning how to farm or build homes pale... Read More
Earth Girl by Janet Edwards
Earth Girl is the first book of Janet Edwards’s planned EARTH GIRL trilogy. On her website, Edwards reports that both Amazon.uk and Kobobooks have rated the e-book version of Earth Girl as among the Best YA of 2012. I can see why people would like this book, but it was a miss for me.
Edwards has a great concept here. Five hundred years into our future, most humans have left Earth to colonize various sectors of space. In rare cases, some children born on other planets are unable to survive there. They must be sent through the portals back to Earth within a few minutes, or they will die of anaphylactic shock. On earth, these Handicapped, as they are called, are raised and educated in group institutions, assigned a Professional Mum and Dad who are each available to them two hours a week, and are free to pursue a fully paid-for education. The colonists in other sectors, howev... Read More
Deathworld by Harry Harrison
Bored by life, Jason dinAlt is a gambling man, so when a mysterious stranger offers him millions of dollars to gamble with at a government-owned casino, Jason can’t resist, even though failure will probably result in his death. (It helps that Jason has some psi talents, even though they’re a little unpredictable.) After the casino episode, Jason finds that he must quickly depart the planet. When he learns that his mysterious benefactor is an ambassador of the most dangerous planet on the universe, he decides he’d like to go for a visit.
That’s how Jason ends up on Pyrrus, aka Deathworld. Due to its two moons, high gravity, and 42° axial tilt, the planet has a severe climate with dangerous tides, extreme weather changes, and unpredictable earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The only plants and animals that can survive in such harsh conditions are those that are even tougher and meaner than the environment.... Read More
The Scourge of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler
In The Scourge of Muirwood, the third and final installment of Jeff Wheeler’s LEGENDS OF MUIRWOOD saga, Lia has discovered her true identity but is unable to tell anyone because the Medium has bound the information. Only a few people know and Colvin, the man Lia loves, is not one of them. While Lia broods about their relationship, she must be the Medium’s tool to save the world and hope that everything turns out in the end. Several interspersed chapters are flashbacks which tell the story of the prince of Pry-Ree and his knowledge that his daughter would be the world’s savior.
Readers who loved The Wretched of Muirwood and The Blight of Muirwood (and there are a lot of them leaving reviews at Amazon) will probably enjoy The Scourge of Muirwood, too. It’s a darker story and it brings the series to a strange ending, though Wheeler leav... Read More
Biting Cold by Chloe Neill
Biting Cold is the sixth book in Chloe Neill’s CHICAGOLAND VAMPIRES series. It’s impossible to even give the premise of this book, let alone a useful review, without mentioning major spoilers for books four and five, Hard Bitten and Drink Deep respectively, so if you haven’t read those books, stop reading this review now!
Is the coast clear? OK, here goes. Ethan has just come back from the dead, but he and Merit hardly have a chance to catch up; they must immediately embark on a road trip to stop Mallory before she can reach the Maleficium spellbook and unleash the evil bound therein. But not everything goes according to plan during this trip, and soon they’re back in Chicago with a dangerous new supernatural enemy to face.
The character arc of Mallory is the most compelling aspect of Biting Cold. The showdown between her and Merit is actually r... Read More
vN: The First Machine Dynasty by Madeline Ashby
Amy’s kindergarten graduation ceremony was going pretty well until Amy ate her grandmother on stage. Now Amy is on the run and there are lots of people who want to get their hands on her for different reasons. But Amy is only five years old and she doesn’t know where she should go or who she can trust. She’s even more freaked out when she realizes that Granny hasn’t died — she’s sharing the hardware in Amy’s head.
Amy is a self-replicating machine based on the thought experiments proposed in 1948 by John von Neumann (hence the title: “vN”). In Ashby’s story, vNs were created by Christian fundamentalists who were worried about the people who’d be left behind after the Rapture. They created the h... Read More
Faces Under Water by Tanith Lee
I found the first book of Tanith Lee’s THE SECRET BOOKS OF VENUS series, Faces Under Water, in a used bookstore recently. To call Lee a prolific writer is to understate things somewhat. I had never heard of this series, set in an alternate Venice and based on the four elements. They were published by Overlook Press in the late 1990s and early twenty-first century.
Faces Under Water is short but dense, and I would say that it provides everything Lee is known for. This means I really liked parts of it and was very irked with others. At times I felt like I was reading a template or a pattern, not a book. (“Here’s where I dump in some gorgeous description. Here’s where I truncate a sentence to change the pacing. Here’s where I use artful, poetic repetition, and here’s where my characters engage in witty and elliptical dialogue.”)
Furian Furiano ... Read More
The Hollow Man by Dan Simmons
I’m a huge fan of Dan Simmons’s work — when he hits. With The Hollow Man, he misses. Though his talent as a stylist is once again on full display here, the story is confused and overly-complex, leaving the objective of The Hollow Man obscure and ambiguous. One look at the plot devices at work — neuroscience, serial killers, homelessness, telepathy, depression, the mafia, quantum physics — ought to tell you the story is bogged down with excess baggage. And did I mention the abused, deaf-blind boy with Down Syndrome who plays a hand in the novel’s climax?
Regarding content, The Hollow Man is the story of a telepathic man who undergoes a drastic life change after his wife, also telepathic, dies. The severing of this bond, which we are led to believe is stronger than the average relationship due to their mind-to-mind connection, causes the man t... Read More
Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
Consider Phlebas, the first of Iain M. Banks’s Culture novels, introduces readers to the Culture, a machine-led intergalactic civilization that offers its biological humanoids a carefree, utopian lifestyle. Though most centuries are free from worry, Consider Phlebas takes place in the middle of the Idiran-Culture War.
The Culture is an intergalactic utopia, but readers should not come to Consider Phlebas expecting dystopian narrative. The machines, led by their brilliant and sentient Minds, are benevolent and they seek to offer a paradise to the humanoids in their care. The novel is not even a dystopian narrative in the way Thomas More’s Utopia often seems disturbing in its stringent rules and guidelines. Readers are meant to envy life in the Culture.
The Culture is perfect, or almost, but the universe is not. The Culture... Read More
The Ramal Extraction by Steve Perry
Steve Perry’s new series CUTTER’S WARS is about a high tech mercenary team in a relatively near future, the 24th Century. In The Ramal Extraction, Perry begins the series by sending the team on a special operation to save a princess from abduction and save a world from war. They’ll have to use all of their combined wits and varied skills to succeed.
The mercenary team Captained by Colonel “Rags” Cutter, a retired Officer of the Galactic Union Army, is, in essence, a group of misfits. Each of the human and alien mercenaries on the team is expert in a certain essential field, but none of them has been able to fit in with traditional military formations. Though each is a genius in his or her area of expertise, being forced to conform to accepted norms is simply too much for some of them. Each is an interesting character, but there’s an overwhelming feeling of being too a... Read More
Out of Time’s Abyss by Edgar Rice Burroughs
In Out of Time’s Abyss, the last volume of Edgar Rice Burrough’s CASPAK trilogy, we learn what happened to Bradley, one of the adventurers we met in the first novel, The Land that Time Forgot. As we expected, Bradley has frightening adventures on Caspak, is nearly killed by lions, bears, tigers, dinosaurs, etc, and he saves and falls in love with a beautiful young damsel in distress.
In this installment, we meet the Wieroo, the most highly evolved species on Caspak. Their form and society isn’t at all what the American and European adventurers would have expected. We also learn the rest of the mystery of the strange evolution that has happened on Caspak. Since this is Earth instead of a fantasy world, it’s all too far-fetched to believe, but that’s okay because we weren’t really expecting or demanding more from a lost world story.
The p... Read More
Fair Coin by E.C. Myers
Fair Coin by E.C. Myers is the first book in a YA science fiction series. The hero, Ephraim Scott, lives in Summerside, New York. One day he comes home from school to discover that his alcoholic mother has overdosed on pills. She did this because she was told Ephraim was killed in an accident. This is not a hoax or a mistake; when Ephraim takes his mother to the hospital he finds out that the boy in the morgue has ID and a library card in Ephraim’s name. Soon, Ephraim finds a quarter from the “state” of Puerto Rico, and then a note appears in his locker, telling him to make a wish and flip the coin.
Ephraim is skeptical but he tries it. At first his wishes seem to come true, but there are always random side effects and soon Ephraim is affecting the lives of his best friend Nathan, his crush Jena Kim and the twins Mary and Shelley. In fact, Ephraim soon discov... Read More