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Ha’Penny: How do you make a difference in a dictatorship?

Ha’Penny by Jo Walton(May contain spoilers for the previous book, Farthing.)

Ha’Penny is the second book in Jo Walton’s dark alternate history series SMALL CHANGE. The “small change” that created this world is the refusal of America to get involved in the war in Europe, in 1941. From that small “counterfactual” sprang a world where, by 1949, Europe is largely under the control of Hitler, who is at war with Stalin for the rest. Britain negotiated a “peace with honor” with Germany and has now fully embraced fascism. Many Brits know about the death camps in Europe, but they don’t care. Jews in Britain have their freedoms and rights limited daily, and the newspapers and radios screech about terror attacks from Jews or Bolsheviks.

Like Farthing, Ha’Penny alternates narration bet... Read More

The Apocalypse Codex: Bob takes on an American televangelist

The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross

Charles Stross continues to entertain with The Apocalypse Codex, the fourth novel in his LAUNDRY FILES series. I suppose you could read this without reading the first three books, but it’d be better to start with book one, The Atrocity Archives. For this review, I’ll assume you’re familiar with the story so far.

Bob has been unintentionally working his way up in the Laundry, the secret British agency where computer scientists, mathematicians, and physicists have, by accident, become sorcerers. For every case he’s been on, Bob has sort of bumbled his way into a successful outcome just by using his brains and creativity. Now he’s being groomed for a leadership position, so he needs some people skills. A lot of his preparation involves sitting in boring management training classes and seminars where he has to use role... Read More

Hawk: Feels more like the earlier novels

Hawk by Steven Brust

"My heart gave a thump. It had been doing that a lot lately. I wished it would stop. I mean stop giving random thumps, not, you know, stop." ~Vlad Taltos

Note: This review contains spoilers for previous novels in the series.

Hawk is Steven Brust’s fourteenth (and latest) novel about Vlad Taltos, a charming assassin living in Dragaera. Over the past 31 years, fans of this series have been through a lot with Vlad and Loiosh, Vlad’s flying reptilian familiar.

We first met Vlad when he was at the top of his game, running the Jhereg criminal organization of Adrilankha. Then he married Cawti, who also used to be an assassin but later became a social revolutionary. The change in her worldview was too much for the marriage to handle and they separated, but that didn’t stop Vlad from betraying the Jhereg in order to save Cawti from being executed. T... Read More

Horrible Monday: A Shrill Keening by Ronald Malfi

A Shrill Keening by Ronald Malfi

A Shrill Keening opens with a first person narrator telling us about the books in his hospital room, and expanding from there to tell us about the hospital’s library and librarian.  It is only when he notes that the list of requested books he hands to the librarian is written in crayon that the reader realizes the nature of the hospital:  it is a mental institution.  But the reader must also wonder:  why is a mental institution catering to a patient’s request for books by and about H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe?

The nature of the narrator’s malady becomes evident when he states that he does not know which part of his life is real and which part he is dreaming. His therapist attempts — poorly — to convince him that his particular form of solipsism, in which he imagines that the therapist blinks out of existence as soon as they part; but the narrator conti... Read More

Supreme Power: Contact by J. Michael Straczynski

Supreme Power (Vol. 1): Contact by J. Michael Straczynski

I guess you could consider J. Michael Straczynski’s Supreme Power the bastard child (or perhaps grandchild) of books like Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns in which the four-colour superheroes of old get a more ‘realistic’ make-over and are shown for the dangerous psychopaths they would all-too-likely be in our world. In this case we have Marvel’s Squadron Supreme coming under the deconstructive microscope. The Squadron is an interesting case even without the post-80's Dark Age of comics lens being applied: back in the day they were Marvel... Read More

The Bishop’s Heir: King Kelson must squash a rebellion

The Bishop’s Heir by Katherine Kurtz

The Bishop’s Heir is the first book in Katherine Kurtz’s trilogy called THE HISTORIES OF KING KELSON but it’s a direct sequel to High Deryni, the third book in her CHRONICLES OF DERYNI trilogy. (Did you get that?) To get the most out of The Bishop’s Heir, you really need to read THE CHRONICLES OF DERYNI first. This review of The Bishop’s Heir will contain a couple of spoilers for the original trilogy.

King Kelson’s battle with the church is over... or so he thinks. Archbishop Loris, the man responsible for the Church’s persecution of the Deryni and for the excommunication of Morgan and Duncan, Kelson’s trusted advisors, has been sent to live out the rest of his life in confinement. Kelson, Morgan, and Duncan should now be fr... Read More

Master of Life and Death: Early Silverberg

Master of Life and Death by Robert Silverberg

Future Grand Master Robert Silverberg’s fifth sci-fi novel, Master of Life and Death, was originally released as one-half of one of those cute little “Ace doubles” (D-237, for all you collectors out there), back to back with James White’s The Secret Visitors. Published in 1957, this was one of “only” three novels that Silverberg would release that year (the others were The Dawning Light and The Shrouded Planet), a fairly paltry number, one might think, for this remarkably prolific author… until one realizes that he also came out with no fewer than 82 (!) short stories and novellas that year in the sci-fi vein, plus 19 “adult” stories. On average, that comes to around a story every three or four days, PL... Read More

The Rise of Endymion: Great science fiction for the 21st century

The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons

After busting through the door with a whole new Hyperion story in Endymion, Simmons returns with The Rise of Endymion to close it. Answering all of the questions and satisfying all the plot build up of the first half, Rise concludes the story in grand fashion, living up to expectations. It does, however, leave a little wanting thematically.

The Rise of Endymion opens where Endymion left off. Aenea, Endymion, and the others are in the American West recovering from the attack by the church and learning architecture from a cybrid of Frank Lloyd Wright. They are quickly separated, however, and Endymion goes on a perilous mission of which he knows not the end. Simmons upping the ante imaginatively, the dangerous and exotic events of Endymion’s life prepare him in every w... Read More

Andromeda’s Fall: Begins a LEGION OF THE DAMNED prequel trilogy

Andromeda's Fall by William C. Dietz

Andromeda's Fall is the start of a new prequel trilogy related to William C. Dietz’s LEGION OF THE DAMNED and it’s a fine place for someone to enter this good military science fiction series.

Catherine Carletto is Empire nobility. Her family is incredibly powerful and wealthy and Catherine is on a sort of debutante tour after finishing college. She's pretty, she's rich and so everyone on the planets she visits wants to meet her. In the midst of a social event she is attacked by a Synth, a sort of highly advanced robot. Cat manages to evade the Synth, but in the process many people are killed and she gets wounded as well. Fortunately for Cat, her family and education have not left her without skills to survive.

After running for her life through a strange city, Cat realizes that serious resources have been set to exterminate her. The ... Read More

High Deryni: I plan to continue

High Deryni by Katherine Kurtz

High Deryni, originally published in 1973, is the third novel in Katherine Kurtz’s DERYNI CHRONICLES. In the first novel, Deryni Rising, young Prince Kelson, who has inherited some Deryni magic, took his dead father’s throne after fighting an evil sorceress. In the second novel, Deryni Checkmate, tensions rose after the Church (obviously based on the medieval Catholic Church of our world) excommunicated Alaric Morgan and Duncan McLain, two of Kelson’s relatives and advisors.

As the third novel starts, the Church has just split over the Deryni issue. Traditionally the clergy has viewed any sort of magic as evil, akin to the witchcraft which their Holy Scriptures clearly forbids. They’re also worried that the Deryni will use their powers to overturn legitimate benevolent governments, undermine the Chu... Read More

Horrible Monday: The Broken Road by T. Frohock

The Broken Road by T. Frohock

T. Frohock” is Teresa Frohock, the author of the well-regarded fantasy debut Miserere: An Autumn Tale. The Broken Road is a novella that belongs to the “grimdark” genre: it is dark and gritty and there is no happily ever after. Frohock herself calls it “gothic horror,” and that description works, too. It’s good.

Travys du Valois is the younger of Queen Heloise’s twin sons. He is mute, and therefore unable to work the magic inherent in the nobles of his land except by using the voice of another or the sounds surrounding him. His... Read More

Rogue Knight: Middle Grade readers will love this

Rogue Knight by Brandon Mull

Rogue Knight , book two of Brandon Mull’s FIVE KINGDOMS series, continues the story about Cole, the boy who took his friends to a haunted house on Halloween and unwittingly caused them all to be sold into slavery in another universe. (Ouch.) Cole managed to escape slavery, but he’s racked with guilt, and now, with the help of some friends he’s made in The Outskirts, which consists of the five kingdoms of this series’ title, he hopes to eventually save his friends.

Cole is currently in Elloweer, the second of the Five Kingdoms (you can probably guess that there will be five books in this series). He’s tagging along with Mira, a princess who’s hiding from her father, the King, because her father wants to steal her magic for himself. Mira is trying to find her sisters who are also in hiding so they can work together to overthrow their evil father. Col... Read More

Endymion: More fabulous storytelling in the Hyperion universe

Endymion by Dan Simmons

The original HYPERION duology was a great success for Dan Simmons. It won him numerous awards and accolades, not to mention rave reviews and huge sales figures. The setting so fertile, Simmons indulged further, producing additional books typically called the ENDYMION duology. No less imaginative and visual, the pair, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion, nevertheless take Simmons’ universe in a new direction: where Hyperion focused on mythological quests for power from a base of Keats' poetry, Endymion is honed to spirituality from a personal view. The following review is for the first half of the duology.

Endymion opens by introducing the man who becomes the main protagonist of the story. The eponymous Raul Endymion hangs in space inside a Schroe... Read More

Horrible Monday: Under the Dome by Stephen King

Under the Dome by Stephen King

Stephen King’s Under the Dome is long. I mean, long. The manuscript weighs in at 8.6 kg and Time magazine quoted King himself saying he’d be “killing a lot of trees” with his next novel. But when you read the book’s premise, and begin to understand what King had set out to do, it begins to make sense…

Under the Dome opens in Chester’s Mill, a small Maine town which is suddenly and inexplicably cut off from the rest of the world by a dome. It’s kind of like a humongous semi-permeable upside-down petri dish, which is fitting, because Under the Dome plays out like a kind of human experiment: what happens when a small town of people is completely cut off from the rest of society and left to their own devices?

This is where the length comes in. King follows the stories of various... Read More

Lone Wolf and Cub: The Bell Warden by Kazuo Koike

Lone Wolf and Cub (Vol. 4): The Bell Warden by Kazuo Koike

The Bell Warden, Volume 4 of Lone Wolf and Cub, is still obviously chock full of action and bloodshed as Ogami continues cutting a swath through Tokugawa-era Japan on his path of vengeance. The main story arc doesn’t get a significant push forward here, hence the slightly lower rating from previous volumes, though we do get a lot of details on Tokugawa-era Japan and more than a few interesting things in the stories Koike & Kajima choose to tell. To wit:

“The Bell Warden”: Apparently the position of Bell Warden of the watchtowers of Edo was incredibly important and prestigious. The holder o... Read More

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