Category Archives: Books

Final Season

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1)
N. K. Jemisin

5Season
Read as part of the Sword and Laser March pick.

Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.

This book opens with a huge info-dump of a prelude. Then it starts as the main viewpoint character in present tense, second person style. Not normally a prose style I like, but the skills of the author pull it off. Soon, however this would get annoying and pull me out of the story each time it was used.

This is grim-dark fantasy and very grim. It starts with the murder of a child and doesn’t look up. The story is very slow to get started and soon becomes apparent that everything will be stretched out to make this a long fantasy book. One of the main problems I had was that the ‘magic’ employed by the characters was just out of proportion to actual human abilities, apparently people can cause earthquakes !

The lack of any wit in the characters, the slow pacing and weird magic just got boring and I gave up after getting about 25% through.

 

Witched

Dewitched: The Untold Story of the Evil Queen
Unhitched: The Untold Story of the Evil Queen #2

by E.L. Sarnoff

Sarnof

After serving time for Snow White’s attempted murder, the Evil Queen is about to get a makeover. Just not the kind she expected. Thinking she’s been sent to a luxurious spa that will enable her to regain her beauty and recapture her title, Fairest of All, Jane Yvel instead finds herself at Faraway, a rehab center that caters to Fairytalelanders addicted to evil.

The first book was purchased on a whim for about $1 at amazon. Both proved to be well written romps through the fantasy-land everyone knows from Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty etc. In the first book, I became worried that the plot would grind to a halt as the protagonist appeared to be stuck in a rut for almost half the book. Fortunately she gets out and the story picks up and. Written in first person from the ‘evil’ side of the stories we all know from Grimm/Disney these have a very modern sensibility.

With breathless twists some satire and general silliness these are a fun read.

 

Kim Oh

 

KimOh

Better known as a steampunk originator and author, K.W. Jeter has recently written a series of thrillers.

No easy answers.
No big international spy secret bank accounts.
No superheroes or magic.
Just her wits, guts . . .
And a very large gun.

Kim is a female Korean-Amerinan that gets caught up in the dangerous world of assassins for hire, protection and doing the dirty work for shady characters.

This series of books are fast and fun, despite the subject matter. The best thing about them is the voice of the protagonist, written in first person with wit and and an evil charm.

Great reading, although the last two are not quite as good as the rest.

  1. Real Dangerous Girl
  2. Real Dangerous Job
  3. Real Dangerous People
  4. Real Dangerous Place
  5. Real Dangerous Fun
  6. Real Dangerous Ride
  7. Real Dangerous Plan

 

Charlie Sharp

Charlie Fox series by Zoe Sharp

ZoeSharp

Psychically damaged by a horrendous episode when she was in the British army, an incident that led to estrangement from her parents, Charlie Fox is a biker chick whose conscience restrains her from using her potentially deadly hand-to-hand combat skills.
The first book starts with an endorsement from Lee Child.
Zoe has written of her fondness for Dick Francis and it shows in the first person action and good pacing.
The first few books are set in England and Europe, the later books move to America. At first Charlie is thrown into difficult situations, her army background helps her out. Later she becomes a bodyguard and is involved in a long term relationship.

If you like thrillers, you should enjoy the 10 novels.

The Books:

  1. Killer Instinct
  2. Riot Act
  3. Hard Knocks
  4. First Drop
  5. Road Kill
  6. Second Shot
  7. Third Strike
  8. Fourth Day
  9. Fifth Victim
  10. Die Easy

 

Quantum Night

Quantum Night
by Robert J Sawyer (2016)

Experimental psychologist Jim Marchuk has developed a flawless technique for identifying the previously undetected psychopaths lurking everywhere in society. But while being cross-examined about his breakthrough in court, Jim is shocked to discover that he has lost his memories of six months of his life from twenty years previously—a dark time during which he himself committed heinous acts.

There are a lot of things wrong with this book. The first thing the author does is throw out the notion of free will and put everyone in categories.

It’s just the opposite  of Zootopia !

It you want to hear all the problems with the book, listen the Luke Burrage’s TWO HOUR rant about the book in issue  #302 of his Science Fiction Book Review Podcast.

Sky Birds

All the Birds in the Sky
by Charlie Jane Anders

Anders, Charlie Jane_All the Birds in the Sky

This is the Sword and Laser Pick for March 2016.

From the editor-in-chief of io9.com.

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.

It starts off OK, the story implies an interesting combination of magic and science to come. Once the two main characters become adults and live in the same city things come apart. All the magical realism and science in the first part of the story evaporates. By halfway through it all descends into some kind of boring romance. All the interesting stuff is gone. Hopefully the story will pick up and become interesting. But after a few chapters of the characters love life I lost interest and gave up.

(1/5)

 

Lunar Chronicles

The Lunar Chronicles
by
Marissa Meyer

Lunar

#1 Cinder
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

#2 Scarlet
Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

#3 Cress
Having risked everything to warn Cinder of Queen Levana’s evil plan, Cress has a slight problem. She’s been imprisoned on a satellite since childhood and has only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress a great hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

#4 Winter
Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

A science fiction re-telling of the Cinderella story. The first three books are fun and full of adventure. Unfortunately the final book is over 200,000 words and just too long with too many characters and plot lines. Recommended, but be ready for a slog through the final book.

 

 

Flashman

 

Flashman

Flash for Freedom (1971)
Flashman at the Charge (1973)
Flashman in the Great Game (1975)
Flashman and the Redskins (1982)
Flashman and the Dragon (1985)
Flashman and the Mountain of Light (1990)
Flashman on the March (2005)

The Flashman series illustrates the benefits and drawbacks of first person narration. Flashman is a fiction character, born as the bully in Tom Brown’s Schooldays he goes on to enter the military and travel the world having unlikely adventures from India to American and Afrrica. He is the unreliable narrator, full of himself, arrogant and unreliable but thanks to luck and others manages to get out of every problem he falls into.
The first few books are great, fast paced adventures that always get you wondering what will happen next. Then, around book four or five the internal monologues take over. Instead of plot advancement, they drag everything down. Explaining everything too much, going on for pages and just being generally boring.

Read the first three books.

Martha

Dan Abnett –  Dr Who: The Story of Martha (2010)

 

Abnett_Martha_

This novel only makes sense after seeing the end of the third season (2007) of the new Doctor Who. It fills in the tale of Martha’s year long wandering around the world telling people about the Doctor and his wonderful stories. The story brings you to the beginning of the episode the Last of the Time Lords.
The book is actually a series of short stories written in a collaboration and strung together to create a complete novel. Because of this, it’s not as good as a book wholly written by Dan Abnett, who is one of my favorite modern writers.

The best thing about the book is that it fills in the big question of what happens to Martha.

Desmond Bagley

Flyaway (1978) & Bahama Crisis (1980)

Bagley

 

As a teenager, I went from Enid Blyton to the thriller writers of the era – Hammond Innes, Wilbur Smith, Alistair MacLean and Desmond Bagley. Re-reading these books as an adult reveals that I still enjoy the stories. The writing is tight and the plot moves with a good pace. Overall the story is structured to ramp up in intensity to a single final climax. Modern writers try to do lots of action/violence throughout the story. But these books are still good reads, thirty years after initial publication.

http://www.desmondbagley.co.uk/