Happy 50th Anniversary

2019 50 anni sm Fifty years ago today–May 30, 1969–Treva L. Parsons and I exchanged wedding vows at Grace United Methodist Church in Winfield, Kansas.

Since then we have raised two sons and lived in seven states and four foreign countries, plus my overseas service during the Vietnam and Gulf Wars.

Tomorrow, family and friends will gather at the Cultural Arts Center of Glen Allen, Virginia to celebrate with us.

Thank you, Lord.

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Book Review: The Redemption of Althalus by David and Leigh Eddings (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Redemption of Althalus by David and Leigh Eddings

(Four Stars)

“I don’t want to contaminate a good story with truth. That’d be a violation of my artistic integrity.”

A fun read. Sort of a tongue-in-cheek parody of epic fantasy. World’s great thief (he thinks), competitive divine siblings, threats to end reality. Faint echoes of Star Wars. Didn’t notice much redemption of Althalus, but who cares?

“It’s not the writing that changes, pet. It’s the reading.” “Wait a minute. Doesn’t the writing mean the same to everybody?” “Of course it doesn’t. Everybody reads any writing gets a different meaning from it.”

Reads like a first draft—wordy and repetitious, but Continue reading

Book Review: Grass by Sheri S. Tepper (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Grass (Arbai #1) by Sheri S. Tepper

(Three Stars)

“You are saying God cannot intervene in this plague?” “I am saying that perhaps God has already done his intervening by creating us.”

Published in 1989, Grass addresses many contemporary issues setting them in far future science fiction. Very slow start. You can’t skip the first hundred pages, but once the story begins to move, you’ll wish Tepper had. Lots of passive voice and participles; slows the pace. Addresses religion more honestly—bad and good–than most modern works.

“Seeking her soul, he had only taken her body, finding there a hollowness he had not expected.”

Some nice word pictures: “nights sat gently upon the sills.” Continue reading

Book Review: Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson

(Three Stars)

“Shugli believed his falconers. It took a watcher to recognize another watcher. Against an unknown enemy, only one strategy would succeed: stealth.”

Better-than-average science fiction series opener, which admittedly is a low bar. For all that, the character development and storytelling is exceeds the norm. While the close of this story resolves nothing, it is a closing, rather the usual abrupt cut.

“Stay away from the me-me-me. Clients want you to talk about them.” “I didn’t realize we needed to make the client feel good about themselves. It seems dishonest.” “This is Continue reading

Book Review: Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Revenant Gun (The Machineries of Empire #3) by Yoon Ha Lee

(Three Stars)

“At least then the music tells you when the bad guys are about to sneak up on you.” “In the dramas, we’d be the bad guys.” “Not helping.” “Someone has to be a realist.”

Normally, one should not start a series in the middle; it makes no difference here. Like the previous stories in this series, totally confusing to start. Consumes half the book with the setup. Complex personalities and motives collide, again.

“I hadn’t thought the mating urge would take you so strongly, the Revenant remarked.” “The instinct has been suppressed in me, or I would not be a good weapon. I thought the same would be the case for you, but then, the hexarch Continue reading

Book Review: The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

(Four Stars)

“We were shackled and splintered and separated; the Many Mothers could not teach their daughter the Stories. Without stories there is no past, no future, no We. There is death. There is Nothing, a night without moon or stars.”

An extraordinarily original, well-told story. Bolander took two unrelated historical events and related them. It’s that simple. The voices of Topsy and Regan are especially good.

“It’s amazing I can breathe with my foot lodged in my windpipe the way it is.”

Sadly, the real Topsy was murdered in a publicity stunt by Thomas Edison to demonstrate Continue reading

Book Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novil (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novil

(Four Stars)

“For a moment I felt her a sister, our lives in the hands of others. She wasn’t likely to have any more choices in the matter than I did.”

Well-constructed fairy tale. Three female protagonists, two of whom had such similar voices that the reader occasionally must seek clues elsewhere. Interesting supporting cast, with enough humanity and inhumanity to compel and thrill.

“I had not known I was strong enough to do any of these things until they were over and I had done them.”

Draws deeply on Russian and Jewish cultures, but tells her own tale. Intricate plot, occasionally overlapping and backtracking to the point that the reader must puzzle out whose view point the story, always first person, is being told from.

“But it was all the same choice, every time. The choice between the one death and all the little ones.”

2019 Best Novel Hugo Award finalist

Book Review: Age of Legend by Michael J. Sullivan (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Age of Legend (Legends of the First Empire #4) by Michael J. Sullivan

(Four Stars)

“Suri sat alone with a sword across her lap, staring at what most would call a dragon, but which the onetime mystic of Dahl Rhen saw as a fragment of her broken heart.”

The opening of a monumental work of epic fantasy. As Sullivan explains in his Author’s Note, this book opens a trilogy similar to the three volumes of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The comparison is both apt and misleading. Apt because the struggle described is both intimate and cosmic, and misleading because his is a very different world than Middle Earth, reflecting the difference between Tolkien’s nineteenth century worldview and Sullivan’s twenty-first century. Legend lacks the cosmic clash of good versus evil but has more depth of many characters.

“Crazy was only crazy … until it happened.”

To draw the reader deep into the inner conflicts and manifest the misunderstandings, Sullivan tells the story from inside the consciousness of a dozen different characters. It’s confusing, but worth the effort. He manages to give different voices–certainly inner dialogue–to many of them. Still, the reader must work to stay engaged and clear on whose head is the current viewpoint.

“Things that were obvious in the confines of the heart often failed to translate well when expressed through the inadequate filter of language.”

Read and heed the Author’s Note. Potential readers should not start this volume without having previously read Sullivan’s Age of Myth, Age of Swords, and Age of War. He also explains why this book ends so abruptly and promises the subsequent volumes will become available soon. Hope so.

“Sometimes our need to believe blinds us to reality, and sometimes seeing reality blinds us to what we need to believe.”

(Appreciate the link to the high-resolution online map. Maps, especially in ereader versions, are often unreadable.)

“Now that I knew where the legend came from and the truth behind the tales, I can see why we were taught what we were. But we had it wrong. So very wrong. Truth, I learned, is so much more terrifying than myth.”

Book Review: “The Court Magician” by Sarah Pinkser (Four Stars)

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Book Review: “The Court Magician” by Sarah Pinkser

(Four Stars)

“Would you like to learn real magic?” The boy snorts. “There’s no such thing.”

Excellent short story. As with the best of any genre, it is compact and forceful. Little fluff; lots of misdirection.

“The Guild is for magicians who feel the need to compete with each other. The Palace trains magicians who feel compelled to compete against themselves.” It’s perhaps the truest thing I’ll ever tell him.

Read it at one sitting; it’s short enough. Let yourself go to the power and flow of the narrator. It increases the final impact.

“Is magic only a trick I haven’t figured out yet?”

(2019 Hugo Short Story Award finalist. Published in Lightspeed magazine. January 2018)

Book Review: The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

(Four Stars)

“Why ought I care about this time, these humans in particular? When I know all are doomed to end no matter what, and shortly, from my point of view.”

Excellent story despite being told in second person. That awkward point of view masked the identity of addressed character, even though hints started on the first page. Second person introduces many difficult phrases, as the narrator tells the addressed their thoughts and motives.

“But any god might be made more powerful with the right offering. And one of the best offerings–as any Iradani knows–is a human sacrifice. Even better if that sacrifice is voluntary and self-committed, just as the Raven’s Lease is.”

Two overlapping stories, starting at different times, build toward a climax when the story lines converge. Good world and character building with few anachronisms. I especially liked the development of Eolo, who is neither a weapon expert nor a genius but possesses more common sense than anyone else. Excellent pacing.

“Yes, they trained me as though I were a dog, with attention and treats and constant praise. But I trained them as well.”

Leckie managed a new take on the SF/F cliché: “I don’t know if you realized you were holding your breath.” (That sentence also hints at the verbal gymnastic second-person narrative forces.) Also a few old saws like, “Gods are, as a rule, more easily able to help those who have already made their own efforts.” (Ben Franklin said it better.)

“The ancient gods are, I have been told, difficult to kill.”