Book Review: Pride’s Children: Netherworld by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt (five stars)

Book Review: Pride’s Children: Netherworld (Book #2) by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt (five stars)

Time to act like a grownup. Time to be an adult. Depressing thought.

Growing up is hard, especially when you’re an adult. And a success. Visibly so. Complex, believable inner dialogue. Who needs saving and how do they get it? Three point of view characters, folded timeline, occasional flashes back and forward. Insights into writing, movies, friends, family, and agents. Very cerebral, dare I say literary?

You can start rumors, but you can’t control them.

Talk about in media res. The book opens a third of the way into the story, literally. Being a single story cut in thirds by the publisher, this second installment tosses the reader into the flow with no character introduction or background. Read Pride’s Children: Purgatory first. The closing, by no means the end, is sufficiently satisfying to keep readers hooked until the conclusion is published. A really big train wreck assured.

This is what writers did: they had imaginary conversations in their heads where they played all the parts.

Notes: One character’s accent borders on caricature, while everyone else has none. Both female characters are surrounded by support while the male is alone against the world. Even his agent hates him. Too many epigrams opening each chapter.

It’s always hard to balance reality with what people think they know.”

Book Review: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (four stars)

Book Review: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (four stars)

“But we never choose which [words] to use, for as long as they mean what they mean to mean we don’t care if they make sense or nonsense.”

If Terry Pratchett had updated Pilgrim’s Progress. A morality tale for a post-modern world. Funny in a lame three-quarters-century old way. Lots of word jokers and puns.

“Infinity is a dreadfully poor place. They can never manage to make ends meet.”

Eighty years ago this was cutting edge. Readers would have marveled at the sophistication of Juster’s prose and Jules Feiffer’s illustrations. Better than many contemporary shots at the same target.

“I never knew words could be so confusing.” “Only when you use a lot to say a little.”

Book Review: A God Against the Gods by Allen Drury (three stars)

Book Review: A God Against the Gods by Allen Drury (three stars)

“I hope you know what you are doing, Son of the Sun.” “I do, Uncle. And it will be best for all. I, who am living in truth, promise it!” 

Why settle for one unreliable narrator when you can have a swarm? Drury projects readers into the minds of a dozen key players to an existential crisis in the Egyptian eighteenth dynasty. The result is confusing and realistic. No one knows and sees all; most are biased and self-serving. Nothing quite so dangerous as believing that you alone know God’s will.

For if Pharaoh himself does not believe in the gods, then what will happen to the land? 

A monumental portrait of a controversial historical figure. Plausible, but Drury projects modern (1976) politics and psychology into ancient Egypt. Over long and boring. Drury depends on the reader to know what happened to Akhenaten; he leaves that out of the story.

Together we will be happy and together we will make Kemet happy. I so decree it and it will be so: For I am Akhenaten, he who has lived long, and I will live in truth forever and ever, for millions and millions of years. 

Book Review: City of Golden Shadow by Tad Williams (three stars)

Book Review: City of Golden Shadow (Otherland #1) by Tad Williams (three stars)

In any case, Paul thought, if he was already dead, he couldn’t die again. If he was alive, then he was part of a fairy tale, and surely no one ever died this early in the story. 

Ready Player One meets Lord of the Rings. A well-developed and well-written story. Slow start. Too many threads, too unconnected for the first half of the book. I quit and restarted several times before I finally got sucked into the accelerating plot.

“Can we talk to the gods and hear their voices more clearly? Or have we now, with all these powers, become gods?”

A variety of engaging characters each in a personal crisis, unaware of the enormity they have engaged. Computer geeks galore. !Xabbu offers an needed everyman/nativist perspective.

It was a story, no more, no less, and stories were the things people used to give the universe a shape.

Cheat! Over 800 pages and no closing; no closure. Williams just cut and ran. Cost him a five-star rating. The titular city is a MacGuffin.Three more books in this series (so far), won’t waste time on another Jordan-esque, sideways epic journey to nowhere.

This scans utterly!

Book Review: Children of Memory by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Five Stars)

Book Review: Children of Memory (Children of Time #3) by Adrian Tchaikovsky (five stars)

Things fall apart, though, and entropy is the landlord whose rent always gets paid.

Excellent. The best science fiction I’ve read this year. Humans colonizing not quite hostile planet. Except that most characters aren’t what they seem, even to themselves. Explores the limits of sentience, personhood, and being human.

It was a terrible thing to remember you’d hated yourself once, before that you became this you.

Attentive readers will collide with not just a folded timeline, more like a Möbius loop. Eventually gets straightened. Sort of. Loved the crows; er, ravens; er, corvids, whatever.

She should have realized that it was all a sham. Except that, when the sham is all you have, you don’t question it. Now this life is all she has, and she has questions.

Though purists may want to read all three books, this volume does the job. But then, I may have to go back and read all three in succession to decide.

As though she once stepped through a magic doorway long ago, when she was a child, and has spent a lifetime trying to return to that place.

Book Review: Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse (four stars)

Book Review: Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse (four stars)

She could hear [redacted]’s warning not to trust the Virtues, that righteous men had a way of lying to themselves.

John Milton does Leadville. A mashup of medieval angels and demons with a wild west mineral boom town that works. Creative alternate history novella but lacks the verisimilitude of Roanhorse’s Navajo novels.

“Trust a man who knows his value to deny a woman hers.”

Roanhorse captures the thoughts and emotions of her point of view character with insight and sympathy, especially her monomania. Main character, driven by her self-assigned obligations, betrays everyone else to save her sister. Everyone. Theological issues add depth, not cheap thrills as in much modern literature. Excellent duplicity and irrational behavior. Invented invective works.

“Then one day, I will see you in hell,” she said, as challenge and threat and vow.

The Answer is “What is the Green Book?”

After the kerfuffle on Jeopardy the other day, many of us ran to Wikipedia, which reads in part:

“an annual guidebook for African American roadtrippers. It was originated and published by African American New York City mailman Victor Hugo Green from 1936 to 1966, during the era of Jim Crow laws, when open and often legally prescribed discrimination against African Americans especially and other non-whites was widespread.”

Interesting facts include:

  1. Green’s original source of black-friendly services were fellow Post Office employees. Later he paid readers for publishable tips.
  2. Black travelers faced discrimination in the North as well as the South. Originally, the book covered the New York City area but eventually covered most of the United States and Canada, and the Caribbean and Bermuda.
  3. Esso (now Exxon-Mobil)’s role in serving black travelers, selling franchise’s to Blacks, and promoting the Green Book.
  4. Toward the end its publication, activists accused Green of abetting Jim Crow regulations by highlighting workarounds.
  5. The death knell of Green Book was the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing the discrimination which made Green Book necessary.

The Wikipedia article covers more than publication. Interesting reading.

Book Review: The Taste of Different Dimensions by Allen Dean Foster (three stars)

Book Review: The Taste of Different Dimensions by Allen Dean Foster (three stars)

“This contravenes every known law of nature!” “Did I not say it represents a new way of looking at the world?”

Anthology of short fantasy fiction. Most are expanded one-liners: starting with a slight deviance from normal and ending with an ironic, even horrible twist. Foster writes better than most of his contemporaries.

“You could say that Morty’s very good at foreign languages.” “For instance?” “He can speak chocolate.”

The farther you read, the more terrible the twists. I am not a fan of horror. I skimmed the last two stories. Creeped me out.

“Alas, there seems to be a problem.” A catch. There was always a catch. “What problem?” “You are not a cat.”

Book Review: The Librarian of Crooked Lane by C.J. Archer (3.5 stars)

Book Review: The Librarian of Crooked Lane: A Fantasy Mystery Novel (The Glass Library #1) by C.J. Archer (3.5 stars)

“Sir, I need to understand where I come from.”

Historical fiction with magic. Set in post-Great War, post-pandemic London focusing on how those who survived adjusted. Or didn’t. Beyond the main characters, the cast lapses into stereotypes.

Willie exploded with a string of expletives until Cyclops ordered her to pipe down. She fell into a stroppy silence.

Quibbles: protagonist is smart and clueless simultaneously. The risk she puts rare books into is as appalling as those to which she subjects herself. “Ain’t” doesn’t make an American accent. Willie was the most unconvincing character.

Daisy had warned me that men who had everything handed to them in life didn’t understand the realities of the world for the rest of us. In this instance, she might be right.

Plenty of hooks into the next story, but a satisfactory conclusion to this book. Mysteries aren’t my cup of tea, but Archer threw in enough confusion and misdirection to keep the detectives (and readers) confused.

… should have kept alert as I walked alone through a quiet lane.

Book Review: The Serpent’s Egg by Caroline Stevermer (four stars)

Book Review: The Serpent’s Egg by Caroline Stevermer (four stars)

“I’ve waited all my life to make a scandal, now I can rest easy.”

Good, clean fun. Old-school epic fantasy set in late medieval Europe analog with complex characterizations and plotting. Leavened with humor and chivalry—the good kind.

To see was of no use until she understood, but she would never understand until she tried to see.

Large cast of well-drawn characters on both sides. Complexity of characterization beyond core cast adds credibility. Stevermer respects the reader’s intelligence with occasional gaps which the reader must navigate. Excellent.

“In short, I am a wreck—physically, morally, intellectually—” “Do shut up.” “Everyone tells me that eventually.”