Book Review: Stories of the Raksura 2 by Martha Wells (Three Stars)

22750124

Book Review: Stories of the Raksura 2: The Dead City & The Dark Earth Below by Martha Wells

(Three Stars)

“Now would be a good time to go, to fly west into the sun with no one to see. Except he didn’t appear to be doing that.”

Anthologies set in the world or featuring the cast of an author’s invented universe allow her to explore side issues, deepen characters and promote the greater series–especially when said short stories are offered free or included in other anthologies. Fans get a fix of a favored setting; new readers can sample without committing to a full novel. So it is here. Not great literature, not even as good as the Raksura novels, but enjoyable nonetheless.

“He had learned from bitter experiences not to try to explain unexplainable things.”

Advertisements

Book Review: The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells (Four Stars)

13350815

Book Review: The Serpent Sea (Book of Raksura #2) by Martha Wells

(Four Stars)

“They might be harmless, but Moon doubted it on principle.”

A better-than-average sequel. Expands Moon’s character and the ensemble of Raksura closest to him. Fills in backstory from the first book at appropriate time, but tends toward data dumps.

“Sense doesn’t enter into it where queens are concerned.”

The stakes are high; things keep going wrong; Moon isn’t the only one who is a fish out of water.

“Sometimes I don’t have visions; sometimes I have common sense. Not that any of you listen to me.”

Martha Wells is great at inner dialogue. For an even better sample, try her Murderbot series, especially All Systems Red.

“He felt as if he’d never really come home before.”

Book Review: The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold (Five Stars)

Featured

6492981

Book Review: The Curse of Chalion (World of the Five Gods #1) by Lois McMaster Bujold

(Five Stars)

“If you lent me a razor now, for me to cut my throat with, it would save ever so many steps.”

Feared they weren’t writing fantasy like this anymore. Excellent in every way. Good world and cosmology building, deep first person point of view, maybe romance, a map, humor. A satisfying ending. What more could a reader want? More? Well, there’s that, too. Bujold is a master.

“His heart melted. Or maybe it was his wits.”

Unique among current fantasy because this world has several fully developed religions, not the cardboard caricatures of most science fiction and fantasy. Bujold presents a supernatural which is series and time appropriate without straying into silliness or social commentary … too much.

“He’d been swimming in a miracle every day of his life, and hadn’t known it.

Book Review: Grant by Ron Chernow (Four Stars)

34237831

Book Review: Grant by Ron Chernow

(Four Stars)

“I thought I could run the government of the United States as I did the staff of my army. It was my mistake, and led me to other mistakes.” US Grant

A readable and informative, if exhaustive biography of our eighteenth president, our nation’s youngest at the time. Though contemporaries viewed him as a unite-er and reconciliator, history has been less kind. Chernow raises and examines the charges of drunkenness, corruption, and insensitivity. The Grant who emerges is deeper and more human than even he described himself in his famous memoirs.

The Civil War was “largely the outgrowth of the Mexican War. Nations like individuals are punished for their transgressions.” US Grant

For a quarter century Chernow has redefined America through huge, deeply-researched biographies of prominent historical figures. His books are best sellers and award winners and one became a pop culture Continue reading

Book Review: The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells (3.5 Stars)

9461562

Book Review: The Cloud Roads (The Books of the Raksura #1) by Martha Wells

(3.5 Stars)

“We don’t use magic; we’re made of magic, and you can’t run away from that.”

Engaging fantasy with originality world building. Not nearly as good as her more recent Murderbot (SF) books, but few novels are. Though this story opens a series, it has a satisfying ending, not a cliff-hanger.

“I am not high-strung.”

Her protagonist has secrets and flaws and a bit snarky: cool. The inner voice makes all the difference. Enjoyable read if only to see how Wells develops and reveals her lead.

“You can tell he’s getting better because he’s getting all mouthy again.”

Quibble: Uses paces as a unit of measure, but implies something much smaller–a foot or a meter. Understand her reluctance to use geocentric measurement, but pace is wrong-footed. For example, a roads “more than one hundred paces wide.”

“I’d like something to be easy for once.”

Book Review: Pride’s Children: Purgatory by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt (Four Stars)

27391436

Book Review: Pride’s Children: Purgatory (Book One of the Trilogy) by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

(Four Stars)

“Make God laugh. Tell Him yer plans.”

Wow. This is really good. Regular readers know I warn against rating books in genres I avoid. I’m breaking that rule here because the author asked for my thoughts and the book is that good. Naïve readers pass over this as Chick Lit; it most assuredly is not. This is a deep and real dive into the lives of several people with wants and needs which sometimes coincide and sometimes conflict. Well-developed and well-told.

“I forgave him a long time ago.” “Why?” “Because it only hurts me not to? It took longer to forgive myself.”

It’s the characters who make the story work. Good inner focus and dialogue and self-depreciating humor. Feels real. The reader comes to care about even those whose motives and methods are Continue reading

Book Review: Provenance by Ann Leckie (Four Stars)

25353286

Book Review: Provenance by Ann Leckie

(Four Stars)

“A hatchling that thinks only of its our survival makes an untrustworthy adult.”

Leckie hasn’t lost her touch with engaging characters and plot, but she seems to have lost her way in a jungle of obscure personal pronouns (after demonstrating she could navigate that jungle in previous works) and gratuitous, pasted-on romances.

“To know your past is to know who you are.”

Set in the same galaxy as The Ancillary novels, Provenance explores life in minor republics outside the grasp of the Radch. Leckie’s development of vestiges as a cultural artifact is genius. (In another age, it might have Continue reading

Book Review: Raven Strategem by Yoon Ha Lee (Three Stars)

33811761

Book Review: Raven Strategem (The Machineries of Empire #2) by Yoon Ha Lee

(Three Stars)

“I would like to think that it’s possibly to construct a society where our orders don’t involve slaughtering our own people.”

Another masterful space opera set in the universe of the hexarchate featuring the four-hundred-year-old revenant of Shous Jedao. Readers unfamiliar with the hexarchate would profit by reading Ninefox Gambit first, however Strategem fills background as needed as the story develops.

“Immortality didn’t turn you into a monster. It merely showed what kind of monster you already were.” “Would it be such an evil thing to learn?”

Strategem features a Byzantine web of factions and players alternately attacking and defending each other. Corruption and betrayal are Continue reading

Book Review: The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain (Four Stars)

18995861

Book Review: The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain

(Four Stars)

“Travel is fatal to bigotry and prejudice and narrow-mindedness.”

In 1867 young Samuel Clemens joined one of the first cruises for an extended voyage from New York City to the Holy Land. He serialized his impressions as they went, then sold the aggregate as a book. It was his best-selling book during his lifetime.

“The impressible memento-seeker was pecking at the venerable sarcophagus [inside Cheop’s Pyramid] with his sacrilegious hammer.”

Regular readers of Twain will enjoy this cynical, but less bitter younger version. Despite distancing himself from the “pilgrims” (conservative New England Christians who were the bulk of the party), Twain betrays many of the prejudices of the day. He was particularly critical of the Americans defacing ruins, taking mementos.

“One must travel to learn. Every day now old Scripture phrases that never possessed any significance for me take to themselves a meaning.” (at Beth-El)

I affirm that many of his impressions of the Mediterranean and Levant are Continue reading

Book Review: Beyond this Horizon by Robert Heinlein (Four Stars)

23383307

Book Review: Beyond this Horizon by Robert Heinlein

(Four Stars)

“Easy times for individuals are bad times for the race.”

Utopias have their downside. A landmark science fiction novel by a dean of the genre. Written before the United States entered World War Two, yet amazing prescient of the next fifty years.

“But man is a working animal. He likes to work. … likely to spend his spare time working out some gadget which will displace labor and increase productivity.” (20th, not 21st century man)

Marred by lengthy exposition/preaching. While Heinlein was ahead of society in some ways and clearly foresaw many technology advances only made possible by the invention of the transistor some years later, he mistook then-current fads in economics and para-psychology as indicative of future trends. “The structural nature of finance is too deeply imbedded in our culture for pseudo-capitalism to return.”

“The only thing that could give us some real basis for our living is to know for sure whether or not anything happens after we die.”

The protagonist voice is like P. G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster. “I’m one long joke on myself.”

“An armed society is a polite society.”

Skip the post-script blather by Tony Daniels. “Which shows how much of the modern negative criticism that Heinlein evokes in the present day is not only completely mistaken and stupid, but pernicious and hatefully intended.” Denounces ad hominem attacks by “critics, most of whom I consider idiots.” Claims it “does not end with a twist” but with “an authentic answer.” Which is wrong on both counts. Dissuades reading any of his works.

“The only choices that matter are those that we responsibly made based on the evidence, not on anyone’s declarations, however well intentioned.”

(Finalist for Hugo retro award for 1943)