Book Review: The Citadel of Weeping Pearls by Aliette de Bodard (Three Stars)


Book Review: The Citadel of Weeping Pearls (The Universe of Xuya) by Aliette de Bodard

(Three Stars)

“That’s impossible.” “Everything is possible, if you listen to the right people.”

Set in the alternate timeline universe of Xuya (diverging from this universe in the fifteenth century), Citadel is richly woven science fiction independent of earth references except for culture.

“But this wasn’t battle. This didn’t involve ships or soldiers; or at least, not more than one ship. He could handle this. He just wished he could believe his own lies.”

Characters have compelling inner lives: hopes, fears, loves, hates. Science and mathematics join Continue reading

Book Review: Stone Mad by Elizabeth Bear (Two Stars)


Book Review: Stone Mad (Karen Memory #2) by Elizabeth Bear

(Two Stars)

“Overkill is something of a personal defect.”

The subtitle tells it all: recycled. Not a bad story, but neither the story nor the characters are half as complex and engaging as in Karen Memory. Bear tried to compensate with the interplay among Karen’s female friends, but that felt forced, too. Even the antagonist is sympathetic and not very threatening.

“Deciding you know something when you don’t is about the deadliest thing a person can do.”

Lots of preaching, which also rehashes much of the first novel. Karen’s awkward syntax lacks the originality of the first opus, too.

“The advantage of being elderly is you don’t have to make the same stupid self-defeating decision the same way a second time.”

Book Review: The Shadow of the Lion by Mercedes Lackey (Five Stars)


Book Review: The Shadow of the Lion (Heirs of Alexandria #1) by Mercedes Lackey et al.

(Five Stars)

“Just as simple as original sin and just as seductive.”

Excellent. Amazingly deep, rich epic fantasy set in an alternate timeline very close to Renaissance northern Italy. The nations, myths, religions, factions and families are close enough to historical that the student of history has a leg up on the fun. Yet Lackey has shifted emphasis, history there, motives somewhere else just enough to create a fascinating new universe.

“There is such a thing as evil in the world, which cannot be persuaded, but only defeated.”

Amazing that Lackey produces such good word so quickly. Nonetheless, there are signs of this story being rushed to print. For example, modern expressions, Continue reading

Book Review: Shadows of God by J. Gregory Keyes (Four Stars)


Book Review: Shadows of God (Age of Unreason #4) by J. Gregory Keyes

Four Stars

“It is a short step from having a djinn who serves you to having a god you must beg for favors.”

Keyes redeemed himself with this series-closing story. His particular alternate history was closed in both a satisfying and a consistent way. Good storytelling. Readers not inclined to read all four books of this series won’t miss much by reading one and four.

“… as unaware as a pen of what it writes on the page.”

Inevitably this series will be compared with Eric Flint’s sprawling alternate universe which opens with 1632. The premise of this series works better and is developed more logically. Both are exercises in imagining “what if”.

“If you are no magician, how will you kill him?” “Carefully, Tsar, carefully.”

Quibbles Muskets are not that accurate, no matter who is shooting them. Black powder smoke is white.

“All my old selves follow me as ghosts.”

Book Review: Newton’s Cannon by Greg Keyes (Three Stars)

Book Review: Newton’s Cannon (Age of Unreason, #1) by Greg Keyes

Three Stars

“A reasonable man … can always find a reason to justify what he wants to do.”

Think: The Three Musketeers meets The Da Vinci Code.

“Living amid corruption was no excuse for becoming corrupted.”

A fun alternate timeline story set in the early eighteenth century, but little like the time we learned in school. Keyes takes us into a world where ancient theories of matter and energy are true, resulting in “modern” contrivances which run on etheric power, looking like magic to us but governed by rules and formulae to them.

“Actually doing something almost always produced unexpected results.”

The protagonists, unknown to each other, dwell in colonial American, Georgian London, and Paris during the late (and extended) rule of the Sun King. One is drawn from the historical Benjamin Franklin Continue reading

Book Review: The Daedalus Incident by Michael J. Martinez (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Daedalus Incident by Michael J. Martinez

Three Stars out of Five.

A split narrative story with one storyline in an alternative universe analogous to Earth’s eighteenth century (with several notable differences) and the other in the supposed twenty-second century of this Earth. The eighteenth century world is easier to believe. The other seems very twenty first century. Both exhibit a high school understanding of physics and politics. Reads as if written ten years ago. Numerous cameos by historic persons. Both heroes are pigheaded fools, a danger to all around them.

Quibbles: 22nd century personal devices “might double as a radio transmitter”? Most devices do that today. A space ship which lands on its main engines will not be “recoverable.” (See cover art) Moderns are distinguished by their profanity. By 2136, space meals will probably be gourmet quality, not “scrambled tofu.” “All the whistles and bells” is twentieth century jargon. A space ship in the midst of atmospheric braking is unlikely to be hit “midsection.” Would people performing said atmospheric braking wander around their ship in shirt sleeves or be in their pressure suits strapped down in the safest part of the ship?

Three stars is a gift.