Book Review: Pawn’s Gambit by Timothy Zahn (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Pawn’s Gambit: and Other Stratagems by Timothy Zahn

(Three Stars)

“Physical reality is never obligated to correspond with our theories and constructs.”

An adequate collection of short science fiction. Quality decreases deeper into the book, however the last tale, the eponymous “Pawn’s Gambit,” is the best of the bunch.

“You risked your life to try to save people whose music you don’t even like.” “People are people, no matter what their tastes are.”

Quibble: No one would fly the two hundred miles from Frankfurt to Stuttgart. Train or car would be faster.

“Not paranoid, you understand, just cautious.”

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

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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.”

Book Review: From a Certain Point of View, edited by Ben Acker (Three Stars)

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Book Review: From a Certain Point of View (Star Wars Disney Canon Novel)

(Three Stars)

“As if all the stories we heard as children were true.”

Forty authors celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Fourth Episode, but first movie, set “long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.” What could go wrong?

“As Obi-Wan will soon learn, the most beautiful form of mastery is the art of letting go.”

Despite the prominent Disney appellation, not much goes wrong. Uneven quality, but a better-than-average anthology of stories surrounding A New Hope from the points of view of often-peripheral characters. A bit self-referential and tongue-in-cheek, but Continue reading

Book Review: Armored, edited by John Joseph Adams (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Armored, edited by John Joseph Adams

(Four Stars)

“An awful lot of people go crazy, when you take the humanity away, and lock them inside a box.”

Better-than-average anthology. While some stories are SF combat, some aren’t. The common thread is that all involve a future version of whole-body armor. Explores many interpersonal and philosophic issues. My favorites were: Field Test, Don Quixote, and N-body Solution.

“It was never about armor … it was about the man inside.”

Book Review: Tales of Old Earth: Stories by Michael Swanwick (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Tales of Old Earth: Stories by Michael Swanwick

(Four Stars)

“You won’t find the natural state here. We’re living in the aftermath.”

A really good collection of short stories. Many good stories about beginnings and endings, especially endings which may be beginnings. Lots of cliffhangers. Some post-apocalyptic, some deeply introspective. Some funny, some tragic, most thought provoking. All well fashioned.

“Self is an illusion … a fairy tale that your assemblers, sorters and functional transients tell each other.”

Swanwick has a gift with word images. Out of a few words, he fashions a complete context.

“…as cozy and snug as the inside of a walnut.”

Skip the Introduction Continue reading

Book Review: Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks

Four Stars

“Tell just enough of the truth, but never lie.”

Is there anything Tom Hanks can’t do … and do well? Add writing fiction to the list. His prose is compelling, if pedestrian. Great stories, with a lot of heart.

“Every day in Gotham is a little like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and a little like Baggage Claim after a long, crowded flight.”

Somewhere in each story is a cameo (at least) by an old typewriter. Hanks collects them. Occasionally their presence is an intrusion, but mostly they fit right in. At least once it serves as the McGuffin. While some are contemporary stories, many are set mid-twentieth century.

“In a flash as well defined as that from a Speed Graphic camera ringside at a prize fight …”

Best story is “These are the Meditations of my Heart.”

“… as nutty as a can of Planters.”

Book Review: Lord Peter Views the Body by Dorthy L. Sayers (Two Stars)

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Book Review: Lord Peter Views the Body (Lord Peter Wimsey #4) by Dorothy L. Sayers

Two Stars.

“Built noticin’–improved with practice.”

This anthology of early Wimsey shorts reminds me why I hate anthologies. Authors (or, more likely, publishers) sweep up all the bits and pieces of a successful author or authors and foist it on the public as great literature. The resulting collection is often–as in this case–mediocre at best.

“Nobody minds coarseness, but one must draw the line at cruelty.”

Especially avoid the novelette: “The Undignified Melodrama of the Bone of Contention.” Dreadful. “The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Meleager’s Will” will enthrall crossword puzzle enthusiasts, without leaving the rest of us clueless.

“Bunter likes me to know my place.”

Sayers wrote for different readers. She assumes a level of French and Latin literacy rare among Americans today. Wonder how contemporary (1920s) English did.

“It is … dangerous to have a theory.”

Book Review: Unbound, Shawn Speakman, editor (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Unbound: Tales by the Masters of Fantasy, Shawn Speakman, editor

Three Stars

“The world conspires to take everything from us in the end.”

Like most anthologies the junk outweighs the jewels, but in this case the good stories are very good: worth the price of the whole collection. I’ll ignore the garbage and review the gems. Skip the first two, they’re trash. If there’s a theme to this collection, other than raising money for authors with medical bills, is that these are stories about story.

“To cling to common wisdom, no matter the evidence right in front of one’s nose, was an affliction as old as love.”

By far the best story in the set is “The Game” by Michael J. Sullivan. If you read no other, read this one. It’s the best take on “Dial ‘F’ for Frankenstein” I’ve seen in decades.

“Ignore it the way all rational men ignore all irrational things.”

“Jury Duty” by Jim Butcher is great if you like Dresden Files, which I do.

“No man’s an island. Not even the ones that think they are. Especially not them.”

“Uncharming” by Delilah S. Dawson started so bad, I almost quit. But it got better–much better.

Nice cover art. I don’t see a credit for it, but it’s good.

“Stories brought relief, comfort, and hope.”

Book Review: Blackguards, J. M. Martin, Editor (Three Stars)

Book Review: Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries and Rogues, by J. M. Martin (Editor)

Three Stars

“Stories have power. And shared stories grow with the telling.”

Skip the introduction. Seriously.

“Being distrustful keeps me alive.”

A self-referential collection of twenty-seven short stories promoting the various authors’ greater corpus of works: a literary infomercial. That admitted, this is a better-than-average anthology of stories about nearly famous (in their reality) lowlifes, many of whom aren’t so black as grey. A few only slightly tarnished. A bit of humor here and there leavens the batch.

“There isn’t much in life that counts for less than fair and should.”

One author complains that most fantasies are Medieval Europe. That’s not my experience, but Continue reading

Book Review: War Stories from the Future, edited by August Cole (Three Stars)

Book Review: War Stories from the Future, edited by August Cole

Three Stars

“There will be an end to war, but there will always be a need for heroes.”

A collection science fiction tales focusing on warfare in the near future. Not all are traditional space operas. Better than most anthologies, but variable quality.

“Nobody wanted to be responsible for the carnage that everyone constantly felt was imminent.”

My favorite is “Codename: Delphi”, though several try to explore how remote command and control and crowd-sourcing battle field analysis impacts combat. Some unintentionally funny.

“Just because the enemy is dead doesn’t mean you’re alive. Reality is simpler than games.”

Better than most SF/F anthologies perhaps because it’s more focused. Even the “Best of…” books tend toward diffuse and drivel.

“The trouble with foreign policy is that foreigners are so unpredictable.”