Book Review: Daughter of Dragons by Jack Campbell (Four Stars)

Book Review: Daughter of Dragons by Jack Campbell (Four Stars)

“The future rarely happens as people expect, and even those people with the firmest belief in what their future will hold can be very mistaken. Especially when that person is the daughter of the two greatest heroes of her world.”

A pleasant science fiction series opener set in a world Campbell established in his earlier, Pillars of Reality, series. Humans cut off from Earth become mechanics, mages, and common folks. Though published in 2017, Campbell’s storytelling harks back to the heyday of science fiction for young adults several decades ago. That’s a compliment.

“Why weren’t you staring at my butt?” Jason shrugged. “I didn’t think you wanted me staring at your butt.” “I don’t.” “Then I don’t know why we’re having this conversation.” “Um…yeah.”

The protagonist and friend are less-than-legal-age teens and act like it. Plot, language, and situations reflect their self-awareness of relationships with parents, society, and the opposite sex.

“It figures that some person back on Earth would claim credit for the idea. ‘Plagiarize! Let no one else’s work evade your eyes!’ he said, singing the words.”

Pleasant juxtaposition between a surly earth-raised teen and one from a culture emerging from its industrial revolution. Lots of pop cultural references, which the Dematrians don’t understand, but readers will. Nice cover art.

“How can you find yourself when you’re part of an infinite crowd and everybody is yelling?”

Book Review: The Warrior’s Path by Catherine M. Wilson (Three Stars)


Book Review: The Warrior’s Path (When Women Were Warriors #1) by Catherine M. Wilson

(Three Stars)

“There’s no putting spilled blood back.”

More like 3.5 stars. A well-conceived and well-realized epic-style fantasy about a time and place were all (well, most) of the warriors were women. This story follows a young woman on her quest to become a warrior. On the way, she finds value, belonging and love. Not a bad start.

“Tell me later,” she said. “Sit down. Let’s just be quiet for a while.” “I need to tell you — ” “Hush,” she said. “You won’t find the truth in so much talk.” When I stopped talking, my trapped thoughts flew around like dry leaves in a whirlwind.

An iron age culture where all the warriors were women fits modern sensitivities but not historical trends–the Amazons notwithstanding. Not because men are better warriors–though they do tend to have greater upper body strength–but because Continue reading

Book Review: Moon Water by Pam Webber (Five Stars)


Book Review: Moon Water by Pam Webber

(Five Stars)

“Some things must end for others to begin.”

Amazing story. Two sixteen-ish young women come of age in historical fiction set in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains in 1969. Nettie gives up the freedom of childhood (see The Wiregrass) and expects certainty in adulthood: love, faith, friendship. Nope.

“Journeys force us to make choices that never leave our lives in the same place.”

Slow start leads to a cataclysm of Biblical portions, which actually happened fifty years ago. Excellent character and plot development and foreshadowing, if occasionally telling too much too soon. Nettie lived in a different world: no computers, camera-equipped cell phones, social media, credit cards. Manners mattered. The focus is local; the moon landings, Vietnam War, and politics are Continue reading

Book Review: April Morning by Howard Fast (Five Stars)


Book Review: April Morning by Howard Fast

(Five Stars)

“Yesterday, he was a boy. Tonight, he’s not.” “Now what kind of thing is that to say? That’s exactly the kind of thing a man says. I don’t understand that kind of talk. A boy doesn’t turn into a man overnight. It takes learning and growing and hurting. And most of all it takes time.” “Sometimes,” Father said slowly, “we don’t have time.”

The opening of the American War of Independence through the eyes and emotions of a Lexington teen. Outstanding depth of consciousness. The reader is dragged along as Adam Cooper is yanked out of his very conventional colonial New England childhood into a frightening and blood-soaked adulthood on the day world history changed .

“Then I realized that at this range, even if some of the bird shot did reach the redcoats, it would sting no harder than a mosquito. It was a great relief to find some sensible reason not to go on shooting.”

So much better than other fiction by Fast. Is this the normal or an aberration? Fast captures the feel of the times in the syntax and the ideas the permeate this story. As an eyewitness, Adam doesn’t see or know everything—especially not who fired that shot—but he does filter the action through a realistic, immersive point of view.

“Nobody fights in God’s cause,” the Reverend replied sharply. “Isn’t it enough to kill in freedom’s name? No one kills in God’s cause. He can only ask God’s forgiveness.”

Quibble: Modernity creeps in at the edges. Words like “subconscious” are jarringly out of place. The treatment of native American and women is noticeably better than the norm of those days, but plausible given the family ethic portrayed. Occasional typos mar the text.

“It doesn’t make one bit of sense that the British are coming up with a real army. I mean, what for? I mean, why on earth would they want to start a war? You always read about wars. But no one ever explains why a war starts. They just start.”

What was General Gage thinking? By all accounts, he was trying to subdue or seduce the colonists back into the imperial fold, despite hawkish subordinates. How then could he imagine that an armed incursion into the Massachusetts country would not trigger a fight? (When Governor Dunmore stole the Virginia militia’s powder the next day  (which was too coincidental to be coincidental), “the shot heard ‘round the world” had already been fired. And he almost got a fight, too.) Once the sword of war is pulled, for whatever reason, it’s hard to scabbard.

“The April morning when I departed properly belonged in a past so distant and different that it could hardly be evoked. Even if all the scars were healed, nothing would ever be the same again.”

Book Review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (Three Stars)


Book Review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

(Three Stars)

“I guess it is never what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophes are always different–unimagined, unprepared for, unknown.”

The Diary of A Young Girl for an apocalypse. Told from the first-person point of view of a southern California tween in the near future, The Age of Miracles pulls readers into Julia’s world and engages their emotions as the normal is stripped away with the rotational velocity of the earth. Well written.

“We were a different kind of Christian, the quiet kind, a breed embarrassed by the mention of miracles.”

The characters are realistic and varied–Christian, atheist, Mormon, Jew–except they’re all white. It’s understandable that Julia’s neighbors might look like her, but Continue reading

Book Review: Artemis by Andy Weir (Three Stars)


Book Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

Three Stars

“I have a plan.” “A plan? Your plans are … uh … should I hide somewhere?”

The good news is that Andy Weir is not a one hit wonder; he writes gripping, realistic science fiction. The bad news is his reliance on profanity to express his characters. (Cost him a star.) Good plotting, good foreshadowing. The usual superabundance of happy coincidences and good luck

“People trust a reliable criminal more readily than a shady businessman.”

Jasmine is a totally unsympathetic character. If anything she’s pathetic. Given choices, she will always take the more self-centered and antisocial. It’s hard to like her, but she has grit and standards. A wet, shivering, but rabid pit bull puppy.

“I only forgave you because I thought I was going to die.”

Quibbles: Pressurized oxygen pipe on the moon’s surface? “We don’t have weather.” But you do have meteorites. “I might have been on the run my whole life, but I wasn’t willing to go without email.” (Will email exist in 10 years, let alone 60 or 70?)

“When does your victimhood expire?”

Weir understands economics better than some Nobel laureates I could name.

“Building a civilization is ugly, Jasmine. But the alternative is no civilization at all.”