Book Review: The Rise of Io by Wesley Chu (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Rise of Io by Wesley Chu

(Four Stars)

“No guns in Container Town.”

See? It can be done. Kick off a series with an enjoyable, self-contained story–not a chopped-off cliffhanger. A near future dystopia with aliens, set in the universe of Chu’s Lives of Tao books. Why wasn’t this Hugo Award finalist?

“It was one thing to witness a slum, it was another to see a beautiful city reduced to one before your eyes.”

Even if you haven’t read previous stories in this setting, Chu focuses you on his protagonist and gently fills in the background as the story develops. The data dumps are appropriately placed and paced.

“Stop acting like life is some precious gift from a higher power. Everything dies, Ella. Everything is expendable.”

Totally immerses the reader in the setting. Captures the sights, smells and tastes of a post-modern slum in Continue reading

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Book Review: “Bourbon, Sugar, Grace” by Jessica Reisman (Four Stars)

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Book Review: “Bourbon, Sugar, Grace: A Tor.com Original” by Jessica Reisman

Four Stars

“Life exists in more forms than we can predict or comprehend.”

A pleasant science fiction short story, which challenges the reader to keep up and entertains at the same time. Set in a dystopian mining colony after the mines have played out and the corporate overlords are reneging on closure promises.

“The thing that needed doing.”

Much better storytelling than the current crop of Hugo Award finalists. Potential lead in to a larger story.

“She knew it was the wrong thing to do, at the wrong time. But …”

A good take on how language evolves in “moms.” Nice cover art by Jon Foster.

“Please … let me not be graceless in this.”

Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Four Stars

“You wanted a woman’s culture. Well, now there is one. It isn’t what you meant, but it exists.”

A 1985 dystopia set in a severe and hypocritical (aren’t they all?) theocracy, Atwood’s tale is a cautionary tale about how American culture could degenerate under the combines pressures of extended Cold War and the environmental assault of then-current industrial practice.

“No empire imposed by force or otherwise has been without this feature: control of the indigenous by members of their own group.”

The story’s confused chronology is due to the semi-stream-of-consciousness remanences of one of the titular handmaids, partly explained in the accompanying Historical Note. Atwood tells just enough to propel Continue reading

Book Review: The Emperor’s Railroad by Guy Haley (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Emperor’s Railroad (Dreaming Cities, #1) by Guy Haley

Three Stars

“The future is ashes, the past is treasure. When you get where I am the past’ll look brighter to you as well.”

A finely-told novella about a dystopic future with zombies. Normally, I would have quit before discovering how well written it is. Well crafted.

“God has redeemed us to the level we deserve.”

The zombies cost Haley a star. They are an unnecessary, unimaginative shortcut. He’s good enough, he could have accomplished the same effect without resorting to such a tired trope.

“Everyman ever born thinks he knows how to save the world, but most of them sit on their hands.”

Book Review: A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes (Four Stars)

Book Review: A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes

Four Stars out of Five

Image a world where people knew when they would die. Imagine a world where people were required to carry a clock showing how many years, days, hours and seconds remained in their lives. Imagine being seventeen years old and having only one more year to live. And knowing it.

Unfortunately our protagonist is a lazy, stubborn, impulsive teen—yeah, like a lot of us at that age. (Maybe any age.) And she’s a Christian, at least nominally so. No hint of her knowing what that means, let alone living differently, at first. (Kind of like a lot of us again.) Not a very sympathetic character, but she makes up for it by doing stupid things and suffering the consequences—even though she still doesn’t learn. No, she doesn’t get a break. Yes, it gets irritating. Probably a pretty normal life.

And she lives over a century into our future when things have changed—a lot.

Not bad writing. Brandes manages to bring this story to a satisfactory close, while dangling lots of hooks for the next. Better than many far more famous authors.

Considering this was Brandes’ freshman effort, I gave her extra credit.

Not quite as good as Firebird, but another hit for Enclave Publishing.