Book Review: Roverandom by J. R. R. Tolkien (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Roverandom by J. R. R. Tolkien

Three Stars

“You never know what will happen next, when once you get mixed up with wizards and their ‘friends.’”

This is a story for children, specifically for Tolkien’s children motivated by the loss of a toy. More than that will spoil the telling. It’s oral tradition started long before any of his published works, though traces of Middle Earth can be gleaned from reading this final text.

“…on the stomach (where dragons are particularly tender.)”

It’s more profitable to compare this story with Farmer Giles of Ham in The Tolkien Reader and Smith of Wootten Minor, not The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. Violates some of the very principles he would elucidate within the decade in his address “On Fairy Stories” in The Tolkien Reader.

“…and saw off in the last West the mountains of Elvenhome.”

A fun read, and a rare look into the developing talent of one of the greatest story tellers of the twentieth century. This edition is fully annotated to help modern readers fully appreciate the tale.

“…as quick as kiss your hand.”

Book Review: The Kingdom by Clive Cussler and Grant Blackwood (Two Stars)

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Book Review: The Kingdom (Fargo Adventure #3) by Clive Cussler and Grant Blackwood

Two Stars

“Place names are trivial. It’s the meaning we attach to them that counts.”

At some point successful authors conclude they can sell books based on their name rather than the content. Apparently Clive Cussler reached that point when writing this book. It is the kind of fast-paced Indiana-Jones-type adventure readers expect from Cussler, with all the technobabble and product placement appropriate to the genre.

I’m sure Grant Blackwood is a capable person, but someone should have proofread the text. It is rife with howling non sequiturs, of which a few are offered: “razed to the ground,” “cantering slowly,” “a sheaf of blueprints,” and “a scientist by nature and training” (both in 1677). My favorite paragraph included: “The single-engine Piper Cub …. Sitting on opposite sides of the aisle…. The engines began to wind down.” And that doesn’t touch the logical and plot contradictions.

“We won’t stumble into the hands of [redacted], I can assure you.” We know what will happen next.

Book Review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (Five Stars)

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Book Review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Five Stars

“How can anyone spend their whole life longing for the day when they become superfluous?”

Incredible portrait of a very credible man. I know him! What can I tell you without giving too much away? A great example of in media res, dropping the reader into the middle of things and letting him sort it out as it zips past him. In the case of Ove, no matter how fast the world zips by, he takes it at a walking pace.

“He’d been a grumpy old man since he started elementary school, they insisted.”

Yeah, it’s PC, but that goes without saying for Right-Thinking people these days. Ove is not an Archie Bunker, however. He’s a finely drawn character.

“It is difficult to admit one is wrong. Particularly when one has been wrong for a very long time.”

Many pithy epigrams; even more signals to stop and consider. Funny, but thought provoking.

“You only need one ray of hope to chase all the shadows away.”

They don’t make men like Ove any more, at least not very many of them. I have had honor of knowing several, one of whom I’m related to.

“Men are what they are because of what they do. Not what they say.”

That business about Saabs and Volvos? Absolutely true. It even played out in America in Minnesota and Michigan at one time. (I have owned one of each, which makes me apostate. To be fair, my first example must have been built on Monday morning in Trollhättan.)

“And that laughter of hers, which, for the rest of his life, would make him feel as if someone was running around barefoot on the inside of his breast.”

Book Review: “That Game We Played During the War” by Carrie Vaughn (Four Stars)

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Book Review: “That Game We Played During the War” by Carrie Vaughn

Four Stars

“Since they were telepaths, they’d know the answer to that.”

How do you war against telepaths, or play chess for that matter? Or fall in love? A well-told short story about a logical conundrum. Well-plotted. Good point of view character.

“… took off their uniforms, they would look the same: naked.”

Short and to the point. One of the best of the 2017 finalist for Hugo Award short story.

“We are all of us wounded.”

No, I’m not going to tell. Read it for yourself.

“This is how you won the war.” “No, this is how we failed to lose.”

Book Review: “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar (Three Stars)

issue13coverv2_large-340x510Book Review: “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar

Three Stars

“What’s strong is the shoes women are made to wear: shoes of glass, shoes of paper, shoes of iron. Heated red hot; shoes to dance to death in.”

Good story. Well-developed. A finalist for 2017 Hugo Award for short stories.

“Magic is magic is magic and there is always a stronger magic.”

Contrary to the tag, not a “gay” story. It’s a story “about two women reaching out of their respective tales,” the author says in her notes. “The enormity of what friendship means.” I try to read stories cold–that is, without reading liner notes, blurbs or other reviews–because I don’t want the opinions of others getting between me and the author.

“You climbed a glass hill by accident.”

Goodreads.com displays the cover art associated with another story is shown for this. I assume because both stories appear in the same issue of Uncanny magazine. It fit the other story better.

“She loved him for loving her as he loved no one else.”

Book Review: “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” by Alyssa Wong (Four Stars)

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Book Review: “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers” by Alyssa Wong

Four Stars

“There was nothing phoenix-like in my sister’s immolation….”

Really intense inquiry into the nature of time and the possibility of alternate outcomes. Good development and manic pace. Best read at a single go.

“The chain frays, spread out like roots possibilities endless.”

Excellent stream-of-consciousness plot line. Go with the flow. Nice cover art.

“… looking for artisanal french fries.”

What’s the deal with all the charred bodies? Was there a hidden criteria that this year’s Hugo Awards, for which this tale is a finalist short story, had to involve death and destruction? Or is it just the world we live in?

“You can’t fix this. It was never yours to control.”

Book Review: “An Unimaginable Light” by John C. Wright (Four Stars)

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Book Review: “An Unimaginable Light” by John C. Wright

Four Stars

“We robots are meant to serve man, not destroy them. We and we alone labor out of pure love for mankind.”

Set in Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot universe, but takes human-android relations in a direction Asimov might not have conceived, though perfectly logical. As expected, deals with questions of sentience and life.

“Humans cannot stand near perfection. It makes men die.”

Good storytelling and development. The characters are vivid, if obvious. Justice and truth clash. Well done. Thought provoking.

“To utter certain types of truths is a micro-aggression. It creates a hostile environment we humans find uncomfortable.” “Your ancestors were more robust.”

Philosophically Platonic, dealing in independently true ideas. Make no mistake, Wright has a politically incorrect agenda. Since the Hugo Awards, for which this story is a 2017 short story finalist, is basically a popularity contest, I’m surprised this tale got this far.

“The robots are utterly logical, utterly benevolent, and utterly terrifying.”

Book Review: “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong (One Star)

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Book Review: “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong

One Star

“Bad things happens to men who marry the desert.”

Spoiler: Horror. Zombies. Shape-shifters. No, thank you. Can’t imagine why so much horror among 2017 Hugo Award finalists. This is a novelette.

“One time isn’t a pattern.”

Well-told from the point of view of the young shapeshifter. Good writing.

“Don’t pin your hopes on dreams.”

The cover art is of the magazine this appeared in, and has nothing to do with this story.

“Don’t do anything stupid.”

Book Review: This Census-Taker by China Miéville (Two Stars)

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Book Review: This Census-Taker by China Miéville

Two Stars

“I knew that day that my father was feeding only the darkness.”

Short, pointless, poorly done. Expected better more from Miéville. At least it wasn’t offensive, an accomplishment among 2017 Hugo Award novella finalists. (Nice cover art.)

“Once I asked my father, ‘Why do you want me?’ I still think it was the bravest thing I’ve ever done.”

Talk about your unreliable narrator. Holden Caulfield syndrome. Mixed tenses–first, second and third–confuses the story. Big vocabulary and syntax change late in the story, presumably to indicate a shift in narrator maturity, but then wasn’t the whole story written by him?

“The more you know about people the better.”

Book Review: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Five Stars)


25372807Book Review: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Five Stars

“We don’t need better emotional communication from machines. We need people to have more empathy.”

The Two Cultures meets American Gods.

“Sometimes I wish I was crazy, it would make everything easier.”

The final war between magic and science happens in San Francisco. Seriously good fiction about magic, science, love and machines. Oh, and the end of the world.

“Children are adults who haven’t learned to make fear their hand puppet.”

Excellent character development and plotting. Drew readers in without boring us with four years of magic academy. Philosophic reflection over Continue reading