Book Review: City of Golden Shadow by Tad Williams (three stars)

Book Review: City of Golden Shadow (Otherland #1) by Tad Williams (three stars)

In any case, Paul thought, if he was already dead, he couldn’t die again. If he was alive, then he was part of a fairy tale, and surely no one ever died this early in the story. 

Ready Player One meets Lord of the Rings. A well-developed and well-written story. Slow start. Too many threads, too unconnected for the first half of the book. I quit and restarted several times before I finally got sucked into the accelerating plot.

“Can we talk to the gods and hear their voices more clearly? Or have we now, with all these powers, become gods?”

A variety of engaging characters each in a personal crisis, unaware of the enormity they have engaged. Computer geeks galore. !Xabbu offers an needed everyman/nativist perspective.

It was a story, no more, no less, and stories were the things people used to give the universe a shape.

Cheat! Over 800 pages and no closing; no closure. Williams just cut and ran. Cost him a five-star rating. The titular city is a MacGuffin.Three more books in this series (so far), won’t waste time on another Jordan-esque, sideways epic journey to nowhere.

This scans utterly!

Book Review: Echoes of Earth by Sean Williams and Shane Dixs (three stars)

Book Review: Echoes of Earth (The Orphans Trilogy #1) by Sean Williams and Shane Dixs (three stars)

“Aliens on one side, spies on the other. That’s not much of a choice. I’m glad it’s you and not me who has to make it.”

A different sort of first contact fiction. Well done. Everyone seems broken and at odds, then things get worse.

“You are aware of the need for caution in the face of new technology. If you follow our guidance, you will be safe.” As the psychologist said to the laboratory rat, he thought.

Hard science fiction of a most speculative sort. Gratuitous profanity. Religion-based profanity doesn’t ring true so far in the future. Talk about your apocalypse.

‘If, as the [redacted] had suggested, there were hostile races out there, looking for victims, it would be dangerous to announce one’s presence quite so readily as Earth had once done.’

Begins a series but manages a satisfying conclusion to this book.

‘Not even the promise of immortality could take the sting out of getting older.’ 

Book Review: Earthrise by M. C. A. Hogarth (four stars)

Book Review: Earthrise (Her Instruments #1) by M. C. A. Hogarth (four stars)

“But still… an Eldritch? Slavers? I’m just a trader, not a hero. I don’t want anything to do with something this dangerous.” 

Excellent light science fiction with Eldritch. Elves in space? Why not, we’ve already got Amish vampires in space. And zombies. Not to mention aliens. Hogarth makes us want to believe.

“I wish I knew myself.” 

Hogarth builds a multi-species crew who often rub each other the wrong way. Introduction of a near-mythic character in the flesh knocks more than one of them into a new orbit.

“It’s not magic just because we can’t see it and we haven’t codified the math that explains it.” “He should have stayed out of my head.” “You should have stayed out of his.” 

Reese has more than her share of issues with family, ship, crew, and creditors. Will two successive jobs from mysterious benefactors cure her of reaching for the golden ring? Timely arrival of the “cavalry,” as the Alliance Navy is once referred to, is too convenient. Space opera-ish fun with a side of angst.

“Sometimes the things you fantasize about aren’t what you end up really wanting.” 

Book Review: The Stars, Like Dust (Galactic Empire #1) by Isaac Asimov (four stars)

Book Review: The Stars, Like Dust (Galactic Empire #1) by Isaac Asimov (four stars)

“The stars, like dust, encircle me/ In living mists of light;/ And all of space I seem to see/ In one vast burst of sight.” 

One of the first novels by an eventual master of modern science fiction. Written in 1950. Much better than many reviews would have you believe.

All young fools who get their notions of interstellar intrigue from the video spy thrillers are easily handled. 

Reflects a time as foreign to contemporary readers as science fiction set centuries into the future. A cool MacGuffin.

“The room glared with dials, a hundred thousand eyes,” “The second hand moved,” “Gravity was high so near the ship’s hull.”

Asimov commits fewer science gaffs than many more modern writers. Read his after word. Written before the invention of integrated circuits (and all the technology requiring them), before the first artificial satellites, and before the social and cultural revolutions of the last seventy years.

“There’s more to life than a home planet, Tedor. It’s been our great shortcoming in the past centuries that we’ve been unable to recognize that fact. All planets are our home planets.” 

Book Review: Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky (four stars)

Book Review: Shards of Earth (The Final Architects Trilogy #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky (four stars)

“And I do not believe in magic or seeing the future.” “Nobody believed in unspace once.” 

Excellent science fiction; well told. Tchaikovsky starts with a small crisis and escalates, building backward and forward propelling the reader into a crisis of galactic proportions. A good read.

‘Idris, who sometimes felt he was built entirely out of competing vulnerabilities, valued them in other people.’ 

Good character building and internal dialogue. Almost everyone misunderstands almost everyone else. Satisfying conclusion with plenty of hooks into the next story. Well done.

‘Olli was incandescent over the comms. She turned a cubic mile of void blue with oaths Idris had never even heard before.’ 

Unfortunate overuse of expletives. Especially sad as Tchaikovsky demonstrates that he doesn’t need to rely on such cheap tricks. Cost him a star.

‘There was a future out there, and it was a terrible one.’ 

Book Review: A History of What Comes Nextby Sylvain Neuel (four stars)

Book Review: A History of What Comes Next (Take Them to the Stars #1) by Sylvain Neuel (four stars)

Was all of it for nothing? Every cell in her body was aching for an answer. She needed to know if our lives meant anything.

Quantum Leap” through post-World War Two history. A different sort of alien contact story. Excellent research and integration of a single set of players into actual history.

Take them to the stars, before Evil comes and kills them all.

A few quibbles, such as mistakenly thinking layers of glacier ice equate to years, but over all a nuanced and engaging story.(Spoiler: The protagonist started the Space Race. Both sides. Intentionally. Well done.)

I’m nineteen years old and I dream of being seventeen. I would trade places with a child right now if it meant I could be normal.

Makes a point of demonstrating how profanity is offensive but beats that stake all the way into the turf. Lost a star.

“Because you don’t do that, you pudding-head! You never give up on the people you love. When the storm comes, you hold on to them and you don’t let go.”

Book Review: The Time of the Dark (Darwath #1) by Barbara Hambley (four stars)

Book Review: The Time of the Dark (Darwath #1) by Barbara Hambley (four stars)

She had waked up. She was no longer dreaming. She was still there.

The first fantasy novel by a renowned author. Published 1982, Hambley shows the right stuff from the being. The fantasy cast and setting owe so much to J. R. R. Tolkien it’s a wonder she did owe him royalties.

“If you choose deliberately to disregard the evidence of your own senses, it’s your problem, not mine. I am what I am… ” “You are not!”

Most of the characters shamelessly ripped from Tolkien, but the point of view characters are earth humans, who give the story an everyman perspective and sounding board for the epic fantasy.

“But believe me, if I’d known what it was all about, I’d still be running. Betrayed into heroism.”

Quibbles: Many, but minor. After correctly explaining how rare glass would be, she has a glazed window in a woodshed. Every time Medda is mentioned, some form of “disapproval” graces the sentence. We got it.

“You narrow hope when you define it.”

Concludes the first tale while setting hooks for future installments, which seems beyond many of her contemporaries. Good read.

“Yes. I believe that nothing happens randomly, that there is no such thing as chance. How could there be?”

Book Review: The Stars Now Unclaimed (The Universe After #1) by Drew Williams (three stars)

Book Review: The Stars Now Unclaimed (The Universe After #1) by Drew Williams (three stars)

That’s why I was here: trying to right my own wrongs. In a very small way, of course. I was only one woman, and it was a big, big universe. Also, I had a great many wrongs.

Near superhero space opera. Protagonist is a close as a human can get to being a super and has incredible luck to boot. Good, if superficial introspection. Linear story careens from one crisis to the next, often saved by chance.

“The local radiation will be divided between us, and it’ll go that much slower.”

Williams apparently learned science from Star Trek. Innumerable physics gaffs which know the reader out of the spell of the story. The supposed Pulse radiation impacts everything except what the protag needs.

“For a religious leader-person, you suck at comfort, you know that, Preacher?” “It has been mentioned, yes.”

Some humor. Would appeal to and be appropriate for young adult readers except for the language.

“… long since gone, eons ago, along with the atmosphere.” “When we finally broke out of the caverns and back into atmosphere …” Huh?

Decent ending, despite hooks to the rest of the series. Might have gotten another star had I not been reading real science fiction on my other device.

Then again, very few of us are lucky enough to choose the day we die.

Book Review: Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie (Four Stars)

Book Review: Murder at the Vicarage (Miss Marple #1) by Agatha Christie (Four Stars)

“Ah!” said Miss Marple. “But I always find it prudent to suspect everybody just a little. What I say is, you really never know, do you?”

My first venture into the world of Miss Marple is the first Christie tale featuring her razor-witted elder. It’s a fun read. Suspects and motives abound, including the vicar himself, as the locals rush to convict each other in the tribunal of public opinion. Timely.

“In St. Mary Mead everyone knows your most intimate affairs. There is no detective in England equal to a spinster lady of uncertain age with plenty of time on her hands.”

Dated prose style does not detract because the setting and cast is quaintly rural English of a century ago. Nicely foreshadows both the red herrings and the denouement.

‘The young people think the old people are fools; but the old people know the young people are fools!”

Book Review: Wanderer’s Escape (Wanderer’s Odyssey #1) by Simon Goodson (Three Stars)

Book Review: Wanderer’s Escape (Wanderer’s Odyssey #1) by Simon Goodson (Three Stars)

“It’s a tough universe kid. Dirty. Vicious. What the Empire doesn’t screw up directly the rest of us screw up in fear of, or anger at, the Empire.”

Not a bad space opera, but obvious, linear, and episodic. Gets the science better than many. The protagonist acted his age—mostly—but everything was too easy, even the supposed difficult parts.

“Help maybe can I,” Teeko said. “Package deliver can I. See me not will they.”

Two parts Stars Wars and one part … uh, Star Wars. I can’t believe the alien wasn’t green skinned with large ears. Only lacked light sabres.

“It’s not trying to take me over or force me to be a part of it. It’s more like it’s trying to make itself an extension of me.” “And that doesn’t scare you?” “Scare me? It’s bloody terrifying.

Needed another proofreading: “He opened the door to find Matt stood by the bed.” “All three were sat in the flight deck as they prepared to drop into real space.”

“You want to stop slavery? Topple the Empire, put something in its place that is just and will outlaw slavery.”