Book Review: The Taste of Different Dimensions by Allen Dean Foster (three stars)

Book Review: The Taste of Different Dimensions by Allen Dean Foster (three stars)

“This contravenes every known law of nature!” “Did I not say it represents a new way of looking at the world?”

Anthology of short fantasy fiction. Most are expanded one-liners: starting with a slight deviance from normal and ending with an ironic, even horrible twist. Foster writes better than most of his contemporaries.

“You could say that Morty’s very good at foreign languages.” “For instance?” “He can speak chocolate.”

The farther you read, the more terrible the twists. I am not a fan of horror. I skimmed the last two stories. Creeped me out.

“Alas, there seems to be a problem.” A catch. There was always a catch. “What problem?” “You are not a cat.”

Book Review: The Serpent’s Egg by Caroline Stevermer (four stars)

Book Review: The Serpent’s Egg by Caroline Stevermer (four stars)

“I’ve waited all my life to make a scandal, now I can rest easy.”

Good, clean fun. Old-school epic fantasy set in late medieval Europe analog with complex characterizations and plotting. Leavened with humor and chivalry—the good kind.

To see was of no use until she understood, but she would never understand until she tried to see.

Large cast of well-drawn characters on both sides. Complexity of characterization beyond core cast adds credibility. Stevermer respects the reader’s intelligence with occasional gaps which the reader must navigate. Excellent.

“In short, I am a wreck—physically, morally, intellectually—” “Do shut up.” “Everyone tells me that eventually.”

Book Review: “Burning Books for Pleasure and Profit” by K. J. Parker (four stars)

Book Review: “Burning Books for Pleasure and Profit” by K. J. Parker (four stars)

The very finest kit and materials will only take you so far. The rest has to come from inside

Entertaining short fiction. Parker once again creates a world with a few words. It’s easier when that world is an analog of Medieval Europe, but it’s well done. Protagonist has a conscience but also other, more profound motives.

Raising another interesting hypothetical question: If you don’t remember something and neither does anyone else, did it ever happen

Loses a star for pointless profanity. Yes, one phrase can do it, when it’s phrase like that. Wanted to rate this five.

Evidence, he told me with a grin, is Truth, and Truth never dies; instead, they lock it up and throw away the key

Book Review: Hogfather by Terry Pratchett (three stars)

Book Review: Hogfather (Death #4) by Terry Pratchett (three stars)

“You a witch or something?” moaned the bogeyman. “I’m just . . . something.

A several bubbles off straight-and-level look at Christmas, except in Discworld it’s Hogwatch and the fat guy in the Santa suit is … well, it’s Pratchett’s zany take on all things remotely Yule. If you’ve read the blurb you know what … or, who is up. Full of cynicism and snarky takes on everything and everyone.

“I just want to make sure I’ve got this clear,” said the oh god [of hangovers] in a reasonable tone of voice. “You think your grandfather is Death and you think he’s acting strange?”

Pratchett is an acquired taste, which I never acquired. This is my fourth attempt. The ping pong progress is familiar to his fans; disorientating to the rest. Some excellent zingers, but no substance.

“Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time.”

Book Review: Age of Ash (Kithamar #1) by Daniel Abraham (three stars)

Book Review: Age of Ash (Kithamar #1) by Daniel Abraham (three stars)

“It was as if she’d known all along that the dream was only a dream, and that someday she’d have to wake up. The only difference between then and now was that the day had come.” 

Well-written quasi-Medieval fantasy with strong female characters. Believable inner voice of friends who become adversaries as they try to figure out who they are and how they fit.

The sunlight felt weak, strained through the clouds like milk through cheesecloth. 

Plot involves many well-handled handoffs between point of view characters. Occasional, mild humor. Excessive and gratuitous profanity.

She felt something loosen in her chest. Relief flowed into her, so profound it could have been sorrow. 

Book Review: Time and Again by Jack Finney (four stars)

(cover of ebook I read, not paperback)

Book Review: Time and Again (Time #1) by Jack Finney (four stars)

“Has it occurred to you that we may all be nuts, and that you’ve wandered into an immense booby-hatch?” “That’s why I joined up.” “Good; obviously you’re the type we need.” 

Excellent story. May be fantasy, historical fiction, humor, social commentary, or romance, but not science fiction, though that’s what most people call it. Folks learn to time travel by positive thinking. Kind of like Dorothy without ruby slippers. Well developed, well written. Lots of neat trivia about 1880s New York City. “This kind of research becomes time-wasting foolishness, but fun,” Finney. Fun reading, too.

‘We don’t care very much about what happens to our poor, but the nineteenth century cared even less, it seems to me.’ 

Published in 1970. A time capsule of life that is as remote to many current readers as the Middle Ages. Even the differences between 1970 and now are striking. Nice illustrations. Logic and continuity gaps, but they hardly spoil the fun. Many unsupported opinions but that’s why people write science fiction, or whatever this is. New Yorkers will enjoy it most.

‘He developed and printed his own films; there were a couple dozen of them strung out on a line like a washing.’

Quibbles. Photography in 1882 was expensive, awkward, and stinky. Unlikely someone would do it in their boarding house room. Travelers seem locked in place and time, except when they’re not. Almost like wishing on a star. Several dateline anachronisms. The protagonist doesn’t understand what low profile means; he calls attention to himself at every turn.

‘It is becoming more and more certain, as science uses an almost brand-new ability to pull apart the deepest puzzles of the universe, that we need not and should not necessarily do something only because we’ve learned how.’ 

“In the [Somewhere in Time movie], [Christopher] Reeve’s character consults with a Dr. Finney …, a time travel theorist. This is a deliberate nod to author Jack Finney, whose novel Time and Again, published five years before Richard Matheson’s 1975 novel Bid Time Return, on which this film is based, features an almost identical theory on the mechanics of time travel.” Wikipedia

‘If in my own time I couldn’t stand by and allow the life of a girl I knew and liked to be destroyed if I could prevent it, I finally knew that I couldn’t do it here either.’ 

Book Review: Devices and Desires by K. J. Parker (four stars)

Book Review: Devices and Desires (Engineer Trilogy #1) by K. J. Parker (four stars)

“It’s remarkable the truly stupid things people can do just because it’s expected of them, or they think it’s expected of them.”

Engaging quasi-steampunk tale of technology and love. Renaissance northern Italy vibe. Well-developed, believable characters. Most everyone knows they don’t know what they’re doing. The few who think they do are wrong. Except maybe one.

“Be specially polite to people who annoy you. True feelings are for true friends.”

Believable, deeply introspective large cast of people whose competing desires drive them to manipulate themselves and others. Meaning well is not enough.

‘He’d learned something important today, and he had no idea what it was.’

A bunch of sub-system maximizers, whose assumptions, goals, and efforts misalign with everyone else’s. And often with their own. I’ve known engineers like these.

“I’ve been a politician now for fifteen years, I wouldn’t know my depth if I fell in it. But I’m sure there’s something I’ve missed, and I don’t know where.”

Satisfying end with hooks to draw readers to next story. It can be done. Just because Tolkien didn’t do it, everyone thinks they have a bye. Judicious use of profanity, no sex, lots of deceit, even more well-meant bungling.

‘Love’s always the most dangerous thing; so much of the unhappiness and quite a lot of the evil in the world comes directly out of it.’

Book Review: Mickey7 by Edward Ashton (three stars)

Book Review: Mickey7: A Novel by Edward Ashton (three stars)

‘This is gonna be my stupidest death ever.’ 

Murderbot does Multiplicity. Mickey has troubles enough, what with dying yesterday. This morning he discovers there are two of him. A human attempt to colonize a world which turns out to be less hospitable than it looked from seven lightyears away. And there are critters. Humor and drama.

‘I’m not the most sensitive person, but I’ve been alive long enough to figure out that telling a miserable person about how much worse things could be is usually a bad idea. ‘

Good storytelling; nice voice. Alternates chapters of current activity with those of backstory. All is told from the intensive introspective point of view of the seventh iteration of not-too-bright Mickey.

‘From a warfighter’s perspective, it was the perfect weapon. From an actual human being’s perspective, of course, it was a nightmare.’ 

Quibbles: The climax hinges on logic which any allusion to would be a major spoiler. Gratuitous profanity.

‘We just need time.’ 

Book Review: “Bots of the Lost Ark” by Suzanne Palmer (five stars)

Book Review: “Bots of the Lost Ark” by Suzanne Palmer (five stars)

(Clarkesworld, Jun 2021)

“I await this new opportunity to serve you with my utmost diligence and within my established parameters, as I always do.” “Ha! You do no such thing, and if I had a better option, I would have left you in storage,” Ship said.

Hilarious! Further adventures of 9 and Ship. (“The Secret Life of Bots” won the 2018 Hugo for Best Novelette.) Think: nano-sized R2-D2.

“If the Ysmi are greeted by a free-floating swarm of delusional bots claiming both personhood and unconstrained authority, we will all be relieved of the burden of worrying about any and all of our functions thereafter.”

Popcorn for the brain space opera, but fun. Gratuitous profanity cost Palmer a star.

“What do you anticipate LOPEZ will do?” 9 asked. “Attempt to retake control of the gloms. If that fails, it will attempt to either take over or destroy my mind-system, destroy the humans, or, if it is clear it cannot succeed and survive as itself, destroy the entire ship.” “Those are all suboptimum,” 9 said.

(2022 Hugo Award Novelette finalist)

(Magazine cover art unrelated to story)

Book Review: The Kaiju Preservation by John Scalzi (four stars)

Book Review: The Kaiju Preservation by John Scalzi (four stars)

“These things weren’t built. They evolved. Evolution doesn’t overengineer. The kaiju nuclear bioreactors work well enough. Until they don’t.”

Excellent world and creature building. Raises hope that Scalzi hasn’t completely sold out to corporate bookdom. Leaving his Interdepency trash, he returns to the fresh, enjoyable storytelling of Old Man’s War and Redshirts.

“Did you mean to make it look like an Ewok village, or was that just an accident?” “Well, technically speaking, Tanaka predates the Ewok village by a couple of decades. So it looks like us.” “Does George Lucas know that?” “He might.”

Since the story is told entirely from the protagonist’s point of view, the reader knows little of Jamie’s appearance, race, sexuality, politics, etc. And doesn’t need to. If Scalzi tells us more, it’d just slow the flow.

“Is there something about this place that everyone is great, except that they will murder you if you cross them?” “There is a certain personality type that thrives here, yes,”

Apparently he can’t write without peppering the text with gratuitous expletives. Spiced with humor and pop SF references. That said, enough typos made it through to suggest springing for another edit.

“Of course it feels weird. Back home, a nuclear explosion is an existential threat. Here, it’s just Tuesday.”

Ought to be a movie. Seriously. At least as big budget as Avatar.

“I had fun writing this, and I needed to have fun writing this. We all need a pop song from time to time, particularly after a stretch of darkness.” John Scalzi