Book Review: Walkaway by Cory Doctorow (Two Stars)

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Book Review: Walkaway by Cory Doctorow

(Two Stars)

“So long as you keep on pretending that money is anything but a consensus hallucination induced by the ruling elite to convince you to let them hoard the best stuff, you’ll never make a difference. Money only works if there isn’t enough to go around. (Weimar Germany tried to print “enough to go around” in the 1930s. Didn’t work.)

Wanted to like this more. Doctorow obviously worked hard on creating a gripping, convincing story. Convincing? Oh yes, because this is a 400-page infomercial on socialism.

“Sci-fi and fantasy are two sides of the same coin.”

Science fantasy. Not because of magic or elves, but the fairy tale that you can wish away limited resources and human nature. A post-apocalyptic utopia about Continue reading

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Book Review: Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse

(Four Stars)

“Some people believe to destroy your enemies by making them your friends.” “I find a gun works pretty well too.”

Dresden on the rez. Honestly, not the kind of story I like to read–dark, supernatural urban legend action tale. That said, Roanhorse does as good a job as Jim Butcher integrating her modern/near-future paranormal thriller with both Navajo and Euro-American cultures. Roanhorse takes us deep into the mind and feelings of the protagonist, where even Maggie isn’t comfortable.

“It feels like I can’t tell the monsters from the good guys anymore, so it’s best I pull the trigger and let someone else sort it out.” “You don’t mean that.” “Maybe I do.”

Many references to classic and contemporary culture. Casual readers may miss how connected this story is; they won’t miss Continue reading

Book Review: Doomsday Morning by C. L. Moore (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Doomsday Morning by C. L. Moore

(Four Stars)

“Maybe you don’t know it, but the world is dead.”

A fine example of early science fiction in general and the works of C. L. Moore in particular, though no mention of space travel or aliens. Published in 1957. Set in a post-apocalyptic America ruled by an aging dictator and suffering unrest, all seen through the eyes of a washed up actor. Spies and betrayal abounds.

“When a Comus sampling turns up false, they’ll repeal the law of gravity.” “In California the law of gravity has been repealed.”

Well-conceived and executed. Moore still had the touch she first exhibited in the 1930s. She takes you deep into the mind of her protagonist and deep into his world. Works well.

“When you’re young you never doubt yourself. You never wonder if you’re justified. But as a man gets older he learns to doubt.”

Fewer technical groans than you’d expect for a story written sixty years ago. She managed to create a “modern” world which contains few jarring anachronism–except maybe telephone booths, and even those have video.

Quibble: “The hollow thunder of bomber was beginning to blanket all other sound.” Even in the 50s, you couldn’t hear approaching bombers. (B-52 bombers were already operational then.)

“How do I get out of here?” “Don’t act like that.” “It’s not acting.”

Contains the requisite SF/F cliché phrase: “I had been holding my breath without realizing it.”

“What’s past is prologue. Wait and see.”

Book Review: The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley (Three Stars)

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(Three Stars)

”Everything that’s going to happen has already happened. You just haven’t experienced it yet. We are, all of us, caught within a massive loop of time, bouncing around in the spaces between things.”

Innovative fold-timeline, time-travel story. Narrative follows the protagonist as she tries to figure out when and where she is, what’s happening, and whether she can do anything about it. Hurley worked hard at this; it shows. It could have been the big story of this generation, but it isn’t.

“You all right?” “No. None of us is all right.” “I’m not the bad guy.” “No. We all are.” “I don’t think that’s true.” “Whatever helps you sleep.”

A few decades ago I would have found this cutting edge; now it’s just Continue reading

Book Review: City of Bones by Martha Wells (Four Stars)

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Book Review: City of Bones by Martha Wells

(Four Stars)

“If you had any common courtesy you’d die now and save me this trouble.”

A pleasure to read; sorry it ended. Post-apocalyptic steampunk fantasy with a protagonist who is an alien to a culture which may need exactly his expertise to survive. Excellent world building. Leavened with self-depreciating humor. This early (1995) work foreshadows Wells’ talent, since exhibited in her Murderbot tales.

“If I fail, everything terrible that happens next will be my fault. That’s the perfect end to my life, don’t you think?” “If you fail, I promise not to tell anybody.”

Good character development with lots of cross purposes and confused motives. Scene setting is rationed out with the story telling, allowing the reader to Continue reading

Book Review: The Road Ahead by Hali C. Broncucia (Three Stars)

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Book Review: The Road Ahead by Hali C. Broncucia

(Three Stars)

This is weird. I liked this story: a contemporary post-apocalyptic female hero’s journey. Good premise; engaging protagonist. I started this review intending to give it four stars, but as I wrote I realized it made no impression on me.

Normally I record quotes as I read, to give readers of my reviews a sense of the writing style of the author. I got to the end of The Road and discovered I’d written nothing. Broncucia writes well; her writing just didn’t move me. In fact, I paused several times while reading it, uncertain whether I wanted to finish it.

Loses one star for the obviously-driven-by-sequel-concerns afterword tacked on the end. It was hokey and added nothing to this story.

Other than that, a good first novel.

Book Review: “The Martian Obelisk” by Ellen Datlow (Five Stars)

Victor Mosquera illustration, tor.com

Book Review: “The Martian Obelisk” by Linda Nagata

(Five Stars)

“You have to do everything you can, until you can’t do anymore.”

Amazing story. Like legacy science fiction, addresses the issues of today with clear-eyed reality. Excellent storytelling. Sparse, just-right character development. We learn about Susannah and Nate through their actions.

“We assume we can see forward to tomorrow, but we can’t. We can’t ever really know what’s to come—and we can’t know what we might do, until we try.”

A welcome antidote to the nihilistic gloom or mindless fantasy that pervades modern SFF. Looks reality in the eye, but doesn’t blink.

“This all looks like hope.”

(2018 Hugo Award Short Story finalist)

 

Book Review: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor (Five Stars)

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Book Review: The Night Masquerade (Binti #3) by Nnedi Okorafor

Five Stars

“Couldn’t you be broken and still bring change?”

Don’t read the reviews (including this one), read this novella. Forget your categories of science fiction versus fantasy or your advocacy goals. Read and enjoy. Good story, good storytelling, good writing.

“A tree with strong roots laughs at storms.”

Expect to see this novella nominated for awards, but don’t let that dissuade you from reading it.

“It is what it is and we know you do what you do.”

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: Hunter by Mercedes Lackey Three Stars

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Book Review: Hunter (Hunter #1) by Mercedes Lackey

Three Stars

“This wasn’t a job you picked, it’s a job that picks you.”

Lost a star in the last fifty pages. Great setup. Great storytelling. Good world building, wonderful voice and emerging character for the narrator, then shifted focus to an artificial “test” and a fake ending, obviously expecting readers to rush to buy the next volume. Note to writers: you have to deliver the goods–at least some goods–in the first book or no one will buy the rest.

“Guilt and self-loathing tend to make you cranky.”

The premise: what if all the evil spirits of all world traditions were real. And what if Continue reading