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

41444470Book Review: The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley

(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)


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)


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,

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)


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)


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


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

Book Review: Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer Two Stars


Book Review: Too Like the Lightning (Terra Ignota #1) by Ada Palmer

Two Stars

“I am the window through which you watch the coming storm. He is the lightning.”

Disappointing. This work starts as an interesting futuristic mystery but degenerates into soft porn. Hard to believe that everyone from the street sweepers to the heads of the major population blocks all lust after each other like hormonal teens.

“We did not know that the threads sustaining the moral warp of our society were so interconnected until we pulled one.”

Not the first volume of a multi volume work, but the first half of the first volume. The story didn’t end so much as stop. Felt cheated. This work was just a long introduction.

“Overconfidence is frequently fatal.”

Talk about your unreliable narrator …. Lots of potentially engaging philosophic points: some leading to lengthy monologues, some to sexual trysts. Intentionally and boringly sacrilegious, like Continue reading

Book Review: Who Fears Death by Okorafor Nnedi (Five Stars)

Book Review: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Five Stars

“I was … one who used what she had to do what she had to do, and so I did.”

A wonderfully complex, non-linear tale of redemption and finding one’s self. Okorafor proves that rich, engaging fantasy can spring from most any cultural root; in fact, it will if we don’t let our preconceived notions stifle our imagination. A refreshing change from all those Tolkien-clone fantasies with Medieval European-analog settings.

“Just because we are all hurting doesn’t mean others should.”

A bright story of self-discovery and self-sacrifice painted against the somber darkness of genocide. While the story hints of a Darfur analog, the divisions could be/are just as easily geography, gender, race and ethnicity. Okorafor argues against Continue reading

Book Review: The Ghoul King by Guy Haley (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Ghoul King (Dreaming Cities #2) by Guy Haley

Four Stars

“Don’t do anything foolish.” “I’m afraid I already have.”

Even better than the first of this series, The Emperor’s Railroad, even though this offering also features zombies (and ghouls). Haley is a gifted storyteller. As Quinn leads a band into the heart of a devastated Dreaming City, the reader discovers more about the history, biology, theology, and dynamics of life in this post-apocalyptic world.

“Once you take death out of the equation, there isn’t much to be frightened of.”

The too-good-to-be-true quasi-hero Quinn returns, but his female opposite number is a richer, more complicated character. Other characters add depth. The plot is linear and the action almost non-stop. I gave back the star I subtracted for zombies in the first book … because.

“All the evil I have seen in my life has been perpetrated by those acting in God’s name, not by God.”