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

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

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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.”

Book Review: The Emperor’s Railroad by Guy Haley (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Emperor’s Railroad (Dreaming Cities, #1) by Guy Haley

Three Stars

“The future is ashes, the past is treasure. When you get where I am the past’ll look brighter to you as well.”

A finely-told novella about a dystopic future with zombies. Normally, I would have quit before discovering how well written it is. Well crafted.

“God has redeemed us to the level we deserve.”

The zombies cost Haley a star. They are an unnecessary, unimaginative shortcut. He’s good enough, he could have accomplished the same effect without resorting to such a tired trope.

“Everyman ever born thinks he knows how to save the world, but most of them sit on their hands.”

Book Review: Dawn by Octavia E. Butler (Four Stars)

Book Review: Dawn (Xenogenesis #1) by Octavia E. Butler

Four Stars

“Humans, on the other hand, often lied easily and often.”

Wow! What’s not to like: awarding-winning, post-apocalypse, first contact, deep introspection, living space ship, weird aliens. The second half drags because the point-of-view female lead finds herself defending indefensible intrusions into people’s lives by aliens who are trying to save them—collectively, if not individually. (The choice of her name can’t have been an accident.)

I love first contact stories, and Butler handles this the best way possible, from deep inside the mind of the isolated, frightened human who experiences it.The problem with learning by your mistakes is the possibility you won’t survive them. Lilith makes plenty. She has help. Yeah, the men all are cardboard cutouts, but that’s how Lilith sees them. In fact, most humans don’t handle it well; probably realistic.

The ending is particularly satisfying because it wasn’t satisfying at all. More realistic than some of the sweet contrived endings we get in literature. “Tomorrow is another day” is descriptive as well as prescriptive. Good enough to impel us into the next volume.

Fulfills the promise made in Parable of the Sower, which I didn’t like nearly as well. (The xenogenesis series preceded the parable series, but was superior … so far.)

“We do what we do.”