Book Review: Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

(Three Stars)

“All the true things I’m about to tell you are shameless lies.”

Hardly science fiction, except for the MacGuffin: Ice-Nine. Humorous.

“What makes you think a writer isn’t a drug salesman?” “Guilty as charged.”

Enjoyable interleaved stories of an improbably group of people saving or destroying the world. Vonnegut’s economical, cynical prose entertains and pushes for reflection. It worked better fifty years ago when it was fresh.

“Busy, busy, busy.”

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Book Review: “The Martian in the Wood” by Stephen Baxter (Four Stars)

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Book Review: “The Martian in the Wood” by Stephen Baxter

(Four Stars)

“Folk tales abound with forests; they are places of ogres and witches and transformations and the slipperiness about time and space.”

What if War of the Worlds was true, and just happened? Baxter expertly weaves a new short story into the tapestry of H. G. Wells‘ classic. Incudes a cameo for Wells.

“Something standing over the Wood. Like a towering skeleton, I thought, all bones and joints. Death, come to Holmburgh.”

While the protagonist is new, the narrator of Well’s story appears as Continue reading

Book Review: “Angel of the Blockade” by Alex Wells (Three Stars)

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Book Review: “Angel of the Blockade” by Alex Wells

(Three Stars)

“One of those. Normally they wait until later in the conversation, when the fact that I’m not actually looking at them starts really getting on their nerves.”

Short. Entertaining romp with enough subtly and misdirection to engage any reader. Very short. Leavened with almost enough humor. Love the “cover” art.

“See you in a week, Nata.” “And I won’t see you, Kay-dee.”

Gratuitous profanity cost Wells a star. Lazy writers use expletives to establish character, but continually pouring in new Continue reading

Book Review: “The Guile” by Ian McDonald (Four Stars)

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Book Review: “The Guile” by Ian McDonald

(Four Stars)

“We want wonder in the world; things we can’t explain. We want to be fooled, even though we know there’s no such thing as magic.”

Refreshing short story about who we really are. Lots of magic terminology. Spoiled only slightly by too much explaining at the end. As he said, we don’t want to know how the trick was done; sometimes we’d rather not know there was a trick.

“Make the audience walk as far as possible from the trick to the effect.”

Book Review: Imager’s Intrigue by L. E. Modesitt Jr. (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Imager’s Intrigue (Imager Portfolio #3) by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

(Three Stars)

“I may be a powerful imager, but that doesn’t mean I can save people from their own weaknesses and stupidity. I have enough trouble trying not to do stupid things myself.”

A complex, slow-developing end to the first three stories in the Imager series. (The next book is a prequel.) The protagonist keeps telling us he doesn’t get it–and reviews the disjointed puzzle pieces he does have ad nauseam–then he gets it and acts. And the reader is left to connect the dots.

“What we know and what we feel, deep inside, aren’t the same. People are like that. Sometimes it’s the ones closest to you–especially close friends and family–who hurt you the most.”

Modesitt is a master storyteller. Plan to get sucked in and dragged along. Plan to enjoy it. But don’t Continue reading

Book Review: One and Wonder: Piers Anthony’s Remembered Stories (Three Stars)

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Book Review: One and Wonder: Piers Anthony’s Remembered Stories, Evan Filipek, Editor

Three Stars

An eclectic collection of early science fiction works selected for their seminal impact on Anthony. Some good science fiction: some good stories; some neither. Don’t read the Introduction by Piers Anthony: spoilers. Not all strictly SF, some stray into urban fantasy aor horror.

“Equalizer” by Jack Williamson (1947) “Man lives at the mercy of blind chance, surviving only through a peculiar combination of improbable factors.” Utopian twaddle we all sighed over. Well written and daring for that day. No, cold fusion (or whatever) is not the answer to world peace.

“Breaking Point” by James Gunn (1953) A psychological thriller. “For man’s sense is falsely asserted to be the standard of things; on the contrary, all the perceptions, both of the senses and of the mind, bear reference to man and not to the universe; and the human mind resembles those uneven mirrors which impart their own properties to different objects … and distorts and disfigures them …. For every one … has a cave or den of his own which refracts and discolors the light of nature.” Francis Bacon (1561-1626) “Reality is what it is, and not what it seems to be.” “… using a game whose rules he knew to relate to the one whose rules he didn’t know,”

“Vengeance for Nikolai” by Walter M. Miller, Jr. 1957. Urgh.

“Wherever You May be.” James Gunn 1957. “There was something about machines and the things they made which was basically alien to the human spirit. They might disguise themselves for a time as willing slaves, but eventually, inevitably, they turned against their masters. At the psychological moment, they rebelled.”

The only one I recommend skipping is “Ground Leave Incident” by Rog Phillips. It involves a rape and many of the archaic and offensive attitudes toward it of the twentieth century.

Book Review: Dragon and Slave by Timothy Zahn (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Dragon and Slave (Dragonback #3) by Timothy Zahn

(Three Stars)

“They were slaves, and she was a slave, and the only place to hide from that reality was inside herself.”

I liked it; it’s a good read but the series is becoming formulaic. (See previous reviews here and here for the good news.)

“He wasn’t going off the deep end of the pool like some junior K’da warrior. All he was doing was paying back a debt. He probably would have felt better if he’d believed that.”

Book Review: Dragon and Soldier by Timothy Zahn (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Dragon and Soldier (Dragonback #2) by Timothy Zahn

(Three Stars)

“You’re innocent until they absolutely prove otherwise. And for ten minutes after that, too.”

Good story, consistent with the high tone set in the series opener, Dragon and Thief. Jack makes bone-headed decisions typical of a fourteen year old. Zahn, having saved the reader the apparently-mandatory Hogwarts school experience in the first tale, lays it on us now.

“You know, Darycos, for being such a clever poet-warrior, you’re kind of slow on the uptake sometimes.”

(Sorry I don’t have more quotes: read the ebook version on a trip. Highlighted quotable sentences, but my cell phone has done the u-boat routine since.)

Book Review: Dragon and Thief by Timothy Zahn (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Dragon and Thief (Dragonback #1) by Timothy Zahn

(Four Stars)

“Jack muttered a word that had once cost him a week of desserts.”

Entertaining science fiction for young readers that harks back to the early days of SF, before we got all cynical and crude. Not that our fourteen-year-old protagonist isn’t a cynic, but that’s part of the fun. Thinking smarter you know everything at that age is such a burden, and a delight to those around you.

“It is interesting, is it not, that people so often turn out to be different than we expect.” “Don’t fool yourself, kiddo.”

Lots of typos which appeared to be OCR scanning errors. Someone at Open Road flunked proofreading. Still, we appreciate their making these books available.

(Ship named Essenay? Pig Latin (Es-See-Nay) for Nessie, perhaps, as in Loch Ness’ Nessie?)

Book Review: Rogue Protocols by Martha Wells (Five Stars)

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Book Review: Rogue Protocols (Murderbot Diaries #3) by Martha Wells

(Five Stars)

“The only smart way out of this was to kill all of them. I was going to have to take the dumb way out.”

Wells hits another home run. She hones the voice and character of her snarky rogue security unit, the titular murderbot. This plot is convoluted enough that any comments risks being a spoiler, so I won’t. Love the cover art.

“… and your SecUnit prayed for the sweet relief of a massive accidental explosive decompression, not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.”

The stories are standalones but there is a background story arch which makes more sense if the stories are read in order.

“Or Miki was a bot who had never Continue reading