Book Review: The Jongurian Mission by Greg Strandberg (three stars)

Book Review: The Jongurian Mission (Jongurian Trilogy #1) by Greg Strandberg (three stars)

“They seem happy to have more power now, following the Civil War. But I don’t really see how having more power has made their lives any better.”

Could have been an engaging epic fantasy of a farm boy’s introduction to a greater world and a destiny. Protagonist and antagonists well developed.

Next to it was the trade office, where the farmers came to sell their grain each autumn harvest and get price projections on next year’s crop.

Glacial pace. A lot of telling. Describing. Details for the sake of details, not for the sake of the story. Odd words used badly.

Edgyn had the ship skirting the coast half a dozen leagues out.

Lacks verisimilitude: Author exhibits ignorance of economics, farming, sailing, warfare, and geography—especially distances. Based on eighteenth-century mercantile theories of trade and politics. Quaint. Apparently leagues in this world are shorter than three miles—anywhere from a furlong to a mile. These “what’s he talking about?” moments knock the reader out of the spell of the story.

For more times than he could now count Bryn wished again that he had never left Eston.

Book Review: Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future by Mike Resnick (four stars)

Book Review: Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future (Santiago #1) by Mike Resnick (four stars)

“My cause was lost before I ever joined it.”

Good book, Fresh–if obvious–plot twist. Not so much SF or fantasy as a horse opera set in space, but that worked for George Lucas.

“I’ll do what I promised.” “But you won’t be happy about it.” “I’m never happy about killing things.”

Verses of doggerel open each chapter, introducing cast and propelling the plot. (Especially cute that most were admitted to be erroneous.)

Shielding themselves from the planet’s ever-present rain.

 Resnick follows the Star Wars/Trek convention of treating each planet as a single climate zone. Not so applicable to the original sample.

“It’s easy to decide to remake a world. It’s more difficult to choose between evils.”

Book Review: The Widowmaker by Michael Resnik (three stars)

Book Review: The Widowmaker (The Widowmaker #1) by Michael Resnik (three stars)

“I’ll be hiring specialists—not just specialists in killing, but in behavior as well. How difficult can it be?” “I’ll bet Pandora said those very words just before she opened the box.”

Super-non-hero in space. Typical fastest-gun-in the West (or Rim) space opera. Decent storytelling flawed by intentionally simple-minded protagonist. Not much to identify with or root for.

“I’m the boss and you’re not. What’s fair got to do with anything?”

Too-good-to-be true string of luck just keeps going. Cynical witness character hardly needed to point out the protagonist’s stupidity. Unfortunately, introductory books like this kill interest in continuing the series.

I suppose not many four-month-olds could dope it out. But you’re going to have to grow up fast if you want to survive out here.” 

Book Review: A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik (four stars)

Book Review: A Deadly Education (Scholomance #1) by Naomi Novik (four stars)

Well, too bad for the losers who couldn’t stay afloat without his help. We’re not meant to all survive, anyway. The school has to be fed somehow.

Excellent young adult fantasy. Read despite it being another school of magic novel. Novik turns all those nice academies upside down. Focus is restricted to inside the school. And no faculty, advisors, professors of this and that. Kids struggling to stay alive. Yeah, it’s that kind of school.

Of course they’d be scared of me. I could see that now with perfect clarity, despite the pathetic dreams that I’d hung on to all these years, because I was scared of me, too.

Protagonist is sharp-tongued loner, but shares her inner pain and doubts with reader. Loved the last sentence. Successfully closed this story with plenty of hooks into the next. Gratuitous profanity cast Novik a star.

Hope is good strong drink, especially when you can get someone else to buy it for you.

Book Review: The Prodigal Sun (Evergence #1) by Sean Williams and Shane Dix (four stars)

Book Review: The Prodigal Sun (Evergence #1) by Sean Williams (four stars)

<At the risk of sounding critical, your strategy seems to be constructed of and entirely dependent on random factors.>
<Yes, [Redacted]. Exciting, is it not?>

A well-conceived and executed high adventure in space. More than a space opera. Sort of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress meets Ender’s Game. A protagonist who is enough of an “every man” to keep the reader engaged, as opposed to super people fighting super people.

“Needless killing is never honorable, Commander.” “That at least I can agree with. Perhaps we only disagree on our definition of ‘need.’”

Appreciate that injuries don’t heal overnight. In fact accumulate. Some clunky phraseology: “topped and fell” and “temporarily if not permanently.”

No one stirred as she climbed out of the bunk and donned her survival suit.

Quibbles: The valise strap. Roche constantly changes clothes unimpeded by The Box’s unremovable strap on her wrist. “the most powerful engine one powered by petroleum. By thus keeping the population at a level barely approximating civilized.” Not on a world with no petroleum industry. “There was a slight dent where the bullet had struck, but otherwise it was undamaged.” If a bullet could dent it …

“Never feel so superior, or inferior, that you can afford to relinquish your most valuable weapon: deceit. A war is won only when at least one of the parties loses the ability to lie…”

A good read, embarrassing: I don’t remember the book I first read eight years ago.

“All leaders have less freedom than anyone under their aegis. That’s a natural law.”

Book Review: Artifact Space by Miles Cameron (four stars)

Book Review: Artifact Space (Arcana Imperii #1) by Miles Cameron (four stars)

‘I still don’t get it. Why us? Why me?’ ‘I’m brilliant and you’re lucky.’ ‘That makes sense,’

Almost-an-everyman hero. Makes mistakes. Believable. Artifact space itself better developed and implemented than so many SF shortcuts like wormholes, WARP drives, etc. Even a dollop of the literary. Bad guys too obvious.

‘There was a little gravity …; it was one quarter of a g, or even less, but it did make ‘down’ a reality.’ (Must be more massive than the Moon)

Quibbles: As usual science is more Star Trekkian than should be taught in high school. Numerous errors. Clearly doesn’t understand heat radiation in a vacuum. Nor mass relative to gravity. On the other hand, Cameron got some details right that many authors fumble.

‘No one knows what the f*** they do,’ he said, carefully inserting the word ‘f***’ several times in his sentences, the way the veteran spacers did.’

Abrupt ending. Obvious set up for sequels. Several significant threads not closed. Gratuitous profanity celebrated. Increases as story progresses. Too bad, wanted to give it five-stars despite my quibbles because it’s a genuinely engaging, enjoyable story. (Nice cover art.)

‘We’re all idiots. Viewed by that remorseless logic, we’re all incompetents, struggling to fake competence. Lighten up. You’re working too hard.’

Book Review: Seeing Red (Ambassador #1) by Patty Jensen (three stars)

Book Review: Seeing Red (Ambassador #1) by Patty Jensen (three stars)

‘And I knew, deep within me, that I was right and [redacted] and the rest of them were wrong.’

No empathy for protagonist: Oblivious, procrastinating supposed hotshot diplomat who obsesses over everything but does nothing. Emotional age of a teen in puberty. Spends his whole time worrying about his boy/girl friends.

“Why haven’t you seen a medico yet?” (Why, indeed?)

The first two-thirds of the book is the setup, progress begins about Chapter 18. I finished it a week ago and I’ve already forgotten the ending. Gratuitous profanity. Three stars a gift. Nice cover art, has nothing to do with the story.

‘Underneath the differences, we were all the same. If people on Earth had overcome discrimination based on race, then we could also overcome these problems.’

Book Review: Susanna and the Spy (Susanna and the Spy #1) by Anna Elliott (three stars)

Book Review: Susanna and the Spy (Susanna and the Spy #1) by Anna Elliott (three stars)

Everyone in the Rutherford Household was so very ordinary—so completely what they seemed. Could it really be possible that one of them was a murderer?

Pleasant, if formulaic period romance/mystery. Awkward blend of Jane Austen and Agatha Christie. Readers interested in a Jane Austen mystery might try Northhanger Abbey.

Verisimilitude errors. “Time for those he works for in London to send word as to his veracity. I should think I have a few weeks, at least, the state of the roads and the mail being what it is.” Kent abuts London; verification could be had overnight. “I’ve been an agent of the Crown since war first broke out with France.” England and France had been at war for centuries.  

Fails to convey the period. Errors in details kick the reader out of the spell of the story. One character sustains several bullet wounds but keeps soldiering on.

Her mission, it appeared, was to call on some of the poorer members of the village and do what she could to scold and bully them into prosperity.

Book Review: Past Imperative (The Great Game #1) by Dave Duncan (three stars)

Book Review: Past Imperative (The Great Game #1) by Dave Duncan (three stars)

“None of it made real-world sense, nor ever would. You could not expect Sherlock Holmes if you already had Merlin.”

Engaging story of people and places who are not what they seem, or even what they themselves believe them to be. Draws on English archetypes and supposed religious prophecy on an almost-parallel world. Bounces between fantasy and science fiction as easily as between the universes portrayed. A small side of historical fiction. Previous exposure to Shakespeare not required but enhances the fun.

“She ducked into a doorway and made herself as flat as paint.”

Both protagonists are unwitting and unwilling pawns in a greater game. Drawing them toward each other compounds their confusion. Great fun for the reader.

“How can I tell if they’re friends or enemies?” “Well, look out for johnnies in black gowns like monks. They’re called ‘reapers’ and they’re deadly. They can slay a chap with a touch. Otherwise—friends will help you. If they try to kill you, assume they’re enemies.” “Why didn’t I think of that?”

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.