Book Review: Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Revenant Gun (The Machineries of Empire #3) by Yoon Ha Lee

(Three Stars)

“At least then the music tells you when the bad guys are about to sneak up on you.” “In the dramas, we’d be the bad guys.” “Not helping.” “Someone has to be a realist.”

Normally, one should not start a series in the middle; it makes no difference here. Like the previous stories in this series, totally confusing to start. Consumes half the book with the setup. Complex personalities and motives collide, again.

“I hadn’t thought the mating urge would take you so strongly, the Revenant remarked.” “The instinct has been suppressed in me, or I would not be a good weapon. I thought the same would be the case for you, but then, the hexarch Continue reading

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Book Review: Age of Legend by Michael J. Sullivan (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Age of Legend (Legends of the First Empire #4) by Michael J. Sullivan

(Four Stars)

“Suri sat alone with a sword across her lap, staring at what most would call a dragon, but which the onetime mystic of Dahl Rhen saw as a fragment of her broken heart.”

The opening of a monumental work of epic fantasy. As Sullivan explains in his Author’s Note, this book opens a trilogy similar to the three volumes of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The comparison is both apt and misleading. Apt because the struggle described is both intimate and cosmic, and misleading because his is a very different world than Middle Earth, reflecting the difference between Tolkien’s nineteenth century worldview and Sullivan’s twenty-first century. Legend lacks the cosmic clash of good versus evil but has more depth of many characters.

“Crazy was only crazy … until it happened.”

To draw the reader deep into the inner conflicts and manifest the misunderstandings, Sullivan tells the story from inside the consciousness of a dozen different characters. It’s confusing, but worth the effort. He manages to give different voices–certainly inner dialogue–to many of them. Still, the reader must work to stay engaged and clear on whose head is the current viewpoint.

“Things that were obvious in the confines of the heart often failed to translate well when expressed through the inadequate filter of language.”

Read and heed the Author’s Note. Potential readers should not start this volume without having previously read Sullivan’s Age of Myth, Age of Swords, and Age of War. He also explains why this book ends so abruptly and promises the subsequent volumes will become available soon. Hope so.

“Sometimes our need to believe blinds us to reality, and sometimes seeing reality blinds us to what we need to believe.”

(Appreciate the link to the high-resolution online map. Maps, especially in ereader versions, are often unreadable.)

“Now that I knew where the legend came from and the truth behind the tales, I can see why we were taught what we were. But we had it wrong. So very wrong. Truth, I learned, is so much more terrifying than myth.”

Book Review: Starseers by Lindsay Buroker (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Starseers (Fallen Empire #3) by Lindsay Buroker

(Three Stars)

“Are you reading my mind?” “Of course. Would you trust anything that comes out of your mouth?” “Perhaps not in this case, no.”

More space opera adventures of Buroker’s fighter pilot turned pacifist and herder of strays. Alisa seems a magnet for conflicting and conflicted companions and all the trouble which floats in their wake. The storytelling is fast paced and snarky.

“Did you expect something else?” “From you? I’ve come to expect inappropriate humor when it would be … inappropriate.” “I don’t always make a joke.”

Previously noted the parallels to Star Wars stories, perhaps a more apt comparison would be to Martha Wells’ murderbot stories, though in them the snarkiness and cyborgnetics are in one package.

“I won’t do anything cyborgy.” “Cyborgy? What would that look like exactly?” “I don’t know, but I assure you it’s very menacing.”

Quibble: “Her ship, which weighed thousands of pounds … was resting on a sheet of ice.” No, any kind of space freighter would weigh thousands of tons. And it just crash landed on that ice. If it was going through the ice, it would have been when velocity multiplied its mass.

“A tool is only as good or evil as the man who wields it.” “Says the man smithing a sword.”

Book Review: Honor’s Flight by Lindsay Buroker (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Honor’s Flight (Fallen Empire #2) by Lindsay Buroker

(Three Stars)

“This woman has the self-preservation instincts of a rock.”

More of the same following Star Nomad. Snarky humor; cartoonish characters and story. A bridge story that goes almost nowhere. A little backstory revealed. A good heart, but not much body.

“I wasn’t hollering. I was arguing defensively.”

Quibble: Lots of improbable action with even more improbably low casualties. Unlikely all that shooting between armored space military results in no fatalities.

“It’d easy to be honorable when your life is normal and your needs are met. It’s when you get desperate that your morality gets tested.”

Book Review: Vaour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Valour and Vanity (Glamourist Histories #4) by Mary Robinette Kowal

(Four Stars)

“But true love will always triumph. Is that not what the novels says?” “Yes, but we are in the land of Romeo and Juliet.” “What a happy thought that is.”

This glamour history eschews the usual Regency England setting for a more exotic locale: Venice after the dissolution of the Republic by Napoleon. Kowal likewise confronts our protagonists with new threats and new antagonists. The story has been compared to Ocean’s 11, but Kowal’s task was more difficult because she maintains a single point of view throughout, where modern swindler-the-swindler stories depend on multiple, rapid shift of POV.

“Allow me to offer one exceedingly simple reason to not remove to Lord Byron’s.” He raised his eyebrows in question. Jane placed a hand to her bosom and sighed over-dramatically. “I fear for my virtue.”

Kowal demonstrates her virtuosity by melding Lord Byron into a story which had not originally included him, but Kowal’s research discovered the notorious poet in residence in Venice at the very time of her plot. Too good a character to shun.

“Times are hard. I shouldn’t have … you used to be a lady, didn’t you?” “Yes.”

Jane and Vincent’s brief excursion into poverty broadens their characters and increases the stakes. In the process they deal with isolation, deceit and a most unconventional convent.

“Prayer provided only the illusion of control, but Jane was too accomplished a glamourist to deny that illusions could provoke emotions. The same perception allowed her to see beyond the curtain of bravery to the fear in her husband’s eyes.”

 

Book Review: Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Without a Summer (Glamourist Histories #3) by Mary Robinette Kowal

(Four Stars)

“Vincent’s jaw tightened. ‘Jane. Stay in the carriage.’ She did not.”

This series keeps getting better. Kowal confidently draws the reader into a historical London and the summer that wasn’t.  Readers continue to follow Jane Vincent, now Lady Jane, into the deprivation and politics of that time. And sometimes the biggest threat to the happiness of herself and those she loves are her own assumptions.

“She comes from good English stock on her father’s side. It is not as though she were Irish.”

Kowal addresses a time when some people of color were accepted in the upper reaches of English society and some were barred–when Irish were considered not white. When myth and rumor are more readily believed than truth.

“They cannot think that coldmongers are responsible for the weather. It flies in the face of science.” “Superstition rarely troubles with facts.”

The pretty girl on the cover may be Melody, but shouldn’t the gentlemen then have red hair?

“I know that I should not feel sorry for myself because I am pretty, but sometimes it is nice to have someone speak to me as though I am not.”

Book Review: Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Glamour in Glass (Glamourist Histories #2) by Mary Robinette Kowal

(Four Stars)

“Jane had made the plan as simple as possible, believing that–as with glamour–the fewer threads there were to tangle, the more robust the illusion.”

Better than Shades of Milk and Honey. Kowal strikes out on her own, with a clearer voice, former roots in history, and less mimicking of Jane Austen. Good job. Since this book is firmly rooted in history, the reader can detect that the universe with glamour is parallel, not the same as, our own. Newlyweds, Jane and David Vincent stumble into the crisis of their era, and ….  Continue reading

Book Review: The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Fated Sky (Lady Astronaut #2) by Mary Robinette Kowal

(Four Stars)

“Because I’m a professional, I actually made it to the gravity toilet in the centrifugal ring before I threw up.”

Hard science fiction with a heart. Kowal melds hard physics and space flight procedures with realistic conflicts of identity and personality. Even better than The Calculating Stars. She never lets the reader forget that this tale is set in the 50s and 60s, not the 60s and 70s. Huge, but often subtle difference.

“This’ll be the only time that Apartheid works in our favor.” At my puzzled glance, she shrugged. “You don’t know? We’re on the separate-but-equal ship.”

Many appropriate SF similes and metaphors. “Like the difference between a slide rule and a kitten.” “As if we were trying to make an ablative grief shield of our bodies.”

“What’s going to kill us next?”

Lots of quibbles, but only to the hardcore hard SF fans; they rarely detract from the story. One, a violation of Newton’s first Law of Motion, was probably committed Continue reading

Book Review: Antiagon Fire by L. E. Modesitt Jr. (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Antiagon Fire (Imager Portfolio #7) by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

(Three Stars)

“The worst acts are often justified by the best of reasons.”

Another rousing tale on the imager world. Much repetition of action and angst from previous stories.

“What else can we do but accept what we cannot change?”

Laced with aphorisms which give the tome a sense of wisdom. Many are restatements of well-known adages. Book of Rholan is a boring, intrusive injection of sermonizing.

“What is force? What’s the difference between persuasion and force?” “You know very well, dearest. So does every woman.” “There sometimes is a narrow line….” “Only men think it’s narrow.”

The preceding is perhaps the best dialogue between Continue reading

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

Book Review: Imager’s Battalion (Imager Portfolio #6) by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

(Three Stars)

“I want a land where Pharsi, scholars, and imagers can be what they will, under the same laws as everyone else.” “You are either mad … or a lost one.” “Is there any difference?”

A fun story, well-told, but lots of repetition–and war. One continuous series of battles with the climax mirroring that of the previous volume. Every skirmish and every staff meeting, not to mention the bureaucratic in-fighting, related in excruciating detail.

“He doesn’t forget, Quaeryt.” Neither do I. Ever.

Book of Rholan has become Modesitt’s philosophic hand puppet. Much of that philosophy–in fact the basic plot–is foreshadowed in the first three books of this series, which occur hundreds of years after this book.

Editing quirks: “In less than a fraction of a quint …” Twice. “Rain began to come down.” What else? Dozens of blotting head and adjusting brim cap.

“It’s hard not to think about the consequences when you’re the one who causes the deaths of so many.”