Book Review: Imager’s Challenge by L. E. Modesitt Jr. (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Imager’s Challenge (Imager’s Portfolio #2) by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

(Four Stars)

“I’m being pushed into doing things I’d rather not do because the alternatives are worse.” “Sometimes, that’s life.”

Better than the first Imager story. First person point of view makes for a decidedly linear plot, but the action moves better in this second episode. This volume lacks the epigrams which headed each chapter in Imager.

“What we do … is not all that we are, nor all that we could be. Reading opens one’s eyes to the possibilities.”

Modesitt takes us into the musings of someone who follows the tenets of a religion he doubts, defends a country he’s sure isn’t perfect, loves people who are flawed, and represents a body of people even as he disagrees with its leaders.

“No matter what you do, someone’s unhappy. And the better you do it, Continue reading

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Book Review: Imager: Imager Portfolio #1, by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Imager: Imager Portfolio #1, by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

(Three Stars)

“Hope is always an expectation beyond anticipated reality.”

A steampunk Harry Potter for young adult readers. Excellent world building, despite the lazy two-moons trope. Time, money, foods, and geography map steam-age world–a welcome change from the routine medieval realm.

“So you’re saying. Master, that if I want to be impartial, I should not be a protraiturist, but an imager?”

In the obvious comparison with J. K. Rowling’s wizard, Modesitt has better world building, more believable magic and a more human protagonist. He slows his story with Continue reading

Book Review: Above the Timberline by Gregory Manchess (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Above the Timberline by Gregory Manchess

(Three Stars)

“Ancient knowledge is still–more ancient than knowledge.”

Mediocre short story; marvelous illustrations.

“When nothing is easy, everything is possible.”

Steam punk, so presumably a different world. Given the tectonic and polar shifts, everyone should be dead, not just frozen. Yes, the poles may now be at the equator, but the equator–not all of it–cannot be at the poles. Where did Wesley store the fuel for his various machines?

“The quest is worth more than the find.”

Book Review: River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey (Two Stars)

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Book Review: River of Teeth (River of Teeth #1) by Sarah Gailey

(Two Stars)

Great concept and background development. Interesting ensemble of characters. Love the map and cover art. What could go wrong? A lot.

Gratuitous sex and violence. That is, apparently injected to titillate, not to advance the story. Motives and actions were either heavy-handed or disconnected. Lack of proofreading (or something). For example, “then reached back into his saddle bag” appears twice in the same paragraph.

According to the map, the Harriet stretches 150 miles from the dam on the Mississippi (consider that for a moment) and the Gate near the mouth of the Atchafalaya River. Yet, Gailey writes Continue reading

Book Review: Stone Mad by Elizabeth Bear (Two Stars)

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Book Review: Stone Mad (Karen Memory #2) by Elizabeth Bear

(Two Stars)

“Overkill is something of a personal defect.”

The subtitle tells it all: recycled. Not a bad story, but neither the story nor the characters are half as complex and engaging as in Karen Memory. Bear tried to compensate with the interplay among Karen’s female friends, but that felt forced, too. Even the antagonist is sympathetic and not very threatening.

“Deciding you know something when you don’t is about the deadliest thing a person can do.”

Lots of preaching, which also rehashes much of the first novel. Karen’s awkward syntax lacks the originality of the first opus, too.

“The advantage of being elderly is you don’t have to make the same stupid self-defeating decision the same way a second time.”

Book Review: Empire of Unreason by J. Gregory Keyes (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Empire of Unreason (Age of Unreason #3) by J. Gregory Keyes

Three Stars

“There is nothing logical about war.”

If you haven’t previously been reading the Age of Unreason series, don’t start here. It will yield little sense or enjoyment. This installation is a mere stepping stone to an increasingly inevitable conclusion. The storytelling is good. Cliffhangers abound.

“This is all an elaborate trap.” “What will you do about it?” “Walk into it, of course.”

As Keyes strays farther from actual history into the speculative, the tale becomes more fantasy. The “angelic” actors get more powerful with each volume, but the heroes manage to keep their heads above water.

“If I wore silk, I would still have all the same faults, with vanity added them, and would have gained nothing but the respect of fools.”

Keyes’ fictional Benjamin Franklin, aphorisms asides, sounds increasingly like John Adams. The other protagonists are sufficiently flawed to maintain reader interest, but Voltaire is thin soup compared to Edward Teach.

“Happiness is not so much the product of rare occurrence as it is of many small and everyday things”

Book Review: Aurorarama by Jean-Christophe Valtat (Two Stars)

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Book Review: Aurorarama (The Mysteries of New Venice #1) by Jean-Christophe Valtat

Two Stars out of Five.

Non-steam steampunk? Jules Verne, almost by definition, invented steampunk. I believe Valtat calls his genre Teslapunk perhaps because so much depends on early and revolutionary use of electricity.

Would it be too gauche to suggest that the emperor has no clothes? Valtat is an award-winning French science fiction author. This story, written in English, is praised by all the right and right-minded people, but all I can think is “I can’t believe I read the whole thing.” Did they?

Undoubtedly Valtat had fun twisting the words and ideas. If he couldn’t find an obscure word or alliteration, he invented one. The plots are lost among the world building until last hundred pages. Many readers won’t survive the frozen first hundred. The principal antagonists’ inner voices sound alike. You can only tell them apart because one was always indulging in this or that drug or sexual liaison. No point in identifying technical errors; it’s all fantasy.

Quibble: Does Valtat realize that at longitude 90 degrees north, latitude becomes irrelevant?

Why not one star? Because it is a great concept. And Valtat has his funny moments. Some people apparently like it. But they probably insist the emperor was clothed.

Book Review: Driftmetal by J. C. Staudt Three Stars

Book Review: Driftmetal by J. C. Staudt

Three Stars out of Five

Popcorn for the brain … buttered and salted.

A fun steampunk romp through a different world, where there is no “world” and there are two species of humans–unmodified primitives and the “normal” enhanced folks. Muller Jake is one of the latter, as well as something of a rogue. Think Han Solo with R2D2 and 3CPO options.

An admitted “serial novel” this one pauses rather than ends, but Staudt gives the reader a better-than-average conclusion for this opening episode.

Nice cover.