Sci-fi Review: ‘Consider Phlebas’ by Iain M. Banks

Had I not read The Culture out of order and had some idea what I was looking for I am not sure how the first half of Consider Phlebas (Culture, #1)Consider Phlebas would have worked for me. Interesting enough as it starts off, if a bit crude in its botched execution by sewage, but it takes a full half of the book before it stops being a collection of cool ideas and turns into a coherent narrative. It was jarring as main character Horza leaves the Idiran/Culture war-front and goes on a macabre Gulliver’s Travel with crazy mercenaries.

But for a fan of The Culture (as in the series) such as my self the book was a fascinating starting point as it looked at The Culture (large space fairing super collective utopian government) from the viewpoint of someone fighting it. Almost everything about The Culture is perfect; lives are extended, pain is optional, material wealth is universal. So Horza’s willingness to side with an alien religious crusade to fight the sentient computer ‘minds’ that are so vital to The Culture is a great counter viewpoint. Continue reading

Mini Review: ‘Raven Stratagem’ by Yoon Ha Lee

As a debut Ninefox Gambit couldn’t have been much better. Dropping the reader right into a complex world without any type of cheat sheet it managed to combine some first class world building with a tight and focused story. Kel Cheris, with the insane undead general Shuos Jedao in her mind, faced off against the heresy threatening the Hexarchate while at the same time being one of the main threats to the Hexarchate. It was my favorite kind of sci-fi, full of big alien ideas and smart enough to pull it off.

Raven Stratagem had a lot to live up to but a major advantage at the start over Ninefox Gambit; all that complex world building has already been laid out. So when Jedao shows up this time we already expect the unexpected. He takes advantage of the Kel Calendar system to take over a small force and then proceeds to threaten the destruction of the entire Hexarchate while seemingly working towards it’s goals. Lee is a master of keeping readers guessing without cheating to make surprises work. By the end of Raven Statagem I was once again in a trance; willing to go wherever the author wanted and completely enthralled with every twist and turn.

This series sits in a place somewhat hard to explain. It feels like hard sci-fi as it explains away magic with incomprehensible science. It is action packed and witty but absolutely not a ‘beach read’ as it takes a keen eye to catch every detail. Follow up books are not always successful as they either try to repeat the success of the first or stray too far from it. Lee weaves the line perfectly, building on the culture created in Ninefox Gambit while taking the story to a whole new place. And while it ends on something of a cliffhanger is its one I suspect most readers will gladly stick around for.

4 Stars

Yes, I am Alive

A quick update and apology.

It has been quite a while.  So hello friends, how are you, I missed you!

Once again I found myself on a mini-hiatus, though as you can see this one will not be a year and a half of inactivity.  The details are the usual suspects; a major shake up at work once again upended everything.  Reading time once again dipped before being pulled back.  Even audiobook time took a toll as my travel got messed around with a bit.  Life is fine, this wasn’t a shake up that messed with quality of life for which I am thankful; it truly is only blogging that is being affected negativity.

But I am back, and a have a few reviews lined up again for next week, and am ready to get back in the saddle.  This is good for me!

The sad part is the sacrifices I am going have to make to keep this going this time.

-I have always prided myself on being one of the more social bloggers around.  Many people over the years have told me that I was one of, if not the, first to leave a comment on their new blogs.  I love doing it.  But it takes time.   LOTS of time.  I would often spend more time visiting blogs that writing my own.  And that is time I currently don’t have.  As such I will not be checking Feedly until things work out again.

This doesn’t mean I wont check out links that interest me.  Just that I will probably be more in the comment-back club than I used to.  I hope people understand.

-I also will not be quite so new release focused.  Now that work has stabilized again a lot of my reading will be audio format.  While some publishers do keep me in the now with audio books it is still easier to grab older books from the library for this purpose.

-Most importantly I am going to try some shorter reviews.  500 words don’t come as easy as they used to.  Sometimes the words flow like water and when the inspiration hits so be it, I will write.  But expect more two/three paragraph reviews with some quick thoughts when it is all I can come up with.

My goal is to not burn out completely and walk away because I know if I do that again it is probably for the last time.  Hopefully these changes will make it happen.

Thank you for reading.

Fantasy Review: ‘Godblind’ by Anna Stephens

Imagine if you will your favorite surprises or shocking moments from book or film. We don’t learn who Soze really is until the film’s final scene. Vader drops a parenting line at the end of the second outing. And more than one person got hooked on A Game of Thrones when the person being set up as the series protagonist gets the ax.

It actually isn’t easy to pull of because for a surprise to be shocking there has to be some emotional involvement. Some build up is needed and the reader has to have a connection to the characters involved. Without this the ‘surprise’ will land with a thud. And if the entirety of the story is spun off of this particular plot twist…

Frankly I was mostly bored. Continue reading

Sci-Fi Review: ‘The Prey of Gods’ by Nicky Drayden

There are time when all the pieces come together. Sometimes that is because the pieces are made to be together; a dark lord chasing the orphaned farm boy and the like. But to make all the pieces come together when said pieces are a virtual grab bag of randomness takes a bit more skill. Robot uprising, pissed off demi-god, young girl with the power to naturally nuke a town, hallucinations that are real and not real and real again. All tied together in a neat little…oh who I am kidding, it was a glorious mess. But a glorious mess that all works out if one is really paying attention.

The Prey of Gods starts with a young man worrying about the state of of his private parts and mentally cussing out the man who decided circumcision should come by ritual in the teens rather than infancy. We can go ahead and call his story the sanest plot line of the book followed by a politician with a secret wannabe pop star identity. From there all the crazy elements are introduced one by one, then moved around in a wonderful whirlwind until everything important comes together in flash bang of a conclusion. Yes I just mixed metaphors like a boss, but that is only because I wanted to get in on this crazy game. Continue reading

Q & A: Nicky Drayden Talks ‘The Prey of Gods’

Nicky DraydenOne of my most highly anticipated novels this year is The Prey of Gods, a debut from Nicky Drayden with a cover that caught my eye and a blurb that made my heart start thumping.  I have read it, and a review will be up next week consisting mostly of me jumping up and down for joy and yelling at people to listen to me when I tell them to pick up a book.  And as I am wont to I then begged for the opportunity to ask the author a few questions.

Thankfully I once again got a yes.  But first the vitals!  The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden, release date of June 13, 2017 from Harper Voyager.

In South Africa, the future looks promising. Personal robots are making life easier for the working class. The government is harnessing renewable energy to provide infrastructure for the poor. And in the bustling coastal town of Port Elizabeth, the economy is booming thanks to the genetic engineering industry which has found a welcome home there. Yes—the days to come are looking very good for South Africans. That is, if they can survive the present challenges:

A new hallucinogenic drug sweeping the country . . .
An emerging AI uprising . . .
And an ancient demigoddess hellbent on regaining her former status by preying on the blood and sweat (but mostly blood) of every human she encounters.

It’s up to a young Zulu girl powerful enough to destroy her entire township, a queer teen plagued with the ability to control minds, a pop diva with serious daddy issues, and a politician with even more serious mommy issues to band together to ensure there’s a future left to worry about.

And now, for the Q & A… Continue reading

A Book Haul Post

Hello June!  Where the hell did you come from?  Did you know that of all the months on my schedule you are the one that had every book I wanted to read come at once?  It is true!  So… thanks for that.

I made almost no requests yet my reading list has once again grown dramatically.  Here is what has made it my way this month.

Physical Review Copies

Continue reading

Tough Traveling – Non Human Protagonists

Started by Fantasy Review Barn, now run by Fantasy Faction.  Tough Traveling is back my friends!  Yes, the best fantasy specific meme around is finally up and running again.  So join us every week as we tour the fantasy genre. From high to low, from classics to new releases, from epic to urban; each month, we will guide you in search of a different trope, theme or cliché.  For a history of what came before check the tag above.

This weeks topic is Non- Human Protagonists

The Tough Guide assures us that HEROES are ‘mythical beings, often selected at birth, who perform amazing deeds of courage, strength and magical mayhem, usually against all odds.’ Furthermore, ‘if you get to meet a so-called Hero, she/he always turns out to be just another human, with human failings, who has happened to be in the right place at the right time (or the wrong place at the wrong time, more likely)’.

HOWEVER. For good or for evil, some of fantasy’s most memorable Heroes are not human at all. Some look human, but aren’t. Others may look monstrous, but be ‘human’ on the inside. Others still never pretend to be anything other than what they are – and why should they? In nearly all cases, we are likely to Learn Something from them – usually that appearances can be deceiving, or that the concepts of both ‘Human’ and ‘Hero’ are entirely subjective.

This week’s list proved a bit tougher for me to fill. I had two examples leap immediately to mind (well three, but I have never read Redwall). Then I had a few that I went back and forth on a bit more; is a fantasy creature that acts human but looks slightly different really non-human? It caused me troubles as I looked at Hobbits, Dark Elfs, and even Angels. As you will see, eventually I decided to include a few of these else my list would be a bit short. So here it goes. Continue reading

Sci-Fi Review: ‘Thrawn’ by Timothy Zahn

The timeline for those not in the know.

There were Star Wars book published before Heir to the Empire but they were never allowed to continue the story that at the time ended with the rebels blowing up the second Death Star. So events between the movies and a few adventure stories with Han and Lando were out there, but fans finally had a new story to follow with Zahn’s release. And most fans agreed that Zahn did it just right. The introduction of Grand Admiral Thrawn gave fans a new kind of villain; smart and cunning rather than powerful and Death Star obsessed.

I firmly believe that the Star Wars Expanded Universe would have been successful no matter what but with the original Thrawn Trilogy it was never in doubt. Fans like me ate up his moves, hated ourselves for rooting for a man trying to tear down everything the rebels had built, and always hoped for more once the story ended after three books. Continue reading