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

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

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

Sci-Fi Review: ‘Pawn’ by Timothy Zahn

Three people are abducted by moth like aliens and drafted into a work crew on a mysterious alien space ship. One, a doctor, is recognized as a talent and moved to medical. Another is a small time thug who immediately starts looking for a way out. And the third is Nicole who learns she is something special, a ‘Sibyl’ who can talk to the ship. After settling in to their new scripted and completely mundane life the trio start breaking the rules a bit and exploring their new surroundings. What they find could put *movie preview voice* ‘all of humanity in danger.’

I have enjoyed a lot of Zahn’s books in the past. He may have been my favorite author in high school; starting with his Star Wars books and then on to most of his back catalog. He is at his best when writing characters who act as chess masters, plotting circles around everyone else in the books. It can get a bit trite and requires giving the characters a bit of plot armor (usually in the form of knowledge hidden from the reader) but I always found it to be entertaining as hell. This is not what we get in Pawn. Continue reading

Novella Review: ‘River of Teeth’ by Sarah Gailey

Guys. Guys! GUYS!

This is totally true, there was actually a bill introduced to import Hippos and let them loose in the swampland of the United States. Because people were concerned with meat shortages… And hopefully to eat a invasive species of plant that had been regretfully introduced. This is completely real and awesome and if anyone wants to know how to get kids into history we need to talk more about shit like this.  HIPPOS running wild in the good old U.S. of A.

So why is it that it takes a novella from Sarah Gailey for me to know this story? Of course in her ‘what if’ history of River of Teeth the hippo proposal doesn’t go exactly to plan; a small population broke out and now feral hippos terrorize the southern water ways. I repeat. Feral… Hippos… You know you want to read this already. But in case you are on the fence there are also hippos wranglers riding hippos like the most awesome vaqueros ever, powerful businessmen who throw cheating customers off boats and to the hippos, and a great cast with a heist, nay,  operation to pull off.

Continue reading

Steampunk Review: ‘The Guns Above’ by Robyn Bennis

Even have a complete disaster work out in your favor? Josette Dupris wakes up after her airship crashes a hero. This is not a Flashman scenario; her quick thinking after the commanding officer bites it truly are worthy of some accolades as the tide of battle was turned by her controlled crash. But deserved accolades or not Dupris finds that the disaster she survived is only going to lead to more problems in the future. Specifically, press she doesn’t want and a promotion that no one wants to give her.

For you see the new coed army thing isn’t going over well among some in the Garnian command. Women are only supposed to be auxiliaries and not actually brought to combat. So taking over a airship, saving the day, and having the nation’s press fall in love with your exploits? Probably not going to go over well with the Brass. Dupris soon finds herself with her own airship, an experimental specimen called the Mistral. And the first Captain’s pins for a woman in the land. But with this comes the certain knowledge that taking the spotlight from her commanders is not going to bode well when it comes time for her new assignment. Continue reading

Fantasy Review: ‘City of Miracles’ by Robert Jackson Bennett

A boy chases laughter through the city. Followed by a presence he can’t see the boy keys in on laughter, any laughter, and throws himself desperately toward it looking for shelter or a way out. In a land once ruled by miracles the unnamed boy uses the only one he has at hand hoping for it to prove useful just one more time. And when finally hitting a laughter that rings a bit false…

And with this captivating scene City of Miracles begins.

One of the finest fantasy series of the decade is getting its conclusion. And with it some major questions will finally be answered, especially those surrounding Sigrud, a character who always stole the reader’s attention but never was able to get out of the other protagonists’ shadows. But City of Miracles doesn’t lazily ride off into the sunset, oh no. In City of Miracles the action is turned all the way up, all the feels are given at regular doses, and (spoiler alert) there are miracles abound. Yes, questions will be answered. And a whole wide world of questions will be left to wonder about. Continue reading

Fantasy Review: ‘Certain Dark Things’ by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

A simple enough novel in which a woman runs from those trying to do her harm after a drug war spills over to something more personal. Only the major parties involved happen to be vampires. Which makes things a little more…not simple?

Certain Dark Things is completely engaging yet very simple in execution. The story follows Atl as she ends up in Mexico City while on the run from the rival family who killed her sister. Mexico City is not a good place to be a vampire; sanitation crews are always on the lookout in an attempt to keep the city bloodsucker free. A hunger for young human blood makes hiding out even harder so Atl recruits a teen street kid for a meal. She then makes a decision that could be a mistake by letting young Domingo live.

It is dark and emotional. Domingo goes from crush to possible love interest but Atl always knows her past and future involve blood and heartbreak. A jaded police officer on her trail fights her conscience when the system doesn’t provide the support but a human gang does. And Nick, the spoiled son of a vampire lord, provides the perfect mix of evil and youthful arrogance while acting as the main villain. Continue reading