Patrick's Past Reviews
Older reviews in alphabetical-by-author order.
Patrick, age 3. Already a reader (The Seuss Rules!). Already looking past the Moon to the Stars.
PS This is an actual picture taken by my father Tom as Mankind made a certain Giant Leap, July 20 1969.
The Saga of Seven Suns is at an end. Tangled threads, woven over the past seven years and seven books, are finally brought together to finish an epic tapestry. And what a fantastic picture has been created.
Amongst his almost triple-digit novels, Kevin J. Anderson has written numerous novels in the Dune and Star Wars Universes. This experience imbues the Saga of Seven Suns, of course, but these novels are more than just a melding of the two … there’s something else there. Call it epic science fiction if you will … grand, sweeping, and quite the adventure.
Elementals clash, Klikiss swarm, robots calculate, and humans and aliens plot. Everything comes to a head and all roads lead to the inevitable end … BOOM … and they all lived happily ever after. (Okay, perhaps not all, and perhaps not all happily. Such is life in this mysterious galaxy.)
Yes, with The Ashes of Worlds, the Saga is at its end. I’m sorry this is so, but after numerous races have faced extinction, and after a few suns have been extinguished, planets laid waste, and a moon shattered, I’d say we’ve had one helluva ride, and I for one could use a rest. Not too long a rest, however, as I’m sure ol’ Kevin’ll come up with something soon to keep the pages flying and us up at night.
Calorie companies control the world, bio-terrorism and genetic engineering have wreaked merry havoc on a global scale, and humanity is on the brink of an evolutionary precipice that will destroy it completely or change it utterly. We reap what we sow.
Anderson Lake is a stranger in a strange land, AgriGen's "Calorie Man" in Thailand. Disguised as a farang factory manager, Anderson’s actual mission is to obtain (by any means necessary) new foodstuffs to exploit in a world where every calorie counts.
Emiko is the windup girl of the title. She is not exactly human. Creche-grown and designed to satisfy, she scratches out a meager existence in a world that considers her property, a mere plaything to abuse and then throw away like yesterday’s garbage, lowest of the low. She may be artificial, oh yes, but she does dream. She dreams of freedom ... and perhaps of an electric sheep or two.
Together, Anderson and Emiko might just change the world.
Beautifully written with a cast of characters both major and minor who will make it extremely difficult on the reader as to whom to root for, The Windup Girl is an important, perhaps even cautionary tale about a very possible future, set in a Thailand one can almost taste and feel. Plan to see it on many a best-of list and most likely a few award short lists as well. It’s the end of the world as we know it, so eat your Soylent Green and enjoy the show. Dystopia Rules!
Nebula Winner for Best Novel 2010. Hugo Co-Winner for Best Novel (Tied with China Miéville's The City & The City.) Locus Award. John W. Campbell Award. One of Time Magazine's Best of 2009. Yeah, everyone agrees. (Told you, I did.)
In the future, you don’t have to work, but if you want fame and fortune, you have to earn it. There’s no inheriting it from your parents. Enter our heroes, the Losers, and their brilliant idea to become celebrities: Stow away on a rocket bound for Mars. Awesome. And there’s no turning around once they’re in motion. Fame and fortune will be theirs for the taking. One slight hiccup: Their rocket’s got a few issues. Oh, and one other: one of the Losers is a sociopath. Let the fun begin!
I’ve been a fan of John Barnes for half of my life and he’s never let me down. Now he turns his eye to Hard SF for young people ... and for those not-so young who love a good story ... like me ... and me like. Losers in Space is in keeping with the old Heinlein juveniles, only with more of today’s sensibility and scientific knowledge. And his Notes for the Interested are brilliant. Don’t want the standard sf-infodump? Then simply skip them.
Imagine if you will a global movement involving millions of disaffected individuals with differing goals and only one real thing in common: a desire to bring the Big System down. The Big System: governments, corporate society, big business, technology ... the stuff on which the world revolves. Imagine these resentful and rebellious people organizing. Call it Daybreak. Imagine them all taking action ... lots and lots of action. In One Day. Then add a bit of terrorist piggybacking and catalyzing. It’s the end of the world as we know it. What are we to do? Directive 51.
- National Security Presidential Directive NSPD 51, Directive 51 for short, is a Presidential Directive created in 2007 that claims power to execute procedures for the continuity of the federal government in the event of a "catastrophic emergency." Such an emergency is construed as "any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions." - Wikipedia
It starts out like an episode of 24 with multiple Jack Bauers, and then builds from there. Barnes is an exceptional writer. Directive 51 thrilled me and at the same time it scared me. (I suppose I could do without a bit of the Big System myself. No more credit card bills! Just a bit of light to read by and a few books and I’d be Burgess Meredith in that Twilight Zone episode, only I don’t need my glasses to read. Then again, no movies or TV, no modern medicine or Hulu, no indoor plumbing or grocery stores.) Just how simple would it be to bring modern civilization down? A couple of weeks and a few (thousand) acts of random violence and we’re back to hunting and gathering. Or worse, we trade democracy for anarchy and Directive 51 dictatorship. Directive 51 is a book we’ll be talking about for a long time. Be careful what you wish for, oh you disaffected among us, and don’t go getting any ideas.
In the world of the near future corporations rule, “America” covers more than half the globe, and free enterprise is king. Yeah, capitalism, it’s a good thing. Taxes are history, you get your last name from the company your work for, and execution might just be part of a marketing plan. Enter Jennifer Government, an agent with an attitude (and a mysterious tattoo). With the right budget (note that the Government will only investigate if the citizens involved ante up) she’ll bring the baddies to justice. This time, however, it’s personal.
Nike has a new marketing plan to build up the hype of its new $2,500 sneaker. Have we got Nikes to die for! But when the plan goes awry, enter, stage left the NRA, to remedy the situation. But even they get screwed mistaking one Billy NRA for their actual hit man, Bill NRA. And on top of the misunderstandings, there’s still Jennifer Government doggedly pursuing one of the John Nike’s for the formulation of the original plan. You bet it’s personal…and we can count on our Jennifer to kick some corporate butt!
Kirkus calls it “Catch-22 by way of The Matrix.” That about sums it up, but we’ll add a “Way Cool.” and a “You really ought to give this one a shot.” and a side of “Satire rocks, dude.”
--Elizabeth Mysterious, Patrick Galaxy and Linda Books
The human ship SunSeeker discovers an artifact of immense significance on its way to colonize the Earth-like world, Glory – a star half-enclosed by a cup-shaped structure with a surface area greater than that of a million Earths. And this star and its Bowl of Heaven are also bound for Glory. Now, the landing party sent to investigate has been separated into two groups, one held by the world’s inhabitants, the other pursued across its surface. Let the fun begin!
Ringworld is arguably Larry Niven’s most well-known space novel, and comparisons between that masterwork and Bowl of Heaven are inevitable. And, in fact, everything that made Ringworld so awesome … all of the sf action and adventure and aliens and big ideas … are here and in spades, but there’s something added, perhaps by Benford, or by the combination of Benford and Niven, that makes Bowl of Heaven awesome in its own right. Call it old-school science fiction if you will, but it’s old-school with a fusion engine and up-to-date science. And it’s just the beginning.
Demons rise from the Core every night to feast on any flesh foolish enough to not be hiding behind the only magic strong enough to defeat them – wards. For reasons long forgotten, these symbols, drawn on any worked surface, stop the demons cold in their tracks. Into this world are born three rather extraordinary people. Each will grow and excel in whatever they endeavor to do, each will suffer greatly, and each will play an important part in delivering the people from the evil that consumes them.
The Warded Man is the debut novel for Peter Brett and the first in a reported Demon Trilogy (though the author is on record campaigning for more). Not since Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind have I been this pleased with a debut. The Warded Man is character-driven fantasy at its page-turning best. The three main protagonists are fully-realized people – both magnificent and flawed. Watch them grow up in a world designed to beat them down. Can’t wait to see what happens next.
Arlen, titular hero of The Warded Man, has been named the Deliverer by many in the North. The Deliverer, the man who will free the world from the demons that besiege it. But naming him thus may have been premature. There is another who would have that title. Jardir of the desert kingdom of Krasia has been honed since childhood to fight the alagai, the demons that rise from the Core every night. He is a fierce warrior and a leader of men ... the savior prophesied in the bones of his people. He will enslave the world to take back the night, and deliver the world.
The Desert Spear is at its heart Jardir’s story, as The Warded Man was Arlen’s. Moreover, with one notable exception, the characters made real in The Warded Man don’t even make their presences felt until around page 200. When they do, however, it’s like rediscovering old friends who you didn’t realize you’d missed. And when Jadir and his very un-Northern-like machinations are introduced into the mix, all hell breaks loose. Is Jadir the Deliverer of legend? Or is it Arlen? Both? Neither? Time will tell. The Desert Spear is a powerful sequel to last year’s favorite, The Warded Man. Brett builds on the excellence that was that first novel and continues the story of a world beaten to the brink of extinction. I can’t wait to see what he delivers to us next.
In The Daylight War, the women behind the men who would be Deliverer come to the fore. In the north, Arlen’s love of Renna binds him to the world of men, but her desire to be always at his side may just cost her her humanity. In the south, Jardir didn’t come to his exalted position among the tribes of Krasia on his own. His First Wife, Inevera, wields a significant power of her own, and even Jardir is wary of that power. And let us not forget Leesha, behind and between both men. She might just have a little something to deliver herself. The Deliverer has come, oh yes, but who it is has yet to be decided, and if the world of men remains divided, can even the Deliverer save it?
In the world of The Demon Cycle, humankind use wards to keep the demons at bay. In our world, Brett weaves words to bring that world and the characters within it to life. And live they most certainly do. I just love this series and will suffer along with the rest of you until Brett delivers books four and five of the Cycle. Honest word.
First Contact. But not as you would expect. An astronaut finds an egg-shaped crystal while collecting garbage in Space, touches it, and things get very interesting very quickly. "Join us!" But is this the first such stone to fall into mankind’s hands? Meanwhile, on the surface of the Earth and beneath the sea, life marches on. A world famous science fiction writer does his bit for kin and country. A star reporter becomes a hero and then becomes something much more. A lowly scavenger makes a significant discovery while diving off of the coast of his flooded country. A billionaire playboy is “rescued” by a pod of rather intelligent dolphins. Just a few of the multiple viewpoints that populate Brin’s future Earth, an Earth on the brink.
Existence is so full of Brin-ish ideas and concepts that I don’t even know where to begin. Alien contact, divergent human species, artificial intelligence, smart mobs, global warming, differing (often bickering) alien philosophies, mankind’s place in the universe, human history turned on its end ... the transparent society, social upheavals, terrorist attacks, Awful Day ... and much much more. All of this in an incredibly thought-provoking and faced-paced story ... each page loaded with a sense of wonder and optimism that is often lacking in today’s science fiction. This one’s sure to be on many an awards shortlist. It’s that good. And lastly, I hope this is just the start of something because I really need to know what happens next. So David, where’s my next book?
See the trailer.
Darrow is a Red, one of the lowest of the low – designed, bred, and conditioned to mine the depths of Mars for the materials needed to terraform the solar system. His sacrifices today will give far-future generations a far better existence. Obedience is life. But it is all a lie. Mars has been habitable for generations, and Darrow’s caste are mere slaves upon whose backs the ruling class Golds maintain their absolute power over Society.
After his beloved wife Eo is martyred for daring to dream and to sing of freedom, Darrow himself is hanged for daring to bury her. But he does not die. The Sons of Ares have a mission for him, and for this mission he has been rescued … and will be reborn. He and his people will have their vengeance – nay, they will have justice. And Eo’s dream will be made real.
Red Rising in a nutshell: The Chronicles of a brave-hearted gladiator who discovers that The Moon is a Harsh Mistress on the dunes and in the Houses of a moving and not-so Red Mars where The Hunger Games are used to keep the oh-so colorful sheep from looking up and discovering The Penultimate Truth. Then it’s off to the Ender Vorkosigan Battle School where The Gods Themselves play A Game of Thrones before The Fall of Hyperion. Obviously a student of science fiction and fantasy’s greatest works, Pierce Brown takes the elements that made those works so great, makes them his own, and distills them into something quite remarkable. Bloodydamn awesome, in fact. Rarely am I so enthralled by a novel that I must read it straight through. Red Rising is such a novel.
Long ago, people of Caribbean descent came to Nanagada looking for a world to make their own. Much of what they brought with them has been lost through the years, but evidence of the old-fathers’ ways remains. Them old-father left some pretty interesting stuff lying around. And then there’re the gods, both teotl and loa.
For years the marauding Azteca have been held at bay behind the Wicked High Mountains, but now they’re on the move and the people of Nanagada are preparing for siege. Their only hope lies in the frozen north, a surviving piece of old-father tech called the Ma Wi Jung, but the only man who might be able to access it has no memory of his past … his very long past. And then there’s Pepper. Don’t get me started about Pepper.
Aliens assuming the mantle of the gods, blood sacrifice, assorted old-father tech, long-buried memories, incredibly complex characters, and inspired writing make for a wonderful first novel by the quite talented author of some 25 short stories. Crystal Rain is novel that’s both sense-of-wonder-old-school-adventure-sf and a hint of things to come. And, again, don’t get me started about Pepper. Pepper’s just plain cool, man.
For you ragamuffins always bugging me for something new, here’s your Holy Grail. And mark me words, people: He go be big man someday. And I’ve a feeling that the best is yet to come.
Captain John “Black Jack” Geary awakes from survival hibernation after almost a century to find the war he “died” in still raging … and that he is a legend. Now, he’s been ordered to lead the Alliance Fleet home from deep within Syndic territory and against overwhelming odds. And not all of his adversaries come from the enemy hunting him. His command is composed of those who believe he’s been sent by the living stars to save them and those who think he’s gone soft and is unfit to lead. After a century of war much has changed. Time for Captain Geary to restore a bit of discipline … and honor … to the Alliance ranks.
After years of enemy atrocities, it’s easy to justify the “well, they do it, so we can too” mentality, but we must be wary not to turn into that what we purport to oppose. “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Kick-ass science fiction action/adventure … that inspires a bit of thought. Honor your ancestors, people.
Anyone who’s been to the store or interacted with me over the last four years knows of my undying affection for one Black Jack Geary, hero of Jack Campbell’s The Lost Fleet series. Now, after six paperback originals, our Jacks are graduating to hardcover.
The Lost Fleet is no longer lost, and the Syndic Worlds have fallen, but the peace may be harder to win than the war. The Alliance Government fears our hero, as he could overthrow their regime with a single word. Lucky for them his principles won’t allow him to give that word. For now. Admiral Black Jack Geary. Those who serve with him would elevate him to emperor; those who govern would have him gone. What better way to deal with a thorn in one’s side than to simply remove it? Time to send Admiral Geary on a very important mission: Find the mysterious aliens beyond the frontier and find out why they involved themselves in a human war that lasted a century. If he dies while accomplishing this mission so much the better. After all, a dead hero is a thousand times better than a live thorn, right? He never wanted to be worshiped; he just wanted to do his job and go home. They should have let him. He’s not a thorn. He’s the proverbial hornets’ nest, and they’d best stop poking him with their various sticks. All of that aside, however, he really must deal with those pesky aliens, perhaps settle a rogue Syndic or two, pick up a few prisoners of war, and see what else is out there. Time to get lost again.
Admiral Black Jack Geary, the thinking man’s bad-ass. Dreadnaught is the beginning of a new series that takes the fight to the aliens, among others. It’s also Campbell’s first hardcover. Campbell revisits just enough of the-story-so-far to catch his adoring fans up while providing just the right amount of background to allow you future fans to enter his universe without having to read the preceding books (but you will eventually). I love these books. They’re simply a great Saturday afternoon read. And there are more to come. Thank the living stars.
What happened to the Syndicate Worlds after Black Jack Geary destroyed most of their military might? Some cowered, some fell into civil war, and some rebelled outright. Midway rebelled. Now, how do the rebels go on after their evil overlords are eviscerated or light years away? Freedom is never free, and the newly self-appointed leaders of Midway are about to receive the bill.
Up until now we’ve seen Jack Campbell’s universe from the Alliance side … and mostly from Space. Seems there are heroes everywhere, even on the dark side. Tarnished Knight, the first in a new spin-off to Campbell’s awesome Lost Fleet series, sheds light on that dark side, often putting me in mind of Star Trek’s Dark Mirror universe … if it was run by a bunch of corporate weasels.
Like most girls her age, Melanie goes to school. She likes learning and she just loves Miss Justineau. Unlike other kids, however, hers is an extremely regimented life. Every morning, men in uniform come to her chamber, strap her into a chair, and then roll her into the classroom. No school on the weekends. Saturdays are really boring, but Sundays are the worst. On Sunday she and her classmates get their only meal of the week. On Sunday they feed. Melanie is very, very smart, the smartest in her class, maybe the smartest little girl in the whole world … a world after the Breakdown. Melanie is a hungry, but unlike adult hungries, she can still talk and think and reason. Melanie has all of her higher brain functions, yes, but when the restraints come off, the animal comes out. Carey turns the zombie mythos on its head. Excruciatingly tasty.
James Halliday, probably the most brilliant game designer that ever was, and the creator of the OASIS – a vast virtual universe that is both game and alternate reality – died without an heir or any real friends, leaving the disposition of his multi-multi-billion dollar empire in question. Instead of a will, Halliday left the contest. Somewhere hidden in the OASIS is a virtual Easter Egg. Find the egg and win it all. “Shall we play a game?”
Our young hero Wade Watts, game-name Parzival, is a gunter – an Easter Egg hunter. He’s going to find that egg even if the search kills him a thousand times. Wade lives in the stacks, a sprawling trailer park both horizontal and vertical. To call the world he lives in a dystopia would be an understatement. Humanity is in decline, maybe even on the way out. Thank Halliday for the OASIS. Almost everyone lives the bulk of their lives there. They go to school, work, and play on thousands of virtual worlds. You name it, there’s a world for it, The Matrix gone intergalactic. Without the OASIS, life would suck like nothing has ever sucked before. "So it's sorta social. Demented and sad, but social."
Ready Player One is William Gibson meets TRON meets Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – with many a cool ‘80’s reference. Unlike Charlie and Co. who faced their demons on a single factory floor, Wade/Parzival and his fellow gunters have uncounted worlds to face, explore, and conquer. Somewhere out there is the key to the kingdoms, and our boy’s going to find it. "Ray, if someone asks you if you are a god, you say, 'Yes!'"
A virtual world where you can be the person you want to be – perhaps not even a human person – and a quest for the biggest treasure ever known? What’s not to love? Ready Player One is totally awesome, a total Rush, dude. I haven’t been this excited about a book in quite some time. Can’t wait to put it in your hands. So get ready to strap on your reading glasses and enjoy the ride. "Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads."
And lastly, if you lived through, grew up in, or even just heard of the 1980’s … or if you’ve ever seen an ‘80’s movie (you have) … or if you’ve ever played a video game, you are going to love Ready Player One. This one is not to be missed. "Nobody puts baby in the corner."
End of Line.
– Patrick Heffernan, Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, San Diego CA
Jim Holden was the XO of a water hauler until his ship got shot to pieces. Now he’s the captain of a shuttle, trying to stay alive long enough to save what’s left of his crew and to find out who killed his ship and his shipmates, and why. Detective Miller is part of the security force tasked with keeping the peace on Ceres, your average spun-up-so’s-there’s-gravity asteroid out in the Belt. He’s been at the job a bit too long and he sucks at politics and he’s a bit dead inside – and way too stubborn to quit when he’s ahead. These are interesting times. The Belters resent Earth and Mars and their taxes, the Martians care for little that doesn’t help to make their red world green, and those who still call Earth their home look up from their gravity well at everyone with quite a bit of haughty disdain. The Solar System is a powder keg in search of a spark and even in space a spark is surprisingly easy to find. Our heroes Holden and Miller are about to have ringside seats to an Armageddon of fire and flesh.
Leviathan Wakes is part science fiction, part thriller, part mystery novel, and part horror – a little something for almost everyone who shops in our Galaxy. So you have your sf – it’s in space in the future and there’s lots of awesome future-type stuff – and possible alien stuff too, right? And there’s lots of war and explosions and political machinations, and that’s all quite thrilling, right? And then there’s a detective (think Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, only in space), and that’s obviously the mystery part, right? So where’s the horror, you ask? Well, some evil sons of bitches found something out on one of Saturn’s moons that would make even H.P. Lovecraft a wee bit queasy – and they’re just arrogant and immoral enough to use it. Curious monkeys. Mix it all together and you’ve got on helluva space opera and the fat lady’s nowhere to be seen. (It’s the first of a trilogy.)
A Martian marine who survived an attack by a monstrous ... something, a cantankerous UN undersecretary playing a clandestine game of thrones, a Ganymede scientist searching for a kidnapped daughter, and Capt. Jim Holden, hero of Leviathan’s Wake, come together to shed light on a grand conspiracy and thus prevent an inter-Solar System war from wreaking merry havoc on an already destabilized humanity. Meanwhile, something is growing on the planet Venus, something that cannot be hidden, something that many would kill to keep secret, something alien. And a war that could kill billions might just be a distraction. Caliban’s War continues to build on the near-future-techno-space-opera-action-awesomeness begun in Leviathan’s Wake. I cannot wait for the trilogy’s conclusion. These books are not to be missed.
It begins with an extraordinary six-year-old girl, a world-weary FBI agent, a death row inmate offered a devil’s deal, and a young nun who’s seen more than her share of death. Four individuals with ring-side seats to the end of the world, an Apocalypse of blood and fire. Mankind just can’t leave well enough alone. As a group, and with help along the way, these four souls might just save the world, even if it takes their lives ... and a thousand years.
Remember if you will the first time you read I Am Legend. How blown away you were. Or perhaps for you it was A Canticle for Leibowitz or The Stand. How reading these novels made you feel. What they made of your world. Where they took you. The Passage took me to that place again, and then it took me to a new place entirely. Justin Cronin’s remarkable novel is at first similar to those literary masterworks and then wholly unique.
I’m a jaded reader. Call it an occupational hazard. I haven’t found it particularly difficult to put a book down for quite some time, even those I’ve truly loved. Not so here. 700 pages went flying by, supplying me with a nice breeze, and a great read ... the perfect summer novel. Take my advice: Wake up some Saturday morning, have a great big breakfast, find a comfy chair, and dig in. The end is nigh, and it’s just the beginning.
Thomas awakes in a lift. He has no memory except for his name. Every month a new boy is likewise delivered. None remember their previous lives. All they know is the Glade, a square of land surrounded by too-high stone walls. Walls with huge doors that open in the morning and close at night. Doors to the Maze. No one wants to be caught in the Maze after dark. Night is when the grievers come. Every day Runners search the Maze for the way out, and every evening they return without the answer. Thomas knows he's destined to be a Runner. He doesn't know why. He knows ... something ... if he could just remember. The day after his arrival, another newbie is delivered, the last newbie ... the first and only girl. She's the last one. Ever. Something about this girl is familiar, but again Thomas just can't remember. Everything is going to change.
The Maze Runner is excellent YA fiction at its page-turning best. An awesome story with many facets. Lord of the Flies. Dune. The Prisoner. Logan's Run. THX 1138. Ender's Game. Total Recall. The Truman Show. Deepwater Black. The Matrix. Harry Potter. Dark City. The Cube. The Island. Idlewild. The Forgotten. Lost. The Hunger Games. The action drives the story and keeps the pages flying and the characters are so real that they often jump off of those flying pages. Group A, Stage 1 complete. Good that.
Even alone, beaten up by life, and a tad pissed at the world, David Stalin is still one of the best detectives that the Los Angeles Urban Environmental Enclosure 12, 12-A, and their surroundings have ever seen. Hell, throw in the rest of the world if you wish. There’s no one more tenacious than our hero. Even after his wife was taken from him. Even after four years of retirement. Even against all odds. The year is 2063 and he’s back on the job … and his past is about to catch up with him.
Take the intelligence of a Neal Stephenson novel, add a heaping helping of Richard K. Morgan kick-ass, fold in a cup or two of real world technical knowledge and an eye in the future, and then put the result in a noir dystopia bleak enough to make Philip K. Dick and William Gibson shed a few tears. Bake at 2000 degrees. You now have a small idea of what Jeff Edwards has in store for you in Dome City Blues.
Also available in trade paperback.
Reality TV show SeaLife, on board the good ship Trident, answers a beacon for help from just about the most remote piece of land on Mother Earth, an island in the South Pacific that’s been isolated from the rest of the world for half a billion years, give or take a week or two. When our intrepid heroes hit the beach, however, they find no one in need of rescue. Instead they find an alien, and quite deadly, environment. Seems evolution’s taken a radically different direction than from that we all know and love ... and the flora and fauna of this continental fragment are decidedly hazardous to one’s continued existence. So dangerous are they, in fact, that if even one member of one species were to escape the island, all of Earth’s other inhabitants, animal, vegetable, and perhaps even mineral, would be in dire jeopardy. Cry havoc ... and let the fun begin. If you like James Rollins or Michael Crichton (with less math), Fragment is for you. While Fahy never scrimps on an explanation for his wonderful weird world, he does that explaining in a fashion that any reader can fathom. A quite enjoyable eco-thriller-page-turner that pushes all the right buttons.
On his 27th birthday, Alex meets the girl of his dreams, almost gets killed, and gets a special birthday present ... an inheritance really ... from his grandfather. Then the really interesting stuff starts to happen. I'd love to tell you more, but to do so might ruin it for you. Trouble will find you.
How do we categorize this? It's not exactly fantasy or sf; it's not exactly a thriller either. Hell, it's not exactly anything ... except good. The "other world" Goodkind writes about will seem quite familiar to anyone who's ever read a Goodkind novel, but this is perhaps the beginning of something completely new and perfect for someone looking for something fresh. Having read it, however, you Goodkind newbies may find you have an irresistible urge to read his previous works while you wait for this series to continue. Enjoy.
In Jumper, we learned about Davy and his amazing ability to teleport. Then Davy met a girl named Millie. In Reflex, we learned all about her and certain other … entanglements. Now in Impulse, we meet Cent, their teenaged daughter. Living off the grid – way, way off the grid (teleporters, duh) – sure can put a damper on one’s social life, and Cent has had quite enough of home schooling, thank you very much. So it’s off to school for her. Imagine you’re in Mean Girls High School and you’re an outsider, the proverbial square peg … oh, and you can teleport. Imagine what you’d do. Now stop imagining and read Impulse. You’d be hard pressed to do it any better than Steven Gould.
Teenaged Carmen’s on her way to Mars ... the adventure of a lifetime ... with her parents and her annoying little brother. Mars has its moments; it’s kinda cool, sometimes cold, and most of the colonists are nice. Most of them. Okay, all of them, except the Dragon; she’s just mean, mean and jealous. So, to get away for a while, Carmen goes exploring. By herself. Alone on not quite completely airless Mars. Bad idea. Can you say First Contact? Marsbound is like an old-school Heinlein juvenile with a more modern perspective ... and big potato shaped Martians with multiple limbs and a collectedly odd sense of humor.
The Dreaming Void is the first book of the Void Trilogy, set in the same universe as the Commonwealth Saga (Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained) and fifteen hundred years in its future.
It would seem that the center of our galaxy is not the super-massive black hole that was once theorized. Instead, there lies the Void, an awesome … and artificial …construct that has baffled the galaxy’s sentient beings for billions of years. All live in fear of the next devourment phase, a time when the Void will expand and destroy planets, solar systems, and maybe the entire galaxy itself.
The only clue to what lies in the Void comes in the form of one man’s dreams … dreams of humans inside the Void … and one human in particular. It would seem that, inside the Void, humans have almost magical abilities, and humans outside of the Void are drawn to this power. Now a cult has risen in strength and prominence. This cult, the Living Dream, is preparing a pilgrimage into the Void … a pilgrimage that is feared will initiate the next devourment phase.
It is a time of great change and the galaxy’s sentients, including Humanity’s many factions, all turn their attention to the Void. And a second Dreamer is dreaming.
Where the Night’s Dawn Trilogy (The Reality Dysfunction, et al) was science fiction with a generous mix of horror, the Void Trilogy is more a mix of science fiction and an even more generous portion of science fantasy. Awesome in scope and execution, these novels are sure to be future classics, so grab a copy now or regret it later.
It starts with a murder of a very important person. Definitely one of the North clones, although there doesn’t seem to be a missing one. Then there’s the way he was killed. Years ago on the planet St. Libra another North clone was murdered in the same way, along with most of his staff. The lone survivor has been languishing away in prison ever since … swearing up and down that she had nothing to do with the murders. After all, how could “an alien monster” exist on a planet with absolutely no indigenous animal life? While the hunt for the killer stalls back on Earth, a massive search for the as yet unseen “monster” on St. Libra begins. And consulting for the expedition is one Angela Tramelo, newly released from prison, and a woman with a few scores to settle. With pulse pounding action and expert plotting, Hamilton combines police procedural, alien expedition, and a very plausible social future into one hell of an SF thriller.
See David’s review of book one, The Darwin Elevator, to get you started. But what can I say about the conclusion of The Dire Earth Trilogy without spoiling it for those of you as yet uninitiated? Or for those of you who haven’t also read book two, The Exodus Towers? Maybe a few hints regarding the enigmatic Builders, space elevators, alien “events,” subhumans, alien objects/artifacts/keys/puzzle pieces that simply must be hunted down at all cost … or perhaps even that titular Plague Forge itself? Nope, no spoilers here! If you aren’t enthralled by David’s review enough to want to see how it all comes out … or my endorsement here can’t convince you … well then you’ll just have to do without the most awesome whole-trilogy-in-one-summer of all time. Believe it. Oh, and you John W. Campbell Award for First Novel people … take note. You heard it here first.
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Dude escapes from Hell. After 11 years. The only human ever sent there alive. Now he's back in L.A. with a bit of a score to settle. Seems he's a bit put out by the people who sent him Downtown and nothing from Heaven, Hell, or anywhere else is gonna keep him from his appointed rounds. Hanging out in Hell all those years can change a man. A man used for sport in the arena can learn a trick or two. Has to if he's gonna survive. That and a few toys liberated from a hellion or two, and our boy's on his merry way. Rock, meet Hard Case.
Think Harry Dresden in an old Richard Stark/Donald Westlake mystery thriller. Then add a bad attitude and the ability to kick some major ass. Then piss him off. Awesome, humorous, and partially insane.
Starts out with a chase. Sandman Slim vs. the Nouveau-Vamp with a ‘tude. Then it gets exciting. Seems our hero has turned to bounty hunting to make a living. Bounty hunting of a most supernatural kind: Vampires, and Hellions, and Jades, oh my! When ol’ Lucifer comes to town to make a movie (based on his life no less), he needs him a bodyguard, oh yeah. Who ya gonna call? Why our boy Stark, of course. Duh. It’s not a bad gig, though, and there are fringe benefits ... like a little female companionship courtesy of one Brigitte Bardo. (Who are you to judge? Were you celibate in Hell for eleven years?)
Back among the living and becoming more human every day. Not that that’s particularly a good thing for our man about town Stark, slayer of monsters and Devil’s wingman, down and out in the City of the Angels, always caught between a roc and a hard case, always. No breaks for the Sandman. Oh, no. Bring on the zombies, baby. Zombies. What happens when a half-angel gets bitten by a zombie? Well the angel side’s not especially affected, of course, but the human side ... well, that’s quite another story. Dig it.
Alexander Napoleon Outland: pirate, rogue, lady’s man, guy’s guy, coolest of the cool, a Stainless Steel Rat in Mal Reynolds’ coat. Nap and his daring crew wander around the galaxy in search of action and adventure … all kinds of action and all manner of adventure. “In space, no one can hear you scheme …” Couldn’t have said it better myself, so I lifted it from the cover. (Nap would be proud.) Alexander Outland: Space Pirate is chock-full of snappy dialogue and laugh-out-loud scenes, and not a small amount of action and adventure … all kinds of action and all manner of adventure. Perhaps the only thing I really need impart on you fine folks is that if you miss Firefly as much as I do, give Nap & Co. a read. You won't be sorry.
Locke Lamora is a born thief, a genius of outrageous proportions. As the Thorn of Camorr, he is legend, a true master of guile and cunning. With the help of his own merry band of con artists, the Gentlemen Bastards, he relieves many a noble of his purse. When our hero and company encounter someone who may just be more clever and dangerous than they are, however, the proverbial plot thickens … quite viciously. The Capa Barsavi (think Tony Soprano) loves his lackey, The Grey King (your basic evil SOB) needs a patsy, and the Duke’s Spider (no hints here) wants the Thorn clipped. (Turns out those pesky nobles don’t much care for being fleeced out of their fortunes. Go figure.) Oh, what a tangled web we weave.
I’ve been hearing rumors about this one for almost a year … everything from “It’s way cool, dude!” to “It’s the best thing since sliced bread.” (This from other authors, mind you.) Rarely does such a novel live up to so much hype. Well, I don’t know about the bread thing, but The Lies of Locke Lamora IS way cool ... dude. And for a first book, it’s really quite extraordinary. Picture Ocean’s Eleven (the original, thank you very much) set in a fantasy Venice. At times laugh-out-loud funny, at others jaw-droppingly intense. The city’s real enough to tour (and as gritty as Miéville’s New Crobuzon), the characters real enough to jump off of the page and pick your pocket (or stop your heart), and the plot’s just plain amazing. This one’s not to be missed.
This time out our man Locke and his life-long boon companion Jean find themselves ‘employed’ by the enemy. They are to be key players in the “five-year game,” and as such must make certain their employers’ chosen political party wins the race. If you thought thieving was hard, try winning the game of thrones … er … fixing an election. Never has, “Politics makes strange bedfellows” been more accurate than within these pages. So, to cut to the chase (as we so often do in these novels), you ask “Was it worth the wait?” and I answer “[expletive deleted] yeah!” Enjoy a little more of Locke’s life story and a quite a bit about that of the oft-mentioned but never talked about Sabetha, Locke’s life-long-lost love. Yes, we finally get her story, and oh yes, she’s back in Locke’s life … but she’s (of course) on the opposing side. Talk about your intolerable cruelty!
A film crew travels to the small Colorado town of Silver Gap to make a documentary about climate change, no easy task in a town full of unbelieving hunters. Leading this crew is a man haunted by his family’s sins … and a few of his own – a man hunting for no small measure of redemption. But in the town of Silver Gap, hunters have become the hunted. It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature! Once thought long gone from Colorado, it would seem that wolves have now returned, but they’re not your daddy’s wolves, oh no. And as if this wasn’t bad enough, wolves aren’t the only beasts on the prowl ...
Season of the Wolf is a pulse-pounding supernatural thriller with a message, and a whole lot of carnage … so release your inner Wolfen, learn a thing or two about the world you live in, and pray you don’t become prey.
Another Pass draws near – the Third Pass. Pern begins to prepare. Of watch-whers, kin to the Dragons of Pern, little is really known. They are nocturnal, yes, and they share some of the attributes of their larger cousins, but few have bothered to delve any deeper. Miners have, of late, been training these watch-whers to work in the mines where their abilities are very highly prized. So much so that a mining camp will wager a winter’s coal just for a chance at one. It is in one of these camps that our story takes place.
Dragon’s Kin smacks of being the first in a watch-wher series, akin to that of the HarperHall. Has Anne passed the Dragon Torch to her son Todd? Maybe, maybe not, but if so, Dragon’s Kin shows that the series will lose nothing in the Pass. It would seem that blood runs true and that Todd has much of the same talent that has made his Mum the Queen of Dragons.
Omega, as in Omega Clouds – the destroyers of worlds first chronicled in The Engines of God. Are they natural or artificial? Are they alive? Are they malevolent? No one knows. Indeed very little is known of the omegas, aside from the fact that they are drawn to right angles – the hallmark of sentient-made construction. When an omega comes across such construction, it attacks with a vengeance and with no warning, obliterating all visible traces. (Turns out that Chicken Little was right.) And there’s one headed towards Earth. No worries, though, they’ve been here before (remember Sodom and Gomorra?) and besides, said omega won’t arrive for another 900 or so years – plenty of time to figure the suckers out, right?
As research continues, a Space Academy ship discovers an omega heading towards a previously uncharted solar system. Now, instead of centuries, there are mere months to uncover the answers before an unsuspecting pre-industrial species falls beneath the omega’s shadow. This is the dilemma facing Priscilla “Hutch” Hutchins (hero of the aforementioned Engines, and of Deepsix, … and of Chindi) and company. Heck, all they really have to do is divert the undivertible, or at the very least, move a few hundred thousand souls out of their cities ... without, of course, interfering with their development. Piece of cake, right?
Omega is science fiction action adventure at its very best. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear ... when authors didn’t spend half of their books showing us how smart they were; we just knew. A wise – and quite smart – man once wrote that the play’s the thing. Well, like ol’ Shakespeare, our buddy Jack knows a thing or two about spinning a most enjoyable yarn. Grab your e-suit and your lightbender and enjoy the ride.
This most excellent young adult novel starts out quite familiarly … strange things happen around our young heroine … animals watch her, odd people bless her. Sounds a bit Potterian, doesn’t it? (Except that she’s a she, but you get the picture … let’s move on). Even her chasing an errant umbrella (that’s been spying on her) into an alternate reality might seem a bit common, maybe even Abaratian (without the sea). Perhaps, but then there’s the Miéville slant and, of course, our story doesn’t end here – this is merely the beginning…
So Zanna (our heroine) and her bestest friend Deeba follow the aforementioned umbrella down the rabbit hole. (Okay, so it wasn’t a rabbit hole, but you get the picture … moving on, again.) Zanna turns a wheel, and bam! they immerge in UnLondon and are promptly set upon by rubbish (that’s ‘attacked by garbage,’ to us Yanks) … really.
It ain’t easy being the Shwazzy … or the funny sidekick.
Well, I could go into a great deal of further detail, but then that would spoil the whole thing, now wouldn’t it? And not about spoiling anything. So … come on down, turn the wheel, and get your own copy. (Unbrella and milk carton not included.)
For Takeshi Lev Kovacs, formerly of the Envoy Corps, Altered Carbon begins with a death - his. Death, however, is hardly ever permanent in this brave new galaxy. He wakes to find himself on Earth, the birthplace of his kind ... and a bit of a backwater really. Seems a very rich and powerful Meth (short for Methuselah) wants Kovacs to solve his murder (that “death is hardly ever permanent” thing again). The police think it was suicide, and anyway, they have much better things to do with their time than to involve themselves in the affairs of some not really dead Meth. So Kovacs finds himself the private detective on the case in a dark future where your body’s just a rented sleeve and the seat of your soul is a cigarette butt sized “cortical stack” in the back of its neck.
Altered Carbon surfs the SF private eye wave that seems to be making a resurgence of late. Call it SF noir if you will ... and it’s real cool, man. Morgan mixes his noir and his tech seamlessly and with abandon. Think Blade Runner in bullet time. One minute you could almost believe you were reading a Philip Marlowe or Harry Bosch novel, the next you’re in Futureworld, orbiting Planet Kaitain in the Galaxy of the Obscure. One minute you’re being accosted by a couple of hired thugs, the next you’re purchasing particle weapons from a mandroid whistling Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Never @#$% with an Envoy; he’ll RD you for sure.) Oh, and if anyone out there could let me know where I could score some Merge Nine, I’d appreciate it.
Prepare to have your Epic Fantasy turned on its ear ... and then some. Take your Jordan, your Goodkind, your Martin and Erikson, and then bend the tropes until their tendons pop. You're halfway to Morgan. Add sex of all kinds, a drug or two, and not a small amount of violence. The rest of the journey's yours. Vicious, visceral, oh MG yes.
- Ringil, hero of Gallows Gap, veteran brimming with barely suppressed rage. His childhood and orientation are the main sources of the fury that propels him.
- The Lady Archeth, half-Kiriath, half-human, warrior, magician. Half-Kiriath, yes, but just as abandoned by the Kiriath as the rest of the lands.
- Egar, Dragonbane, barbarian chieftain of the Majak. Top of his game, yes, but bored to tears. How you gonna keep Egar down on the steppe once he's seen the Empire?
Heroes all of the war against the Scaled Folk. Each shaped by the battles they fought and by their Kiriath comrades. To these, and the men and women like them, the lands owe their supposed freedom. The Kiriath are gone though, and our heroes' deeds are all but forgotten in a land of moral and religious righteousness. What's to become of them? What's to become of all when evil returns? And how can they possibly prevail without the Kiriath?
The Kiriath are gone, yes, but their steel remains.
Earth is a memory. All that is left of humanity is on a thousand-year trip to a new home … and not particularly humane. Society is extremely ordered. Everyone has their place and everyone works. Occupations are chosen early in one’s life, implanted really. But something is not right. There are witnesses to some rather gruesome deaths, but records of same are missing from the ship’s logs, the victims simply marked as “Retired.” A mission-critical city planner and her policeman lover are on the case, surreptitiously. To do things in the open would attract attention from Information Security, resulting in all manner of bad, including Adjustment. When the real truth behind it all comes out, things get really interesting, really fast.
If you like Peter Hamilton and/or Alastair Reynolds … and if Logan’s Run excites you, give this one a spin. You won’t be sorry … until ISec comes calling.
Year Zero is when aliens first discovered that we Earthlings had a talent for music¹. The rest of cosmos, it would seem, sucks at its creation. Sucks so bad that the first Earth music to reach them, during the end credits of Welcome Back, Kotter, caused many an alien to die in apparent ecstasy. Go figure. And don’t get me started about when real music finally reached alien auditory structures². Anyway, years go by and the time is now, and our music has a bit of an intergalactic cult following³. And these aliens now realize they have a bit of a problem. They’ve been listening to our music FOR FREE for decades and by our laws … and theirs … they owe Earth a bit of money … okay, a lot of money … okay, so much money that the entire cosmos of music-loving beings owes Earth every single unit of commerce ever devised since the Big Bang. So, what to do? Well, you’ve got your nicer aliens who want to cut us a deal, and your not-so nice aliens who would just blow up the planet and have done. Enter our hero, Nick Carter. No not that Nick Carter, the other one … the probably-about-to-be-fired mid-level New York copyright lawyer. To save Earth, Nick will have to become Larger Than Life and make those pesky aliens Quit Playing Games. For More than That, you’ll just have to read the book.
Year Zero is a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy4 for the new millennia, designed for Men in Black … and any other sentient being with a sense of humor. And aside from being laugh-out-loud funny, Year Zero is also quite informative. Did you know you could be fined $150,000 per illegally downloaded song or movie? Or that this fact might just lead to Earth’s destruction? Author Rob Reid, founder of Rhapsody, knows a wee bit about this … and may just be in contact with extraterrestrial music aficionados. Rock on!
¹ We call it 1977 … and we know it mostly as the year Star Wars debuted, but I digress.
² It wasn’t pretty.
³ Galactic understatement! They’ve actually patterned the universe after us ... in their own way ... and Everybody speaks English.
4 Gotta love you some Vogon poetry!
In Stan Robinson’s dream, Galileo was visited by far-future humans, inhabitants of the Jovian moons, who occasionally guided him in his experiments and sometimes brought him forward to their time to visit his discoveries. The question is with all of this meddling; will the time-line be altered? And will Galileo allow himself to be used as a pawn in their future machinations? In addition to trips forward in time, we are also treated to Galileo’s life and times, and his battles against the dogmas of his day. Seek truth and face the consequences ... and the inquisition ... or be safe and accept the status quo?
Stan’s writing is such that I often doubted what I remembered from my history of science courses, and I often found myself wanting to consult those texts. What is real and what is Stan? Only an author of Stan’s ability can write history and make it his own, and make it this believable.
After looking 300 years into the future with the Nebula Award-winning 2312, Kim Stanley Robinson now sets his sights 30,000+ years into the past in this tale of a young man striving to come into his own as a shaman in a strange land, a coming-of-age story in the age of ice and in the quest for fire. Comparisons to Jean M. Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear are inevitable, but Robinson delivers a slightly more realistic and scientifically-based portrayal of life at the dawn of human history while simultaneously delivering a page-turning survival story. The story of Loon and his people is quite a captivating one, yes, but it’s the story of how humanity lived all those many years ago that is truly fascinating here. The more things change the more they stay the same … and it’s absolutely amazing we as a species have made it this far.
Rarely do I give credence to popular hype (okay, sometimes I do; sue me), but when an advance reader’s copy comes across my desk with "most brilliant first fantasy novel" written across the front instead of the usual cover art ... and those words were written by Betsy Wollheim ... well, I pay more attention. After all, she does know whereof she speaks. (For those of you not in the know, Betsy is the president of DAW and daughter of Donald A. Wollheim.)
The Name of the Wind is filled with fully-realized "that dude’s real" characters, and is written in a style that is both subtle and thought-provoking ... and at the same time surprising and fast-moving. Aside from this, I’ll not go into detail. (No spoilers here!) Suffice it to say it’s your basic coming-of-age, orphan-prodigy-turned-notorious-king-killing-wizard-hero story, with a twist of lemon ... and told in his own words (mostly). If you want more (and you do, trust me), you’ll just have to come to MG right now and get a copy. (Get dressed first.)
For most of you this review is in no way necessary. A simple “The release date is March 1st!” is more than enough. But The Wise Man’s Fear deserves all the praise it gets, so here goes ...
The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day Two. The story continues. Our hero Kvothe is still at University, still up to his eyeballs in debt, and still on many a sh*t list. Trouble is his middle name. Kvothe Trouble Bloodless. Herein is told more of his education, of his continuing pursuit of a certain young lady leagues out of his league, and of his search for the truth behind the mythic powers that be and the reasons behind his family’s death. Along the way he faces many a trial, by fire and mercenary and Fae, oh my! And a bit of court intrigue that might make even a Borgia blanch. Truly an adventure to get the blood of even the most jaded among us boiling … and freezing, oh yes. It ain’t easy being a legend, oh no.
Meanwhile, back at the bar, in present day (two), things set in motion in Kvothe’s youth are coming back to haunt him ... and those around him ... and the rest of the lands.
The story is long and involved, but it is neither as long, nor as involved as it could have been. What others might explain, and explain, and explain some more ... in a hundred or so pages ... our friend Rothfuss does in just a few (see chapter fifty-two, for example). The story’s all there, yes, but we move quickly to the good parts ... we cut to the chase. And what a chase it is.
For those of you who worried that Day Two couldn’t possibly live up to Day One, you may now put those fears aside, wise or not. The promise made by The Name of the Wind is more than honored in The Wise Man’s Fear. Oh, yes. Can’t wait for Day Three.
“I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife’s grave. Then I joined the army.” Thus begins Old Man’s War, the novel that made Scalzi the John W. Campbell Award Winner for Best New Writer in 2006.
Live your life on Earth and when you turn seventy-five, live a brand new life among the stars. Who better to fight your wars, some snot-nosed kid who thinks he knows all, or some old fart who might actually know a thing or two? You can bet your ass that when my bones start really creaking, I’ll wanna enlist, get rejuvenated, strap on an empee, and go fights me some aliens. Yeah, war is hell, but so’s getting older. Where do I sign?
Old Man’s War is just plain kick-ass science fiction action and adventure. Call it Starship Elders, if you will. Buy a copy and read it in one sitting.
Up-and-coming Hollywood agent Tom Stein is assigned the job of his lifetime ... agent to the alien Yherajk. Friendly, oh yes, but thoroughly alien, thank you very much, and a wee bit on the smelly side. (Ever leave a tuna fish sandwich in your gym locker? Yummy.) It's our boy Tom’s job to make their "We come in peace!" not end in pieces. They really are friendly; you know ... just great big blobs of gooey otherworld goodness. Let the fun begin.
Agent to the Stars is Scalzi’s first book and a very enjoyable read. Also known as "The book that wouldn’t die," it was first an on-line-only book ("just to see if I could do it"), then it was a limited edition hardcover (now quite expensive). Three years plus and half a dozen books later and now it’s an edition we can all get our gelatinous mass around ... er ... hands on (finally).
While on a surveying mission for his family, young Toby McGonigal’s spaceship was severely damaged, forcing him into a cold sleep of who knew how long. Flash forward 14,000 years. Toby is found and revived into a brave new empire … an empire based on his family’s lockstep hibernation technology, an empire that skips forward through time. Lockstep: one month awake, thirty years asleep. Heck of a way to keep everyone on the same page when travel between planets takes forever. Now our boy Toby is stuck between a planet and a supernova, with tyrant siblings (yes, they’re still alive) who want him out of the picture on one side and a cadre of new “friends” who would use him as a political tool on the other. What’s a trillionaire boy to do? The Sleeper has awakened, Ender, and by Vorkosigan, the enemy’s gate is down. Excellent premise; Hugo-Nebula worthy.
In an ultra-conservative (bordering on neo-fascist) United Republic of America, the command crew of the Alabama, America’s first starship, is involved in a grand conspiracy. They are planing to, and will ultimately succeed in, “rescuing” and “exporting” a large number of “dissident intellectuals,” stealing the Alabama, and thumbing their collective noses at a government “by a few people and for a few people.” And away they’ll go. The crew, however, does contain a few “loyal” Americans -- and five Republic soldiers. This will add a certain amount of spice to life on Coyote after the 230 plus years in cold sleep, but when you’re forty-six light-years from the nearest supermarket, you’ll need all hands on deck just to survive. Allen Steele knows how to tell a good story. Feel free to compare him to a young Arthur C. Clarke -- action and adventure, exploration and discovery, and little human friction to move things right along. Who could ask for a better way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon?
Humanity’s gone. Died out. Our artificial intelligences, androids, and robots remain, however, going about their business, happy as their programming allows. Civilization, albeit artificial, thrives. Freya Nakamichi-47 is one such intelligence, a female (very) android designed for her One True Love’s pleasure … but said One True Love hasn’t been around since before she was initialized. What’s a fembot to do? Why, she hires herself out as a “courier,” of course … a Friday for a post-humanity universe.
As hinted at above, Saturn’s Children is very Classic. Freya/Friday … Heinlein yes, yes, and even not-so subtle nods to PK Dick’s Electric Sheep and Asimov’s Three Laws. So perhaps it is a veiled love letter in novel form, but I ask you: Stross, Heinlein, Dick, and Asimov? What’s not to love? Take all of the weird and wonderful of the four, update, tune up (and perhaps tone down), and you’ve got one hell of an awesome ride … Venus and Mercury and Mars, oh my, then and on to Callisto and off into the Deep Black to meet one’s destiny. A Very Modern Space Opera worthy of all the capital letters (even if the author might balk at it being so labeled).
The first day of high school can be trying. Add an explosion that destroys a good chunk of the place and a virus that leaves every pubescent teen infected – and brings a quick death to any adult they encounter – and you then have the new McKinley High. Add a year quarantined without supervision and it’s The Lord of the Flies meets The Breakfast Club with a dash of Ender’s Game. Each day is a continuous fight for survival. Social cliques have morphed into vicious gangs. If you’re not a part of a gang, you’re just meat for the grinder. David is one such loner, but there are many others. Time to take a stand. Awesome. Quarantine: The Loners is relentless from page one – all death, destruction, brutality … and teen angst. Though billed as young adult, it is definitely not for the faint of heart.
Throughout my life, I’ve read and reviewed many an “end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it” novel. Can’t get enough of them, and I’ve learned a great deal about how to survive after the Fall. Am I prepared? Decidedly not. Am I trying to tell you something? Nope, not yet anyway. Would I tell you if I knew the end was near? Ah, now that is the question. Tell everyone, or keep that info close to my vest and get busy fortifying so I can protect me and mine when the sh*t hits the fan and resources become scarce? Hmmm. There’s the rub.
This is the dilemma facing one Dave Marshall, a currently unemployed sitcom writer living in Los Angeles. Seems Dave has a line on a new story he’s dying to run past the studios. But then he finds out his source isn’t spouting fiction. Seems the world’s oil actually is about to be rendered useless, with devastating consequences. A Slow Apocalypse that will bring civilization to its knees. What is Dave to do to protect his family? Stay in place, dig in, and hope for help to come ... or run for the hills?
It is very strange walking streets and highways that I’ve actually been down ... through an author’s eyes ... before and after a cataclysm. A Southern California without water and power. You have food. Your neighbors don’t. Humanity at its worst, and at its best. Imagine. Varley puts the reader there, and through the wringer. Awesome, and terrifying.
Meet Bayliss, fallen angel with an attitude and a penchant for Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, a fallen angel tapped to mark a mortal to fill some monumentally big shoes … um … wings. Seems the Archangel Gabriel -- immortal, invulnerable, invincible -- has been knocked off, rubbed out, presented with The Big Sleep. How? Why? And apparently it’s up to Bayliss to solve the mystery while shepherding a brand-spanking-new angel -- a flametop with an even bigger attitude, a twist with a Destiny. And then all of Creation turns on its end. “I knew that dame was trouble the minute I saw her.” Think of this hard-boiled piece of awesomeness as a mystery/fantasy/thriller starring a semi-angelic Philip Marlowe on the case, up to his metaphorical wing-stumps in trouble, with another War in Heaven hanging in the balance. Put your peepers on this one or you will be sorry.
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Osteomancy: Consume something or someone’s bones (and sometimes flesh) and gain their power (yum). For Daniel Blackland of the City of Los Angeles in the Kingdom of Southern California, this is a way of life, and of death. Daniel has been living off the grid ever since he witnessed his father’s murder (and subsequent consumption) by the oh-so evil Heirarch (yum). Now his godfather has presented him with an offer he can’t refuse. He must breach the unbreachable and retrieve, among other things, an unfinished sword: his father’s legacy … a sword made of Daniel himself.
California Bones is for people who like Jim Butcher, Richard Kadrey, and maybe a little Scott Lynch and James Ellroy on the literary side, and then a bit of Ocean’s Eleven and a dash of Silence of the Lambs (yum) for the cinematic side. You’ll love this gem. I feel it in my bones.
The Children of the Sky is the long-awaited (direct) sequel to the awesome Hugo Award-winning A Fire Upon the Deep. (A Deepness in the Sky was a prequel.) Galactic Zones of Thought … where you are in the universe determines how high you can evolve, from the Slow Zone (where we and the Tines are) to the Transcend (where the Powers reign) ... a concept that has garnered Vinge multiple Hugos.
It’s been a few years since the Battle of Starship Hill and the titular children are growing up. A few are even starting to doubt the reasons behind their fall from grace, and the players involved in that fall. Most remember their old lives in the Top of the Beyond and long to return to their rightful place in the universe … teen angst to the hundredth power. It’s not easy in the Slow Zone, but you make do. Who knows, maybe they can raise themselves out of their medieval existence and return to the stars? Humankind has done it before. It will do it again.
For now, most Humans and Tines live in relative harmony, each race striving to better itself with the help of the other … some want to leap into space, and some want to prepare. Despite speculation to the contrary, Ravna knows the Blight is still on the way. It was not totally destroyed when Pham Nuwen dimmed the sun, after all, just slowed down. It might take thousands of years … or hundreds … or only a few … but it is coming.
Vinge again proves that his multiple Hugo Award wins were no fluke. Galactic concepts brought to a very human level. Whether it’s an actual human or a to-us-alien is immaterial. (The man could make you weep for a potted plant, or the mere ‘limb’ of an alien being.) My only criticism is that I might have to wait a few years for the next installment. But like the Blight, I know it’s coming and I have time to prepare. Moreover, I will rest in the certain knowledge that when the next installment arrives, it will be awesome. Thank the Powers.
The time is now, or more correctly, the immediate future … 2025. Thanks to modern science, Robert Gu is young again, and not suffering from Alzheimer’s. It’s sink or swim time; get with the program and fight for what was lost or be exiled to Rainbows End.
Old Robert wasn’t the nicest person during his previous life, and even now tends to alienate those around him. Despite this behavior, his granddaughter Miri still works behind the scenes to help guide his education. And what an education it is … Robert’s back in high school, Fairmont High to be exact. Fast Times indeed. He and fellow classmate, Juan Orozco … <sm> an average kid with little real talent but with some grasp of what Robert will need to make it in the digital world</sm>*… team up to get by, in the classroom and out. And if that wasn’t enough, then there’s the Elder Cabal. There are angles and affiliations everywhere. And the fate of the world might just weigh in the balance. …tricks are for kids.
Vinge’s characters are real, but it’s the world they live in that’s the real mind-blower here. In this world, only hinted at (alternately) in the Hugo Award-winning novella, “Fast Times at Fairmont High,” Vinge blasts the reader with one day-after-tomorrow concept after another. Smart clothes (wearable computers!), virtual overlays, digitized libraries (no!), retreads, grand conspiracy, SHE, JITT, targeted bioweapons, YGBMs, world domination … and on and on and on. And you’re Alice in Wonderland … down the rabbit hole and circling the event horizon. Vinge’s a master storyteller in his prime … not a button left unpushed. Overly high praise you say? Just read it and see. … see how they run.
*Silent Message: Me—> You: <sm> A REAL book. Vinge: Future history: nominated/wins(?) another Hugo/Nebula … way cool/cold. EOF.</sm>
It started with a shriek of nightmarish magnitude. Then the PODs arrived, zapping any human unlucky enough to be outside, either on foot or in a vehicle. After an hour, every surviving human being is under a roof of some kind. Invasion! Our heroes are a 15-year-old boy stuck in his house with his dad, and a 12-year-old girl on her own in a hotel parking structure. How will they survive as civilization falls all around them? And just what are those PODs after?
It is said that without our modern marvels we are a mere two weeks away from savagery. What would you do without power and water and a never-ending supply of food? What would you do to survive? These challenges face the world of the PODs and our young heroes. POD is a fascinating page-turner full of thought-provoking action. Time for me to stock up on canned food, and then dig up my survival manual, my copy of The Way Things Work, and perhaps my pocket Art of War. Them PODs ain’t gonna catch me with my pants down, oh no!
Astronaut Mark Watney is marooned on Mars. No hard feelings for those that left him, though. After all, the last they saw of him was him impaled by a radio antenna and sailing off into a Martian dust storm. So he’s stuck here with no way to communicate with home and limited resources. His mission now is a simple one: Survive. For four years give or take. On a year’s worth of rations and his own ingenuity. Quite simple. Meanwhile, Earthside, some eager beaver snaps a few satellite pics in hopes of using what was left behind to get another mission out of NASA. But lo! What’s this? Things are not where they left them. He’s alive! A new space race is born. Save Watney! Robinson Crusoe on Mars! (Not the movie.) Plus Apollo 13. Plus 1000CCs of adrenaline and several shots of vodka. God bless the indomitable human spirit.
Watney is one brilliant smart-ass and the whole novel reads like a heartwarming/stopping action movie ... and I loved every page-turning, non-cynical, hero-filled word of it.
All of the little children and adults are gone. The Sickness took them. Now it's Lord of the Flies and the City, New York City. Tribes of teenagers fight over what's left. It's a dog eat cat eat rat world, The Young World. When one such tribe’s resident Brainbox uncovers the possibility of a cure, it’s time for a grand quest … starting at the New York Public Library. That’s right, sports fans, the library. Actual books! Then the fun really begins.
Acclaimed film writer/director Chris Weitz brings all of his talent to bear on the end of the world as we know it … and adds all kinds of teen angst. Seems most of YA today is Apocalyptic. Why? Why not? Because it’s awesome. Deal with it, and read this book. The Young World is the perfect summer read, and it cries out for a sequel. Bring it on!
Welcome to an epic world with a dash of 18thcentury era tactics and weaponry … a world where magic exists but is, shall we say, frowned upon. Now meet our heroes: one, a tired colonial captain making the best of a bad situation, and the other, a newly-minted sergeant who just so happens to be a tortured-by-her-past woman masquerading as a man in a man’s world. Enter their new colonel: an extremely talented tactician with an agenda. Then push on as they all set off to fight a war against an enemy of cutthroats, traitors, and religious fanatics who vastly outnumbers them. And this is not the half of it. Something’s brewing in the world … something supernatural and sinister … and their new colonel has … ambitions. The Thousand Names is excellent fare for lovers of muskets, magic, and machinations.
Invasion! The first three waves were bad enough … first the lights went out, then the tides rolled in, then the plague ... seven billion dead. Then the silent fourth wave turned those who survived against each other. Who is friend and who is foe? Then comes the fifth wave …
First there’s young Cassie, one of the “lucky” few who have survived so far, on her own and trying to make good on a promise made to her little brother. Then comes young “Zombie,” so named because he all but died of the plague and has now been reborn. Then there’s Cassie’s little brother Sammy, taken. And then there’s the Other …
The 5th Wave is one of the most fast-paced young adult books I’ve ever read – a melting pot of Falling Skies, The War of the Worlds, V, The Host, I am Number Four, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Walking Dead, They Live, The Arrival, The Passage, Twilight, Full Metal Jacket, and perhaps even a bit of The Hunger Games … all teen angst and dystopian sf vs. alien monsters from inner and outer space. A great deal of action and adventure and survival story packed into a thought-provoking novel you may just read in one sitting. How far would you go to survive? Awesome.
A kid with his very own space ship. A kid well trained in the art of the con. A kid on the run for a crime he (for once) wasn’t involved in. A poet-warrior of the K’da very well trained in the honorable arts. The only survivor of a doomed advance expedition. The only being in a position to save what’s left of his race from annihilation. Kid and K’da, a match made in the heavens. Big-time adventure for kids of all ages. What’s not to love? Booklist calls it “A romp of a space thriller.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Fourteen-year-old boy wonder Jack Morgan and his K'da poet-warrior pal Draycos are back for the sixth and purportedly final installment of this most awesome young adult adventure series. (It doesn’t really have to be the last one, right o Tim? There’re still stories to tell and hungry readers to read them. Right?)
This time out our heroes finally meet their destiny in a head-on collision with their many enemies and … The Death. How will they survive? Will they save the day and Draycos’s people? Will I get to sleep before 3AM? (Okay, that last one isn’t actually a part of the book, but that very same book did keep me up late.)
A very satisfying conclusion to an excellent series. A kid with his own spaceship and a dragon as his best friend? I ask you, what’s not to love? Let’s hope Tim the Enchanter doesn’t call it quits on this universe.
This time out our hero, Zachary Nixon Johnson, Last PI on Earth, finds himself on the island of Lantis, hot on the trail of a queen-killer. His life is so fun! Loads of travel, interesting people, world-saving … oh, and lots of questions, questions, questions:
- Will Zach find the killer without getting too stomped on?
- Will Zach’s holographic sidekick (Don’t tell him I said that.) ever let Zach get a word in edgewise?
- Will Zach start to enjoy his disguise as an Amazon warrior a little too much?
Another highly entertaining outing for our boy Zach. Ol’ Zach can never catch a break. Every year brings more super-powered females bent on making Zach’s life just that more interesting. Good thing he has lots of help (and armored underwear). And me, you ask? (Okay, you didn’t ask, but I’ll tell you anyway.) Why, I’ve been walking around all day with a little smile on my face. Don’t know why, though. Perhaps it has something to do with all those blue (sapphire?) hairs I keep finding in my house, perhaps not. You’d think that such highly superior women (just ask them) would have better hair products.
The world’s gone to hell. Post humans walk the Earth. The ecosystem is in ruins, from dust bowl to complete wasteland, and from blistering heat to arctic freeze. America’s broken. Corporations rule. One such, Satori, is both corporation and living city, and the only real provider of foodstuffs to the hungry migrant masses that roam the land in search of sustenance. The ineffectual United States government and its military exist primarily as Satori’s distribution network. Satori’s own personnel are bio-engineered into castes that serve their master. Into this mix are thrown a tough secret service agent soldier, an awol Satori designer, and a couple of nomadic brothers. All will come together to change the face of the planet forever.
Seed is post-apocalyptic eco-punk and corporate/political horror story with a liberal dash of bio-punk and military science fiction. Future Earth or alternate Earth? I’ll let you decide. It is also very much in keeping with one of my favorites, Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, all environmental collapse and dystopic awesomeness. But where The Windup Girl was often “every man for himself,” Seed is more about family ties: brothers, lovers, fathers, etc. Oh, and what the hell, add a couple thousand years and a few sandworms, and you could very easily be on Dune. He who controls the Seed, controls the universe! Seed is Rob’s first novel and I can’t wait to see what grows out of it.