Tuesday, December 12, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Beautiful Ones by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia

  When I sometimes describe SF/F books as being "Romance" novels, that description can mean many different things.  Some of these books are ones where Romance is a significant part of a Fantasy/SciFi plot; others are books where the Romance is simply part of a subplot of such a SF/F book instead.  But other books are essentially Romance Novels where the science fiction/fantasy elements are simply part of the background.  You could easily put such books in the Romance section of the bookstore/library without having any reader feel that you have "deceived" them into reading a genre book.

 The Beautiful Ones by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia is such a book - it is entirely a Romance Novel, where the only fantasy elements (the presence of "talents" like telekinesis being the only such elements) are minor character traits.  This is not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination - I enjoyed this book a lot, as the characters are really believable and the romance is extremely well done (okay, I shed a tear at one point near the ending).  Of course, if you aren't heavily into romance, you won't be into this book at all - so fair warning to you.

More after the jump:

Friday, December 8, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Necrotech by K.C. Alexander

Necrotech is a SF book that tries to pull off one of the probably most difficult feats in fiction writing - writing a book with an asshole, even unlikable, protagonist hero.  It's a really difficult task, because it relies upon making both the plot and the other characters in the story interesting, when those elements are by definition going to get lesser screentime than the protagonist.  Necrotech doesn't quite pull it off - the plot is kind of interesting but not stellar, and the other characters are very underdeveloped.  There's clear promise in Necrotech, but it doesn't quite realize that potential.

One further note before the jump, as I'll make clear below, Necrotech is a book with a LOT of profanity - our main character, who narrates the story, swears profusely, often in some non-standard ways.  If that's a problem for you, you should skip this book.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Want by Cindy Pon

Want is a Dystopian YA novel by Cindy Pon, taking place in a near-future Taiwan where pollution has gotten so bad around the world that the true of the sky is now a myth and air pollution reduces the life expectancy of those who breathe the air significantly.  This situation is made worse by the fact that income inequality has only increased in this future, to the point where the Rich literally live in different spaces with "regulated air" and don't interact with those who have less except when they can be covered in protective suits.  It's in this environment that Pon tells a tale of a group of friends attempting a plot, partially out of revenge, partially out of the idea of trying to do something to help the world, only to possibly get sidetracked by a forbidden love.

Fair warning: if you're looking for dystopian fiction here that tells a tale of grey; you're not going to find that in Want.  The bad guys are clearly evil and the good guys are clearly good in this book, and the book lacks very much that could fall in that in-between area.  That said, despite the lack of moral ambiguity, the book actually works thanks to some really sharp writing and dialogue.  So if you're looking for a book that combines a dystopian setting, an infiltration/heist plot, and a romance element (and that' s YA), Want's a pretty a good book to read. 

Pre-Jump Disclaimer: I read this book as an audiobook, so if I misspell some names, that's the cause.  The audiobook reader is high quality, giving each character a unique recognizable voice without sounding exaggerated and helping the dialogue pop, so I recommend it if you are looking for a book in that format.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy/Horror Book Review: Into The Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Into the Drowning Deep is a member of a genre which is generally not my thing:  it's not just a SciFi Novel, it's a Horror Novel.  Indeed, "Mira Grant" is the well known pseudonym for insanely productive SFF author Seanan McGuire, which she uses for her Horror books instead of her real name.  I'm a pretty big fan of some of McGuire's works (inCryptid, October Daye), and hadn't read a Mira Grant novel before this one, so I wasn't sure how I'd enjoy one of these works - especially again as I'm not much of a horror fan.  But after completing this book, I can say for sure that I'm really not into this genre, as while this book was certainly solid, certain clear genre tropes bugged me enough to keep me away from the genre for the future (barring certain exceptions).

Into the Drowning Deep has a pretty fun horror premise: our main characters are on a ship that is searching for killer mermaids that previously killed off all of the members of a prior exhibition.   As you might expect, they find those killer mermaids......and the killing commences.  The resultant story is pretty solid, and most of the main characters are nicely three dimensional (or at least two dimensional), but eh, again, the horror genre may just not be for me.

One quick note before the jump:  The book takes place after a novellette/novella ("Rolling in the Deep") previously published by the author, which describes the first exhibition to find mermaids.  I haven't read the prior story, and no prior knowledge is needed - the book describes what happens adequately enough.

Friday, December 1, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Jade City by Fonda Lee

Jade City is the first in a new trilogy of Epic Urban Fantasy novels by Fonda Lee.  Note, unlike many other books I describe as Urban Fantasy, Jade City isn't a book about magical/mythological creatures in a modern world - instead, it's "Urban Fantasy" in that it takes place in an alternate world with mid-20th century technology (we're pre-computers, but cars and airplanes and electricity are commonplace), but also where certain individuals can gain magically abilities from pieces of Jade.  Really calling this "urban fantasy" might be the wrong way to put this book - to use an analogy from the author herself, this book can better be described as "The Godfather" but with Magical Ninja Clans in place of the Italian Mafia.  Which is a pretty good hook!

And for the most part, Jade City delivers.  This is a really enjoyable read (though at 512 pages, it's not short) that drew me in very quickly, with several excellent characters and a really interesting world.  While The Godfather parallels are very clear, the story clearly transcends its inspirations to become its own work, and unlike some other books I've read lately, this is a book that lives up to its extremely strong hook.  That said, the book basically doesn't have an ending and one of the main characters didn't really work for me, so it's far from perfect.  But if "The Godfather, but with magical ninja clans" seems appealing to you, you'll almost certainly enjoy Jade City.

More after the Jump:

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

  The City of Brass is the first in a new Epic Fantasy trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty (The Daevabad Trilogy) based upon an Islamic mythology-based world.  Nearly all of our main characters are Djinn, and the story also features Ifrit, Peri, and Marid in various roles - not to mention the book's name comes from one of the stories in Arabian Nights.  While this is the author's debut novel, it doesn't feel like it - this is a pretty expansive piece of worldbuilding and character work, with the latter being particularly excellent.

  That said, The City of Brass is the type of trilogy-opener that does not really attempt to resolve many, if any, of the plot threads it raises throughout the book, preferring to end in a cliffhanger that presumably will set off some of the rest of the trilogy.  So if you're looking for a book that will be satisfying on its own, this book is not for you.  This is also a fantasy world filled with grey - while one of our protagonists may be the closest thing possible to an actual good guy, his attitude isn't treated well by the narrative and the sides in conflict in this story are not all good or all evil.  This is a story where prejudice, racism, religious-extremism and violent resistance are major forces and there are no easy answers.

More after the jump, but a quick warning before I go further, I read this book as an audiobook, which means that my spellings of character and place names is very likely going to be off.  It should be noted that while the audiobook is long (19 hours is long even for a 500 page book), it's very well narrated, and so I do recommend the audiobook format if you're looking for one.

Monday, November 27, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Midnight Blue-Light Special (inCryptid) by Seanan McGuire

Midnight Blue-Light Special is the second Novel (though not story) in Seanan McGuire's inCryptid series, following the first novel, Discount Armageddon, which I previously reviewed for this blog.

For those new to the series, inCryptid is an urban fantasy series focusing upon the Healy/Price family, a family of cryptozoologists who attempt to preserve and help Cryptids in North America - Cryptids being the name for beings that are unknown/unexplainable by modern science (think Monsters/Mythological creatures like Gorgons, Bogeymen, Dragons, and Talking Mice).  The family also tries to help save the Cryptids from their former organization, the Covenant of Saint George, which has a strictly "kill-on-sight" policy toward Cryptids, no matter how harmless, or how helpful, they might be to ordinary humans.   Despite the seriousness of the conflict, members of the Healy/Price family tend to be sarcastic/deadpan-snarkers, and so the series has a lot of humor in its tone.

Midnight Blue-Light Special is the second book following Verity Price, one of the youngest generation of the Family who tries to juggle her Cryptozoologist work with her love of Ballroom Dancing, all the while living in one of the biggest Cryptid communities you can find:  New York City.  It is very much a direct sequel to Discount Armageddon, and while McGuire spends part of the early narrative rehashing what a new reader might need to know that was explained in the first novel, you probably shouldn't start the series here with this book.

More after the jump, with spoilers for Discount Armageddon ahead: