Saturday, July 11, 2020

A Pale Light In The Black (by KB Wagers) Reread - Chapters 37-39 (Really Chapters 31-32)

Welcome back to my reread of K.B. Wagers' "A Pale Light in the Black!"  You can find the other posts in this reread here.  For those somehow seeing this post first instead of the others, A Pale Light in the Black is a space opera featuring a SF space version of the Coast Guard in an optimistic future universe.

We're up to what is essentially the final arc of this novel (kinda), with the event we've all been waiting for coming up: The Boarding Games!  Well we're not quite there yet, but this week we get to see the final preparations and the team's arrival, as Max finally figures out her love life - or well, whatever we're calling what she has with Nika, Jenks discovers a new way to create "cover", and everyone has some family complications.....

Friday, July 10, 2020

Fantasy Novella Review: The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water is a brand new novella by award winning/nominated SF/F author Zen Cho, known for her novel Sorcerer to the Crown (and its follow up, The True Queen).  I actually didn't love either of those two novels, but I've really enjoyed Cho's shorter fiction, particularly last year's Hugo Winning Novelette and a short story in the upcoming anthology, The Book of Dragons.  And I'd heard good things in advance about this one, so I was excited to find myself first in line for it from the NYPL eLibrary when it was about to come out.

And my excitement was mostly justified - as I really enjoyed this novella.  It was sort of advertised as a Wuxia-esque novella, but Cho has walked that back in recent comments and correctly so: there's some martial arts fun, but this is mainly a story of a family of outcasts being met with an outsider in a war torn nation (based on Emergency Malaya).  There's a lot of comedy and kind of a quiet form of romance as well and the novella made me smile quite a bit throughout even as it became clear where it was heading.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Reviewing the 2020 Hugo Nominees: The Astounding Award for Best New Writer

Hugo Award voting should open soon and will continue through the July 15.  For those of you new to the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre, the Hugo Award is one of the most prominent awards for works in the genre, with the Award being given based upon voting by those who have paid for at least a Supporting Membership in this year's WorldCon.  As I did the last three years, I'm going to be posting reviews/my-picks for the award in the various categories I feel qualified in, but feel free to chime in with your own thoughts in the comments.

This is the Sixth part and probably final part of this series, since I don't think I'm going to get to Best Series this year.  I have previously reviewed the nominees for Best Young Adult SF/F (The Lodestar Award) and for Best SF/F Short Story, Best SF/F novelette, Best Novella, and Best Novel.

You can find all the parts of this series, going over each category of the Hugo Awards HERE.

This post will look at the nominations for The Astounding Award for Best New Writer, formerly known as The Campbell Award (and good riddance to that name).  I normally mock the awards like the Lodestar that are technically "Not-a-Hugo" but awarded alongside the other Hugo Awards (cmon, seriously?) but the Astounding Award is actually different in that it covers two years of eligibility: these are writers who debuted in the genre over not just 2019, but 2018 as well.  This means that one of the nominees here were nominated last year, while others may be nominated a second time in the future if they haven't won already.

I'd actually only read four of the six authors on this ballot before the awards were announced, which was a pleasant surprise: it meant I had two new authors to check out!  And I was not disappointed when I did.....

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Ardulum: First Don by J.S. Fields

Ardulum: First Don is the first book in a Space Opera trilogy by author J.S. Fields.  I'd actually bought the book a long time ago when it was on sale, on recommendation from author Seanan McGuire, who praised it highly.....but I never got around to reading it, due to other library books and the fact that the series isn't held by any of my libraries.  Yet when my reading choices this past week were limited to a bunch of books I wasn't in the mood for due to depressing tones, I finally decided to pick it up.

And it's an intriguing start to a series, and does make me want to go further in reading it eventually, even if it's not quite yet reaching a level of greatness.  Featuring a mostly non-human world, in which humans are the side characters rather than the main ones, First Don tells an interesting story of sentience and the rights of beings as it follows an action packed at times space opera plot.  It's not a humor tinged space opera like a lot of the SO i read tends to be these days, but the characters are well enough done that I cared for the main duo at least, and the ethical questions the story brings up are interesting.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Ashes of the Sun by Django Wexler

Full Disclosure:  This book was read as an e-ARC (Advance Reader Copy) obtained via Netgalley from the publisher in advance of the book's release on July 21, 2020 in exchange for a potential review.  I give my word that this did not affect my review in any way - if I felt conflicted in any way, I would simply have declined to review the book.

Ashes of the Sun is the first in a new epic fantasy trilogy by author Django Wexler.  Wexler is a bit of a prolific writer this decade in the genre but I've only read before his YA fantasy series, The Wells of Sorcery (Ship of Smoke and Steel, City of Stone and Silence).  I've really really liked the Wells of Sorcery so far, with its dark YA fantasy taking some very surprising turns, featuring very solid romantic subplots, and dealing with some very strong themes.  So I was interested to check out Wexler's newest work when I saw it pop up on NetGalley.

The result is a very enjoyable, if long (when he says "epic", he means it) epic fantasy novel, which begins a new trilogy but also manages to tell a satisfying self contained story at the same time.  Like Wells of Sorcery, there are clearly Star Wars influences here: this world features an organization of energy wielding crusaders called "Centarchs" who are supposedly independent arbiters of justice in a world mainly governed by a "Republic", which will call to mind some clear Star Wars concepts.  But Wexler takes these directions in different directions, with one of our protagonists being on the opposite side of the Centarchs resulting in a plot that is very much its own.  Add in some really interesting characters and very solid dialogue, and it all adds up to a very enjoyable trilogy starter.

Monday, July 6, 2020

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Note: This review is based upon an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) won through a Netgalley giveaway (a "Wish"), and this book is scheduled to be released on October 13, 2020.  This did not affect my review in any way.

Black Sun is the start of a new epic fantasy series by Astounding Award winner Rebecca Roanhorse.  Roanhorse's prior novel work has been fascinating - SF/F inspired by her Native (Navajo/DinĂ©) heritage, whether in her dark hybrid SF/F "Sixth World" series or in her Middle-Grade work "Race to the Sun."  It's all been really great stuff from a background not typically used in the field (although it's getting better).  Black Sun takes a different tack - it's epic fantasy inspired not by Roanhorse's native heritage, but instead by the pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas.  It's Roanhorse's first venture into epic fantasy and I was really excited to see what she'd do with it.

And it's really an interesting start to an epic fantasy, taking some very familiar devices of the genre and using them in some rather different ways.  So you have multiple character viewpoints, magic, gods, and religions of various kinds with different levels of power, and a cast of characters acting in very different places of a very large world all leading up to a major impact everywhere by the climax....what you might expect in an Epic Fantasy, it's all here.  But the cultures shown are very different from the classical European or Tolkien-inspired epic fantasy stories, and while the book has characters as deep and as enjoyable as the beset of any of those, it also has a story that manages to be both interestingly dark and grey without actually being grimdark.  It's not perfect, but it's a strong start to a new series and I definitely look forward to its continuation.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

A Pale Light In The Black (by KB Wagers) Reread - Chapters 35-36 (Really Chapters 29-30)

Welcome back to my reread of K.B. Wagers' "A Pale Light in the Black!"  You can find the other posts in this reread here.  For those somehow seeing this post first instead of the others, A Pale Light in the Black is a space opera featuring a SF space version of the Coast Guard in an optimistic future universe.

We're in the final third of the novel, as our crew and Max's sister finally are on the same page regarding the urgency of working together to figure out the mystery of the Dupe LifeEx.  Or seem to be on the same page at least.  That said, that doesn't mean the mystery will be easy to solve, and our heroes probably will need to do their favorite thing to blow off steam.....get into a bar fight.