Sunday, July 30, 2017

Some suggestions of where to start if you want to get into modern SciFi/Fantasy

AC Thomas, one of the people I follow on twitter for hockey purposes, asked me a pretty good question:  Where should I start if I want to find something in SciFi/Fantasy to read?  Somehow I've not made a post about this yet, so I wanted to make some suggestions and of course this turned out longer than a twitter thread could do, so I'm writing this up instead.

Scifi/Fantasy Book Review: Cetaganda (Vorkosigan Saga) by Lois McMaster Bujold

Cetaganda is the third (chronologically speaking) book in the Vorkosigan Saga to follow Miles Vorkosigan, here partnered again with his cousin Ivan.  The story follows Miles in his role as ImpSec Lieutenant Vorkosigan - or more accurately as an official envoy of the Barrayaran government sent to observe the Cetagandan Empress' funeral - and does not involve at all the Dendarii Mercenaries.  It's also, like The Warrior's Apprentice, probably a bit too silly for its own good.

This is a stand alone novel in that it doesn't feature any cliffhangers, but you'll be more than a bit lost if you try starting the series here, as the book assumes you'll know about Miles' background going into this one.  So I wouldn't start the series with this one.

Long Review continues after the jump:

Thursday, July 27, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden

The Prey of Gods is easily one of the more unique books I've read this year. It's also extremely good - featuring a diverse cast of characters - Our POVs include: A Robot, a Girl learning to become a demigod, an angry ravenous older Demigod, a Gay teen with mind control abilities, a pop artist who secretly has MS and a trans politician who'd rather be a pop artist.  The story features demigods, an ancient mythology and multiple robots/AIs with minds of their own, as well as genetic engineering on the side.  By all rights, this combination SHOULDN'T work.  But for the most part, it really really does.

Long Review continues after the Jump:

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Novella Reviews: All Systems Red and Down Among the Sticks and Bones

This post will be reviewing a pair of SFF Novellas that were published this year and I suspect will be under consideration next year for the Hugo Award.  The two Novellas being reviewed in this post are:

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Both of these Novellas are part of a series of Novellas - McGuire's Novella is the 2nd in the Wayward Children series (although it's a prequel) and All Systems Red is the first in Wells' "The Murderbot Diaries."  One of these Novellas I loved, the other was disappointing.

Actual reviews after the Jump:

Sunday, July 23, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Vor Game (Vorkosigan Saga) by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Vor Game is the fourth (well 5th kind of, counting the book that doesn't include any of the titular family and takes place well before the others) book in the Vorkosigan Saga chronologically and the second book chronologically to feature Miles Vorkosigan.  Like Barrayar is to Shards of Honor, this is essentially a sequel to The Warrior's Apprentice and should not be read as a stand alone novel.  That said, it's a superior book to The Warrior's Apprentice, losing much of that book's silliness while maintaining the fun atmosphere, dialogue, and characters that are Bujold's specialties.

Long Review continues after the Jump

Friday, July 21, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Traders' War (Merchant Princes Omnibus #2) by Charles Stross

The Merchant Princes series is a series in which our main character, Miriam Beckstein, a tech journalist from Boston, discovers that she is part of a family of multiversaas a mafia family to get rich and power in a medieval parallel Earth.  The series follows the resulting chaos that occurs when Miriam is reintroduced into her family, and her highly intelligent and curious nature can't help but try to change the things she finds.

The series was originally a set of six books, but was later condensed into three omnibus editions, with each Omnibus containing definitive revised versions of two books.  I reviewed the first Omnibus, The Bloodline Feud, HERE. The first book was pretty much heavily carried by Miriam, which worked because Miriam is terrific in that book - a "force of nature" (to quote one character in this book) guile hero who drives the plot and is a blast to watch work and to root for. Unfortunately, this second Omnibus often sidelines Miriam and really badly misuses her, at one point in a really problematic way.

Long Review continues after the Jump (Minor Spoilers for The Bloodline Feud I suppose, but nothing major, and nothing that should ruin your experience of reading that book).

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: A Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter is a very well done (and fun) example of a happily becoming more common genre - taking stories that have possible gender (or other) issues and subverting them.  In this case, the author has noted that she has found that women in various classic monster stories tend to make out quite poorly.  This book is one hell of a response to that notion - as it features all of the women in those classic monster stories teaming up for good.  The end result is a pretty fun origin story for this cast of characters, which I suspect is the beginning of a new series.

More after the Jump:

Monday, July 17, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Warrior's Apprentice (Vorkosigan Saga) by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Warrior's Apprentice is I think the 2nd book published in the Vorkosigan Saga series (3rd chronologically).  That said, it's esentially the start of a new series based upon our new Hero, Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, the son of the two prior protagonists.  So this is a book you can start with perfectly fine - no prior knowledge is needed to begin the series with this book.

Long Review after the Jump:

Friday, July 14, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Raven Stratagem (Machineries of Empire #2) by Yoon Ha Lee

Raven Stratagem is the sequel to Ninefox Gambit, which I loved when I read it last year (My pick for this year's Hugo). Both books take place in a fascinating Science Fiction Universe whereby much of the universe's technology is powered by the adherence of an area's people to a specific "calendar" - feast days, memorials, rememberences.....and of course, Ritual tortures.  Failure to comply with the calendar can cause the technology to stop working, and "heretic" groups that form their own calendars pose their own threat to the dominant force in the galaxy.

Meanwhile, much of the drive beyond "calendrical" technology is driven by extremely complex mathematics - knowledge of how the calendar is altered in certain areas or by heretical actions can be imputed by mathematical calculations and such calculations can allow warring parties to alter their tactics in such a way to have beneficial effects on battles - for instance, one faction can manifest weaponry/effects based upon being in certain formations if they are in the proper calendar, based near entirely on mathematical computations.

Long Review continues after the Jump (I've avoided spoilers for Ninefox Gambit as much as I can). Note, you COULD in theory start the series with this book, but I don't recommend it:

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Edge of Worlds by Martha Wells

Long Review after the Jump (Minor Spoilers for the First Three Raksuran Books):

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Reviewing the Hugo Nominees: Best Novel

Reviewing the Hugo Award Nominees: Best Novel:

This is the big category (not that the other categories are insignificant to the people up for them of course) and will of course be the one with the most votes.  As usual, Puppy influence is minor at best (Best Novel gets enough votes that even two years ago when the puppies had the strongest influence, they only managed to get three works on the ballot), and we have an assortment of varied SciFi and Fantasy works of critical repute.

I managed to read every nominee this year before the nominations were announced except for A Closed and Common Orbit (Yes I know I'm hipster bragging here lol).  This wasn't exactly difficult, as all six nominees were books of some critical repute and/or were pretty hyped by the people I pay attention to, and several were sequels to similarly hyped books.  The nominations contain four works that would be worthy winners in my opinion, and two that, while I am ranking them below No Award, are incredibly ambitious in scope and I can see why they made the list.

Without ado, my rankings after the Jump:

Monday, July 10, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Mortal Tally (Bring Down Heaven #2)

I reviewed The City Stained Red last month and was very much looking forward to the sequel.  The First book featured a fun group of great characters - basically your standard adventuring party but developed far better in a cynical world (Dragonman Tank, Squishy Child Wizard, Priestess Healer, Human Rogue/Thief, Elf Rogue/Archer, Human Fighter), but had a plot that wasn't very satisfying.  Again, the characters were great pretty much so I was looking forward to seeing the second book, which would at worst (I though) continue telling tales with characters I enjoyed and at best would move forward with the plot in an interesting way.

Unfortunately, this book kind of manages to underperform my lowest possible expectations, which made it kind of a chore to read.

Long Review continues after the Jump (Minor Spoilers for The City Stained Red)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Reviewing the Hugo Award Nominees: Best Novella

Hugo Award voting closes next Saturday, so I'm going to complete my general reviews of the nominees here this week.

The Novella category isn't as strong as the other 3 big categories in my opinion.  The most likely winner based upon prior awards is a novella I didn't particularly think worked so I have it below No Award, and the four Novellas I think would be worthy winners all have flaws and none are blow-you-away type stories.

Reviews and Order of my Ranking after the Jump:

Friday, July 7, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Barrayar (Vorkosigan Saga) by Lois McMaster Bujold

Barrayar is the direct sequel to Shards of Honor, the first (by publication and second by chronological order) book in Lois McMaster Bujold's long running Vorkosigan Saga. Oddly, the book wasn't written till years later (6 books later), but despite that this book basically starts off right where Shards left off.  Note that in theory, you could read this book as a stand alone, but I REALLY wouldn't advise it - not only is Shards of Honor a particularly good book on its own, but this book relies largely on the setup for three of its most important characters (in Cordelia, Aral, and Bothari) as well as this world in itself.

Long Review (Minor Spoilers for Shards of Honor) after the Jump:

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Dungeon Crawl (20-Sided Sorceress Book 8) by Annie Bellet

The Twenty Sided Sorceress series is a pretty damn fun urban fantasy series that I've enjoyed over the past year or so.  The first book is free for kindle on Amazon, and this is the eighth book.  The general premise of the series is the following: The series follows Jade Crow, who lives in a town filled with magical creatures and magic users (due to the presence of leylines of course) in the US.  Jade however, is secretly a sorceress, a magic user whose magical power is innate and a type of magic user that is generally hated by others....due to sorcerer's having the ability to eat people's hearts to gain their powers.  Oh and sorcerers also tend to be incredibly dangerous and can't be killed without someone eating their own hearts.  Together with her friends, a bunch of animal-shapeshifters, Jade spends the series learning how to better control her powers and to confront the dangers that emerge  in the town.

Long Review of THIS book after the Jump (Mild Spoilers for books 1-7):

Monday, July 3, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Witch Who Came In From the Cold Season 1 by Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Ian Tregillis, & Michael Swanwick

Long Review After the Jump:

Saturday, July 1, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Siren Depths (Books of the Raksura #3) by Martha Wells

Long Review after the Jump (Again, Minor Spoilers for Books 1-2)