Thursday, April 26, 2018

Regenesis (Cyteen, #4)Regenesis by C.J. Cherryh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've been a life-long fan of Cherryh, first for the original Cyteen, then Downbelow Station, and then, a few novels later, Foreigner, which set me on a path where I squeed every time a new one came out.

So returning to the Union-Alliance universe and specifically with the characters from the original Cyteen now seemed like a perfect treat! What's not to like about waking up to learn you're a clone of a brilliant scientist who has left you tons of brain-engrams and a political squabble and the fact that she has been murdered? I mean, it's times like that a kid just HAS TO SCRAMBLE to catch up! I loved it.

This is her as an 18-year-old and the pieces of that old murder needed to be picked up. And solidifying the political arena, since this scientific corporation that basically runs the whole world of Cyteen seems to have a LOT of different views on how it ought to be run. And this is where we pick up. A lot of politics. A lot of everyday life getting her head together. Interpersonal quagmires. And a coup.

The basic story is pretty decent and I know from experience that Cherryh is pretty AMAZING at intricate politics on alien worlds or futuristic colonies. The latter part of this novel feels like part courtroom drama and part insurgency.

But damn. I was kinda overwhelmed, or maybe I should say, underwhelmed. There was too much that wasn't interesting and I lost interest. Many times. So much of this book could have had a very heavy haircut. The resulting story would have been exciting and fun as hell.

It's okay tho. It's not my favorite Cherryh novel, but I should mention that after reading over 25 of them, it's kinda like having a lukewarm meal at your favorite restaurant. You're disappointed, but not enough to still rave about the restaurant to your friends. :)

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Pilgrim's ProgressThe Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Classic Christain Allegory from a contemporary of Milton? Or an upbeat adventure fantasy with monster slaying, epic quests, moral quandaries, and much deceit?

It's very easy to fall back on this as a tool for moral teaching especially since the lessons being learned are all in the names of the characters, but I am forced to remember that this kind of everyman allegory has a long, long tradition in literature.

I'd rather see this as an easy to read upbeat fantasy adventure featuring first The Christian who goes on without his family to have adventures and his death AND THEN to have the second half be the rest of his family following down the same path, albeit somewhat differently.

The fact is... it's fun. Ignore all the religion stuff for a moment. Read it as a story. It's STILL FUN. Epic quest time!

It's also a pretty decent antidote to your normal GrimDark fantasy binge. :)

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Red Mars (Mars Trilogy, #1)Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-read! With buddies!

I originally read this way back in the mid-90's and was struck by how brilliant and entertaining it was, of how wide a sweep of characters could bring Mars alive, from inception to travel to the first habitats all the way to the first revolution 30 years down the line.

What I remembered with the most love, however, wasn't the characters. It was the science and the various aspects of making Mars habitable. That, and I just geeked out. I went on to read all the slew of Mars colonization novels that came out at the same time in response to how popular this one was and had to admit that none of them did quite the same job on the topic. KSR Wins! Woo Woo!

But now? My re-read isn't so much critical of the way the novel felt bloated with people-stuff as it was only wishing that we could do away with all the people altogether.

I was almost cheering with every death during the revolution. Is that wrong of me? *sigh*

Don't get me wrong! I still love the novel but I'm knocking off a star. The science is fantastic and all the well-researched ways to change Mars still makes me geek out. It's STILL one of the very best Mars books, INCLUDING The Martian.

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Last and First MenLast and First Men by Olaf Stapledon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's really hard to describe this novel in a way that can do it justice because any cursory explanation such as "plotless" and "characterless" has some rather negative connotations. :)

Indeed, it's kinda impossible to have those here except in brief glances relying on bird's eye views before necessarily jumping on to the next BIG IDEA and Super-Imaginative setting.

For what we have here, way back in 1930, is novel of Future History influencing every big SF author of the day, even influencing Winston Churchill, HG Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, and countless SF writers ever since.

Why? Let me do this quick: Eighteen iterations of mankind over a billion years, from the total death of our mankind, the evolutionary re-emergence of the next, the differences, oddities, rediscoveries after soooo much time, the new dreams, aspirations, religions, the different values, before the next mankind dies off. We have Martian invasion, we have our invasion of Venus, we have major genetic modifications, telepathy during other iterations, the ability to experience racial memory a-la Dune, adding multiple sexes, immortality, living in gas giants, and sometimes merely striving only to improve the human race. Over a billion years. And of course, whole races die. Over and over.

It's grand, majestic, awe-some, and brilliant.

So much imagination is crammed into so few pages that a prospective SF author could just pour through this and continue to point at reused story ideas for even current-day authors! I look at the nuclear-powered version of life on Venus, the intelligent clouds of Mars, the huge brains, the musical race, the race of time-travelers, and my jaw just drops.

It's not without emotion, either. There's a deep an abiding love for everyone here even as a whole race suffers deep ennui and an existential crisis or during others that suffer impossible odds, accidents, or the final death of our solar system. The philosophies give it away. The spirit of the human races rise and ebb and undergo vast changes.

And yet there's no characters or plot. Just setting and world-building and vast movements of so many people. :)

It would never get published today.

And yet, it's still brilliant. Absolutely worth knowing, even now. :) It makes me wonder what we're collectively doing. We can't forget that works like this EXIST. :)

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Monday, April 23, 2018

The Battersea Barricades (The Chronicles of St Mary's #9.5)The Battersea Barricades by Jodi Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this case, for our intrepid STAFF of St. Mary's of the time-traveling historian crew, we get a very cool interview telling us of a Future History that happens in our future but just before the inception of the Crazy Historian Crew. :)

Confused? Don't be. It's basically a great tale of England tearing itself apart and seeing the downtrodden people rise up against others with guns. Or in this case, a scary black helicopter. :) Very fulfilling. Oh, and amusing, too, with all the stealing of bikes. :)

Go England! (of the future.) ;)

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Defiant (Towers Trilogy, #2)Defiant by Karina Sumner-Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Very enjoyable continuation, but I'm on the fence about aspects here. When it comes to the worldbuilding and the magic, between the towers of magic, what they're made of and what they're doing to the rest of the world around them, I'm in full-on love mode.

When it comes to the main characters, I'm totally onboard, a Radiant ghost and her best friend the soul-sucking death monster who are just trying to stay alive amid assassins, economics, and outright war between the clans of towers.

The only thing I have any concern about is the in-between bits. Some parts were kinda ordinary and not particularly driving the plot forward except in retrospect nearing the end of the novel. That's not horrible, of course, especially when it ALL becomes clear enough to ask the NEXT big question about the world, but I thought parts could have been tightened. Too much focus on the bad leg, maybe, or the family stuff. But then, maybe that's just me. I see some really awesome stuff brewing, I don't really want to hang out in the usual duller bits. :) The previous novel built up well with the MC being one of the poorest of the poor, but this just seemed to be marking time while hiding out.

Until, of course, all crap hits the fan, which it does. :)

Very imaginative fantasy here!

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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Radiant (Towers Trilogy, #1)Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was recommended this one a while back and I feel slightly sheepish that I’m only just now getting to it.

I wanted something close to Jemison’s Fifth Season and I can see a few similarities, but other than the eventual near-end blow-out that takes on some huge-magic ramifications, it’s really its own beast.

Skyscrapers of magic. This part is rather cool. Kinda modern but after some huge collapse, the technology is now almost entirely based on magic. I’m reminded of Max Gladstone and dystopian urban fantasy mixed heavily with ghost talking. Sound cool? It is.

It takes a while to get into the magic system, otherwise focusing mainly on relationship building, a friendship between an abused ghost and the mc girl who, rather than disposing the half-alive mostly-ghost for the complicated job that it is, develops a strong friendship, instead.

Later on, however, is where I think this novel shines, when the world building blooms and the magics develop and then, all of a sudden, everything goes to hell.

It is technically a YA fantasy, but it is easily strong enough as a regular modern fantasy. I’m definitely continuing this.

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