Monday, January 23, 2017

Chapterhouse: Dune (Dune Chronicles #6)Chapterhouse: Dune by Frank Herbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As with much of Frank Herbert's other writing, Dune excluded, this one is a novel notable and worthy on the realm of ideas. He never stints on ideas. He might get slighly sloggish and lose the thread of the plot while we plod around in the ideas, but there's always great scenes and always great blow-out reveals. The original classic of Dune has none of these faults. It is a classic and imminently readable from page one and is still my favorite book of all time.

So what about this one? Is it worth reading for everyone else? It's book 6 in the very impressive and automatically Epic series that encapsulates over five thousand years from the events of Dune, ending with the centric viewpoint of the Bene Gesserit after the tyranny of Paul's son and the great diaspora that scattered all the peoples of the galaxy after his death.

The planet Dune is effectively destroyed at the end of Heretics of Dune and only a single sandworm and some sandtrout was lifted from the planet to be the seed of a new place where the Spice can be produced. This is especially important after the Bene Tleilaxu were also destroyed or partially submerged under the auspices of the Gesserit after the Honored Matres rampaged through the known universe.

This book takes up the new clones of Teg and Duncan, but mostly revolves around the conflicts between the Bene Gesserit and the Honored Matres. Each side has taken prisoners and tries to subvert the captives. The Bene Gesserit are more than slightly more successful at the task than the "knock-off Bene Gesserit" Honored Matres, despite the others being wildly more dominant and deadly in combat.

What we have is a novel that reminds me a great deal of the later Wheel of Time books with Egwaine in the White Tower, only, I have to point out that Chapterhouse Dune came out first. :) We know that Jordan was a big fan of Dune and stole a tone of great ideas from Herbert, so this shouldn't be too surprising, but rather than a 5-6 enormous spread of books, Herbert accomplishes a success-from-below story in a single novel. :)

The teaching and the subversion is the real main story in Chapterhouse. Don't let the cool space battles and space-opera fool you. This is a story of fantastic women doing fantastic things, the undisputed masters of the galaxy, and a massive conflict between the returning diaspora offshoot of the Bene Gesserit and the main line that stayed behind.

On that level, it's still a great tale despite my other issues with it.

Anything this complex and full of great observations about human nature, politics, and even love should not be discounted lightly. It's super dense with fantastic ideas on every page and even though it will never be considered a standalone classic, it's a very, very worthy novel to read. Especially in conjunction with Heretics of Dune.

And, I assume, Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune carry on the tradition well since I'm going to plow through them and continue the storyline set up here. :) The cliffhanger at the end of Chapterhouse was a doozy. :)

Let's see if Herbert's son and Anderson make the ideas into something more traditional, eh? I can hope. They've had a lot of practice in the universe before attempting the big one. Herbert's death put a stop to the story and most of us fans were extremely upset. Hell, I remember reading this book the first time in '89 and wishing I could have written the sequel to it. I can't be alone in this. :) I can only hope that expectations live up, etc., etc.

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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Heretics of Dune (Dune Chronicles #5)Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have to admit that I put this one on the backburner for years and years and years, even though I attempted to re-read the series several times over the decades, I always got stuck right at the end of God Emperor of Dune and something in me just didn't want to pick up the two novels afterward.

This is strange to me! I thought the fifth and sixth books were rather awesome, frankly!

And that's why I'm skipping books 2, 3, and 4 altogether and jumping right back in to the books that I have only read once. And then I'll be picking up the series carried on by Anderson and Frank's son following the events of Chapterhouse.

So how did I think this book held up after all these years?

Pretty good! There were a few slow parts, but the one thing that Heretics does very well is the worldbuilding. The Great God Leto II has been dead for 1.5k years after taking a dip in the aquaduct, turning into sandtrout that have now become full sandworms. That means that poor Paul's son has a trapped consciousness inside these gigantic monstrosities after having lived for 5k years. (Since birth+as a sandworm+trapped consciousness.) Freaky cool. And of course religion has a bit part to play in these books as they always have.

What's most interesting is Miles Teg and the new Duncan Idaho. The similarities between Teg and the original Leto is pretty suggestive and the spice trance doubly so. His little transformation blew me away both times I read it. But Duncan Idaho? The obsessively resurrected clone of the original that has come back nearly countless times over 5k years? It staggers the imagination. Leto II really put him through the ringer, but even after the old god had died, the Bene Gesserit and the Bene Tlailax have turned him into the stage of their own conflict.

And it's these two that really own the stage in this side of the universe.... until the great spreading of humanity came back. :) Enter conflict. :) So good.

This is one of those series that take a lot of dedication and understanding to really enjoy. You really have to get deep into them, but they're very, very enjoyable, and this one is very complex and deep in a very similar way to the original classic.

Tons of politics and machinations, and if you love that, you'll love this. :)

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The Great ForgettingThe Great Forgetting by James Renner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What starts out as an intriguing mystery novel eventually turns into a devilishly wild ride of conspiracy theory SF, and this simple statement does nothing to explain just how CRAZY it'll get. :)

I'm a very big fan of cross-genre fiction and this one really fits the bill in a big, big way. The mystery is clever and engaging and fascinatingly strange, but what really struck my fancy was just how good the characters are. So much has happened in their lives and just getting to the point of the next reveal kept me glued to the page. These aren't even big reveals, just character reveals, and yet because Jack kept digging, this whole book took on a fantastic dimension that just got deeper and deeper as we find out more about Tony and Cole and the way the human mind can be a real nutter.

The whole book is a gradient. It starts you out with the small stuff and as you get acclimated, it gets steeper and steeper into nutter land. I'm just glad I already boil all my water. Of course, that may be because I drink little more than coffee and tea, but you know how it is. I avoid my Flouride in my water. :)

From there, however, I can't and won't spoil you, but if you're a conspiracy theory nut, yourself, do yourself a favor and read this little gem of a novel. Take a bag of your favorite theories, shake them around, take three handfuls of them, and now toss them in the air. Make connections. Build a story around them where they all fit together. Now read this book. How closely do they match?

Not close enough? Fine. Add another handful of theories and build another story. Closer? YES! lol

I can't believe the author got away with everything he did. The mystery connections were set up with some real brilliance. :) And this, my friends, became one hell of a great SF. :)

With one caveat: I debated knocking off a star for the slightly unsatisfying ending, but the whole ride of the rest of the novel was so strong and fascinating that I simply couldn't do that. I had a really great time. For those who've already read it, I liked the Prologue fine. It was the big action scene at the end and the immediate results of it, but not related to he-who-must-not-be-named. Maybe I just wanted something different to happen.

But everything else? I went fanboy all over it. :)

Thanks goes to the author for a physical copy of this book! It was a real blast!

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

The OtherThe Other by Thomas Tyron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm very impressed by this classic horror! I know I've been told it is one of those novels that spawned a bunch of lookalikes during the seventies, but rather than being a simple bestseller that everyone and their little fat dog emulated, I personally think that it has a ton of depth and staying power.

I think it's a toss up whether the best feature is the narrator's voice or whether it's in the plot twists. Both are superb and fascinating and lulling and it's extremely easy to fall into the idea that the author wanted us to believe.

Truly, despite a few disturbing images at the beginning of the telling, I was truly entertained by a relatively pastoral childhood that gradually became darker with all of those accidental mishaps. You can guess that things go downhill, of course, and with every new revelation, it becomes increasingly more interesting until it pretty much blew me away. I'm not saying that it wasn't predictable at a certain point, of course, but what really surprised me was how subtle and well that realization was handled. The resolution was completely top-notch.

You know the story about the evil twin? Yeah. This is the biggest granddaddy of them all and easily the best one of its kind. :) Totally recommended for all you fans of horror. :)

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Hinkler Books
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know, it's really odd. I stayed away from Verne all my freaking life because I was sure, and I mean ABSOLUTELY SURE, that it couldn't be a good novel because its science must be so out of date.

This is yet another case where I am a fool.

Not only does the novel explore the wonderful aspects of electricity and submarines and the wide wonderful ocean itself back in the 1870's as if it was perfectly modern, save for the minor fact that Captain Nemo is, what, 70 or 80 years ahead of schedule and the rest of the world is a sitting duck for his revenge, there's absolutely nothing that jumps out at me, saying, "Hey, no, science doesn't work that way!"

If that isn't enough to freak me out, Verne's wonderful descriptions of the natural world under the ocean, his gripping adventure tale with multiple layers of whale hunting motifs that just screamed out (a more enjoyable) Moby Dick, the fact that the novel revolves mainly around the glorious centerpiece of learning and exploration and most importantly, the feeling of AWE... well, all of this is enough to completely blow me away.

The grandfather of SF, eh? The Granddaddy? He focuses on ideas so heavily and his knowledge of the world of science is exemplary, and yet he still manages to crank out a truly fantastic story that is gripping. And then there's the real jewel of a man, the conflicted, rage-filled, scientific genius Captain Nemo, who also happens to be sensitive and reflective at the same time. The man is likely to lodge himself in my brain for years to come. He's the definition of mysterious and the modern natural Super Man, put upon and tragic and savage and only desiring the peace of the ocean away from the rest of mankind.

Truly amazing. I've read a lot of books and many have affected me strongly, but there's something that gets pulled off here in this novel that's really special. What a fantastic adventure!



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Monday, January 16, 2017

1414 by Peter Clines
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Break out your 1d6 investigators, it's time to do some dangerous explorations! Scooby-Gang style.

Seriously though, it's hard to describe what you love in a novel when it ought to come out as a great reveal and a near pitch-perfect blend of mystery, cthuhlu tales, science fiction, fantasy, and of course the mainstay of Horror. Because that's what this is. Pure Horror with all the greatest tidbits you could want from all the other genres. It reminds me an awful lot of his other novel, The Fold, in that it starts out pure mystery, takes a turn for the SF, and then blows us away with over the top investigator-eating goodness. :)

I was on the same page with the peeps the entire way, from crappy old apartments to crappy temp jobs to barely figuring out what we wanted to do with our lives. It was plain fun from start to finish and I'm so glad I finally got around to reading it.

Do you like genre mashing? I know I do. :) This one's for you.

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Good Morning, MidnightGood Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There were a few things to this novel that I quite enjoyed, such as the level of description of the mundane life aboard the spacecraft that had seen Jupiter. That whole part of the story was like a slightly better written Clarke in 2001, but without the drama or conflict.

And that's where my problems really stem from, too. The main conflict is silence. Literally. The Earth has gone silent after an unmentioned apocalypse and what we're really got going on in the novel is two character studies between a broken, self-isolating man named Augustine and his entire life and death in an arctic wasteland (avoiding the rest of the Earth's catastrophe), and the few returning people within the spacecraft with the PoV focus coming from Sully.

It's a novel of isolation and loneliness. Plain and simple. I assume the end for Augustine was a fever dream revolving around the realization that it's not good to be alone, while Sully's decision stemmed from the same stark, bare hope.

It almost feels like a traditional mainstream novel that has been souped-up a bit to slide into the SF category. There's no breathtaking ideas, just the reliance on Emily Dickenson to carry the core concept of a whole novel. It's decent as far as that goes, but that's all it does. A long character study of self-isolation and realization with two characters who are mildly interesting and wind up in mildly interesting situations, both of which are the results of their decisions.

But me? I wanted to know more of the core mystery. There's never a resolution and that was intentional. I ask why, and alas, this is my issue, my burden, and the reason I didn't care so much for this novel. I could find picture of a lone mountain climber looking over a precipice to get the same emotions and it wouldn't take me a whole novel's length to get there.

Others might get more out of this, and I wish you all the luck in the world!

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