Recently in Science Fiction and Fantasy Category

Every so often, I review the books I've read purely for amusement value. Most of them are science fiction and fantasy, those being my interests..



Recommended:



Flag In Exile, Ashes of Victory, and War of Honor by David Weber, three books in the Honor Harrington series. I was resistant to these for years, but when I finally tried one I was hooked. Modeled after the Horatio Hornblower books.



Interstellar Patrol by Christopher Anvil is a series of short to novella length stories about the Interstellar Patrol. Reads like kind of a cross between Eric Frank Russell and James Schmidt, except that the main characters are all male. The people are resourceful against everything from tremendous odds to situations intentionally stacked against them. Clever and amusingly written.



Dead Beat by Jim Butcher, the seventh novel in the Dresden Files. I highly recommend this entire series, having to do with the adventures of a real Wizard in modern day Chicago. This one has a climactic sequence not to be forgotten, but I can't say anything more without ruining it.



Homeward Bound by Harry Turtledove, the continuation of the World War and Colonization series, this book largely dealing with our first interstellar voyage, to the home world of the Race.



WebMage by Kelly McCullough. The gods as programmers in a "many worlds" story. Amusing. I liked the way it turns some expectations on their heads.



Chernagor Pirates and The Scepter's Return by Harry Turltedove writing as Dan Chernenko. These are the second and third books in a series. The world set-up seems similar in broad to Eddings' Belgariad, but Turtledove's treatment is very different - things go wrong for the protagonists on a regular basis. The second book was kind of marginal, but I actually liked the third better.



Against the Tide by John Ringo is the third in its series. It didn't seem to be afflicted by the magic bullet solution that detracted from its predecessor, the Emerald Sea. The setup is that high technology earth of the millenia different future suddenly has almost all of its power taken away, so the survivors of the crash have to go back to dealing with things on a more primitive level.



Mixed



The Hidden Family by Charles Stross. Okay, we get into a bit of actual thought here, but too many characters change their minds too easily, or suddenly go against things they have previously done. It detracts from the story.



Ordermaster by L. E. Modessit is the new Recluce novel. I plowed through it but after I was done I couldn't get over how much it was almost the same story he's told before, just with an older protagonist.



The Shadow of Saganami by David Weber is set in the Honor Harrington universe, but deals with the trials of a new generation of Manticoran naval officers. Dragged a bit, and the ending was just a little too much for what the characters had done.



The Excalibur Alternative suffered just a little too much from convenient coincidences and the fact that it has a technological primitive defeating technology far more advanced than our own - which he just doesn't have the tools to beat. Kind of like a different twist on Poul Anderson's "The High Crusade", but I didn't like the execution nearly so well.



The Hero by John Ringo and Michael Z Williamson is in the future of Ringo's Posleen stories. It had some cute ideas and nice development of one of the alien races, but glossed over too much in the way of main points.





Don't Bother:



Bonds of Vengeance by David B. Coe: third in a series, and just takes too long to go where it's going.



Accelerando by Charles Stross. I figured out a few pages in that it was a Jerry Cornelius novel with the serial numbers filed off. I never did finish the second Cornelius novel, but I did finish this. I just don't know why I bothered.



Singularity Sky by Charles Stross. I just couldn't care about the characters - they were all problem personalities of different stripes. Isn't there supposed to be at least one sympathetic character somewhere in a novel?



Freedom and Necessity may have intended to be a Great Novel a la Dickens, but the beginnings of communism is not exactly my idea of a sympathetic plot. When the main characters are struggling to establish an ideology responsible for over 100 million dead, as well as enormous amounts of human misery, ecological damage, etcetera, etcetera, I can't help but hope the Redcoats shoot them all. The fact that there are other dastards out there in this world in no way alleviates this.



Smoke and Shadows by Tanya Huff. The most recent Henry Fitzroy book, and the last I'm planning to read.



Tong Lashing by Peter David is book three of Sir Apropos of Nothing. It's just not funny or amusing any more.



Phule's Errand by Robert Aspirin suffers the same problem.



Alector's Choice by L E Modesitt is the fourth Corus book. Prequels are tough to bring off, because you have to care about what's going on while already knowing the main points of what happened. The author doesn't manage this one.

Recent Recreational Reading

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Been a long time since I reviewed any recreational reading, so here's what books I've read for fun the last few months. It can take a while after release before I get to something (there are nearly 30 waiting to be read right now), so some of these might be out of print or remaindered by now. I know in some cases the sequels are out because I've got them.



Recommended:



Firestar by Michael Flynn tells two parallel but connected stories, of a public school being taken over by a corporation, and of the return to manned space flight - specifically, single stage to orbit. If you ever had the dream of going into space, or if you're young enough and still have it, you will love this book. The private companies in space part is starting to happen - If I weren't forty-something, fat and with health problems, I'd be looking for stuff I could do that might take me up.



Days of Infamy by Harry Turtledove is not what I hoped, the next book in his series that started with the South holding off the North in the Civil War, but a new series that starts basically in our own timeline, with the difference that the Japanese landed two divisions on Oahu in the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor and took the Hawaiin Islands. He doesn't flinch from the realities of war or from how the Japanese treated their subject populations or prisoners of war. He also seems to have a good grasp of the parts played by luck, planning, and skill in battle. I thoroughly enjoyed it.



Field of Dishonor and Honor Among Enemies are a couple of books in the story of Honor Harrington, modeled upon Horatio Hornblower (who was, in turn, modeled after Admiral Nelson of Trafalgar fame). I resisted this series initially, because it seemed likely to be a ripoff of the Hornblower series, but when the first in the series was re-issued I decided I should give it a try, and am glad I did. I'm now picking them up as I see them. They are quite enjoyable action/adventure stuff.



Over the Wine-Dark Sea and The Sacred Land are historical fiction by Harry Turtledove writing as H.N. Turtletaub. They are respectively, the first and third in a series about a couple of Greek traders from Rhodes, late in the fourth century BC. Not for the easily offended, because he shows the culture of the Hellenistic world as it existed at that time. The books tell of successive yearly trading voyages, the first in 310 B.C. to Greater Hellas (what is now southern Italy), the second (The Gryphon's Skull) in 309 BC to various poleis on the Aegean, and the third in 308 BC to Phoenicia. They are set against the canvas of the documented events of those times and places - for instance, the Carthaginian siege of Syracuse in 310 BC. Many actual historical figures make appearances. It also gives one an appreciation for modern law enforcement and rule of law.



Conventions of War by Walter Jon Williams is the third in a series of a far future where humanity has long been subordinate to the Praxis, an empire founded by the Shaa, whose technology was so far in advance of anything that there was never any serious challenge - until the last Shaa dies and there is civil war among the inheritors of the empire. It was fascinating to watch the evolution of the military from ceremonial to war footing. This tells of the end of the civil war, and perhaps Mr. Williams was getting a little bored, because it wasn't as good as the first two, but still very worth reading.



Curious Notions by Harry Turtledove is the second in a series of Alternate Reality stories he has written. In this case, America is under the German heel from a not quite World War I analog. It is not a sequel to the first, but a separate work tied together only by the thread of the same basic civilization travelling the alternate realities. Quite well thought out and believable, it tells the story of a young man who grew up in San Francisco of a reality of the future not too unlike ours, who assumes the identity of a stereo salesman in another San Francisco, which events have not treated kindly. Quite enjoyable.



Mixed:



Polaris by Jack McDeavitt is a science fiction mystery. Sixty years ago the Polaris was found, her crew mysteriously vanished. The story deals with the resolution of that mystery. Fairly absorbing, but there were times I was wanting him to get one with what was going to happen, and the resolution seems forced, as well as somewhat unlikely.



Legacies and Scepters by L E Modesitt Jr. These are the first and third in telling the story of a vaguely nineteenth century analog society facing an external technological threat. Modesitt being Modesitt, the main protagonist has special powers. I liked the first (and the second) more than I did the third.



Emerald Sea by John Ringo is not an easy book to describe the setting of. It is the sequel to another book, There Will Be Dragons. Good action/adventure yarn, and yet there was one action taken by the protagonists that turns out to be a little too much in the way of a magic bullet. I do intend to read future books in the series.



Luna Marine and Europa Strike by Ian Douglas. Military science fiction, plain and simple. Second and third in the series that began with Semper Mars. Alien technology is discovered in various caches throughout the solar system, and tells the story of the political and military manouevering that results. I do intend to continue reading his stuff.



Crown of Slaves by David Weber and Eric Flint tries to do too much with one book - it should have been at least two. A little too much tell and not enough show for my taste, as well. I'll keep reading the Honor Harrington stuff, but probably not any sequels to this, which is set in the same universe.



Noise by Hal Clement. As I said about Poul Anderson a year ago, there is something profoundly sad about one of the great masters of hard science fiction being reduced to this sort of book for his last work. There are flashes of his old brilliance, but that is all. Read Mission of Gravity or Iceworld or any of a dozen wonderful books he gave us. I found myself pushing just to get through it, not caring about the story, the characters, or anything else about it. If you picked up this book and did not like it, do not judge him by it.


Recent SF Reading part 2

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Recommended:



Conquistador by S.M. Stirling. Wonderful tale of "someone stumbled across an alternate earth 50 years ago". The people in this tale tend to be neither villains nor saints, but instead come across as real people, with real world virtues and failings. I geniunely hope he tells us more about what happens with this people.



Lord of Castle Black by Steven Brust. A novel in the universe of Jhereg, the second book of a planned trilogy about the end of the Interregnum. Not much to say but that I enjoyed it.



Gods Old and Dark by Holly Lisle. Third in the World Gates Series. Earth is part of a long chain of worlds. Those "above" Earth are all dead, killed by the Dark Gods that they may feast on Necromantic energies and increase in power. Against them are arrayed a loose group of Sentinels who mean to save the Earth if they can. Unfortunately, those who choose to fight a purely defensive war always lose, a fact the Sentinels are well aware of. But there are those who refuse to fight a purely defensive war...



The Victorious Opposition by Harry Turtledove. Sixth Book in the series. I shouldn't need to plug Turtledove. After defeat in the Great War, the Confederacy turns to a populist and blames a scapegoat. Seems more of a set up book than anything, but I want to read the next one!



Darknesses by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. Says it's the second book in a series, but I never saw the first and liked it just fine. If you like Modesitt, you will like this book, and he has done enough really good work that you need to pick one up and find out if you like Modesitt.



Mixed:



The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold. The first real Miles Vorkosigan book. Liked it well enough, but the antagonists never really did anything except react.



There Will Be Dragons by John Ringo. What happens when a future advanced nanotechnology economy crashes. Kind of formula but I liked it anyway. Promises to be first in a series.



The Unwilling Warlord by Lawrence Watt-Evans. This story is an enjoyable read that committed the sin of getting a little too cute. Otherwise well thought out.



For Love and Glory by Poul Anderson. There is something profoundly sad that the man who gave us Van Rijn and Falkayn and Flandry was obviously trying very hard in this, his last book. I unfortunately could not feel any dramatic tension even though I enjoyed the writing. Pick up one of his earlier works - it's hard to go wrong with anything he wrote before he started getting sick



Not Really The Prisoner of Zenda by Joel Rosenberg is another book in the Guardians of the Flame series. Once again, enjoyable enough but there wasn't a lot of plot to it.



The Grand Crusade by Michael Stackpole is the third or fourth book in the series. I think he got tired of the characters, because it's not up to the standards of the previous ones.



Truth Until Paradox. Three words: Bad Gaming Fiction. I would have been upset if I had paid money for it instead of picking it up at a book swap.

Recent Reading

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Recommended:



The Return of Santiago, by Mike Resnick. I don't know why Resnick isn't bigger. Every story of his that I've ever read since Birthright: The Book of Man has been fresh and worthwhile. This book is admittedly better if you've read Birthright and the original Santiago, but is worthwhile even without.



Advance & Retreat, by Harry Turtledove is a mirror of our own Civil War's western theater (Think Georgia and Tennessee, as opposed to Virginia and Pennsylvania). Third in a series, but stands on its own as worthwhile reading. He makes a very good point with regard to our own Civil War, though.



Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson. If I had ever thought in Math 103B that coding theory and it's history could be the heart of this good a story, set against both WWII and modern day...



Mixed:



1633 by David Weber and Eric Flint is a sequel to 1632, and a pretty decent story in it's own right, but ended up going a little too far in the populist direction for my taste.



The Apocalyse Troll by David Weber is a different take on basically the same story told by SM Stirling in Drakon, but still worthwhile. At least one too many convenient coincidences, though.



The Med Series by Murray Leinster: basically good stories that are just too jingoistic for me. They also haven't aged as well as some of their contemporaries (the original copyrights are 1959 to 1961).



Hell's Faire by John Ringo is the fourth in the series. Don't get me wrong, as a loyal Sluggy Freelance reader I love the idea of an uber-tank named after Bun-Bun. But there have gotten to be too much deus ex machina in the storyline. I get the impression the author's heart isn't in it anymore.



No Phule like an Old Phule by Robert Asprin and Peter J. Heck. Some good moments but overall I just couldn't see the point. I've seen Mr. Asprin do much better - if I didn't already like some of the characters from previous books I'd likely not have finished. This series is offically on probation.



Otherland Volume 4 by Tad Williams: Based upon the recommendation of a friend who likes Williams, I gave him one more try and spend nearly 5000 pages slogging through the four books in the series. Lots of cute thought experiments to fill it up, and much angst, but there's not enough plot for a book a tenth of the size. The fact that I couldn't get myself to actually care about any of the characters didn't help either. I'm sorry Mr. Williams, but I gave you one last, very extended chance and now I don't think I can bring myself to read any more of your stories. Pity, because I see potential there.



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