SpeculativeFiction


Crossover

Meet April Cassidy. She's just applied to a software development firm on Tanusha, one of the most advanced planets in the Federation. She wants to work as a programmer, studying the intricacies of artificial intelligence -- or as close as the legal restrictions will allow her to get. She is a very good candidate for the position, very familiar with the latest algorithms. Good enough to analyze them at a glance in her job interview.

But that's not surprising, because April Cassidy is really Cassandra Kresnov, an advanced AI housed in a body nearly indistinguishable from human at first glance, and nearly indestructible if you do more than glance. She was built by the League, constructed from the ground up by scientists who consider her less than human. And she's on the run.

The book is Crossover, by Joel Shepherd.

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Thu Aug 29 11:26:34 CDT 2013 by Matthew. Comments

The Immortal Prince

I wanted to like this book. Generally, I like Jennifer Fallon's books. I did not like this book. Actually, that's an understatement. This book constituted cruel and unusual torture. It started with the cat-men and dog-men servants. Please. The rest of the book was lengthy whining by the immortal guy about how he couldn't die no matter how hard he tried, and how he really wanted to end his existence. I'd like to end his existence too. Fallon is a good writer. She nails descriptions and characters and dialog. Nothing could save this book from dragging on and on like the immortals who can't die. Suffice it to say, that despite my best efforts, I couldn't make myself finish this book, and I don't care what happens to any of the characters.

Mon Aug 26 18:36:26 CDT 2013 by storm2013. Comments

Divergent

The premise of this novel is intriguing. What if you had to pick a faction to define the rest of your life - abnegation, candor, erudite, amity, or dauntless? And had to abide by that faction's traits, or be exiled? Of course it's a silly idea, because nobody embodies just one set of traits, but what if you could only choose one faction and had to live like that for the rest of your life? So, I picked up the book out of curiosity to explore that premise. That, and I like dystopian novels. This novel doesn't come close to the edge of my seat hold on me that the first Hunger Games book did, but it was still a good read. It was fast paced. The romance happened at a rather unlikely speed. I could have done without the romance at all, but I suppose Roth threw it in to draw teen girls or something. Events happened somewhat conveniently now and then to get the heroine out of a jam. It was very much a black and white world - the good characters were good, while the bad characters were bad. I enjoyed the gumption of Beatrice, and her determination to survive in her chosen faction and her determination to make things right, and her exhilaration at finding the fearless part of herself. The book has been made into a movie, to come out in March 2014, so it will be interesting to see how the screen version lives up to the book.

Sun Aug 25 20:10:29 CDT 2013 by storm2013. Comments

Blood Song (A Raven's Shadow)

I found Blood Song by Anthony Ryan to be a very ambitious novel. Ryan
packs a lot in, and probably more than necessary. The ending was rushed,
and a bit nonsensical at times. The book also raises shades of Name of
the Wind, in that the story is told to a scribe by the main character. I
found that to be uninspired. It's been done; making the scribe grumpy doesn't make it new and different. That said, I liked the book. The characters
were well fleshed out. Dialog was good. Pace and plot were fast. The
world was rich and detailed. It's a story of faith, family ties, politics, battles, sacrifices we make for those we love and for duty,and mysteries. There was just a lot there. I'm fairly sure I missed a lot the first time around,
and I'm going to have to reread the book to get it all. There's a time and a place for books that one has to reread many times to get all the layers to the story. While Blood Song is good, it's no Wheel Of Time.

Sun Aug 25 09:54:55 CDT 2013 by storm2013. Comments

Memnoch the Devil

Half vampire story and half theological argument, Memnoch the Devil takes Anne Rice's vampiric antihero Lestat and uses him to tell the Devil's side of the story. But the two halves of the story don't mesh very well at all, and while the process is intellectually interesting, readers can be assured they won't be missing much if they skip it.

Categories Anne Rice

Fri Aug 23 12:35:38 CDT 2013 by Matthew. Comments

Synners

This 1990's cyberpunk story is a victim of time and history. When originally published, nobody really knew what the internet would look like, and people could make up whatever they wanted about humans merging with machines and it would seem at least plausible. Twenty-three years later, people are pretty sure what the Internet looks like and it's not what you find in Synners. That doesn't make it any less interesting to consider the implications of merging the human mind with computer-augmented virtual reality.

Thu Aug 22 08:26:20 CDT 2013 by Matthew. Comments

Ship of Magic

Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders series opens with this book, Ship of Magic. Once again the author provides an unusual and emotional story. Readers already familiar with the Royal Assassin series will recognize the world, but the areas we know well are distant places while those we see up close are new and fresh. With one significant exception, the level of magic has been dramatically reduced from the earlier trilogy, and the result is a human tale of desperation rather than a fantasy adventure on the high seas.

The book is set in a community of sailors and shipwrights. The ships they build there are called liveships, crafted by human hands from special wood, their figureheads magically animated with spirit and personally, and bonded to a human being, the ships can't quite sail themselves but have a powerful influence on what happens to their crew nonetheless.

The heroine Althea in Ship of Magic stands to inherit her father's shipping business, along with the liveship Vivacia, which has been under construction for years and will take even more years to pay off -- but an untimely death changes everyone's plans. Surrounded by economic threats rather than the usual evil swordsmen or beastial creatures, she must struggle to keep her family's business alive while dealing with events that shattered all of her expectations for the future.

It's a situation that calls for desperate actions and high risks. Althea may not carry a sword or wield powerful magic, but she has wits, skills, and determination that may well be her salvation.

Categories Robin Hobb

Wed Aug 21 10:35:20 CDT 2013 by Matthew. Comments

The Alchemist's Apprentice

Dave Duncan is an author I am familiar with from mainly from his King's Blades series, a straightforward and competently written set of mostly-independent tales of supernaturally bound bodyguards. The Alchemist's Apprentice takes a step closer to the real world, being set in a version of Venice where magic is somewhat more effective than in ours.

The alchemist of the title is Nostrademeus, and the apprentice one Alfeo Zeno, the latter being a character more reminiscent of a Dumas musketeer than anything else. When Nostrademeus is accused of a murder by poison to burnish his reputation, it falls to Alfeo to prove him innocent by unraveling the plot.

Unfortunately, I did not find the book as engaging as the King's Blades series. It was readable enough, in a somewhat unconventional setting for a fantasy novel, but lacked that vital something to make it intriguing.

Categories Dave Duncan

Tue Aug 20 16:46:31 CDT 2013 by Matthew. Comments

Maps in a Mirror: The short fiction of Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card's Maps in a Mirror collects his short fiction. The collection is most notable for including the short story on which his Ender's Game series is based, but the others in the collection are nothing to be ashamed of. While some elements may seem dated to the modern reader (the collection was published in 1990), the stories are timeless, and the necessary focus of the short story format has some advantages.

This volume is for completist fans and literature professors.

Categories Orson Scott Card

Tue Aug 20 08:53:41 CDT 2013 by Matthew. Comments

The Lions of Al-Rassan

Guy Gavariel Kay continues his magic-realism kick with The Lions of Al-Rassan, a thinly-veiled tale of Spain under Muslim rule. The fantastical elements so prominent in many of his earlier works are missing almost entirely from this one, with their only remnant vaguely psychic visions suffered by a character subject to fits and seizures. The story itself is still a masterfully-told romance with a strong female presence, perhaps too strong for the culture. Kay fans who don't mind the lack of a strong fantasy element will enjoy the well-told story; those who read to escape the limitations of the world we know may find this tale offers little.

Categories Guy Gavariel Kay

Tue Aug 20 08:53:12 CDT 2013 by Matthew. Comments

Natural Consequences

In case you are ever hit by the supernatural version of a meteor strike out of a blue sky and magically bound to a succubus and an angel, there are a number of steps that really should be followed as soon as practically possible:

  1. Have a lot of sex with the succubus. Duh.

  2. Convince the angel to join in.

  3. Move out of your mom's basement


That last step can get tricky when a werewolf wants to mate with you -- as forcefully as required, two witches are worried they are getting left out of the fun, heaven is threatening to demote your angel, and the vampires have an all-points-bulletin out on your ass.

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Categories Elliot Kay

Mon Aug 19 08:29:12 CDT 2013 by Matthew. Comments

The King's Peace

The King's Peace is Jo Walton's take on the Arthurian legends. Jo has never been a particularly good author for me, and this book is no exception. It is the first in a series, and I didn't bother to pick up the rest. It's also telling that this book, purportedly about King Arthur, puts a young woman on the cover and as the main character -- the feminist impulse to re-imagine one of history's most emphatically male tales in that manner loses most of its impact when it becomes clear that this retelling adds little to the genre of the Arthurian legends and lacks even the distinction of being the first or best feminist retelling (see The Mists of Avalon for the classic). To be honest, at least in this book the story is less a retelling of the legend than it is the biography of a minor character who happens to witness it.

Fans of Jo Walton might have a better reaction than I did. As it was, the book was readable but left little impression on me. I did manage to finish the book before uttering the eight deadly words ("I don't care what happens to these people.").

Sun Aug 18 16:36:01 CDT 2013 by Matthew. Comments

Good Intentions

Good Intentions is somewhere between male adolescent wish-fulfillment, soft-core erotica, paranormal romance, and urban fantasy. The plot revolves around a pretty ordinary guy, still living in his mom's basement, who decides to sneak into the local graveyard to get a few atmospheric pictures. He's hoping to use the pictures to impress a pair of cute goth chicks in his photography course, lacking the gumption to simply approach them without a prop.

As fate would have it, though, he interrupts a midnight ritual and ends up supernaturally bound to a succubus on one side and an angel on the other. Permanently bound. And of course they are both female, and supernaturally attractive, as you might expect.

It's not exactly a fate worse than death.

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Categories Elliot Kay

Fri Aug 16 06:37:24 CDT 2013 by Matthew. Comments

Ride the Rising Tide

If an allusion to Tolkien is the most common way to praise a new fantasy author, "Heinleinesque" has got to be the science fiction equivalent. The description certainly applies to Peter Maxwell's Ride the Rising Tide, which contains equal doses of space, adventure, and 60's science fiction nostalgia. It has a space navy, a plucky young protagonist eager to rise through the ranks on the strength of exceptional abilities and a sense of destiny explained only by the invisible hand of the author shaping the plot. You'll only be jolted out of the futuristic scenario by the occasional references to hypno-study courses and the undefeatable prowess of a skilled black belt in karate.

The writing is smooth and enjoyable. The plot is interesting if not exactly realistic. The main character is almost absent of personality aside from a boundless and naively enthusiastic ambition. There are no other characters, only a selection of cardboard cutouts with recorded lines.

If you read the first book, Take the Star Road, and liked it, there's more of the same here and you'll probably enjoy it too. If you didn't, start there first. This book is a sequel and does not stand alone.

Whatever you do, don't look too closely at anything. Just take your mindless enjoyment with a smile.

Wed Aug 14 05:54:37 CDT 2013 by Matthew. Comments

Take the Star Road

Have you ever wanted to strap yourself into a starship and light off the thrusters just to see where you would end up? Fight space pirates with your black belt in Karate while climbing the ranks aboard a merchant starship? How about just being an improbably nice fellow with the plot thoroughly on your side? Then this book will satisfy you. Just keep your suspension of disbelief handy, because you'll need it.

In a tale eerily reminiscent of a Heinlein space adventure juvenile, Peter Grant's Take the Star Road will let you experience space as it was meant to be. Not the cold and mechanical precision of exacting science and careful engineering to survive in a hostile environment that our own astronauts experience; no, instead space is filled with adventure, explosions, knife fights with criminal gangs, and cheerful coming-of-age tales.

Sometimes, in a review, it's important to note what a story is not as much as what that story is. In this case, this story is not:

  • realistic

  • filled with memorable characters

  • an angst-ridden tale of woe

  • a sexy romp


On the other hand, if you have a 12-year-old who doesn't know what he wants to do with his life, this might give him some ideas. And that's a good enough excuse to read it yourself, right?

Wed Aug 14 05:54:28 CDT 2013 by Matthew. Comments



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