the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for April 2012

Fool’s War, by Sarah Zettel

published in 1997

where I got it: borrowed from a friend (thanks E! I’ll get it back to you right soon!)

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With so many new books that feature female protags who kick ass, sometimes it’s hard to believe books like that have been around for a while.  Sarah Zettel’s Fool’s War is one such book,  and in classic Zettel fashion, this is a space opera that will get you thinking about things you weren’t expecting, and keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time.  If you are a fan of Kameron Hurley or Elizabeth Bear, or just looking for some damn good space opera, this will be right up your alley.

In this far future, we have colonized a number of star systems, and we have FTL ships and Artificial intelligences. Due to a large enough number of AIs that have gone rogue and slaughtered entire colonies, many ship owners are leery of allowing any kind of untethered AI access to their systems.

Katmer Al Shei is a partner in a timeshare transport ship. Basically, she has the ship for 8 months, and then her brother-in-law has the ship for 8 months. The beginning of the book and the set up for our main plot line has her taking possession of the ship, collecting her small crew, recruiting a new pilot, and accepting the gift of a contracted Ship’s Fool.  Fools – part  entertainer, part psychoanalyst, part ship’s counselor, these are the only people who are guaranteed to keep your tightly wound crew members from going crazy in their tight quarters.  Katmer’s new Fool, Evelyn Dobbs, promises that she’s one of the Guild’s best.

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“When you can’t cheat the game, you’d best find a way to cheat the player”

Hi Everyone, welcome to the first part of our read along of Scott Lynch’s Red Seas Under Red Skies. This is the second book in the Gentlemen Bastard series, and so far Locke and Jean are already up to their regular tricks. This week’s questions were supplied by My Awful Reviews. Please be sure to visit him and my other read-along co-hosts, Dark Cargo, Lynn’s Book Blog and OhthatAshley at SFSignal.  If you are writing up a discussion post on your blog, leave your link on everyone else’s blog comments as well, so we can all visit each other.

here are this week’s discussion starters, with my answers after the jump!

1. The Sinspire. It looks like our heroes (can they really be called that?) find themselves in search of a way into an unbeatable vault. Do you think they have what it takes to make it happen?

2.  Anyone want to guess how they’re going to make it happen?

3. It’s a little different this time around, with us just being focused on Locke and Jean. Is anyone else missing the rest of the Bastards as much as I am?

4. I love the section where Jean starts to build a new guild of thieves. It really shows just how well trained and tough he is. Do you think the Bastards will end up training others along the way again like Bug?

5. For those of you looking for Sabetha, we still haven’t spotted her yet. Anyone else chomping at the bit to see the love of Locke’s life?

6. It’s early on, but the Bastards are already caught up in plots that they didn’t expect. How do you think their new “employer” is going to make use of them (The Archon, that is)?

all the other great discussions:

Genkinahito’s blog
Dark Cargo
Lynn’s Book Blog
My Awful Reviews
Books Without Any Pictures
Travels Through Iest
Booky Pony
Nashville Book Worm
Paperless Reading
Scruffy Fiction
Coffee Cookies and Chili Peppers
Kaitharshayr’s Musings
Just Book Reading
Updates to the Theory of Everything
Real Books 4 Ever
The Sleepless Reader
I Want Life In Every Word

*NEW*!
All I Am – A Redhead
Central Neural Pathway Station
Tethyan Books

Even NEWER!!
Beware of the Froggies
Akki’s Arcanum

(I will be away from my computer most of Saturday morning. . .  so if you are waiting for your link to show up, worry not! I will link everything up as soon as I can)

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this is about two weeks worth of book hauling. and goodies in the mail from publishers who I want to give a giant hug to:

Let’s see what we got.  in an attempt to actually read the stuff I acquire, I’ve prioritized these. We’ll see how well I stick to my “rules” after a few months and another book haul. Don’t expect to see reviews instantly, I just this morning got back into town and haven’t started on any of these (just finished Sarah Zettel’s Fool’s War and then picked up Scott Lynch’s Red Seas Under Red Skies for our read along). I’ve also got few library books not mentioned here that I need to eventually get to as well.  Le sigh, the life of a book lover!

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson (May 2012) I’ve been a fan of Kim Stanley Robinson since Red Mars. His science fiction is deep, detailed (really, really detailed. Like Neal Stephenson detailed) and realistic feeling. Ok, sure, Antartica was kinda boring, but I appreciated the concept. I am really looking forward to diving into 2312. Priority – high.

The Company Man, by Robert Jackson Bennett – SF Noir? Perhaps some kind of mix of Dark City and Sam Spade? looks good to me! I loved Bennett’s The Troupe, so am excited to read more of his works. By the way, have you seen his recent book trailer? priority – medium

The Mongoliad book one (April 2012) by a multitude of cool people – I’m really not sure what this is. rumors were swirling around the interwebs a few years ago about some kind of subscription where beta-readers could interact with the authors about the story while they were writing it. Woah, totally meta! And Neal Stephenson’s name is on it. I therefore want to read it. Also stars this decade’s favorite historical character, Richard Francis Burton.    priority – high

vN – by Madeline Ashby (July 2012) Looks sort of like the author took Asimov’s three laws of robotics and removed them from our main character android. Also, she’s part human? and the environs are kinda Bladerunner-ish? Sign me up for some of that!!    priority – high

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Of Blood and Honey, by Stina Leight

published in Feb/March 2012 by Nightshade Books

where I got it: the library

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Against the backdrop of The Troubles of Northern Ireland in the 1970s, Liam Kelly just wants to live his life.  He’s a teenager at the beginning of the book, and like all teenagers, he finds trouble.  In casual support of the local riots, he’s arrested.  I was addicted to this book on page 2, and less than 30 pages in I was directly invested in Liam Kelly’s future.  In and out of internment camps, and hoping to return to his betrothed, Liam  trust that his Confessor, Father Murray, will help plead his case.

Through little fault of his own, Liam gets a reputation during his time in the camps. His friends at home always knew he was a little off, always knew he had a temper. But now, people who hurt him, people who threaten his safety or the safety of his family are later found dead and mutilated. Liam didn’t hurt them, but somebody did.  And every day, Liam gets closer to turning into that something.

The word that kept coming to mind while I was reading Of Blood and Honey was “sharp”.  Leicht’s prose style is sharp, and I mean in that in the most basic dictionary definition – sharp like a razor. Her words cut and punch and bite at the most vulnerable parts of your body.  And I couldn’t stop reading, I couldn’t stop letting these stabbity little sentences have their way with me.

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I recently reviewed Robert Jackson Bennett’s newest novel, The Troupe, and it was absolutely incredible. Seriously, go read my review.  I’ll wait.

Mr. Bennett’s debut novel, Mr. Shivers was published in 2010, and while that novel was winning  literary awards left  and right, he was busy publishing his second novel, The Company Man.  His fourth novel, American Elsewhere is scheduled to hit store shelves this coming winter.   And beyond all of that wonderfulness, he agreed to let me ask him a bunch of strange questions. What a gentleman!

Everyone, please give a big round of applause to Robert Jackson Bennett!

LRR: The Troupe focuses around Vaudeville performers and troupes that traveled the country in the early 1900’s from theater to theater. Did you spend any time in the theater when you were younger? Are you a fan of music and theater of the early 1900’s?

RJB: I was a musician, actually – a classically trained violist. So I know a fair bit about prodigies like George, having met a few in my time. Some were hilariously self-involved, like George, and others were like the little circus dogs who only know how to perform, and haven’t ever done anything else. It could be a bit sad, in a way.

I’m a huge fan of early 20th century comedy – the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton… I still haven’t seen that many comedians who can do so much with so little.

Some people don’t get the Marx Brothers. Personally, I don’t get people who don’t get the Marx Brothers.

LRR: Did you always want to be a writer? If not, what got you started down the path to “Hi, I’m an author!”

RJB: I kind of think so. I think my parents might have raised me to be a writer without knowing it. My first word was “Melville,” if that gives you any idea, because that was our dog’s name. They were always giving me books and discussing them with me. It was expected of you to be culturally informed. And at some point in time I started thinking up variations of the things they were showing me or books I read on my own, trying to make them better and make them the sort of story I wanted to read, and eventually this just translated into writing.

LRR: What authors and books have inspired you over the years?

RJB: Oh, geez. A bunch. I grew up reading Stephen King, Madeleine L’Engel, Roald Dahl; then it translated into Neil Gaiman, John le Carre, Susana Clarke, David Foster Wallace; and lately I’ve been reading a lot of David Mitchell and Katherine Ann Porter.

I’m chiefly fascinated by work that examines one idea or a set of ideas. I still think of a novel as the most fun kind of thought experiment, trying to glean truths from fabulous lies, setting things in motion and smashing them together and seeing what’s left and what isn’t. I’d say most of my novels fall under this category.

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Hi Ya’ll,

just a quickie reminder (quiche, anyone? if you know that joke, raise your hand!) that our read along of Scott Lynch’s Red Seas Under Red Skies starts this week.  Hosted by Dark Cargo, Ashley at SFSignal, My Awful Reviews, Lynn’s Book Blog and yours truly, our first discussion will be next weekend.

Get the details (reading schedule, etc) here.

AND to add to your wonderful weekend, Jennie Ivens (@Autumn2May), staff member at Fantasy Faction, went to the Lynch & Bear reading the other night in New York, where she got a recording of Scott Lynch reading from The Mad Baron’s Mechanical Attic, a prequel of sorts to The Lies of Locke Lamora.

yes, you read that right: reading.  prequel. novella.

Also, infuriating guards and a very odd courtyard garden.  just go click the link, watch the reading, and we’ll all start going nuts for Red Seas Under Red Skies next weekend.

And thanks to Bente from The Bente Way of Life for providing us with the great read-along graphic!

Six Easy Pieces, by Richard Feynman

Based on lectures given in 1963, the version I have was published in 1996

where I got it: owned

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I was never a very good formal student. Sure, I always liked school, and I liked learning and didn’t mind studying, but when it came to math and science it felt like the information was going in one ear and out the other. The learning of those subjects never felt like a conversation, it never felt like an interaction. It just felt like work.

The greatest teachers of whatever they are teaching make it feel like a conversation. They make physics and chemistry and “how things work” feel like you are witnessing something between passion and magic. Their love for the topic makes people want to learn more. If we are lucky, those passionate teachers record their thoughts.

I discovered the writings of the famous physicist  Richard Feynman when I was in high school, but it would be years before his books made much sense to me. That’s not to say high schoolers shouldn’t read him, they most definitely should, it’s just that the material was beyond me when I was that age.  My first book of his was Six Easy Pieces (and yes, I did eventually go on to purchase  the follow up Six Not so Easy Pieces).   The Six Pieces are the nearly exact dictations of lectures Feynman gave at CalTech in the early 1960’s.  Instead of focusing on formulas and so and so’s law of such and such, Feynman uses easy to understand examples and his vibrant personality and pure love of the subject to invite us into his conversation.

no, the other kind of strange quark!

Originally planned as lectures,  Feynman breaks down the basics of physics, both classical and quantum in six short chapters.  The lectures include stories, improvisations, approximations, and hypothetical conversations on everything from gravitation to strange quarks to perpetual motion and how physics relates to the other sciences. Free of heavy math and scientific jargon, the Laws of Physics are generally compared to learning to play chess by watching two other players,  Conservation of Energy is shown through a story about Dennis the Menace hiding his toys (and his mother having to find them), the concept of “partricles with zero mass” is actually explained in a way I could understand, and the chapter on quantum particles starts by describing them as “not like anything you have ever seen”.  In that final chapter on quantum physics, Feynman is obviously torn between continually having to refer to the classical “laws of physics”, and confusing the student by having to say “yes, but those laws don’t work here, and now I have to figure out a simple way to show how things really work”.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.