the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘creatures

The Stars are Ours! by Andre Norton

Published in 1954

where I got it: borrowed from a friend

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Using her own Encycl0pedia Galactica device, Norton gives the reader a very quick introduction to the future: a series of cold wars led to government and military funded science, which lead to creation and use of weapons of mass destruction, which lead to loss of life and sudden fear and hatred of anything science related. Knowledge was spurned as evil, and anyone with a drop of “scientist blood” in them were rounded up and imprisoned.  (this futuristic fear of science is showing up a lot. . . a reaction to everyone’s sudden fear of Atomic weaponry, the Cold War, and what humanity truly is capable of destroying?)

But the scientists and their families have survived.  Lars Nordis is one such scientist, and he and his young daughter Dessie and brother Dard live in a ramshackle farm where they in turns starve and freeze. Lars holds scientific secrets, and he makes Dard memorize a series of numbers, although he won’t tell Dard what the numbers mean.   I believe Dard and Dessie are synethsetes of some sort, and do wish that had been explored more.

After a raid by the Peacemen that destroys their home and kills Lars, Dard and Dessie have no choice but to find the rumored underground scientists who Lars has been doing work for.  Dard finds them, and after helping them defend their hideouts from the Peacemen, they happily accept Dard and Dessie into their group.  But what of the formula Dard memorized? What does it mean and who is he supposed to give it to?

This is where the story got really good for me.

The scientists are so desperate, they are willing to take incredible changes to leave planet Earth.  They have built a spaceship and plan to escape Earth and find a new home. But the risks loom large. The long sleep formula might not work.  The formulas stolen from an enemy “Voice” (computer) might not be correct. The ship might get hit by an asteroid. They might run out of fuel before finding a suitable planet. But still, they go.  With high hopes, they risk everything they have, including their families, for a slim chance of finding a new place to live. If Earth doesn’t want them, they will take to the stars!

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The Fuller Memorandum (a Laundry Novel), by Charles Stross

where I got it: purchased new

why I read it: enjoyed the previous Laundry novel, The Jennifer Morgue

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Bob Howard has a problem. it’s that he’s too good at his job. The office manager leaves him alone; his boss, Angleton, is sending him on special errands; and his wife, Mo, has started bringing work home with her. When you’re a computational demonologist, none of those can be good things.  You see, Bob works for the ultra secret British government agency called The Laundry.  Think James Bond meets Torchwood, but instead of fighting the Russians and aliens, they’re fighting the Russians and unthinkable Cthonic soul sucking horrors from another dimension. When the end comes, make sure you’re armed with a shotgun (same goes for when playing Arkham Horror, btw).

Although The Fuller Memorandum is mostly action, usually involving Bob getting the crap kicked out of him, it was the slower parts that were some of my favorites. Things like getting to know more (perhaps too much) about the mysterious Angleton.  What Mo actually does with that bone white violin (she needs her own book. period). How to jailbreak an iphone in three easy steps (step one, allow a professional hacker into your house). How to handle Russian zombies and drunken cultists, and what the British secret service really thinks about Americans.  And Bob Howard, accidental computational demonologist, armed with a jailbroken unauthorized iphone running illegal apps, better solve all these problems before his soul gets sucked out by cultists who’ve awoken something far more evil than they were expecting. The slower bits might have been all interesting, but the crazy action bits? Totally over the top frakin’ awesome.

If you’re grinning, you can skip the next paragraph, however if you’re a bit confused, quit skipping around and stop feeling bad.

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The Orphans Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente

published in 2006

where I got it: library

why I read it: have really, really enjoyed other novels by this author

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A cross between a book of Grimm’s fairy tales and 1001 Arabian Nights, The Orphans Tales: In the Night Garden, winner of the 2006 Tiptree Award, is unlike anything you have ever read.

At the very beginning, a unnamed girl who lives in a garden tells a boy she must tell her stories backwards, and that was always in the back of my mind as I read.  Not only did everything come together at the end, but so did the magical sentence “Stories are like prayers. It does not matter when you begin, or when you end. . . “   Have truer words every been spoken? Does it matter where you crack open your book of fairy tales? the witch  always shows up eventually, right?

And this book does have a witch, and a wizard, and pirates and monsters and griffins and eggs and firebirds and a tree-woman and a ship-tree and Stars that are Gods. Nested tale by nested tale, the mythology of the world grows and breathes to the point where you don’t know where reality ends, nor does it matter. This is a book that should be hoarded, should be meted out slowly, like Chocolate during a time of rationing.  I read this as fast as I could (which wasn’t very), treating it like a plot based story. Too much chocolate on an empty stomach makes anyone feel yucky.  Learn from my mistake: don’t read this book fast. Savor it.

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I was minding my own business this morning, when this question popped into my head:

When humans meet creatures from other planets, how will Rabbis decide what other worldly creatures are kosher? As I have no idea what creatures we will meet, greet, or eat, it got me thinking about science fictional creatures that might end up at Shabbat dinner.

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The Wolf Age, by James Enge

Published in 2010

Where I got it:  received review copy from PYR.

Why I read it: I enjoy Enge’s Morlock short stories, and have previously reviewed his Blood of Ambrose

Eminently readable as a stand-alone novel, there’s a lot going on in  The Wolf Age. A lot of plot, a lot of subplot, a lot of subterfuge and characterization and trope-bashing and wonderfulness. I’m going to keep my plot comments minimal, so as to not spoil anything, and more importantly so I can get to the meat of what’s going on here.

The as promised, spoiler-free plot summary: When Morlock tries to rescue some slaves, he finds himself captured, and having had a glass spike hammered into his head he loses his Sight, and gains the mother of all headaches. Thrown into prison in the werewolf city of Wuruyaaria, Morlock is seen as a freak, and is used to terrify the other prisoners. One prison break later,and Morlock is living with some other escapees in the slums outside the city walls. And it’s an election year. Ever been to an election in a werewolf city? They are dangerous, loud, full of muckraking, and occasionally violent. Actually, not so foreign feeling after all.

And maybe it doesn’t matter, but the Strange Gods and the werewolf maker God Ulugaariu are having a little war over the fate Wuruyaaria as well. The Strange Gods don’t really care about the men who follow them, almost as much as Ulugaariu does care about the werewolves who follow him. You will love the Strange Gods and all their flaws. itsy bitsy spoiler – you’ll meet Ulugaaria and witness some truly beautiful and heartbreaking dialog.

But none of that is really the meat of what’s going on here.

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I used to read a LOT of Charlie Stross. Accelerando was a game changer for me, Glasshouse knocked my socks off, and I raved about plenty others. Then I got into Stross’s Merchant Princes series. That particular series didn’t do much for me, and I experienced major Stross burnout.

The Jennifer Morgue is the first Charlie Stross book I’ve read in about five years, and I’d forgotten how much fun Stross is. After laughing my head off a handful of times, at the humor and the pure quantity of ideas crammed into each sentence, something started to dawn on me: I think this might not be the first book in a series. And Yup, Jennifer Morgue is the sequel to Stross’s The Atrocity Archives, which I haven’t read. I had a choice to make. I could put down the fabulous Jennifer Morgue halfway through, track down a copy of Atrocity Archives, and hope to come back to Jennifer Morgue at a later date, or I could say the hell with order, and keep reading. I chose to keep reading. Sure, there were inside jokes I didn’t get, but with the help of some flashbacks and explanations, I didn’t feel lost at all.

Bob Howard is an agent with The Laundry, a secret British agency that deals with matters of the paranormal, specifically secret agreements between humans and Lovecraftian horrors, where we agree to leave them alone, and they agree (we think) to allow us to live. Those who bump back indeed. The Laundry is armed with all sorts of semi-magical and James Bond-esque gizmos. As much as Howard wishes for an Astin Martin, they give him a tricked out smart car.

Bad guy computer mogul Billington is trying to summon something unspeakable from the watery depths of the Caribbean, and his viper of a wife, Eileen, has a best selling cosmetics company thanks to a little virgin blood. Laundry agent Bob Howard has been tasked with finding out what Billington is up to, and stopping it. To complete his mission, Howard has to team up with a Black Chamber (the American version of The Laundry) Assassin named Ramona Random. Ramona isn’t what she appears to be, and doesn’t work for the Black Chamber by choice. Howard and Random become destiny entangled to allow a telepathic link. What one hears, feels, sees, and thinks, so does the other. But Ramona is a succubi, she feeds on men’s passions, and what she feels and experiences, so does Bob. How in the world is Bob going to explain this to his girlfrield, who also works for The Laundry? And if they don’t get unentangled in about a half a million seconds, the connection could become permanant. Read the rest of this entry »

thanks to TJ at Dreams and Speculation and her article on graphic novels at Dirty Sexy Books for getting me to write an article on Phil and Kaja Foglio’s Girl Genius.

I’ve been working on this article for like three days, and I’m finding it very hard to talk about Girl Genius. Why? Well, I read a lot of dark and tragic stuff. plenty of magic, plenty of violence, plenty of really bad guys, a bare handful of good guys and lots and lots of melancholy. So that’s what I’m used to writing about.

And Girl Genius by Phil and Kaja Foglio is the opposite of all that. It’s a sex comedy with mad scientists and shy students and sentient castles and blimp cities and monster soldiers who have crushes on  monster construct nannies. It’s a riot of science and smarts and silliness and romance and adventure. It’s got it’s own mythology and it’s own cult following. It makes me giggle uncontrollably and want to sign up for Steampunk conventions. Yes, that Phil Foglio of What’s New with Phil and Dixie and Mythadventures.  umm, and SPANC.

and you should be reading it.

AND, I’m even going to tell you what it’s about! Or at least the first three volumes, which I have in a super awesome omnibus edition. Read the rest of this entry »


2014 Hugo Awards

I reviewed some Hugo nominated stuff. Click here for the list.

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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.