the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘series

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, by Lois McMaster Bujold

published in 2012

where I got it: Hugo Voter’s Packet

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The umpteeth entry in her famous Vorkosigan saga, Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance takes place very late in the Vorkisigan chronology, in fact, we only briefly meet the famous Miles Vorkosigan, and he’s semi-retired and chasing toddlers. Never read a Vorkosigan novel, or only read the first one? Have no fear, you really jump in (or back in) at this one.  Bujold does her world building in my favorite way – through interactions between characters.  Relatives and friends show up from time to time to let everyone know how things are going back home, which also lets the reader know about “back home”, and how it fits into the chronology. There’s no infodumping, just characters have an easy going and often inadvertenly funny conversation.

Right off the bat we meet Ivan Vorpatril, and his buddy Byerly Vorrutyer. These young men are effectively rich wastrels – extra heirs in a hierarchical militaristic society. They have wealthy parents, a title, and maybe some inheritance, but no one expects much from them because they’re so far down the line from the throne. Ivan spends his free time chasing women and promising his mother he’ll settle down one day, and Byerly uses his reputation as an idiot cad to his advantage in his career. It’s easy to think at first that these two playboys are exactly what they seem.

Ivan does a favor for Byerly, and ends up tied to a chair in a beautiful woman’s apartment, while the real kidnappers are breaking through the window.  The beautiful woman, Tej, happens to be the on-the-run daughter of a deposed Major House of Jackson’s Whole, a planet on the other side of the wormhole.

In a last ditch effort to protect her from the local authorities, Ivan offers her instant entry into High Vor society, via becoming his wife (in name only of course, with a promise of a divorce once he’s seen her safely to her destination).  A few hastily spoken sentences later, and poof: Tej is now Lady Vorpatril.  She’s only know Ivan a few hours, but he seems earnest in that he’s just interested in helping her.  And besides, if he tries anything (which he swears he won’t), Tej’s blue skinned companion will beat the shit out of him.

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Tiassa, by Steven Brust

published in 2011

where I got it: purchased new

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I am among the fans who came to Tiassa with trepidation. The two books that come before it, Jhegaala and Iorich are slower, quieter reads. Not much happens, Vlad pines for his ex-wife, everyone is very sad about a lot of things, the witty snark was toned down. They aren’t bad books by any means (Brust’s writing will break your heart no matter what’s going on in the story) they just aren’t super fun to read. Would Tiassa be more of the same?  I didn’t even care if it moved the timeline forward, I just wanted the feeling of fun, and adventure, and optimism that I’d gotten out of the earlier Vlad  books.

After a handful of “meh” reads these last few weeks, I was desperate for a book that would grab me and insist that it was going to lead this dance.  I needed a comfort read; an author I could trust to transport me to a different world, a book that would swallow me whole so quickly I wouldn’t even feel its teeth.

Steven Brust’s Tiassa to the rescue.

I saw a review on Amazon that said Tiassa was Brust’s love letter to his fans, and after reading it I have to whole heartedly agree.  If you are already a long time reader of the Vlad Taltos series, you will be in heaven with Tiassa. But on the flip-side, if you’re new to the series, this is a terrible place to start (start here. really.).

The book is sharply divided in three portions, with interludes inbetween, and throughout everything a silver tiassa sculpture keeps coming up.  A tiny, seemingly useless sculpture of a winged cat, it may have been forged by the gods or it may be worthless. Regardless, the little tiassa seems to be making its own plans.  Packed with the requisite witty dialog but jumping around in time and touching on Draegaran mythology, Tiassa isn’t so much a Vlad Taltos book as it is a Dragaeran Empire book.

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Witch World, by Andre Norton

Published in 1963

Where I got it: borrowed from a friend

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Andre Norton, the woman who has not one, but two literary genre awards named after her.  She broke glass ceilings left and right, has a near endless list of books to her name, and is rightfully so a legend in the science fiction community.  Her Witch World series started with a few stories, and grew exponentially to cover over 20 novels and novellas known as the Estcarp Cycle and the High Hallack Cycle.

What I’m getting at here is that if you style yourself a science fiction fan, read yourself some Norton. She may not use the flashiest guns or the shiniest spaceships, but these are the stories your favorite authors grew up reading. These are the stories that influenced many of the authors who are influencing you.

If there is such a thing as traditional sci-fantasy, Witch World is it.  Simon Tregarth, soldier turned bootlegger is running from the law. Approached by a gentleman who promises he can hide Simon forever, Simon doesn’t have much of a choice. Offered a doorway to the “world his heart desires”, Simon finds himself someplace. . . strange.  After saving a woman who is being hunted, Simon slowly learns about this new world. Escarp is a country ruled by women who have the Power (witches), and the surrounding countries are primarily male dominated cultures who wish to take over Estcarp.  Estcarp’s highly trained guardsmen (assisted by Simon) can take care of most of her enemies. But the soldiers of the Kolder, that’s a different story all together. Once they are on the march, no amount of guns or arrows will stop the creatures of Kolder.

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Welcome to our The Hobbit read-along, part one! These questions are for chapters 1-7.  Post your answers here, or on your own site.  If you do a post, leave your link in the comments, and Geeky Daddy and myself will edit our co-hosting pages to include a direct link to your post.

Interested in joining us in our epic journey through JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit and  The Lord of the Rings ? It’s easy! Check out the reading schedule here, sign up here, or here, or leave a link in the comments to your blog discussions post, and we’ll add you to the mailing list.

This week’s questions were provided by Geeky Daddy:

1. What were your expectations starting The Hobbit ?(If you never read it before)
(For those who have read the Hobbit) Did you learn something during reading that you missed from the last time you read it?

2. What would have been your thoughts if 13 strangers came in your house and wanted to fed and housed in a moments notice?

3. What has been your favorite part of Bilbo’s journey so far?

4. Where do you think the group would be without Gandalf?

Visit these other blogs for their discussions:

Geeky Daddy
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My answers, after the jump!

my preciousssss. . . .

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ready for some really epic, high fantasy?   I know I am!  good thing too, as our The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings read along starts today!  co-hosting by yours truly and GeekyDaddy, sign up here, or here.  No Pressure if you’re already involved in other things, we’ll be taking two to three weeks to read each book, starting a new one on the first of each upcoming month, with discussions/questions/etc on the weekends.

Never read The Hobbit or LOTR? now’s your chance!  Read it before and loved it?  here’s your chance to spread the love!  read it before and weren’t so sure? Give it another try, this time w/friends. :)

Just so you know, I’m a total LOTR virgin.   Saw the movies, but really, all I was watching was Viggo.

Iz gonna be awesome.

and for once, I’m happy I’m not a cat.

Forest Mage (Soldier Son Trilogy: book 2), by Robin Hobb

published in 2006

where I got it: purchased new

why I read it: enjoyed the first book, Shaman’s Crossing

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Picking up shortly after the end of the first book in the trilogy, Shaman’s Crossing,  Forest Mage was mostly what I’ve come to expect from Robin Hobb – a powerful character driven fantasy that starts out “traditional”, and then, quite suddenly, most certainly isn’t.

As the military academy recovers from the Plague, life slowly goes back to normal. Noble families are coming to grips with the fact that their third son (destined for the priesthood) may now be their second son (destined for the military) and so forth.  Nevare is readying to head home to his brother’s wedding and to see Carsina, his betrothed. While most people who survive the plague become weakened and skeletal, Nevare is having the opposite reaction to his brush with death: he can’t stop gaining weight.  He becomes heavy.  Then fat.  Then obese.  Hobb takes every possible opportunity to remind us that Nevare is supposed to be a fit, trim soldier, and “letting yourself go” simply isn’t accepted in this society (I’ll just assume that every woman in this world always loses the baby fat, and thyroid problems are nonexistent). Due only to his size, Nevare is in turn spurned by his father, his siblings, his friends and his betrothed. And then he is given a medical discharge from the academy. Everything he was destined to be, the military life his father trained him for, is over.

Humiliated and disowned by his father, Nevare sets out for the eastern frontier determined to join up with a military post far from home. Everywhere he stops it seems, people don’t want anything to do with him because of his girth. People assume he is homeless, or a thief, or a murderer, or all of the above, and only because he’s fat. Hobb belabors this point, often.

Along the King’s Road, Nevare learns first hand the folly of building a road with chain gangs, of building frontier towns just to abandon them when the road passes through and the guards leave.  Puts me in the mood to track down some American history about the transcontinental railroads and the natives who were “in the way”.

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Midnight at the Well of Souls, by Jack Chalker

published in 1977

where I got it: husband’s collection

why I read it: cuz it’s damn fun!

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The far flung future of humanity isn’t a pretty place.  Having colonized over 500 planets, many governments have turned to utopian totalitarianism, extreme forms of socialism, cloning, and forced equality through genetic engineering.  Nathan Brazil isn’t the only freighter pilot who’d rather live alone on his ship than ever settle on one of those hellholes, where everyone is exactly the same.  Wonderfully antisocial, Nathan happily goes decades without speaking to another human.  Old enough to remember the good old days before the stagnation of humanity, these days it’s just freight, freight, more freight, and the occasional passenger run.

While ferrying a few passengers, he makes an unplanned detour, and hears a distress call from the non-inhabited planet of Dalgonia. One of the original planets of the Markovian race, Dalgonia is nothing but ruins these days, a favorite dig spot  for archaeologists. The Markovians, an ancient race, possible the first race to populate our universe, left no writings behind, no artwork, nothing to identify what they might have looked like. The planets they colonized spanned the universe and all had massive, planet-wide computers living just under the surface. Nathan and his passengers investigate the impossible distress signal, only to fall through a gateway that shouldn’t exist.

No one will be reaching their destination.  except for Nathan, who might just finally be at the right place.
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Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey

published in 1971

where I got it: husband came with it

why I read it: this is one of my husband’s favorite series, so I wanted to give it a try.

Picking up seven years after Dragonflight (reviewed here), Lessa has come into her own as Weyrwoman, F’lar is a respected Weyrleader, and the “oldtimers” that Lessa brought from four hundred turns ago are having trouble adapting to their new world.  The oldtimers who were once revered above all Pernians are having trouble swallowing that they are no longer seen as demigods by the populace.

The politics between the oldtimers and the contemporary Pernians are my favorite part of this book.  I interpreted it as an interesting little political commentary, how the oldtimers (conservatives) react to the contemporary dragonriders (the progessives). The way the oldtimers see it, everything the progessives do is wrong and to the detriment of society. But the contemporary dragonriders don’t see why they shouldn’t use every tool and every new technology they discover to make life easier for everyone?  When developing new methods and drastically moving away from tradition, how far is too far? Read the rest of this entry »

Wow, seems like everything coming out these days is part of a series, or book one in a new epic series. . . . even my two favorite recent reads are parts of series.

Even my most recent to be read book pile photo is stacked tall with anthologies (always a challenge for me) and series books, and “in my mailbox” and other tbr photos other bloggers are posting seem to appear that way too.  The only stand alone in my stack is Tim Powers’ The Anubis Gates.  I’m currently working on my next Catching up with Classics book, and yup you guessed it, it’s the first book in a trilogy.

Of the few reviews I posted in March, 2 were of stand alones, 3 were of short story collections,  and the rest were all series books.  In February, it was about half series books and half stand alones.  I’m sensing a pattern here!

On the main Macmillan/Tor Science Fiction Fantasy new releases page shows 10 new releases and 14 best sellers. Of the 24 titles shown, 19 appear to be part of series.  The PYR forthcoming page shows 11 titles, and only one appears to be a stand alone.

Again, I have NOTHING AGAINST series!  I’m just interested to know why it seems like I am swimming in them!

Are series the latest publishing trend? the publishers get a captive paying audience for multiple books, and authors get publishing deal for multiple novels?

Are authors simply no longer interested in telling a quick-ish 400 page self-contained story? Are we no longer interested in reading quick-ish self contained stories?

or has this always been the case and I’m only just now noticing?

How about you, do you prefer series or stand alones? Do you feel you’re having a hard time finding good stand alones to read? Do you feel inundated with series?  Am I making a mountain out a mole hill?

 Thirteen Years Later, by Jasper Kent

published: Feb 2011, PYR

Where I got it: received review copy from the friendly folks at PYR

why I read it: Loved the first book, Twelve, reviewed here.

  
Apologies in advance for a crappily written review that doesn’t do the book justice.    I’ve had some version of the flu since saturday, and my brain isn’t functioning at all. and that’s before the cold meds.  the super short version:  Thirteen Years Later has a slower pace than Twelve, but has better twists and turns. We get multiple points of view, which is nice. If you thought the “bad guys” from the first book were nasty, just wait till you meet Doctor Cain.

Here’s the longer version:

Aleksei tries to forget the past, but it’s impossible. He still remembers conversations he had with his dead friends, and every time he looks at his son Dmitri he can’t help but think of the boy’s namesake. Aleksei splits his time between his family in Petersburg, his mistress and illegitimate daughter in Moscow, and wherever his job takes him. Reporting directly to Tsar Alexandre, Aleksei has spent the last few years infiltrating revolutionary groups, in hopes of squashing rebellions before they even start, saving lives, and saving Russia. Many of these rebels are soldiers the same age group as Aleksei, who had chased the French all the way back to Paris thirteen years ago. They came home, wanting for Russia the freedoms and republic they saw in Paris.

Things are going fairly swimmingly, until Aleksei receives a message from a man he knows to be dead. Partly out of fear, and partly out of curiosity, he goes to the meeting, to meet a man who claims to be Maksim’s younger brother Kyesha. Maksim did have a brother, a brother who died in childhood. Who is this man, and what does he want from Aleksei? He certainly isn’t Maksim’s brother, but Aleksei does know him from somewhere. If only he could remember where. . . . Over many short meetings, with questions and answers given over a children’s gambling game, Aleksei earns a book bound in the skin of a voordalak, and discovers the secrets behind Kyesha’s horrific past. Read the rest of this entry »


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