the Little Red Reviewer

american craftsmen coverAmerican Craftsmen, by Tom Doyle

published in 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the author (Thanks Tom!)

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Is it possible to really enjoy a book, but to at the same time be incredibly frustrated with it? It’s completely possible, and doesn’t stop you from enjoying the hell out of something. And it’s the experience I had with Tom Doyle’s debut novel, American Craftsmen.

 

The book starts with a bang, and gets off to a fantastic start. US Army Captain Dale Morton has his mission switched at the last minute, and something goes terribly wrong, pushing him to contemplate leaving the military. But, he’s a Morton. He *can’t* leave the military. This is where I fell in love with the premise of the novel. Morton is a Craftsman. Passed down through the generations, his family has held magical powers since the creation of the United States. Through agreements with the government, the Craft families have always protected the land and the country.  Along with the other Craftsman families, Morton is part of a secret unit in the US Military.  Unlike other Craft families, Dale can never escape his own family’s past.

 

Dale was a great point of view character, he’s brave but vulnerable, someone willing take risks and bend the rules when circumstances allow.  And oh, didn’t I mention? He has daily chats with his late grandfather’s ghost, and the house they live in has a personality all it’s own. I loved house!

 

House protects the Mortons, and keeps the older ghosts trapped in the basement. A few generations ago, a branch of the family, known as the Left Hand branch, went bad. They allowed their magic to be corrupted by greed. Dale knows their power surges through him. He just has to keep it at bay and not fall into the trap of their promises.

 

You’re gonna love House. You’re also gonna love the Sanctuary and The Gideons.

 

Ok, that’s most of what I liked. Let me tell you what frustrated me.

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2015-04-05 20.33.31The Gabble and Other Stories, by Neal Asher (short story collection)

published 2008, Night Shade Edition published 2015

where it got it: received review copy from Night Shade Books (thanks!)

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My first Neal Asher novel was The Skinner, an edgy  space opera that I’ve lovingly described as “magnificently disgusting”.  In that novel, the name of the game is adapt or die, and the denizens of the planet Spatterjay take full advantage of evolutionary opportunities. Even visitors who stick around long enough can watch their bodies change into something not quite human.  The Skinner made me an instant fan of Asher, and I’ve been watching for his titles ever since.

Many of Asher’s novels take place in his Polity Universe, which in a similar fashion to Banks’ Culture novels,  the novels all take place in the same universe, and occasionally characters from one book show up or are mentioned in another, but you can generally jump around in the order the books were published.   Not sure Asher is for you? Not sure you want to dive into a new universe? The Gabble, a short story collection of stores from the Polity will answer both of those questions for you.  If you ask me, you can just answer those two questions with a resounding Yes and be done with it.

What I loved about how Asher does alien planets and aliens is that everything is so damn alien. Why should aliens have two arms, two legs, a head, a nose and a mouth? If that configuration is unique to Earth, it follows that every planet will have a unique configuration based on evolutionary needs, the planet’s unique environs, and any one of a million other variables in how life works. No one we run into is going to look like us, think like us, or communicate like us. There is no gentleness here, no Star Trek style diplomacy.  Some species simply do not communicate with others, and humans are quite tasty.  It might sound harsh, but this is how nature works.   When it comes down to it, we are just animals in a food chain.

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We survived the move! mostly because the professional movers moved all the heavy stuff.  those poor guys, lugging everything up four flights of stairs.  if professional movers start charging a thousand dollars extra per outdoor flight of stairs, that’s our fault.

the new place is huge, with a nicer view than the old place.  I am not used to having to walk so far to the coffee pot. that could be a problem. ;)  if we ever get the place somewhat unpacked, I’ll post some photos. We were short a bookcase before the move, and our oldest bookcase didn’t survive the move. So there are a ton of book boxes sitting around until the new bookcase we ordered arrives. Maybe we should have ordered 2 bookcases?

status of book reviews and such, because #books:

books i’ve finished and need to, like, review sometime:

2015-04-05 20.33.31The Gabble by Neal Asher – if you like super alien aliens, you’ll like this.   as a collection, it’s got pros and cons, but it serves a good introduction to Asher’s Polity universe and his writing style.

2015-04-05 20.34.31Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson – this doesn’t come out till July. When am I allowed to start talking about it!?

american craftsmenAmerican Craftsmen by Tom Doyle – I really enjoyed how this started, and Doyle’s written himself the foundations for a series that he could have a lot of fun with. I had some issues with the action scenes, but I’m an action scene snob.

books on the horizon that I’m planning to read next:

superpositionSuperposition by David Walton.  David Brin and Will McIntosh blurbed it. ‘nuf said.

three bodyThree Body Problem by Cixin Liu – Husband is about two thirds of the way through and loves it. also? Hugo ballot.

Tags:

We get the keys to the new place on Thursday, the professional movers show up on Friday.  Got just about everything packed up except the kitchen. Today we celebrated finishing packing the books.

That boxes in front? not books. All the other boxes in this photo? books.

That box on the floor in front? not books. All the other boxes in this photo? Books. Twelve boxes of ’em

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brides story vol 3

who better to review a manga about getting married than a romantic married couple?  We reviewed volumes 1 and 2 earlier this year, and we’re finally getting to volumes 3 and 4 (with volumes 5 and 6 forthcoming).  What started out as the story of Amir and her young husband Karluk has veered off into unexpected directions….  hey, is this story really all about Smith??

This time I made Michael come up with most of the questions. But I shot some his way too!

Michael: How did you feel about the change of character from Amir and Karluk to Smith and then the twins? Many people were surprised when Mori-sensei did not stay with Amir for the entire run of Bride Story.

Andrea: I miss Amir! But it’s Mori’s story, so she can do whatever she wants. If we stayed with Amir and Karluk, we’d learn all about them, and their families, and nothing else. By following other characters we get to learn more about the varied cultures and families in the area. Yeah, I know people are mad that this story isn’t all about Amir… because you’ve just been introduced to a really interesting and compelling character, but get over yourself. If it was all Amir, all the time, we’d never meet Talas. Speaking of Talas….
2015-04-12 20.02.40

Michael: How did you feel about the change of feel? In the first two novels it is drama, with light action and suspense but there is not much peril or adult darkness. Three and four change that with three being very adult dark, and four being the introduction of the twins with a more lighthearted whimsical point of view.

Andrea: Vol 3 is mostly about Smith and Talas, and then Vol 4 is about the twins. Vol 3 gets surprisingly dark. Smith journeys to wherever he’s going (Michael: Ankara!), and is helped by Talas, a young widow. He ends up spending a few days with her and her mother in law, and learns her tragic story. Talas and her Mother in law are basically in a bleak and shitty situation. Both ladies see Smith as an honorable and gentle man, and it is suggested that he take Talas as a wife. She’s offended that Smith has to think about the offer. He likes her, but his western sensibilities require a long courtship, saying yes to a wedding isn’t something he can do quickly.

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It’s not that I’ve been procrastinating writing my review of Neal Asher’s The Gabble (it was hella fun, btw), it’s that I’ve been elsewhere on the web’o’sphere:

I was part of a SFSignal Mind Meld on Remembering Leonard Nimoy and Terry Pratchett. I sent the link to my Dad, he said he liked my response.

I interviewed Tim Lebbon over at SFSignal about his newest apocalyptic novel The Silence

I interviewed A.C. Wise at Apex Magazine about her short story “Silver Buttons All down His Back”

S.C. Flynn interviewed me over at Scy-Fy.

I’ve been packing like a crazy mo-fo. Today I’m tackling the kitchen, the boardgames cabinet, and the entertainment center. or at least hoping to.

transmetropolitan v 1Transmetropolitan Vol 1 by Warren Ellis, artwork by Darick Robertson

published in 2009

where I got it: published new

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Journalist Spider Jerusalem has been hiding in a mountain cabin in the woods for a while. He’s gotten rough around the edges, his hair is down to his waist, he hates everyone. Hard to believe he’s only been out there a few years. One best-selling book was all it took for him to get more than his fifteen minutes of fame, and when the attention stopped agreeing with him, he went up the mountain and promised never to come down. Except for the pesky fact that he’s still under contract with his publisher for two more books.

And how the hell do you writing a biting political book out in the woods? You don’t. Spider is going to have to return his natural habitat. The City. It’s loud, it’s filthy, it’ll hate him right back, it’s full of noise and insanity and things happening. In short, it’s the perfect place to complete his contractual obligations. Thanks to his still existing journalism contacts, he’s able to get his old job back. Luckily it comes with an apartment. That’s a shithole. Now, not only does he have two books to write, but he’s got newspaper deadlines to meet, a city that evolved into who knows what without bothering to tell him, and an assistant who doesn’t take any shit from him.

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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.