the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for January 2011

Hood, Book 1 of the King Raven Trilogy, by Stephen Lawhead

published in 2007

where I got it: purchased new

why I read it:  Have enjoyed previous Stephen Lawhead titles.

It was over a thousand years ago that William the Conqueror decided England was his by divine right. Not long after 1066 he turned his gaze further west, to Wales. With every head on a pike and every new church built, the Normans believed they were bringing freedom and civilization, while the Welsh felt they were already free and civilized.

What happens to a story after a thousand years? Is there any way to know how it really began?

Hood, the first book in the King Raven trilogy, is Stephen Lawhead’s fictional account of how a most famous myth got started. Maybe it didn’t start in Sherwood, maybe it’s main character never went to the crusades. Maybe it all started in a beautiful, wooded, green country called Wales, where the people simply wanted to remain free.

Bran ap Brychan never wanted to be King of Elfael. His father is abusive, stubborn, and short sighted, and Bran would rather court the beautiful Merian than grow up to be anything like his father. When King Brychan is betrayed and murdered, all Bran wants to do is run. If a new Ffreinc (what the Britons call the Normans) king has come from across the narrow sea, proclaiming divine right to the lands, who is Bran to question God?

Honor and honesty is fine, but in this new era of divine kings, money rules. Bran sets out from Elfael with Iwan and the itinerant priest Aethelfrith to gain the King’s justice for King Brychan’s death. Iwan can’t pronounce the priest’s Saxon name, and likewise, Aethelfrith can’t quite pronounce the British sounding Iwan. Father Aethelfrith takes to calling Iwan Little John as a joke on his height, and Iwan insists on calling his new friend Friar Tuck, as a joke on his girth. Anything sounding familiar yet?
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I’m currently about half way through Stephen Lawhead’s Hood.  Like much of what he writes, it’s far too atmospheric to blast through in a day and a half.  If I can finish it tomorrow, I’ll try to get a review up on Monday.  I’ve also got a beautiful Mark Hodder Arc that’s going to be my first read of February.

And because I have a bucket of other books I’d really like to get to, what did I do today?  I went to the library, of course!!

and this is what I came home with:

Ignoring the sofa upholstery that’s so ugly as to be legendary, we have the following:

Not from the library, but borrowed from a friend, is The Meq, by Steve Cash. first book of a series.

Home Fires by Gene Wolfe – because come on, it’s Gene Wolfe!  I haven’t read a ton by him, but everything I’ve read by him I liked. I keep wanting to call it Home Fries, but maybe that’s just cuz I’m hungry?

The Warded Man, by Peter V Brett – actually got this for the husband, but I’ll probably give it a shot too. I’ve heard good and bad about it.

Flatterland by Ian Stewart – with a subtitle of “Like Flatland, only more so”, I hope it’s more readable than the original Flatland. I’ve always been a fan of the original Abbott, but much of the satiric undertones has always been lost on me. Having a plot that’s “math and geometry” is hard to pull off. Let’s hope this isn’t an epic fail.

The Habitation of the Blessed, by Catherine Valente – everyone says this is awesome. Also, the book is very pretty.

 

Do any of these look interesting to you?  Have you read any of them?  if you’ve reviewed of these books on your blog, post a link in the comments.

Grey, by Jon Armstrong

published in 2007

where I got it:  bought

why I read it:  been hearing good things about it.

Heir to the Rivergroup company, Michael Rivers is in love with the beautiful Nora.  Every date and detail of their romance was organized, choreographed and directed by the PR departments of their companies,  down to Michael’s hairstyle and Nora’s earrings. That they fell in love with each other was never part of the corporate plan.  For the wealthy company families who run the world in this frantic future, everything is PR.   Every moment is planned, directed, blocked and recorded just to be dissected and discussed ad nauseum later. And there is no such thing as bad PR.

This is a future where style is everything.  The wealthy live it up with 24/7 parties, lethally thumping bass,  and cosplay their favorite bands, while bands and hanger-ons  battle for who can be stranger. Success means faster, louder, brighter, more over the top, and more more more of everything than your competition. Privacy is unheard of, and who would want it, when privacy would stop your every move from being broadcast and talked about all over the channels?    

When every moment is garish, loud, brash and bright, the rebels crave quiet and monochromatic. Michael and Nora are two such people.  They dress in muted tones,  and have even gone so far to have the cones in one eye illegally destroyed, making them each color blind in one eye.  Followers of the minimalist fashion and photography magazine Pure H, Michael and Nora send secret messages to each other by quoting partial lines from the magazine.

Grey is frantic, insane, completely over the top, hilarious, refreshing, and at times completely sick.  

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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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The Mountains of Majipoor, by Robert Silverberg

written in: 1995

where I got it: library

why I read it: Silverberg rocks my world.

On my last library jaunt, I was hoping to find Robert Silverberg’s Lord Valentine’s Castle, or Majipoor Chronicles. Alas, the library only had the third book in the series, Valentine Pontifex. And who wants to read just the third book? I’ve read them all, but I wanted to start at the beginning. Then I happened upon The Mountains of Majipoor, a stand alone that does take place on the massive planet of Majipoor, many generations after Valentine. How could I say no?

Thanks to an innocent accident in his youth, young Prince Harpirias finds himself banished from the Castle Mount, given a useless bureaucratic post out on the edge of civilization.  Slowly losing contact with his friends, and realizing his hometown has forgotten him, he becomes bitter and angry.

The quest part of the story comes along fairly quickly when Harpirias learns that an archaeological team of scientists has been taken hostage by an even further northern tribe. At first angry that responsibility to save the team falls on him, Harpirias soon realizes if he negotiates the release of the scientists, he can look forward to a Hero’s welcome back home at the Castle Mount.

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What’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, and can take you anywhere  in the universe at a moments notice?   And sometimes even out of the universe, or to a totally different multiverse?

This one’s camouflage happens to be blue.

Here’s a hint:

the answer, after the jump!

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Soldier Son, Book 1: Shaman’s Crossing, by Robin Hobb

published: 2006

Where I got it: purchased new

Why I read it:  I enjoyed Hobb’s Farseer series and wanted to read more of her books.

I can give you a simple summary of the plot of Shaman’s Crossing, the first book in Robin Hobb’s Soldier Son trilogy, and I guarantee, it will sound simple. I also guarantee this novel is far from simple.

In the traditional and conservative land of Gernia, the aspirations of noble sons are predetermined by their birth order. First sons are heirs, second sons are soldiers, third sons are priests, and so on. After a recent and bloody war with their neighbors, the King elevated his most celebrated military commanders to the title of Lord, making them equal in status to not only their older brothers, but the old nobility as well.

Nevare Burvelle is the second son of one such elevated veteran. Living on a frontier estate, Nevare is naïve of how the old noble families view “upstarts” such as his father. These frontier estates are often the only thing between the civilized cities of Gernia and the nomadic Plainsmen and the aborigine Speckled peoples of the mountains.

Nevare is a perfect son. He is loyal, honest and obedient. These things make for a good soldier, but his father has greater plans for him. In an effort to make Nevare break out of his quiet shell of obedience and learn to think for himself, his father sends him to learn from a Plainsman named Dewara. Part of Nevare’s “education” with the savage Dewara is a spirit journey, in which things go either very wrong, or very right, depending on how you look at it.

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Because I have a digital camera and I know how to use it!  (Ok, I sort of know how to use it)

I’ve still got The Wolf Age by James Enge and Mountains of Majipoor by Robert Silverberg topping the TBR list,  but here are some new goodies on deck, double deck, and triple deck for the next little while:

There’s something in that photo that I’m super crazy excited about, can you guess what it is?  Hint: It’s from the friendly folks at PYR.

I hadn’t planned on buying Grey, but I recently read some good reviews of it, and it was on the dollar table at Bargain Books because the cover was a bit marked up.  Also from Bargain Books, the Ai Yazawa.  I’m undecided on Bargain Books – no service, but tons of random cheap stuff that’s usually in mint condition.   A consumer’s dream, or a nail in the coffin of my favorite independent bookseller?

Oh, and I got seduced by this too:

I just can’t help myself when it comes to Robin Hobb.  You’re looking at the Soldier Son trilogy,  book 1 of which I’m about 150 pages into.   I probably won’t read these books one right after the other, but I hope to get to all of them, eventually.

So If I don’t get (too) distracted by anything else in the next week or so, you should expect to see reviews of at least a handful of the stuff mentioned or  pictured in this post.

Just so you know, this is a super long post with a funny at the end.  Not unlike an epic quest. . . .

I describe this website as offering Science Fiction & Fantasy reviews.  But going through my list of reviews, I’m seeing far more fantasy than science.  Maybe I should just describe it as a fantasy review site?  Or a gateway to fantasy review site?

When I was a kid, I was an adamant SF fan. Much of my youth was spent building spaceships out of legos and watching PBS shows about astronomy.  I craved scientific explanations for everything.  I wanted to know how everything worked

While my friends were reading Lloyd Alexander, I was reading Interstellar Pig.  As they moved onto Tolkien and Raymond Feist and Katherine Kurtz, I moved onto David Brin and Robert Heinlein and Frank Herbert.

To me, Fantasy was wizards with long beards, royals who went on quests where their soldiers and magical armor protected them, and elves and dwarves who spent the first half of the conversation telling you their lineages, and embarassingly rediculous cover art. really nothing else. I had no understanding that “high fantasy” was only the tip of the iceberg of the genre.  My limited experiences with high fantasy let me know quickly that I didn’t care for it.

And then I started reading manga, a form famous for mixing genres. Cyborg mechas using laser guns against a castle and fighting flesh and blood dragons that guarded hoards of treasure? no problem. Kids who get wisked away from their regular life to fight demons and spirits and collect magical shards? piece of cake.  Vampires, martians, aliens, dragons, time travel, often in the same series. And it worked, like magic.

Wait, wasn’t this, um, fantasy?  It sure was fantastical, and it sure wasn’t hard scifi. Read the rest of this entry »

The Affinity Bridge, by George Mann

written in: 2009

where I got it: Library

why I read it: Had heard good things, especially about the 2nd book in this series, The Osiris Ritual.

With steampunk being the trend du jour of 2010, I couldn’t not read George Mann’s The Affinity Bridge. The first in a series of Victorian steampunk mysteries starring investigators Maurice Newbury and Veronica Hobbes, The Affinity Bridge takes place in a smoggy, dangerous London, where if the zombies don’t get you, the mad scientist might.

With a cover as researchers at the British Museum, Newbury and Hobbes are able to hid their true jobs as investigative agents of the Crown, focusing on cases the police are having trouble with.  Right away the reader is introduced to a handful of mysteries – an automaton airship crash that killed everyone on board, a growing plague of zombies in Whitechapel, stories of a supernatural glowing policeman who kills random paupers, and to top it off, the brother of one of Newbury’s employees has gone missing.  Mann makes sure the reader believes these mysteries are connected.

Hidden behind Newbury’s stodgy, formal, upper class british gent personality lies addictions to laudanum and the occult, and an adorable concern for the safety and general well being of his assistant, Miss Hobbes.  Veronica Hobbes, however, can hold her own, and more than once it is she who is saving Newbury’s skin. Constantly underestimated because she is a woman, Miss Hobbes takes advantage of everyone’s preconcieved notions to get useful information out of people.  For me, Veronica Hobbes was the best part of The Affinity Bridge, I wish she was given a bigger role from the start.

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About this redhead, etc.

Redhead is a snarky, non-politically correct 30-something who reviews mostly science fiction and fantasy and talks about all sorts of other fun scifi and fantasy geekery. She once wrote a haiku that included the word triskaidekaphobia.

This blog contains adult language and strong opinions. The best way to contact her outside of this blog is twitter, where she is @redhead5318 .

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