the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for February 2011

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you love books.

You probably also own a lot of books.

And your friends know you love books and own more than a handful of them.

It’s inevitable.

Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but one day, someday soon, someone is going to say “can I borrow that?”

What kind of lending library is your private collection?

a) I’m happy to lend any book I own to any of my friends.

b) My closest friends get lending privileges, often more than they really want.

c) Some of my books I’m happy to lend out,  with other titles if you want to read it, I’ll buy you a copy instead of lending it.

d) my books!  no touch! get away from my stuff!

And just for kicks, because it’s happened to all of us,  what’s been your worst experience lending out a book?

The planet Umayma was colonized milennia ago, but it’s still an awful place to live. No amount of terraforming could cure the biological agents that crawl the land and poison the water, or downsize the mutant flesh eating bugs that are now used as weapons. Nowhere and nothing is safe on Umayma, and it’s people are still fighting the religious wars of eons past.

Nyxnissa isn’t all that different from the rest of the women she knows. She spent her best years at the war front with the men, came home in pieces, and later joined up with the government assassins. Then she made a very expensive mistake. one year in prison later, she’s still running from the government and makes ends meet as a streetwise bounty hunter.

Make no mistake, Umayma is not a pretty place, and God’s War is not a pretty book. Nyx still lives the life of a soldier, she drinks, she gambles, she tumbles into bed with whoever strikes her fancy, she gets into street brawls with people who don’t strike her fancy. But like I said, she’s not much different from the rest of the women she knows. There is language, and inferred and overt violence. Welcome to life in the country of Nasheen.

I’ve been reading a lot of what I tend to call “boy-books” lately. You know, books with very few female characters, books that wouldn’t even dream of the Bechdel test? Hurley takes my idea of a “boy book” and 100% flips it on it’s head. God’s War is an intense action packed high speed ride, and in Nasheen, men are seen as the weaker sex, if they are seen at all. In Nasheen, if you’re a man you’re either at the war front or there is something so wrong with you that even the military doesn’t want you. For the first 50 pages I had to keep reminding myself that most of these characters are women. I’m just not used to that. It was pretty damn cool.
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Wordless Wednesday? Photoshop Phridays?  

I dub today to be Cool Shit Thursday.  Last night I finished Kameron Hurley’s (@kameronhurley) new novel God’s War, and I haven’t started the review yet.  I feel bad that I haven’t posted here in a few days,  so here is some cool shit for you.   It’s all interesting, I promise.

Impatient?  scroll to the bottom.  There is something there you will WANT to see.    TRUST ME.

We had an ice storm earlier this week.  Nothing really out of the ordinary for our part of the country. Anyway, a HUGE tree came down in a local playground . . .  

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 Scarlet (King Raven book 2) by Stephen Lawhead

Published in 2007

Where I got it: purchased a few years ago

Why I read it: enjoyed the first book in the series, Hood.

Stephen Lawhead writes only two kinds of books: very good and excellent.  Hood  was the former, Scarlet the latter.  
Scarlet is the second book in Stephen Lawhead’s King Raven trilogy, his take on the Robin Hood legend. Only this time, “Robin Hood” is Rhi Bran y Hud, also known as Bran ap Brychan, also known as King Raven, a prince of Wales who has lost his father and his land to William the Red and his cronies.   Scarlet is not a stand alone, you really must read the first book in the series, Hood (reviewed here) first.

After the slowish Hood, I was happily surprised at how fast of a read Scarlet was.  It helps that we already know most of the characters and where we are, we’ve already met Bran and Iwan and Merian and Tuck and Angharad and the rest of the downtrodden Welshmen who make their way in the forest.  Will Scarlet is the only new character, and we meet him right away, as he is languishing in prison waiting to be hung for a crime he didn’t commit.

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This Venn Diagram might be 3 years old, but I STILL think it’s funny, damn it!

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to use the phrases “Righting that which was wronged” and “hoping their next jump would take them home” in conversation today.

I Robot, by Isaac Asimov

Copyright 1950, my copy is circa 1970.

where I got it: have had it nearly forever

Written between 1940 and 1950 the short stories in Asimov’s I Robot came before Hal9000, before Terminator, or Dr. Soong’s Data and Lore, the uncanny valley or The Lifecycle of Software Objects.  These were the days of Eniac, when the things that would be future computers took up entire rooms and required teams of programmers. Asimov envisioned a future were robots helped humanity do everything from everyday tasks to interstellar mining and solving the mysteries of the universe.

Although all the stories were written and published separately over the course of 8 or 9 years, the collection known as I Robot isn’t presented as a standard collection with a table of contents and breaks in between stories.  A journalist is interviewing the now semi-retired Dr Susan Calvin, famous robo-psychologist about her lifetime working with robots.  It’s the conversations between the journalist and Dr Calvin that weave the stories together.  Asimov is no stranger to this trick, weaving together bits and pieces that were written over years or decades with a common thread or character.

The stories are presented in chronological order, from the non-speaking robots of Calvin’s youth, to robots who could talk, to robots that could learn and think and eventually lie and later pass for human.  Like any programmable machine, a robot does exactly what we tell it to do, no more and no less.

So be careful what you tell ’em to do!

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Everything I need to know about life I learned from Joss Whedon’s show Firefly.  I’ll admit, I was late to the party, seeing it on DVD after the fact, and that it was my husband who originally said “honey, you have GOT to see this!!!”.  But really, Firefly is one of the best shows ever to grace the small screen, it’s a western scifi dramedy romance action, and when it ran, Fox had no idea what to do with it so they ran the episodes out of order and then canceled it.

Starring Nathan Fillion (@nathanfillion), Morena Baccarin, Alan Tudyk, Summer Glau, Adam Baldwin, Ron Glass, Gina Torres, Jewel Staite (@jewelstaite), and Sean Maher, have any 14 episodes ever had a greater cult following?

Science Channel has picked up the rights and will be showing Firefly in it’s entirety (hopefully in the right order) along with some little extras after each episode. Honestly, the extras sound a little cheesy and unnecessary, but I ain’t complainin’.  So mark your calendars for March 6th at 8pm to see the full 2 hour pilot and weekly episodes in the correct order of some of the best science fiction ever filmed.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you’re in luck because you know what they say about your first time.

 Twelve, by Jasper Kent

Published in 2010

Where did I get it: Library, but plan to purchase a copy

I’ve been waiting a long time to read a book like this.  A book that puts the horror back in supernatural myths. Although it’s somewhat spoiled on the back of the book, I won’t even tell you which supernatural myth I’m talking about, just know that it’s one you are supposed to be afraid of.

To risk sounding cliche, Jasper Kent’s writing is just damn good.  Every sentence, every word moves the plot forward. There isn’t a slow moment in this book. Kent brings us to early 19th century Moscow, where the people are proud yet afraid of invasion.  Talk of republic is in the air, along with the early snows of autumn.

Don’t know anything about Russia, 1812 or Napoleon? Don’t worry,  the main character, Aleksei will walk you through everything you need to know.  My historical education is so lacking as to be embarassing, and not once did I feel lost. Twelve takes place during a war, and Aleksei and his friends are soldiers, but this is not a war book.  

As Napoleon’s Grande Armee marches towards Moscow, Dmitry offers to bring in some mercenaries to help with the effort. Aleksei, Dmitry, Maksim and their commanding officer Vadim aren’t on the front lines, per say, they are beyond the front lines.  Their mission is to cross enemy lines and cause disruptions and problems for the invaders. In modern jargon I’m sure the French would call them terrorists.

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The Meq, by Steve Cash

published in 2005 by Del Rey

Where did I get it: Borrowed

why did I read it? good friend recommended, and kindly let me borrow it

In Steve Cash’s debut novel The Meq, he presents a rather compelling premise.  It’s the late 1800’s, and young Zianno is travelling via train across the United States with his parents. He’s just turned twelve.  His mother says she has something important to tell him, and moments later the there is a horrific accident in which his parents are killed.  Orphaned and alone, Zianno, who goes by Z, is adopted by Solomon, a travelling merchant. Solomon knows right away there is something special about this kid.

Z learns the hard way that he is “Meq”, a race of people who don’t age after they reach twelve. Their minds age of course, but not their bodies. Meq know each other by their similar look and the special senses.  Z is taken to a mountain village in the Rockies, where he meets others of his kind,  and gets a tease as to what and who he might be.  Z embarks on a quest to find some of the oldest Meq in existence to learn about his family and the truth of his people, before it’s too late.

For millenia, the Meq have lived in secret among us. Their cultural history is in the Pyrenees, speaking the Basque language.  A smart little trick Cash pulls here,  giving his hidden race a language that is connected to no other language spoken on Earth. The novel is sprinkled with Basque words as well, which sound deliciously alien when I attempted to pronounce them.

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Why do you read science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, or whatever the hell you want to call it?

no, seriously. Why do you read this stuff?  why do you pick up a fantasy or a hard SF or a new weird or a steampunk over contemporary fiction?  How come you’re reading something completely weird and off the wall while your co-workers and neighbors are reading Jonathan Franzen or Stieg Larssen or Kathryn Stockett?

What made you choose what if or once upon a time over contemporary bestsellers?

Inquiring minds want to know.

And by inquiring minds, I mean me. i’m just curious like that.

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FTC Stuff

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.