the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for February 2012

Faith-Rework.2.21Faith, by John Love

published in January 2012

where I got it: purchased New

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Remember Peter Watts’ Blindsight?  Blend it with Moby Dick, and then imagine it was written by Gene Wolfe. Now ramp up the tension and suspense to eleven.  It’s hard to believe Faith is a debut novel. It reads so smooth and subtle that as the pages fly by under your fingers, all you feel is the copper tang of a nameless fear.

Faith has a slow start, and this is exactly as it should be.  Otherwise, we would never know the subtle ironies of the Sakhran race, how they live together, but live apart, their sense of honor even as they were conquered by the Commonweath. Without the slower, gentler, understated start, we would never understand the pure and total demise of the proud Sakhran race, and how they didn’t even attempt to resist it.

Three hundred years ago and unidentified ship came to the Sakhran homeworld. Only one person among them understood what she was. He wrote a book, and when the book was read, the Sakhran race began to decline. Out of vicious irony, the Sakhrans named the ship Faith.  Like her namesake, she visits on a whim, and can destroy with a whisper, not knowing and not caring what she’s turned you into.  But this Faith offers only questions, never any answers.

Faith has returned, and the expanded Commonwealth of Planets believe they have the only weapon that can stop her.  The Commonwealth built nine Outsider ships.  Built in secret, and then pushed away as lepers, the ships are named after psychopaths and mass murderers. There is never any shore leave, and crew know to never return to their home planets. Aaron Foord, commander of the Charles Manson knows he is the Commonwealth’s only chance against Faith.  His crew are the dregs of humanity, the mistakes, the undesirables, the hidden criminals, perhaps, the anti-Faith. And those of his crew who aren’t human? some of them claim to have eaten their own children.

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Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon (Burton & Swinburn #3) by Mark Hodder

published in January 2011

where I got it: received review copy from Pyr

why I read it: Highly enjoyed the first two books in the series, The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack and The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man.

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Shortly after starting this book, I had two predictions. and I was right on both of them.

The year is 1863, but not as it should be.  Two decades of unrestrained genetic engineering and eugenics have nearly covered London with the giant hollowed out insects filled with steam powered machinery, foul mouthed messenger birds and fouler breathed messenger dog-things.  Sir Richard Francis Burton has always felt an outsider in London, but things are getting out of control, even for him.

After an attempt on his life, Burton is approached by Prime Minister Palmerston to return to Africa. The trip will be publicized as another attempt to find the source of the Nile, but in reality, Palmerston has tasked Burton with finding the African Eyes of the Naga.  The Eyes, black diamonds that fell as asteroids, had already been found in Cambodia and South America. Connected to an impossible myth, the shards of the diamonds can retain thoughts impressed upon them.  And Burton isn’t the only one searching for the Eyes.

But meanwhile, we have another story line happening.  It’s 1914, and in the trenches of a Great War far more horrific that the one in your history books, a man has lost his memory.  Befriended by a journalist who recognizes him, the man very slowly regains his memories. What he remembers is even more impossible than the Great War his eyes are showing him.

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When you suddenly discover that the book you just picked up is sublimely brilliant, how do you proceed?

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do you savor every word and every sentence, tantrically drawing the experience out as long as possible,  enjoying new portions of the book every day for over a week, waking up each morning looking forward to your precious moments spent reading those mind blowing words and hearing the breathless sound of your hand turning the soft, smooth pages?

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or do you devour the book with an unrestrained animal urge,  foregoing food, sleep and social interaction, in your desperate, pleading need to reach the climactic ending,  secretly hoping it will end with a cliffhanger so you can smile crookedly at the promise of a repeat performance?

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photo courtesy of the Hot Guys Reading Books Tumblr feed.  Go check it out.

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These are a few of my favorite things!

Ladies and Gentlemen,  this is what you’ve been waiting for. This is the “February surprise”.

This is what all the fuss is about.

This spring, I invite you to join Dark Cargo, My Awful Reviews, @OhthatAshley posting at SF Signal, and Dark Cargo Explorer and Yours Truly on an epic journey through the elderglass towers, the corrupt marketplaces, the shark infested waters beneath the pirate ship fortresses, and the thief prowling alleys and bridges of Camorr. I invite you to join us on what could be the reading experience of your life. I invite you to join us on our read along of Scott Lynch’s debut novel The Lies of Locke Lamora, the unassuming looking fantasy novel that started cults, inspired restraining order style behavior, and quite possibly changed everyone’s ideas of dark fantasy and antiheroes.  Don’t worry, we’ll be reading Red Seas Under Red Skies as well.  Can’t have a summer without pirates, now can we?

If you’ve never read Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards sequence which starts with The Lies of Locke Lamora and continues in Red Seas Under Red Skies, this is your opportunity.  If you’ve read one or both books before, the timing couldn’t be better for a re-read, as this whole thing is in preparation for the Republic of Thieves, due to hit bookstore shelves later this year. Yes! This year! Really!  Scott Lynch said so!

How to join in, you ask?

It’s easy.   all you have to do is reply to this thread* (or to any of the other participating bloggers) . I’ll add you to my super secret e-mail mailing list, and you’ll get an e-mail with discussion starters for each section of the book. Post your responses to your blog, and poof, the awesomeness has begun!

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Artemis, by Philip Palmer

published December 2011

where I got it: purchased new

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This book starts with a bang, that’s for sure. Doctor Artemis McIlvor may be guilty of a few things, but being bashful, shy, or afraid of danger aren’t those things.

Finally published many many generations after her death, Artemis is the thought-diary of it’s title character. Heavily edited and commented upon by the editors, many pages have footnotes that further explain, condense, generalize, and sometimes make fun of the diary entries. I’ve seen this trick played a few times elsewhere, and as expected, it succeeds in the humor department.

And because this is a thought-diary, Artemis’s comments aren’t always in chronological order, sometimes she leaves important details out, she lies, and her ego gets full reign.  For example, the story opens in the middle of a prison riot, and only later, after the first betrayal, in fits and starts and asides, do we find out why the riot got started, and what a high IQ augmented human like Artemis was doing in prison anyways.  We’re talking flashbacks within flashbacks with in asides within tangents within flashbacks.

I don’t mind flashbacks, I don’t mind violence, or swearing, or completely randomly casual sex in books. I don’t mind inadvertently funny footnotes, I don’t mind augmented/invulnerable humans.  Put all those things in a blender with good characters and a compelling storyline, and you just might  end up with one of the best science fiction books ever written.

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Einstein’s Dreams, by Alan Lightman

published in 1993

where I got it: my bookshelf

why I read it: It’s very meditative.

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How can such a tiny book be filled with such readable enlightenment?

How can something as complex as the nature of time be put forth in simple words and stories?

Alan Lightman, professor of physics and creative writing at MIT is also a magician. He takes the thoughts and dreams that Einstein might have had in Berne Switzerland and turns them into perfect little vignettes of how time works, or how time might work, or how we wish time would work, and turns them into meditative magic.

In some worlds, time moves in fits and starts, in others, it moved backwards. In still others, there is no past or future, only now, and as people can’t remember what they did this morning or where they will be tonight, there is no responsibility for one’s actions.  In some worlds, time moves faster or slower depending on how fast or slow you are moving, or how close you are to the center of the Earth, in others, time is a sense, like touch or smell.  In one world, time is sticky:

“Hypothetically, time might be smooth or rough, prickly or sticky, hard or soft. But in this world, the texture of time happens to be sticky. Portions of towns become stuck in some moment of history and do not get out. So, too, individual people become stuck in some point in their lives and not get free”.

ahh, perhaps these dreams of Switzerlands where time is a little different, perhaps they aren’t so different from how time works in our world after all.  Time after all, is relative, and we all seem to know someone who suffers from being stuck in a moment in their past. Sometimes that person is ourself.

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Wow, Last month was insane!  thank you so very much to everyone who participated in Vintage Science Fiction month, you were what made this so satisfying for me. I got totally burned out at the end, but I’d do it all over again in a heart beat!

February is gonna be quite a bit more chilled out around here, that’s for sure.  Here are some reviews you can look forward to reading in the new few weeks:

Osama by Lavie Tidhar

Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon, by Mark Hodder

Einstein’s Dreams, by Alan Lightman

Eyes like Leaves by Charles deLint

Artemis by Philip Palmer

Faith by John Love

and possibly one or two more, as time allows.

. . .  and a SURPRISE!!!    Sometime I am so very excited about that if this was a vlog, you’d see me jumping up and down like crazy with a grin so big I’d look a little freaky.   I shall tell you more when I have the details, but it’s AWESOME!


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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.