the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for August 2013

what a board game map usually looks like:

  • it has places on it.
  • sometimes a road, or a line, between those places showing paths you can take
  • it has barriers or hazards you have to go around

Except if you are Phil Eklund, a boardgame map looks like this:

cropped map small

my photo doesn’t do it justice. This is seriously the most beautiful game board map I’ve ever seen.

it still has all the things a game board map should have – places,  lines between the places, barriers and hazards.  High Frontier is a game about developing technologies to travel to the solar system.   Figure out which thrusters or engines and robonaut your ship should have. Take a crew if you want. Water is the only currency. If you take enough resources you can build a factory wherever you end up, maybe a colony. But don’t make your ship too heavy, this game uses real physics and the heavier your ship is, the more fuel it needs to escape Earth’s gravity. And yes, there is a solar sail. All the techs in the game are real.  Makes you wonder why we’re not already using them.

Some more close up photos:

We used the sun's radiation area to store our extra water tokens

We used the sun’s radiation area to store our extra water tokens

I really don’t want to go to Mercury.

Everyone starts on Earth

Everyone starts on Earth

Everyone starts on Earth. Once your mission is ready to go, you can boost your components in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), and then High Eccentric Orbit (HEO), and the Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO). Each of these movements costs you burns of fuel, cuz we’re using real physics.  those “L” spots are Lagrange points, where it doesn’t cost you any fuel to change direction. you can just fly right through them and be on your way!

A great way to learn how the game works is getting a crew to the moon, and then getting your crew home alive.  You’ll learn how your different ship components work, and how much fuel it costs you to move around.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Incrementalists, by Steven Brust and Skyler White

Available Sept 24th, 2013

where I got it: NetGalley

you can read an excerpt over at Tor.com.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

In a garden as old as humanity, disguised memories become the seeds of change. The residents of this garden archive the smell of your grandmother’s soup in the curve of a vase, or the feel of your first kiss in the color of piece of yarn.  Memory is a funny thing, you don’t even remember what happened until the smell of a particular white wine brings it all back like a flaming spike to the head.

A genre-bending cerebral thriller masquerading as a mainstream novel, The Incrementalists enchanted me in the first chapter, and in return I devoured the rest of it. I read this book in one day. Like Bastian in The Never Ending Story, I ignored the world, skipped the pop-quiz, hid in a corner and climbed right into the lives of Phil and Ren, and Celeste and Irina and Oskar and Jimmy, staying very quiet so they wouldn’t notice me listening in on their conversations. And I am still listening, because they told me where to look.

Who are the Incrementalists? A secret society of nearly immortal people who make the world a better place,one tiny change at a time.  No pay, no thanks, no credit in the history books, their work is as invisible as a fading dream. They are the ones in the garden. And when their human bodies die, someone new must be found to carry on the work, and carry around the personality of the recently departed Incrementalist.

It’s been a few months since Celeste’s old body died, and her ex-lover Phil thinks he’s identified a good Second for Celeste’s stub.  He approaches Ren with the offer, and unlike most  Seconds who take at least a week to make up their minds, Ren agrees almost instantly that this is what she wants. She doesn’t give Phil a chance to tell her it’s a painful experience. She never gives him the chance to warn her that once she’s accepted Celeste into her mind, there’s a good chance Celeste’s personality could completely subsume Ren, effectively killing her.  Ren says Yes, Phil says OK, and from that moment on the chemistry between them is palpable.

Read the rest of this entry »

Today I’m over at SFSignal talking about Conventions. It’s a new column over there, Convention Attention!

oh, also, this.

btw, this is just the beginning of a kick-ass awesome week. stay tuned!

Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis

published in 2010

where I got it: purchased new

.

.

.
.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

I’ve been avoiding this book for a while now. Alternate history is always fun, but I tend to shy away from War stories. When this book was chosen for my local book club, there was no getting around it.

The first few chapters were a little rough going for me, more because the time and place jumps around with little context than that I wasn’t sure I wanted to be reading this. A british boy is caught ripping plants out of a garden, another British child is hidden from his terrifying grandfather, and elsewhere two dark complected siblings survive a harrowing journey to an orphanage in Germany. Time jumps forward nineteen years, it’s 1939, and suddenly I wished I’d paid more attention in history class.

The young boy in the garden is Raybould Marsh. Mentored and then sponsored by John Stephenson, Marsh grows up to become a spy for Her Majesty. Sent to Spain in 1939 to meet an informant,  Marsh gets the clue that something strange is going on when the man bursts into flames, taking most of his evidence with him. The evidence that Stephenson’s team is able to reconstruct makes no sense, and to investigate it, project Milkweed is born.

The siblings are Klaus and Gretel, and the orphanage later becomes Reichsbehörde für die Erweiterung Germanischen Potenzials , the Authority for the Advancement of German Potential. For the glory of the Reich, Dr. von Westarp has spent twenty years trying to create supermen. The subject’s willpower, or willenskrafte, is augmented by battery power, allowing the person to fly, or set something on fire, or read minds, or disappear, or who yet knows what else. Klaus’s talent lies in dematerializing into an ethereal ghost capable of moving through walls and people, and Gretel’s talent lies in seeing the future. The surgical procedures are experimental and dangerous, and nobody talks about the rows and rows of child sized graves.

Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday we all got a kick out of 17 Problems Only Book Lovers with Understand

Ink Slinger, who sees the positive in everything, responded with 17 Joys Only Book Lovers Will Understand.  And it’s better. because he’s right.   Sure, it’s funny to think of them as problems, but isn’t it better to think of them as joys?

did you go look yet?

Tags:

This has been making the rounds on twitter and teh facebooks, but I wanted to share it here too.  Click the link for all the animated gif awesomness.

17 Problems Only Book Lovers Will Understand

(via Buzzfeed)

 

i think this one best defines my life:

take my moneyoh wait, this one too. I’d like to know who are all these people who only have to wait one year?

give it to me NOWand this:

but i loved that bookand all the others!

 

How about you? Which resonated with you, and did they leave any off this list?

 

Tags:

The Privilege of the Sword, by Ellen Kushner (a Riverside novel)

published in 2006

where I got it: purchased new

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Fifteen to twenty years after the events of Swordspoint: Alec is now the Duke Tremontaine, Richard St. Vier is nowhere to be found, and old grudges are still burning. But on the bright side, Riverside is slightly safer.

 

Seemingly out of the blue, Duke Tremontaine sends for his niece Katherine. She is to live with him for six months, and have no contact with her mother and brothers during that time.

 

Katherine, raised at her family’s country estate, is expectedly naive. And why she know anything about the outside world? She’s been raised as a young lady of quality, given the tools she needs to secure a proper marriage. Titles and marriages however, do not guarantee financial stability, and Katherine spends much of her time identifying what can be sold for cash and hemming her own clothing.   Even so, she still dreams of visiting the city, having a season full of lace and dresses and balls and then getting married to someone who loves her. This is what she’s been raised to expect and look forward to because no one has told her otherwise.

 

Your assumptions? I see them. Observe, as Ellen Kushner smashes them into itty bitty pieces.

 

When Katherine arrives at the Duke’s home, she finds only men’s clothing waiting for her,  her uncle’s strange, strange friends, and daily fencing lessons.  Indeed, there is a reason Tremontaine is known as The Mad Duke.  Within a week of arriving in the city, Katherine realizes fencing lessons aren’t that terrible; befriends Artemesia Fitz-Levi , the daughter of a well placed family; and learns that tromping around town in men’s clothes comes with social consequences. Within a month, she’s learned to ignore the names people call her, been befriended by the Duke’s young valet Marcus, learned something is very fishy with Artemesia’s cousin Lucius Perry who seems to have a secret life, and that Duke Tremontaine is much more than the local libertine, when it comes to subverting expectations.

 

Thus begins Katherine’s 6 month whirlwind tour of how the world really works, leave your innocence at the door, thank you very much.

Read the rest of this entry »

Black Fire smallThe Black Fire Concerto by Mike Allen

published June 2013

where I got it: received review copy from the author

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

On a filthy and horrifying Riverboat, young Erzelle has learned to stay hidden. So long as she plays her harp during dinner and stays small, there’s a chance she might stay alive.  Every night the guests arrive, and every night a mutated ghoul from the holds below becomes dinner. Erzelle will never forget her first night on the Riverboat, when it was her parents on that silver platter, their heads still alive.

One evening, a beautiful human woman is a dinner guest. Erzelle fears the woman will become dinner, but instead she joines Erzelle on stage to accompany her with a magical pipe that glows with runes. By dawn, the guests have been run off or slaughtered, Erzelle has been freed from bondage, and the beautiful woman, Olyssa, has realized her lost sister is nowhere to be found on the Riverboat.

Thus begins Mike Allen’s debut novel, The Black Fire Concerto. Exploding with magic, music, and violence, this short novel has the magical feel of an old school suspenseful fantasy adventure as filtered through the eyes of H.R. Giger.

Olyssa takes the orphaned Erzelle under her wing, and the two travel the wasted Earth searching for Olyssa’s sister. Along the way, she teaches Erzelle a concerto for harp and pipe and the child unwittingly becomes the sorcereress’s apprentice. Erzelle came to the Riverboat as a small child, she knows very little of the outside world, and all she saw on board were ghouls and horrors.  She and Olyssa escape a Temple of Grey Ones, befriend the vulpine Reneer, and through visions of an Antlered Man, Erzelle becomes dangerously involved in Olyssa’s family heritage.

Where did the Grey Ones come from? What’s their connection with the Vulpine community nearby? Who is the antlered man who Erzelle keeping seeing in her minds eye? She can’t possibly understand what he’s asking of her. The gift he gives her will save her life as it slowly kills her.

Read the rest of this entry »

It’s been a pretty awesome weekend so far.

Friday evening I got to be all loquacious as victim number one in Larry’s “interview other bloggers” series at the OF Blog. He asked some interesting questions, beyond the usual “what books do you like?” easies.  We talked about the Hugo Awards, William Shatner, geeky suddenly being cool, and beating dead horses while in a room crammed with white elephants. I can’t believe he let prattle on that long, I swear I never talk that much! It was a good time, and I hope Larry has many more bloggers lined up for this project.

and then on Saturday? On Saturday I got to see Jim Hines at a booksigning for his newest novel, Codex Born! Squeeee!   He talked a bit about the series, where it’s going, that due to some other projects he’s got going on we’ll have to wait at least a year and a half for the 3rd book, and that he promises not to kill off Smudge, everyone’s favorite pyro-spider.  There was talk of autistic cats, and the proper care and feeding of scowling preteens, and snowstorms. it was wonderfully casual.

SAM_3445 2

blurry photo is blurry.

Instead of reading from Codex Born, he read a short story instead, one he wrote for the upcoming Unidentified Funny Objects 2 anthology. I wish I could remember the name of the short story, titled Stranger vs. the Malevolent Malignancy (thanks Jim!) it was fucking brilliant.  Inspired by the real-time writings of author friend Jay Lake as he fights stage four cancer, Hines wrote a story story about exactly that: A superhero who has cancer.  It wasn’t an easy story to listen to.  No one knew what to say afterwards.  Cancer is a total fucking buzzkill.  but the story?  damnit, but it was funny. like, laugh out loud oh-god-I-shouldn’t-be-laughing-but-it’s-so-funny Funny.   so we laughed. and then we clapped.  and then many books were autographed and photos were taken.

Isn't that cover art gorgeous? shhhh!  don't tell anyone I grabbed extra bookmarks.

Isn’t that cover art gorgeous? shhhh! don’t tell anyone I grabbed extra bookmarks.

And I psyched myself up to ask Jim Hines if I could do a special littly bloggy project with Libriomancer, and he said it sounded cool, So now i gotta psych myself up to actually do it.

So when I have more details, I’ll let ya know!

Along with a signed copy of Codex Born, I bought The Melancholy of Mechagirl by Catherynne M. Valente and Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis. You know I loves me some Valente short fiction, and the Tregillis has been on my radar for ages.

SAM_3454

And then Saturday night i went on a dinner date with the hubby.  the food was just so-so, but my date was adorable.

Abaddon’s Gate, by James S.A. Corey (book 3 of The Expanse)

published June 2012

where I got it: received review copy from Orbit (thanks!)

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Being a review of the 3rd novel in a series, this review has unavoidable spoilers for Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War.  Also, you really, really need to read this series.

The events at the end of Caliban’s War left Jim Holden’s crew alive and with money in the bank, and a big hole in space out near the edge of the Solar System. During the course of that novel, the alien technology that crashed into Venus was a busy little beaver, building huge structures, changing the chemistry of the planet, plotting who knew what. And then it shot out to the limits of the solar system and ripped a hole into the fabric of space time. A wormhole? A portal? No way of knowing what’s beyond the ring until someone gets out there and goes through the damn thing.

Jim Holden has had plenty of “knowing what’s out there”, thank you very much. He’s happy hauling freight anywhere that’s the opposite direction of the Ring. But thanks to a journalist backed by shadow politics and money, Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are headed exactly where they don’t want to go. The journalist, Monica Stuart, intends to interview the survivors of Eros, and Holden can’t let her find out that Miller’s ghost has been speaking to him more and more lately.

A note on the title of the book: Abaddon is a biblical reference to a place of destruction, a place of the perishing. Keep that in the back of your mind.

While I’d love to have an entire novel that’s just Holden and Naomi and Amos and Alex, James Corey gives us plenty of other point-of-view characters to root for as well. There’s Bull, the shat upon OPA security chief of The Behemoth who can’t help that he was born on Earth; Anna, a Methodist pastor and member of a contingent of religious leaders headed out towards the ring; and Melba, the alias of Clarissa Mao, who is obsessed with destroying Holden the same way he destroyed her father.

I could give you a run down on all the political and plot stuff, but Bull says it much simpler that I ever could:

“We’re heading out to throw gang signs at Earth and Mars while the Ring does a bunch of scary alien mystery stuff. . . .  worst that can happen is we’ll all die.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Follow me on Twitter!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,511 other followers

Follow the Little Red Reviewer on WordPress.com

Archives

Categories

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.