the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for December 2013

The Lives of Tao, by Wesley Chu

published in April 2013

where I got it: purchased new

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What would you do if you started hearing voices in your head?  How about if those voices saved your life, and then helped you improve your life?  You’d listen to them. . .   right?

The Lives of Tao follows a sort of Hero’s Journey (which I have a major weakness for), and so often in tales like this the protagonist is already hero material – they’re in good physical condition from page one, perhaps already have weapons and or military training, it’s almost as if that person has been planning their entire life about one day being called up for a Hero’s Journey.  Not so with Roen Tan.   He’s lazy, unambitious, in terribly physical condition, and has self esteem issues. He firmly lives in the same real world you and I inhabit – crappy job, annoying boss, messy apartment, and he lives on frozen meals.  He’s the last guy in the world to buy into the fact that aliens have been among us for centuries, the last guy on Earth you’d want to invite on a Hero’s Journey.  Can I tell you how refreshing that was? It was really freaking refreshing.

Roen isn’t going crazy, but he is hearing voices. The alien Quasing have been among humanity for eons, riding along in our minds and bodies, helping to nudge humanity forward.  They only want to get back home, and to do that, we’ve got to become a space faring race.  Over the centuries though, factions have arisen, and the Quasing have split into the peaceful Prophus, and the more aggressive and warlike Genjix.   They’ve inhabited many of our famous leaders and innovators, such as Ghengis Khan, Shakespeare, Cardinal Richelieu,  how many people who influenced our culture and shaped history did so because they had a Quasing guiding them?

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ancillaryAncillary Justice, by Ann Leckie

published October 2013

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Orbit!)

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The mission of the Radchaai is to bring civilization to humanity. The word radchaai itself, means civilization, implying that anyone who isn’t Radchaai isn’t civilized. Their empire has always expanded, annexing colonies and planets, bringing civilization and culture to the far corners of the galaxy.  Those who resist are taken prisoner, and either destroyed or turned into corpse soldiers, to become ancillaries for the massive AIs that run the Radchaai ships.

Breq is one such AI.  Twenty years ago, Breq answered to the name One Esk, and was the ship AI for the ship Justice of Toren.  One Esk controlled and embodied thousands of ancillaries who ran the ship and served the human officers on board. Twenty years ago an annexation went horribly wrong, The Justice of Toren was destroyed, and Breq was left alone with only one human body, one set of ears, one brain, no friends or allies, and a burning hatred.

Breq is still trying to figure out what happened on Justice of Toren. Yes, it’s true, that ancillaries of the Radchaai supreme leader Anaander Mianaai secretly came aboard and swore One Esk to secrecy, and then possibly changed something in the AI’s memory banks. For twenty years, Breq has been looking for the single weapon that can get past the scanners, get past the security that surrounds Anaander Mianaai.  For the good of Radchaai, Breq is plotting to destroy the creator of their empire.

The blogosphere is much a-fire about this book. Author Ann Leckie should probably start looking at flights to London for next summer:

Ana: Dare I? I can’t really think of a single thing that is not right about the book. So Yeah: 10

Thea: 10 – Utter Perfection

– The Book Smugglers

This is a book to watch out for, and if it doesn’t garner the author a Hugo nomination, I’ll be very much surprised.

– A Dribble of Ink

Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice does everything science fiction should do. It engages, it excites, and it challenges the way the reader views our world. . . . Ancillary Justice might be the best science fiction novel of this very young decade.

– Staffer’s Book Review

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neat! My review of Pete Rawlik’s Reanimators posted over at SFSignal. If you’re up on your Lovecraftian canon, this is the book for you. Me, on the other hand, prefers what other authors have done with Lovecraftian mythos, rather than within in (Charles Stross, I am looking at you).

Here’s a teaser:

Odd things are afoot in the sleepy new England town of Arkham. Strange creatures stalk the night, and even stranger research is happening at and around Miskatonic University. Dr. Stuart Hartwell is determined to get his revenge on Dr. Herbert West, the twisted man whose reanimation experiments were responsible for the deaths of Hartwell’s parents. Fans of H.P. Lovecraft (and certain fans of some early 80s cheesy horror flicks) may recognize the title of the book and the name Herbert West.

Pete Rawlik’s Reanimators is certainly not a retelling of the original story “Herbert West – Reanimator“, but more a revisiting. When they first meet, Stuart Hartwell is a colleague of West’s, and suspects the strange medical student is up to no good. He spies on West and his friend Daniel Cain, sabotages their experiments and steals their research. Hartwell is determined to develop a safer reagent, one that won’t turn the resurrected people into violent zombies. After receiving his medical degree, Hartwell runs his physicians practice out of the first floor of his home, and it becomes more and more difficult to keep his co-workers from finding the basement laboratory that is nearly overrun with lab rats.

Click here to read the rest!

Welcome to the first part of our read along of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, part 1!  This week’s discussion questions were provided by Susan from Dab of Darkness, so head over to her blog for links to everyone who is participating.

Wow is that some gorgeous cover art!

Wow is that some gorgeous cover art!

This week’s discussion covers chapters 1 through 9. Just joining us?  Click here for the schedule, and if you’d like to be added to the discussion e-mail list, let me know in the comments. 😀

Let’s get started with our first conversation!

1) We’ve met our narrator, Yeine. What are your first impressions? Do you like the chosen form of story telling so far?

I’m usually a fan of first person POV, so I’m enjoying the way the story is presented.  Sometimes I feel like Yeine is whispering to the reader, breaking the fourth wall a little bit, especially when she seems so concerned about her own method of storytelling.  This whole thing is a giant flashback, isn’t it? She seems so sad, like this is the last story she’ll ever tell.  I know i’m reading way more into her “voice” than I should be, but I like it when authors give me those tendrils of characterization, that i can’t help but follow them, even if I’m going in the wrong direction.

That was a really long winded way of saying I really really like the chosen form of storytelling!

And I like Yeine.  This scene gave her some major brownie points:

He stared at me for a moment. “Your mother did not tell you?”

“Tell me what?”

“Of the Enefadeh”

“The Enewhat?”

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Wow. Where did November go?  For that matter, where did summer go?  This year flew like the devil was chasing it.

Lucky for us, December and her wintery sister months offer some excellent blogosphere and realsphere events.  Such as:

On the heels of Rinn’s Science Fiction Month is Carl’s SciFi Experience, at Stainless Steel Droppings which runs during December and January. Over 25 bloggers are already signed up, go check it out!

This week starts The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin read along, hosted by Dab of Darkness, Violin in a Void, On Starships and Dragonwings and yours truly. It’s not too late to sign up if you’d like to get the discussion questions early.

On Starships and Dragonwings has also started a most excellent friday feature, it’s called Sci-Fi and Fantasy Fridays, where bloggers are invited to post links to recently posted reviews of speculative fiction books and give aways.

I’ll be posting my top books of the year later this month. The top three or four are easy. After that, it gets a little dicey.

January brings Vintage Science Fiction Month. 1979 is the magic year, Project Gutenberg is your friend, and I’m on the lookout for Science fiction from 1938.  I have some guest posters signed up, but I’m still looking for more.  Topics are pretty open, can be books, authors, tv shows, the Moon landing, cover art  . . .  if it’s science fiction, fantasy, or real science related, and it’s from before 1979, I want you to talk about it here.

January also brings ConFusion, my favorite local Science Fiction convention. Guests at the con include Ian Tregillis, Jacqueline Carey, Cherie Priest, Mike Carey, and many, many more.  There’s not much on their website yet, but I’m hoping they’ll post some preliminary programming soon. I’ll  be cosplaying as . . .  well,  if you’re the rightest sort of Right People, you’ll recognize me.

February brings another fun bloggy project, I’m organizing the Book of Apex Volume 4 blog tour.  This anthology offers 33 original pieces that were published as part of Apex Magazine (if it counts for anything, my favorite recent story over there was a dark Sesame Street parody by Jim Hines).  Let me tell you, this is a great opportunity to read award winning authors such as Catherynne Valente, A.C. Wise, Ken Liu, Elizabeth Bear, Alethea Kontis, Alex Bledsoe, Rachel Swirsky, and more.    I’ve gotten positive feedback about this from nearly everyone I’ve e-mailed about this.  And I’m kinda curious about how many more bloggers I can get on board. Sooper Speshul stuff awaits the participants! if you’re interested in learning more or getting involved, let me know.

and after all that, maybe I’ll take a vacation.  #yeahright


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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.