the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘adventure

The Hotel Under the Sand, by Kage Baker

Published in 2009

Where I got it: purchased used

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I love Kage Baker’s books.  She wrote the Company series, a handful of humorous fantasy novels, and a bucket of short stories, all with her signature brand of humor, wit, and pull-you-right-in writing style.  Her career was cut short when she passed away from cancer in 2010.  Her books have become hard to find, so every time I am in a used bookstore I head right to the “B” section and buy everything they have of hers that I don’t already own.

 

The Hotel Under the Sand was published by Tachyon in 2009, and is her only known work for children and middle grade readers. This novella has a similar feel to Un Lun Dun by China Mieville, except it is all around happier and sunnier.

 

Young Emma has survived a shipwreck and washed up onto a beach.  As she is exploring the island, she meets a ghost named Winston. He is the Bell Hop Captain of the famous Grand Wenlocke hotel, and might young Emma have any luggage he can carry for her, or shoes he can shine?  You see,  decades ago, a wealthy man by the last name of Wenlocke started work on a massive resort on these famous sand Dunes. Adding to the allure and magic of the resort, this would be a resort where time stands still. Thanks to a time engine in the basement, guests are encouraged to stay as long as they please! Months, years! When they leave to go back home, only 2 weeks will have passed.  Perhaps the project was doomed from the start, as just before the hotel was due to open a huge storm came and swept it under the sands, taking Winston with it.

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The Gate to Futures Past (Reunification #2) by Julie Czerneda

published in Sept 2016

where I got it: rec’d review copy from the publisher (Thanks DAW!)

 

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The Gate to Futures Past is a tricky book to review, because not only is this the middle book of the Reunification trilogy, it is the penultimate book in Czerneda’s long running Clan Chronicles series. I actually read this book last summer when it came out, but I didn’t have time to review it. What better time for a review, than when the next book is about to come out? I also have the benefit of having already read the final book in the series, so I am cheating  more than a  little bit.   With the final book in this series releasing in just a few months, readers new to this series will have an opportunity no one else has ever had – you’ll be able to read all three Reunification books, This Gulf of Time and Stars, The Gate to Futures Past, and To Guard Against the Dark, one right after the other. That’s to your advantage, as these last three books do read as one long novel.  Click here to read my spoilery review of This Gulf of Time and Stars.  And by the way, both This Gulf of Time and Stars and The Gate to Futures Past are now available in mass market paperback.

 

Did you cringe when you read that phrase “long running series”?  I know some of you did! Yes, the Clan Chronicles is a space opera epic that spans three trilogies. If you’ve read any of Robin Hobb’s interconnected trilogies, you know you can jump in at any Book 1, and do just fine.  I’m sure there are readers and fans who will disagree with me, but I believe the same is true for Czerneda’s  Clan Chronicles series – so long as you jump in at any Book 1, you’ll be ok, with the added bonus that if you enjoy what you read, you can then start again at any other book 1!  It’s neat, because if you and your friend each start at a different point, you’ll have a different timeline and a different perspective of the entire story.

 

I preamble with all of that so you’ll be understanding that this review will involve references to events that occurred outside this novel, that there will be unavoidable minor spoilers. It’s all to the greater good though – if you enjoy space opera with healthy dose of romance, family drama, cosmic mystery, humor, and aliens that work, anything Julie Czerneda writes is for you!

 

“Aliens that work”, that’s a weird phrase.  You ever read a book with aliens and think to yourself these are just humans with blue skin, or elephants that talk and think just like a human?  A biologist by trade, Czerneda’s aliens act differently than humans because they have biological evolutionary histories completely different from anything that evolved on Earth.  They have different physiologies, different brain patterns, different reasons for doing what they do and how they do it. If you want to write aliens that aren’t humans in disguise, quit watching Star Trek and start reading Czerneda. (Actually, keep watching Star Trek. I keep hoping Huido will show up in an episode of DS9 or Voyager)

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Unbreakable by Will McIntosh

published June 27th, 2017

where I got it: received ARC from the author

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Celia makes it look easy, but she’s been training so long to break records that to her, all the training has begun to feel hum-drum.  She figured out the trick to conditioning her body years ago: all she has to do is suffer, and the hardest part of breaking a record is the unceasing boredom. Most minutes holding your breath under water, longest time being buried alive, most number of hours spent without sleeping, she’s done it all and she knows it’s 99% sitting around waiting.

 

She’s lived in Record City for as long as she can remember, and for nearly as long she’s lived with her adoptive parents and a few house mates. They eat together, train together, cheer each other on, and help each other recover. When the team breaks a challenging record, it’s cash rewards all around and better housing.  Losing out to another team means having to move to a dingier apartment with fewer windows.  It might sound weird to you and I, but to Celia this is what family and love and friendship means.  When you’re surrounded by people who live their lives the same way you do, there isn’t anything to tell you that this is all very weird.

 

Part Hunger Games, part Lost, and part other things I can’t mention because I don’t want to wreck the twist, Will McIntosh’s new novel Unbreakable will grab you by the neck and won’t let go. Longer than a novella, but shorter than a novel, McIntosh self published this very strange, ultra fast-paced, narrowly focused, and addictively readable novel.  It is currently available as an e-book or paperback on Amazon.

 

As a friend lies dying, Celia escapes Record City on a quest to find a life saving medicine she’s heard about on television. And what she finds are . . .  more walled cities full of single minded citizens who shush her every time she tries to ask questions.  Even in Record City, the rule was “follow the rules sand shut up”, and the TV and movie characters who inspire Celia to  be curious about the world were bound to get her into trouble eventually.

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uncharted-stars-nortonUncharted Stars, by Andre Norton

published in 1969

where I got it: purchased used

 

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My favorite Andre Norton is The Zero Stone.  A fun space adventure story with a scifi twist (and an alien cat!), there’s everything to love about that book. So of course I had to read the sequel, Uncharted Stars.   Taking place shortly after the events of the first book, Murdoc Jern has purchased his own spaceship, now he just needs to find a pilot to fly it. Already down on his luck, Murdoc can barely come up with the docking fees for the ship, let alone money for a pilot’s salary.  Even worse, any pilot he hires might just be a spy for the Patrol.

 

He ends up hiring Ryzk, a man with his own secrets. Why is such a talented pilot wasting away on this backwater planet willing to work for pennies?  A question Murdoc files away for another day, as he is too busy ensuring Eet stays out of sight and keeping Ryzk from knowing the goal of their flight plan is to find the origins of the Zero Stone.

 

Eet knows a lot more about the zero stones than he’s willing to share, but he does share that the stone allows him to shapeshift at will, and that if he concentrates and practices, Murdoc can do it too.   After a while, Murdoc gets half way decent at holding a different face, and tries his new found skills out on Eet, turning the critter back into a normal cat. Miffed  beyond belief, Eet gives Murdoc the silent treatment, and they both realize after a while they are better off friends than enemies. But can Murdoc be trusted with the supreme power of the stone?

 

The plot felt very episodic, with the characters having one adventure after another.  They try to sell gems on a planet, fail and leave;  they visit a secret and famous pirate base, steal a star map and are able to escape;  they rescue an alien archaeologist who is forever in their debt; and other various adventures and escapes. I wonder if this novel is a fix-up of Murdoc and Eet short stories? Because that is what it felt like.  Not to say this is a bad novel, I was just hoping for better because I loved Zero Stone so much.

 

There were quite a few things I did enjoy about Uncharted Stars. It takes place in Norton’s “Forerunner” universe, which includes a whole ton of loosely related novels and short stories. If you’re familiar with any of those stories, you’ll find a ton of easter eggs in Uncharted Stars.  The story also has a really adorable twist  at the end, something I never saw coming but I’m happy it was there.

crashing-suns-edmond-hamiltonCrashing Suns by Edmond Hamilton

first published in Weird Tales in 1928

where I got it – Three volume Hamilton set was a gift

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That cover art looks familiar, doesn’t it?

 

Yep,  “Crashing Suns” by Edmond Hamilton is the cover art I screen-grabbed years ago for a Vintage SciFi image. At the time, I had no idea who Edmond Hamilton was, and I was too busy with my own things to start meaningful conversations with people who took a look at the badge I’d photoshopped and said “Hey, I know that book!”.   In my old age, I’m trying to get better.

 

A few years ago, I was gifted with a gorgeous three volume set of The Collected Works of Edmond Hamilton. The way our living room is set up, this is one of the first things you see displayed on top of the bookshelf when you walk into that room.   The back of the volumes feature cover art of novels, chapbooks, and magazines in which these novels, novellas, and short stories were originally published, and as I was flipping through, I saw artwork that looked mighty familiar to me (because I stole it). So OF COURSE I had to read the story!  The story behind the cover art is “Crashing Suns”, which is Hamilton’s first story in his Interstellar Patrol sequence of interrelated stories.

 

This was such a fun pulpy story! So many exclamation points, so many characters shouting, so many big bold adjectives. This is a story of big brassy sounds, saturated primary colors, and massive stakes (no there weren’t actually any brassy sounds or primary colors, but that’s my weird brain for you. But there are earth shatteringly large stakes for our heroes). At the beginning of the story, Earth gets news from an observatory that there is a star on a trajectory path towards our sun! And if it reaches here, obviously everyone will die!

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willful-childWillful Child, by Steven Erickson

published in 2014

where I got it: purchased new

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Are you a fan of the movie Galaxy Quest? Do you enjoy quoting Zapp Brannigan and quoting things he might say?  Are you a Star Trek fan who makes fun of the show in good fun and out of love?  If you answered Yes to any of those questions, Steven Erickson’s Willful Child is for you.

Like many original Star Trek episode scripts, Willfull Child is not as a whole what I would describe as a good book. The pacing is off, the characters are pretty flat, the dialog is stilted. And all of that is part of the joke.  Erikson is playing around with Star Trek tropes, science fiction tropes, humor tropes, and human exploration tropes and having buckets of fun with along the way.  Captain Hardrian Sawback is the bastard child of Zapp Brannigan and Eric Cartman, the Terran Space Fleet’s mission is to subjugate or maybe obliterate as many life forms as possible, and the further you get into this book, the more you’ll be laughing.   The country music programming joke is still my favorite.

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And Yes, this is the same Steven Erickson who is famous for his Malazan Book of the Fallen series. After writing that many heavy fantasy novels, I’d say he more than deserves a humorous palette cleanser of a novel.

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long way plantyThe Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers

published in 2016

where I got it: purchased new

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Remember the movie Titan A.E.?  Mash that up with four parts Firefly and one part Station Eleven, make it a little more lighthearted, and you’ll have something approximating The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.

 

The captain and crew of the Wayfarer doesn’t care much about Rosemary’s past. All they care about is that she’s a discreet and qualified clerk and that she understands shipboard safety. All Rosemary cares about is getting as far away from Sol system as possible.  The Wayfarer is tunneling ship – they tunnel wormholes the slow and hard way so a permanent wormhole tunnel can be used for interstellar travel.  It’s hard boring work, but it pays well and if you know what you’re doing it’s not dangerous. Well, not too dangerous.

 

Like the TV show Firefly,  it’s the crew and characters that makes this story shine. Among the crew, we’ve got hyper-chipper stoner engineers, polyamorous reptiles, a doctor from a dying race, a cranky algae tech, an overly polite AI, and a captain who’s got to keep the ship running and his crew fed.  Beyond the ship are space pirates, black markets,  arms dealers, and every opportunity to get a fresh start in life.

 

My favorite characters by far were Sissix and Dr. Chef.  This isn’t a human dominated galaxy, but it’s a human ship, and Sissix and Dr. Chef are the literal fish out of water. Sissix is of a reptilian race, and her people are are very touchy feely, very open about sexuality, and polyamorous. If she’s going to be accepted on a human ship, she’s got to dampen down everything about herself. Why would anyone from her homeworld torture themselves like that?  Dr. Chef’s actual name is completely unpronounceable, and the infant human race is a constant source of entertainment for him. His race literally destroyed itself, they are a cautionary tale.  Dr. Chef seriously needs his own book, I loved him!
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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.