the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘suspense

big red buckleThe Big Red Buckle, by Matthew Alan Thyer

published December 2013

where I got it: received copy from the author

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

A 1500 kilometer race the dangers of Mars. Failure means injury, embarrassment, and possibly death.

You had me at “Mars”.  but racing? sports? Wait,  what?

okay, let’s start at the beginning.

The Grand Martian Traverse is a 1500 km race, pushing competitors to their physical and mental limits.  Much of the race is run, but the huge cliffs, canyons and craters on Mars allow for unprecedented thermal air currents, encouraging competitors to leap off cliffs and glide on foldable hang-gliders as far as possible. For long distance and endurance runners, this is what they’ve been preparing for their entire life.  Martian colonists, Terrans, spectators, sponsors and the media flock to the event to see history being made.  Besides accolades and sponsorship awards, the winner receives the Big Red Buckle.

What all that really means is that wealthy competitors have the best equipment and huge entourage  support teams, and regular folks like you and me would typically have used equipment and are forced rely on our families and friends to be our support teams.  Terrans also have an unfair advantage, that of living in higher gravity.  Running and leaping in lower gravity is easy for the Terrans.  But only a Martian colonist would know the secrets of the Red Planet.

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 »

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 »

Ayelsford Skull Main 2_1.jpg.size-230The Aylesford Skull, by James P. Blaylock

published January 2013

where I got it: purchased new

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.


Langdon St. Ives had plans.  Those plans involved spending as much time as possible in the country, enjoying the company of his wife, and raising his children in peace. His most recent case ended badly, and St. Ives needs time to reassess, to recover, to figure out what went wrong.

So much for having plans.

In short order, a grave robberry is discovered near his country home, a woman is murdered, his wife is nearly poisoned, and his son Eddie is kidnapped. All these crimes were perpetrated by Dr. Narbondo, with whom St. Ives has had previous dealings. The Aylesford Skull is just the most recent in Blaylock’s Langdon St Ives adventures, but thanks to some concise yet very well presented character introductions, the readers knows everything they need to know to enjoy the story without having read previous tales involving Professor St. Ives.

Narbondo didn’t just dig up a random grave, he chose one involving a particularly horrid family secret, and took the skull of the child’s corpse.  Using tiny machinery and photos of the deceased, Narbondo makes creeptastic ghost trapping lamps out of the skulls he has stolen over the years.  It’s believed his final goal is to open a pathway between the world of the living and that of the dead.

And that’s the just the beginning! Once the action gets started in this steampunk thriller, it doesn’t stop! While St. Ives and his trusted friends set out to rescue Eddie, the medium Mother Laswell endeavors to save the soul of her own son, and even side characters have their own missions and goals. From the tunnels and alehouses of London to the marshes and rivers of the surrounding countryside, Blaylock whisks the reader along through an all immersive and atmospheric adventure.

Read the rest of this entry »

First things first:

Have you seen the movie yet?

do you plan to?

If your answers were “No”, and “Yes”, do not read this post. It’s cup runneth over with ridiculous quantities of snark and epically major spoilers.  I suppose you could scroll all the way to the bottom and just read the last few sentences for the whole point of the post. But even that might spoil the film for you.

Ridley Scott got me a present. Something he’s been working on for a while. Something old skool Alien fans such as myself would certainly be excited about.

By “old skool Alien fans”, I mean those of us who were weaned into science fiction horror  by Ellen Ripley and H.R. Giger. A series of films ripe with suspense, movies you only watch in broad daylight with all the lights on. Sure, the plots are simple (another distress call? didn’t this end really badly for the last ship that answered a distress call?), but the people were smart. They talked about what they planned to do, made contingency plans, found appropriate weapons, and they intelligently went about their business. Thanks to spot on direction and creepy sets, the suspension was through the roof.  Thanks to well written dialog and plotting, the films were peppered with lighter moments and small talk, quickly giving depth to characters. This was a film franchise that was all about show instead of tell. Remember that scene with Ripley at the very end of Aliens (granted, that was one directed by James Cameron) when she’s in the nest with the queen? Not a word is spoken, and no words are needed.

So, with baited breath, I opened the gift Ridley Scott had made for me.

This is where the spoilers start, btw. You’ve been warned.

Read the rest of this entry »

Faith, by John Love

published in January 2012

where I got it: purchased New

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fenrir, by M.D. Lachlan

Published in Oct 2011

where I got it: library

why I read it: enjoyed the first book in the series, Wolfsangel

.

.

.

.

.

.

For no good reason, I had a tough time getting into Fenrir. I think I was expecting a similar opening as Wolfsangel had, with Vikings and raids and witches and such, so I was caught off guard by being introduced to so many characters who were clearly, not Vikings.  Where were Vali and Feileg, the twin brothers I cried for in Wolfsangel? Where was the beautiful Adisla, whom they both swore to protect?  I know my mythological friends are here someplace, for it is their destiny to be reborn, if only to be tortured by the gods again and again and again.  Perhaps they were born into Vikings, or perhaps traders from the East, or perhaps Frankish Christians. Hiding Odin and Fenris in Frankish Christians who haven’t a clue what’s going on? That’s just cruel.

Aelis, a minor Frankish princess, is worth her weight in political marriages. And everyone wants Aelis. Helgi, an Eastern Viking Prince of Constantinople wants to maybe marry her, maybe sacrifice her. Her brother, a Parisian Count, opts to keep her, hoping for a better offer. Multiple Viking factions know she’s worth her weight in ransom, so the new name of the game is kidnap Aelis.

Jehan, oh, poor Jehan. Stricken with paralysis and blindness as a youth, he is now a monk, and seen as a living saint. His timing to Paris couldn’t be worse, and he is trapped in the church when the Vikings attack. The Vikings know all about relics, and the worth of the bones of a saint, so suddenly Jehan is also worth quite a bit in ransom, dead or alive. Years from now, I will still pity Jehan.

And then we have Munin and Hugin, the horrific sibling priests of Odin. More on them later.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Third Section, by Jasper Kent

Published in Oct 2011

where I got it: received a review copy from the friendly folks at Pyr

Why I read it: Enjoyed immensely the first two books in the series Twelve, and Thirteen Years Later

.

.

.

.
Taking place 30 years after the events of Thirteen Years Later, The Third Section (the third book in Jasper Kent’s Danilov Quintet) follows the children of Aleksei Danilov.  His son Dmitri is in Sevastapol, fighting off the French and the English.  When Dmitri discovers two dead soldiers, whose wounds match those witnessed thirty years earlier, he knows the creatures he helped his father hunt have returned.

Meanwhile,  Aleksei’s illegitimate daughter, Tamara, has secured a post with the Tsar’s secret police, The Third Section.  With a cover as a madam running a brothel, her official mission is informing on loose lipped politicians.  Her supervisor attempts to unnerve her by showing her his torture chambers, but she barely reacts. Tamara has nothing left to lose, what could he possibly show her that would frighten her?  When one of the working girls is found dead, covered in blood and missing her throat, Tamara begins an investigation that can’t end well.

And then we have  Yudin,  one of the most thrilling villains I have ever met.  In Twelve, Yudin, or Iuda, as he was known then, identified Aleksei as a worthy opponent. Now that the game has started, Yudin won’t back away until there is a winner. And when one is immortal, the game never has to end.  He is vicious, scientifically curious, and sadistic, and the pleasure of finally getting his point of view was a pleasurable horror unto itself.  I have no sympathy for Yudin, but his talent for deception and the long game makes him beyond  fascinating to watch.

Read the rest of this entry »

Reamde, by Neal Stephenson

published Sept 2011

where I got it: library

why I read it: I suffer from Stephensonitis masochism

.

.

.

.

.

.

It took me a while, but I got through Reamde (a play on words of the ubiquitous readme file that comes with most software), Neal Stephenson’s latest door stopper of a book.  This isn’t so much a review as it is a reaction, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

So I don’t have to go thru the plot bits again, please read my first blab on Reamde, found here.  Amazon plot blurb can be found here.

A mainstream book review site (Salon? Slate?  someone like that) blurbed Reamde as being Stephenson’s most accessible book yet.  And it is.  No weird futuristic monks or cyberpunk guys with odd names, no generational flashbacks, nothing “weird” or inaccessible on that front. A globe spanning thriller that falls somewhere between a Ludlum style “pick off the bad guys one by one” and a Doctorow-esque “the Chinese gold farmers aren’t the bad guys!” ,  Reamde is surprisingly normal,  or at least normal compared to what I’ve come to expect from Stephenson.  It is in a word, it is utterly accessible.

For us Speculative Fiction fans, accessible is the double edged sword of the decade.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fevre Dream, by George R R Martin

Published in 1982

where I got it: borrowed from a friend

why I read it: been on a GRRMartin kick lately

.

.

.

.

.

I’ve been on a George R R Martin kick lately, along with most of the epic fantasy blogosphere. While everyone else is reading a nearly infamous fifth book, I’ve been hitting the backlist. When a friend offered to lend me his autographed copy of Fevre Dream along with the recently released graphic novel (which I haven’t read yet), I jumped at the chance. George R R Martin writing vampire horror on an antebellum Mississippi River? Sign me up!

beware – spoilers ahead.

Fevre Dream opens with a very depressed steamboat owner. Abner Marsh has had nothing but bad luck. Steamboats crushed in ice, or destroyed by the river. Few want to work with him, some believe he’s cursed. One day he’s approached by a wealthy gentleman named Joshua York who makes Marsh an offer he can’t refuse. Their partnership agreed upon, York supplies massive sums of money, and Marsh hires the best riverboat builders, engineers, and pilots money can buy. Soon, the Fevre Dream is born. She’s over 300 feet long, trimmed in silver, and nearly covered in mirrors. Once you’ve laid eyes on the Fevre Dream, you can never forget her.

It’s not long before Marsh and his crew suspect something strange is going on. York is never seen in the day time, and seems to only drink a homebrew wine. Betraying York’s trust to never enter his room or ask detailed questions, Marsh breaks into his room in an attempt to discover his secret.

Read the rest of this entry »


About this redhead, etc.

Redhead is a snarky, non-politically correct 30-something who reviews mostly science fiction and fantasy and talks about all sorts of other fun scifi and fantasy geekery. She once wrote a haiku that included the word triskaidekaphobia.

This blog contains adult language and strong opinions. The best way to contact her outside of this blog is twitter, where she is @redhead5318 .

2013 Hugo Awards

Looking for my reviews of the Hugo winners and nominees? Save time. Click here.

Bookstore Bookblogger Connection

You're a book blogger too? Or a Bookseller? Come get involved in a wonderful new project Bookstore Bookblogger Connection!

Follow me on Twitter!

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

Join 994 other followers

2013 Sci-Fi Experience

Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along

Vintage SF

Local Friends

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.