the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘war

Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis

published in 2010

where I got it: purchased new

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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.

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The planet Umayma was colonized milennia ago, but it’s still an awful place to live. No amount of terraforming could cure the biological agents that crawl the land and poison the water, or downsize the mutant flesh eating bugs that are now used as weapons. Nowhere and nothing is safe on Umayma, and it’s people are still fighting the religious wars of eons past.

Nyxnissa isn’t all that different from the rest of the women she knows. She spent her best years at the war front with the men, came home in pieces, and later joined up with the government assassins. Then she made a very expensive mistake. one year in prison later, she’s still running from the government and makes ends meet as a streetwise bounty hunter.

Make no mistake, Umayma is not a pretty place, and God’s War is not a pretty book. Nyx still lives the life of a soldier, she drinks, she gambles, she tumbles into bed with whoever strikes her fancy, she gets into street brawls with people who don’t strike her fancy. But like I said, she’s not much different from the rest of the women she knows. There is language, and inferred and overt violence. Welcome to life in the country of Nasheen.

I’ve been reading a lot of what I tend to call “boy-books” lately. You know, books with very few female characters, books that wouldn’t even dream of the Bechdel test? Hurley takes my idea of a “boy book” and 100% flips it on it’s head. God’s War is an intense action packed high speed ride, and in Nasheen, men are seen as the weaker sex, if they are seen at all. In Nasheen, if you’re a man you’re either at the war front or there is something so wrong with you that even the military doesn’t want you. For the first 50 pages I had to keep reminding myself that most of these characters are women. I’m just not used to that. It was pretty damn cool.
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 Twelve, by Jasper Kent

Published in 2010

Where did I get it: Library, but plan to purchase a copy

I’ve been waiting a long time to read a book like this.  A book that puts the horror back in supernatural myths. Although it’s somewhat spoiled on the back of the book, I won’t even tell you which supernatural myth I’m talking about, just know that it’s one you are supposed to be afraid of.

To risk sounding cliche, Jasper Kent’s writing is just damn good.  Every sentence, every word moves the plot forward. There isn’t a slow moment in this book. Kent brings us to early 19th century Moscow, where the people are proud yet afraid of invasion.  Talk of republic is in the air, along with the early snows of autumn.

Don’t know anything about Russia, 1812 or Napoleon? Don’t worry,  the main character, Aleksei will walk you through everything you need to know.  My historical education is so lacking as to be embarassing, and not once did I feel lost. Twelve takes place during a war, and Aleksei and his friends are soldiers, but this is not a war book.  

As Napoleon’s Grande Armee marches towards Moscow, Dmitry offers to bring in some mercenaries to help with the effort. Aleksei, Dmitry, Maksim and their commanding officer Vadim aren’t on the front lines, per say, they are beyond the front lines.  Their mission is to cross enemy lines and cause disruptions and problems for the invaders. In modern jargon I’m sure the French would call them terrorists.

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Published in 1996, The Lions of Al-Rassan is not a new book, but it is easily the most moving book I have read this year. If the end of this book doesn’t bring you to tears or compel you to find your loved ones and hold them close, there may be something very wrong with you. That’s a fuzzy photo of my copy. See the bent cover? The stressed spine? I felt it was important to show the how loved this little book has been in my household.

The Peninsula of Al-Rassan isn’t that unusual. In every square, tavern and temple the poets, singers, and clerics tell anyone who will listen of the romance of the battlefield. Of how the gods smile on warriors, of the honor, glory, and spoils of war. But the two most famous warriors of Al-Rassan know better. They know that war provides none of these things. All war does is take.

I better say it early on, this is not a book about war. This is not an action story, it is not epic fight scene after epic fight scene. This is a book about what strained loyalties can force men and women to do. The war is just the backdrop, The Lions of Al-Rassan is a love story. Read the rest of this entry »


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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.
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