23 Years on Fire

A Cassandra Kresnov novel, 23 Years On Fire advances the clock a bit and brings some intriguing new ideas into the series. Although they are coming a little bit out of left field and strain plausibility somewhat, such small sins are easily forgiven in support of a good story and the philosophical questions that comes along with it.

The novel opens with Sandy leading a military raid on a Federation planet suspected of using mind-control implant technology on the population of an entire planet -- accidentally. That theme continues with the rest of the book, as the artificial intelligences on all sides learn exactly how capable they can be once fully grown up.

The plot is less centered on Sandy than usual, which leads to a couple of disjointed timeline and viewpoint shifts that can leave the reader briefly disoriented. As a result the book feels rougher and less polished than previous entries in the series. It is nonetheless an good read, with some revelations at the end that hint at an interesting new direction for the next book.

Readers who have been following the series will not be disappointed. Others should start with the first book, Crossover.

Thu Sep 26 03:14:57 CDT 2013 by Matthew. Comments

The Given Sacrifice

The latest book in SM Stirling's Change series, The Given Sacrifice concludes the war against the Church Universal and Triumphant with a certain sense of anticlimax. While none of the events quite surprised me, I was left with a sense -- quite familiar to me from other recent books in this series -- that the author had overstretched his ability to maintain dramatic tension and that the events that have occupied the past three or four books in this series would have been better served to all take place within a single book. Compressing the narrative, if not necessarily the time scale, would make it easier for the reader to preserve the sense of risk and danger that has been rather lacking since Rudi retrieved the Sword of the Lady.

Spoilers below.

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Wed Sep 25 00:13:48 CDT 2013 by Matthew. Comments

The Empire of Isher

The Empire of Isher (by AE Van Vogt) combines both The Weapon Shops of Isher and The Weapon Makers into a single edition. The combined work is still under 300 pages, but the sparse writing style means that a lot of action can be packed into those pages. While this edition was published in 2000, the stories themselves are noticeably dated. They are also unique and very hard to describe.
The Weapon Shops of Isher introduces us to the basic concept: shops that appear mysteriously in various locations and sell weapons to anyone who wants one and isn't a government official of some kind. These weapons are made of atomic unobtainium and operate by the advanced science of handwavology in a manner sufficiently indistinguishable to be called magic, and so I will. These magic guns are impossible to use offensively (because magic) and can protect the user from being shot by most modern energy weapons (because magic) but not bullets (because no one uses bullets anymore?).

The motto of the Weapon Shops is "The right to buy weapons is the right to be free."

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Sun Sep 22 22:08:20 CDT 2013 by Matthew. Comments


The latest book in Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Dive series, Skirmishes interweaves three plots together: a past encounter at the Room of the Lost Souls, the beginning of Boss' attempt to dive the Boneyard and recover more working dignity vessels, and a confrontation between Cooper's two working dignity vessels and a larger force of ships from the Empire.

Readers will want to be caught up with the earlier works in this series, because it will make absolutely no sense standing alone.

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Fri Sep 20 13:10:22 CDT 2013 by Matthew. Comments

Young Sentinels

Astra takes the lead of a new super-group, squaring off against the Green Man -- an environmental super-terrorist who causes super-accelerated plant growth. Nothing exceptional in this straightforward superhero novel, though readers might find the page count and the price tag somewhat at odds with each other.

This is the third novel in the Wearing the Cape series.

Wed Sep 18 01:17:07 CDT 2013 by Matthew. Comments


Ethan Kaille is a thieftaker, someone who is hired to find thieves and recover stolen property, in Boston during the time right before the Revolutionary War. His life is complicated by a rival thieftaker, Sephira Pryce, who is more like a female caricature of a mob boss than someone on the side of justice, and her ire at his being hired by a coveted rich client to investigate the murder of the client's daughter. I liked this book. I enjoyed the mix of the fantasy with the historical context. I obviously need to brush up on my American history, since aside from Samuel Adams and a mention of Revere, I had no idea who those supposedly historical figures were. The story was well done, and moved fast. The characters however, except for Ethan, were largely cardboard cutouts of people, not fully realized characters. The villains had no backstory to give some idea of why they went bad, they are just evil. That aside, this was a fun weekend read, and I'll be looking for the next book.

Mon Sep 02 10:05:56 CDT 2013 by storm2013. Comments

Valor's Trial

I'm fond of Tanya Huff's books. She has a dry sense of humor and a way with dialogue that often has me in giggles as I read. Humor was nowhere to be found in this book. Granted, the book is set in an underground alien cave prison, but still. The trek through the caves to escape the prison dragged on and on. It was deadly boring and tedious. The book wasn't awful, it's got good characters and a good story, but it was definitely the weakest of the series. I recommend this book only to fans of the series who want the continuation of the storyline.

Mon Sep 02 09:54:00 CDT 2013 by storm2013. Comments

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