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text 2017-07-14 09:24
The Second Coming (Baen Science Fiction) - John Dalmas

Not much specifics I can say about this book. I enjoy reading it, and the philosophies are different but not conflicting with the ones used as a basis in his Regiment series or his Farside one. Enough to make each world unique and intriguing. I highly enjoy this author's work. The systems carry the stories and make each an intriguing and engaging read.

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review 2017-01-27 21:09
Book Review: Young Miles by Lois McMaster Bujold
Young Miles - Lois McMaster Bujold

This is easily one of my favorite books ever. Honestly, I didn’t think it would be. My college roommate hyped it up like crazy, so when I finally got to reading it, I was expecting disappointment because it didn’t seem like it was going to be as good as she promised.


But it was.


This particular edition consists of two novels and a short story that all revolve around a young man named Miles Vorkosigan who has a birth defect (not congenital, he frequently assures others) and because of that is fragile. His bones break under the smallest pressure and he’s less than five feet tall. The problem is that he was born on a militant planet to a very important family. When he washes out of the military academy, he has to find his own path to greatness — and find it he certainly does.

What impressed me the most about this book (and the rest of the series) is the level of characterization. Firstly, I love Miles. He is practically a cripple, but he doesn’t let that stop him, because while his body is weak, he is a genius. I appreciate that Bujold has created a character that doesn’t go into situations and use his strength or extreme fighting prowess to save the day; instead, he thinks about solutions and launches schemes to achieve his goals.


Second, all the characters are written in shades of grey; she shows the softer sides of rampaging killers and the darker sides of sheltered researchers. This is achieved through ingenious storytelling. With adventure, mystery, suspense, and plot twists that give you whiplash, I kept turning the pages and the characters kept evolving and growing. All this, combined with in-depth universe (not world) building and fascinating cultures, this book made me want more and more and more.


And don’t think it’s all just running around and doing brave deeds — though there is a lot of that — Bujold adds a lot of humor to these books and I found myself laughing aloud quite often.


I really can’t recommend this book strongly enough. It’s SO good! And I don’t think it’s just for science fiction fans; there is plenty of material for all kinds of readers to find something they like.

Source: www.purplereaders.com/?p=1141
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review 2015-12-14 07:40
Space Misogyny
On Basilisk Station - David Weber

This book isn’t good. I was told it was “Space Opera” but this is more like “Military Space Adventure”. Think Star Trek but with more guns death and jargon.

Did I mention the jargon. If you aren’t into the military, or care about how big people’s guns are then this book will loose you quick with it’s “Falcon-Three-Three to Falcon-Two-One” and stuff like that which takes of pages and pages and offering nothing to the plot at all.
It’s also very noisy. Everything usually has about five hundred words to describe what’s happened and most of this jargon is all pseudosciency that also adds nothing to the plot and muddies the image of what really going on.

Finally let’s talk about the misogyny because this book has it.
Starting off by describing Honor as “not pretty, but no really she’s pretty” all the way to her almost rape back story, she’s a rote “strong” female character. Of course there’s the male love interest that she always seems to need help from that he doesn’t trust her and all that jazz.
The characters themselves are uninteresting and that’s mostly because Weber dumps a whole bucket of them on you before you have even warmed up to the one’s from the last bucket.

Then there’s the part where Weber calls the ship a “bitch” and describes that it was “raped” when it’s armaments were reconfigured. That the part when I wanted to toss the book into a fire. unfortunately it was a library book and thus needed to be returned. Weber being a man, knows nothing about rape to begin with and to call an inanimate object a bitch and described how it was ‘raped’ by having some weapons removed is just sheer and utter cherry-on-top misogyny.
I should probably also mention the psychic cat, but because it doesn’t add to the plot I’ll just ignore it. Really the furball could get sucked out an airlock and nothing of value would be lost on the plot...
All because the plot is that shallow, that I took a few years break from reading it and  still I was able to remember what was going on. That’s pretty sad.

NOT TO MENTION part of the plot involves invading a alien planet and drugging and slaughtering the native. WHAT. FUN. As if this book didn’t have that many problem. I almost want to say the Medusans are basically portrayed as First Nations and that their slaughter is more or less written off as necessary.
The last battle is needlessly dragged out, with lots more gore and explosions than a Michael Bay movie aaand more misogyny abound here too. It seems that Weber loves to write women, just so he can horribly kill and torture them. Very unstisfying end to an unsatisfying book.

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review 2015-04-26 00:43
Operation Arcana
Operation Arcana (BAEN) - John Joseph Adams

Rules of Enchantment by David Klecha & Tobias S Buckell

The Damned One Hundred by Jonathan Maberry

Blood, Ash, Braids by Genevieve Valentine

Mercenary’s Honour by Elizabeth Moon

The Guns of the Waste by Django Wexler

The Graphology of Hemorrhage by Yoon Ha Lee

American Golem by Weston Ochse

Weapons in the Earth by Myke Cole

Heavy Sulfer by Ari Marmell

Steel Ships by Tanya Huff

Seal Skin by Carrie Vaughn

Pathfinder by T.C McCarthy

Bomber’s Moon by Simon R Green

In Skeleton Leaves by Seanan McGuire

Bone Eaters by Glen Cook

The Way Home by Linda Nagata



This anthology is connected by 2 things: soldiers and speculative fiction. Which is a pretty broad remit which I think is probably the main flaw of this book. It isn’t a major flaw because there is a lot of overlap in the speculative fiction fandom, but the bringing of high fantasy, sci-fi and urban fantasy together with such little connection doesn’t make it that coherent but I don’t think that’s especially needed; though some of the stories seem a bit out of place. I think it also helped that there are only 16 stories in this anthology – I’ve read a few lately that have a truly immense number of stories that tend to leave me thoroughly sick of the book before I’m half way through (and the fact I say “only” with 16 tells you how long they’ve been).


I’ll be honest, I kind of expected lots of action scenes and little in the way of plot – short stories and big epic fights don’t leave much room for anything else. Yes, I had low expectations (and a little semi-guilty expectation of shameless epicy action which, yes, I like, I admit it) and they were countered – a lot of these stories are surprisingly deep with either very original settings or fascinating conflicts.


In terms of original setting, I’m most impressed by In Skeleton Leaves by Seanan McGuire. A truly dark and downright disturbing retelling of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys war against the pirates. It’s dark, draws on some excellent elements of the Fisher King and is wonderfully thematic and dark and just plain eerie and slightly horrifying. It also has a fascinating retake on Wendy and Pan, turning them into titles – with male Wendys and female Pan being possible. It’s creepy and wonderful and shuddery-awesome


The Graphology of Hemorrhage by Yoon Ha Lee isn’t exactly an original setting per se – but the magic style of calligraphy presented is the most original concept in the book and related to, but utterly unlike anything I’ve read before. The art of written magic, of literature and culture and writing all underpinning magic which, in turn, comes at a terrible price for the caster is eerie and original and beautiful and, ultimately, tragic. The ending is desperately sad and bleak in its power. The wizard is a woman as well – and the characters are all East Asian.


I think Rules of Enchantment by David Klecha & Tobias S Buckell is probably the story I’d most want to see develop into a full novel and full series. Earth with portals opening up to a High Fantasy world with trolls and orcs invading Earth and human soldiers having to make alliances with elves and battle against the invaders. What I really like about it is the interesting way magic and technology meet – from helicopter gunships shooting trolls to using magic to give a military squad a more unified viewpoint and almost a hive mind. What I absolutely hate about this story, though, is it is written in the second person. This never ever ever ever works – I’ve never liked it. We follow one squad which includes a female soldier (who uses her mind bond to keep wandering-eyed men to focus) and it has a latino character as well.



There were several stories in this book which drew on real world conflicts. We’ve said before repeatedly how bad this could go with lots of appropriation but in general it didn’t go there. These taking of real world wars didn’t assert that magic caused the war or the atrocities within it – it’s just taking our world, adding magic and seeing how the mechanics of war would differ by adding woo-woo while not actually have it change the personalities involved


The Guns of the Waste by Django Wexler is a close competitor – the setting is steampunk alternate world with a racially diverse cast (including a protagonist and most of the cast) with several capable female characters holding military rank and a range of religions and cultures being developed in a very wide world that is nicely touched upon in very elegant, sparse writing. We get a powerful sense of the different cultures without having to go into too much detail and bogging down the story. We have a dire threat which has a wonderful sinister sense and some of that lovely epic conflict I was looking for.


Mercenary’s Honour by Elizabeth Moon is a high fantasy story centring around mercenaries. It’s not my favourite but it has interesting musing on loyalty, honour and contracts – conflicting loyalties and, interesting, the idea of how much a commander actually owes their soldiers. It’s an interesting take on honour which often looks at honour towards your enemies or loyalty to your lord – but what about the men under your command? It also has an aspect of looking at what an elderly mercenary – and one with a disability – does as he ages.


Blood, Ash and Braids by Genevieve Valentine is a World War 2 story following a squad of Russian female pilots. The Night Witches – actually drawing on the history of the real Night Witches and mentioning several of these actual women including Marina Raskova, Yevdokia Bershanskaya and Nadezhda Popova. This works without being too dubious because there is very little woo-woo in the story. The woo-woo comes from one of the pilots being an actual witch – but the way it is written it could equally be a superstition as much as actual magic (it’s also a really fascinating magic system) making it more of a reality based tale of these women’s heroism than “how they did it because woo-woo”


Heavy Sulfer by Ari Marmell is a World War 1 story – the British forces on the western front only now we have wizards among the machine guns controlling clouds of mustard gas and demons summoned in the trenches. It’s a fascinatingly well done and it’s an amazing combination I really just revelled in.


The characterisation isn’t bad… but kind of nothing new even with a nice twist at the end. They do include a female officer, her magic making her valuable and it’s clear that women are welcome in the arm because woo-woo isn’t limited to gender


Pathfinder by T.C McCarthy takes on the Korean war and, again, sensibly keeps the supernatural somewhat away from the conflict. War, with its brutality, its loss and the devastating pain as well as complex loyalties is all there in its human horror. The woo-woo is peripheral, there is a supernatural conflict using the war as a setting, covered by the war but not actually causing, affecting or being affected by the war; it’s one of the ways you can use these settings without appropriating it or lessening the scope of them and it’s well done. Our protagonist is a Korean woman, most of the cast is Korean  and it seems to draw heavily from Korean beliefs. Her role as comfort and guide for the dying makes for a tragic yet bittersweet story and one where woo-woo doesn’t cure everything, but does make everything more bearable and understood.



Read More


Source: www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2015/02/operation-arcana-anthology.html
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review 2013-08-23 00:00
Crygender by Thomas T. Thomas
Crygender - Thomas T. Thomas

None of the reviews I read prior to buying this were very detailed, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. Strike that, I did have some expectations based on Baen's description, but Crygender didn't exactly come through.

I bought this expecting an interesting exploration of gender-related issues and, in that respect, the book failed pretty badly. Readers were repeatedly told that Crygender, although initially shocking to see, was a work of art. However, I could never picture Cry in a way that wasn't freakish. Book Cover Cry looks somewhat androgynous. The Cry of the actual text, on the other hand, was an asymmetrical combination of stereotypes. One half of Cry's body was stereotypically female. The other half was stereotypically male. Cry even accentuated this through exercise, making sure the male half was well-muscled while the female half was slender. Cry took a chemical cocktail that not only helped to maintain this asymmetrical look, but also allowed Cry to behave in “male” and “female” ways (again, stereotypes).

The supposed result of all of this was a brand new gender, Crygender. While it was interesting reading about Cry's first weeks/months after recovering from the surgeries and going public and all the thought Cry put into the “Crygender” persona, Cry seemed more like a confirmation of gender stereotypes rather than some new and different third gender. Also, while Cry thought about whether all the surgeries were worth it, the answer(s) were never explored in much depth. I was left feeling like I had only a very surface-level understanding of Cry.

Only a very small amount of the book was devoted to exploring gender issues. Most of it was focused on the overall mystery: what do all these disparate people have in common? What does Lady Death, an assassin, have to do with Gloria de Groot? Why do the paths of Gloria, Jean Metis, Austin Tinker, and Sylvie cross? As some questions were answered, others rose to the surface. Although I was initially confused by all the seemingly unrelated characters, I enjoyed getting to find out how all the pieces fit together.

While I enjoyed the bulk of the book because the mystery aspects were so intriguing, I disliked the epilogue. No mention was made of Sylvie and her ultimate fate. It was pretty obvious, but still – I'd have at least liked a mention of her in passing. As it was, by the end she seemed less like a person and more like a plot device designed solely to bring Metis and Tinker to Babylon. The thing that really got me, though was Gloria and Tinker's “happy ending.”

I did not want those two to be a couple. At all. I liked Gloria. While it maybe wasn't smart going to Babylon with no back-up plan, I respected her determination to achieve her goal. She did what she had to do and didn't flinch when things got tough. Tinker was another matter. He fell instantly in lust with Gloria. Because he was a guest at Babylon and Gloria was an employee, he was able to ask for her to spend time with him, and she had to do it. He was interested in doing more than just talking to her, but he held back, disliking the idea that she might have sex with him simply because her job at Babylon required her to. Even when he held back, however, I always got the impression that sex was something he expected her to one day freely give him. There was never much evidence that Gloria was an interested in Tinker as he was in her, and I held on to the hope that she would leave him in the end and never turn back. Alas, things did not go my way.

To be frank, I'd rather have had Gloria end up with Metis if she had to be paired off with someone. Metis, like Gloria, was pretty awesome. He was clever and could think on his feet. He didn't bat an eye at Babylon's goings on, and Crygender only flustered him a little. His damaged spine was his weakness, but his prosthesis made him deadly in a fight. He was often referred to as being either insect- or lizard-like, which I can't disagree with, but he still appealed to me more than Tinker did. Something about him reminded me a little of Sherlock Holmes.

Although this book failed badly for me in some ways, I still really enjoyed it overall. I wish the gender-related aspects had been better, and I could have done without the attempt at romance, but the mystery aspects kept me hooked. If Thomas had another book starring Metis, I'd snatch it up.

Additional Comments:

  • There were a few strange typos – I'm guessing OCR errors. I didn't really keep count, but maybe something like 10 instances total. I didn't find it too bothersome.
  • This was written back in 1992 and makes use of lots of exact dates...many of which are now either our near past or present. To try to make it less jarring, I told myself that everything was taking place in an alternate universe. However, even if the book hadn't included so many exact dates, I think parts of it would still have felt a bit dated.

(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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