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review 2017-06-15 17:00
Leviathan Wakes - James S.A. Corey  
Leviathan Wakes - James S.A. Corey

I got into two different conversations lugging this around. So, apparently there's a new Sci Fi series based on this series of books. And it's good, I hear. You know what I liked best about it, besides the old-school sci fi space opera vibe? Ethics. I know, right? Lots of thought time and discussion given to ethics and morals and what is the right thing to do. It doesn't drag the plot down at all, there's still plenty going on, and big battles and such. And I liked the hardboiled cop storyline enormously.

Female characters at maybe 1 in 10, and mostly they exist for dudes to fall for, so points off for that, but the dudes are falling for clever, creative, hard-working characters, so it's not like reading Golden Age sexism, but there is definitely room for improvement. And Yay! everyone isn't white, so that's nice, too.

My library only has this one volume. So, does anyone know if the series is driving an uptick in reading? I want to ask them to get all the books, but not if I'm the only one who'll check them out.

Library copy

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review 2017-06-12 07:51
"In what universe was keeping an insane undead general as an attack dog a good idea?"
Raven Stratagem - Yoon Ha Lee

Raven Stratagem

by Yoon Ha Lee

 

 

Ninefox Gambit was one of the best books I read in 2016. Raven Stratagem might be even better. This whole series is utterly, gloriously, astoundingly brilliant.

Welcome to the world of the hexarchate, where total participation in rigid ritual not only keeps control of the population; it also warps the topology of reality to create "exotic effects" that keeps the hexarchate in power. The hexarchate is ruled by six factions: the Rahal, who make the rules; the Vidona, who enforce them with torture; the Andan, who control the culture; the Nirai, who provide mathematical and scientific technology; the Shuos, who act as spies, assassins, and bureaucrats; and the Kel, who are the military wing of the hexarchate. All but the Shuos depend upon an exotic effect to remain in power, from Rahal scrying and mindreading to the Nirai spacefaring mothdrive to the overwhelmingly powerful Kel military formations. Heretics are therefore a tangible, literal threat to the hexarchate: not only do they threaten to disrupt the loyalty of the populus; they also weaken the hexarchate's exotic effects that drive the hexarchate's technology, military, and society.

Raven Stratagem starts where Ninefox Gambit leaves off. It introduces a cast of highly empathetic characters and explores the perspectives of several of the antagonists of the previous book. The story also expands its powerful exploration of gender fluidity. While the last book was told almost entirely from the Kel perspective, Raven Stratagem provides quite a bit more of the Shuos and even the Nirai perspectives. Our previous Shuos experience was almost entirely limited to the crazy undead mass-murdering General Shuos Jedao, who is occasionally let out of his immortal unrest in the Black Cradle to possess a Kel "volunteer" and use his scheming brain to win their wars. I adore the Shuos; it turns out they're not just assassins and spies; they're also the bureaucrats and administrators because

"A properly guided bureaucracy is deadlier than any bomb."

The Shuos are renowned for turning everything into a game and are charmingly unexpected; for instance, the leader of the Shuos faction has a tendency of knitting during scheming sessions.

As with Ninefox Gambit, one of the main themes of the novel was agency. Kel are imbued with "formation instinct" that irresistibly compels them to unquestioningly obey their superiors. The few "crashhawks" with weak formation instinct are constantly under suspicion by their superiors because they can choose not to obey. The hexarchs are increasingly out of touch, off planning new sadistic "remembrances" and chasing immortality even as their people are being invaded by the savage Hafn. As one character thinks:

"At some point you had to ask yourself how much legitimacy any government had that feared dissension within more than invasion without."

The world of the hexarchate is brutal and unfeeling, the people kept under martial law and in constant fear of the Vidona. But overthrowing the hexarch also means destroying all of the technology built upon its exotic effects, and what if it is replaced with something even worse? As one character says:

"You know what? It is a shitty system. We have a whole faction devoted to torturing people so the rest of us can pretend we're not involved. Too bad every other system of government out there is even worse. [...] If you have some working alternative for the world we're stuck in, by all means show it to us without spelling it in corpses."


There are a lot of thought-provoking themes in Raven Stratagem, but they don't get in the way of the character development or the action. I was utterly captivated by the story's twists and turns, and I'm only a little ashamed to admit that I fell for one of them.

[Initially, I'd assumed that Cheris was in charge and playing Jedao, bolstered by their obvious care for the servitors, but as the story proceeded and they did things like enslave the Kel and let the Mwennan die without blinking and use a program for simple mathematical calculations, I began to wonder if the Jedao part had eaten the Cheris part. At some point, I lost sight of the title--"Raven" stratagem clearly points to a scheming Cheris. I'm impressed that the book got me to lose faith while still making the big reveal feel utterly natural. Bravo!]

(spoiler show)

If you were a bit overwhelmed by Ninefox, then you'll be relieved to hear that Raven is much less math-heavy, focusing more on characters and worldbuilding. We get a view of the inner workings of the hexarch from Shuos Mikodez, we finally get a glimpse of the mysterious and somewhat horrifying Hafn, and the ending is utterly satisfying while leaving me desperate for more. I absolutely cannot wait to get back to the world of the hexarchate.

Yours in calendrical heresy,
Carly

~~I received this ebook through Netgalley from the publisher, Rebellion/Solaris, in exchange for my honest review. Thank you! Quotes were taken from an advanced reader copy and while they may not reflect the final phrasing, I believe they speak to the spirit of the novel as a whole.~~

Cross-posted on BookLikes.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-06-12 05:52
Just Keep Swimming
Pressure - Brian Keene

It's late and I'm sleepy so let's keep this brief, shall we?

 

In Pressure, the sea floor is falling apart and something has awakened. Something hungry. As diver and oceanographer Carrie Anderson tries to figure out what's going on, she must contend with a super predator from someone's nightmares, ex-boyfriends, sassy companions, and corrupt business conspiracies. All the while, she's got to be aware of something cold that's only growing colder. And hungrier.

 

I liked this one a lot. It was totally ridiculous and read like a B-movie but I appreciated it. The creature itself was fantastic and just thinking about it hunting the characters made me uneasy. There were many parts where, despite telling myself the famous last words of "just one more chapter", I wouldn't be able to stop reading because a) I had to know how Carrie escaped and b) I was too terrified to go to bed. The scares in this are great, especially if you're like me and are uneasy around open water and  giant monsters. This is the creature feature I've been craving for a while and I loved it. 

 

The characters were also terrific. I loved Carrie. I thought she was fun and enjoyed following her journey. I would have liked to have seen more of the conflict between her and her family play out and feel an opportunity was missed with that but overall she was satisfying. I adored Abhi. He was a great character, super humorous, and just a nice, light addition to the cast. The other characters were nice as well, if not a bit more shallow. I didn't mind too horribly though. The action was more than enough to keep me interested.

 

Major spoilers, so be aware.

 

The biggest issue with this book is that after part one, the story just becomes slow and about corporate espionage. I wanted to read the book because I wanted a good creature feature and I got that for the first hundred and fifty or so pages. Then Keene kills the creature off. I thought for sure it would pull a 90's Godzilla and come back or the eggs would hatch and there'd be a bunch of new baby monsters but no. Just even agents chasing after Carrie's crew. It was definitely a let down. Still interesting but not what I was wanting to read. The explanation for the source of the creatures was also underwhelming. The book felt like it needed to be another hundred pages OR just have ended after Carrie crashes the ship into one of the creatures. That would have been more satisfying. Ah well. 

 

Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars. It's very good and fun, I'd read it again, but the second part is definitely underwhelming. 

 

 

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review 2017-06-03 00:25
Unicorn in Calabria

Note to librarians: Unfortunately, this book is not in the BL database, so I can't put it on my shelf. I'm using the cover from GR.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Unicorns come to Calabria. Not once upon a time in an imaginary land, but now, in the 21st century, a beautiful unicorn comes to a run-down farm on a hillside in Calabria, South Italy, and settles in. The farm owner, a lonely hopeless man, shuns the technology of his times. He ekes out his meager existence from the land and takes care of his few animals, when he witnesses the miracle of the unicorn. The strange, un-earthy creature gives a new meaning to his life, opens his eyes and his heart, and in return, he is willing to protect it from the unicorn hunters, the insatiable media, and the ruthless Mafiosi.

The story reads like poetry, lyrical and dreamy. It’s not a fast-paced fantasy adventure but a slow-flowing feast of words, and despite my preference for quick action of the usual sword-and-sorcery pageant, I couldn’t stop reading it from start to end. Fortunately for me, it is a short book, 174 pages, but it is one of the best books I’ve read recently. It left me oddly happy. Even though I have never seen a unicorn, I felt as if its magic brushed against my skin too, just as it did for the protagonist of this unusual tale.

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text 2017-06-02 15:39
My 2017 June InD'tale Magazine Reviews

I have three in this month's magazine: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Paranormal

 

Source: imavoraciousreader.blogspot.com/2017/06/my-2017-june-indtale-magazine-reviews.html
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