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text 2018-04-02 16:02
Tepidness in printed form
The Bomb That Failed - Ronald William Clark

In an author’s note prefacing his novel, Ronald Clark writes of “the sliver of chance” that separates history that what might have been.  The sliver of chance in this instance is the failure of the Trinity test in June 1945.  With the atomic bomb an apparent dud, the United States moves forward with Operation Olympic, the invasion of the Japanese home island of Kyushu.  The unintentional death of the Japanese emperor enrages the island’s population, ensuring a vigorous and bloody defense.  With casualties mounting, the U.S. resorts to biological warfare and withdraws troops from Europe in preparation for an invasion of Honshu, actions which cause a split with its British ally and create an opening that the ambitious Soviets are quick to exploit.


Clark’s premise is a familiar one to readers of alternate history, having been used in novels such as David Westheimer’s Lighter than a Feather and Alfred Coppel’s The Burning Mountain.  Yet Clark’s book is much inferior to these works.  The narrative form is particularly weak; Clark attempts to relate events from the first-person perspective of a female correspondent who just happens to be at the right place at the right time to observe key developments, yet sections are also included recounting conversations more appropriate for a third-person format.  Such laziness also extends to characterization; with the exception of a few historical figures, most of the characters are little more than mouthpieces for dialogue designed to move the plot along.


But perhaps the greatest weakness of the book is with the plot itself.  Many of the developments in the novel seem to be less about considering the consequences of his suggested point of divergence than reaching a predetermined conclusion that is historically highly improbable.  The chapters themselves are so focused on this that the action within the novel takes a back seat to explanation, with more space devoted to recounting fictional parliamentary debates than in describing the events that they are about.  Fans of alternate history would be better off avoiding this book in favor of other works of the genre, most of which are superior to this tepid contribution.

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review 2018-02-25 17:21
Authority by Jeff VanderMeer
Authority: A Novel - Jeff VanderMeer

Whereas Annihilation took place inside Area X, Authority takes place outside, at Southern Reach. The folks at Southern Reach are charged with studying Area X, putting together expeditions to send into it, and potentially protecting the world against Area X and whatever might come out of it. Unfortunately, Southern Reach is currently a dysfunctional environment at best.

A man who prefers to be called Control but whose real name is something else is sent to Southern Reach to be its new director. Grace, the assistant director, takes an immediate dislike to him, leading to a power struggle that stretches across most of the book. While trying to get Grace to accept his authority, Control, a spy from a family of spies, also attempts to get his bearings. He interviews the twelfth expedition's biologist, learns as much about Area X and Southern Reach as his new employees are willing and able to tell him, and tries to figure out if the previous director was as unstable as the mess in her office made her look, all of which he reports back to his shadowy boss.

Although I wasn't really a fan of the first book, I continued on with the trilogy in the hope that it would improve and maybe give me a few more answers. It did provide me with a few answers - some of the things the psychologist said and did make a lot more sense now, for example - but it also left me with more questions and less trust that the final book in the trilogy would answer them.

Annihilation had its problems, but it was far more interesting than Authority, which spent way more time than I'd have preferred on Control's family history and his obsession with the biologist (who wasn't really the biologist and who preferred to go by Ghost Bird). I kept reading because of the book's occasional links to Annihilation and the mystery of Area X, but they were crumbs in a sea of crap about Control's mother, grandfather, and father. Yes, that info tied into one of the big revelations about Control's situation, but surely it could have been more tightly written?

It didn't help that, after a point, I just wasn't interested in Control. He acted like he was some kind of hotshot spy who'd slide into Southern Reach, figure out the right power games to play, and end up with the power to improve Southern Reach's operation and get the info his boss needed. Except that it turned out he wasn't nearly as slick and competent as he tried to tell himself he was. Some of it was lies, to himself and to the reader, and some of it was that, despite his preferred name for himself, he actually had even less control over his situation than I initially thought.

I really liked when things started to get weird and creepy near the end of the book (ooh, that scene with Whitby!), but it was too little, too late. Also, a word of warning for animal lovers: Control has a cat that he ends up abandoning near the end of the book. No further information was provided about the cat's fate, so I prefer to think that he somehow found a safe place and thrived.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2016-12-30 12:45
Char's Horror Corner- Failed Challenge 2016: Year of Lansdale
The Drive-In - Andres Guinaldo,Joe R. Lansdale
Hell's Bounty - John L. Lansdale,Joe R. Lansdale
Hap and Leonard - Michael Koryta,Joe R. Lansdale
Savage Season (Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, #1) - Joe R. Lansdale
Coco Butternut (Hap and Leonard Adventure) - Joe R. Lansdale
Honky Tonk Samurai (Hap and Leonard) - Joe R. Lansdale
Dead on the Bones: Pulp on Fire - Timothy Truman,Joe R. Lansdale
Hap and Leonard: Blood and Lemonade - Joe R. Lansdale


At the beginning of 2016, I created a challenge for myself and named it Year of Lansdale. I planned to read 12 Lansdale books this year. I failed, but it sure was fun trying!



8 out of 12 isn't ALL that bad, is it? Please accept my apologies, Mr. Lansdale. 


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review 2016-11-22 02:14
A slow-burn SF adventure that's as thoughtful as it is good
The Patriots of Mars: The God That Failed - Jeff Faria
"...All change, all worthwhile human change, comes from the common man. It is never handed down to us from our betters. My goal is to free the common man to effect that change. Sometimes that means enabling him to have a place of his own on Mars. Sometimes it means evening the odds between a nation that can afford War-bots and one that can’t. But as far as trying to figure out who the good guys are, I gave that up a long time ago. That’s a road to nowhere. Don’t go looking for heroes, Josh. You’ll never find one."

I distinctly remember looking at the progress meter on this at 15% and groaning -- it was well interesting, well-written, but I didn't care about any of the characters or the story, and by 15% I should at least have started to get invested in something. I don't say this to beat up on Faria, but to encourage patience in his readers. Because by somewhere in the 20-30% I was glad I stuck with it.


Basically, there's a pretty corrupt government on Earth and a few very powerful transnational corporations (and one that's even more so) who control a small population of miners and other laborers on Mars. Some of those on Mars start to get ideas about self-determination, self-government and whatnot. Throw in a kid who may or may not be having some religious visions that put him right in trouble's way. Tying all of these together is a combination Internet/Simulated Intelligence enabling and supporting communications, and just about everything else in their lives. At some point the kid and some of these people on Mars get together and work toward similar ends -- and that's when everything gets weird.


Faria spends a lot of time setting his dominoes up before knocking them over -- and you'll end up not seeing exactly all the designs he had in mind. Two of the biggest are pretty apparent, but I think he wants you to see those events coming, so that you're smarter than the characters who don't understand their circumstances. It's the ideas floating around these events -- both leading up to them and what comes up in reaction to the various events of the novel that got and kept me interested in this book.


The science fiction part of this is well-done: the mines (why does everyone mine Mars?); the various robots; the Mad Max-ish desert areas of Mars; the political/corporate powers -- even the detail about the ways they messed with the moons of mars to help land ships there -- I ate all that up. My major criticism is the female characters -- there are 3 of them: Josh's mom, Emily, and Emily's mom (who really is just a name for most of the book until she finally shows up). Note that two of those are defined only in terms of their relation to someone (Josh's mom has a name, I'm pretty sure, but it didn't stick with me). You could make the case that Emily is really the only female in the cast, and that's just not right.


I'm not going to get deeper on any of the characters, because at this point, they really don't matter that much -- I think that may change, but let's let my lack of description of them sum up my lack of investment with them.


I'm not sure I cared that much about any of the characters in the end, really. But I want to know what happens to this world -- well, worlds: Earth and Mars -- and the societies represented next. It reminds me of the early Foundation novels that way, you don't get that invested in any of the people, but man, you've gotta find out what happens next.


This feels like the beginning of a trilogy -- and I'm in for the long haul.


Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this novel by the author in exchange for this post. I really appreciate it.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2016/11/21/the-patriots-of-mars-by-jeff-faria
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review 2016-10-10 15:42
Book Review of The Patriots of Mars: The God That Failed by Jeff Faria
The Patriots of Mars: The God That Failed - Jeff Faria

In 2231, twenty-five billion people walk the Earth. Few lack basic food and shelter. Energy is cheap and abundant. A vast army of 'bots serves our every need, and those who can afford to do so might live forever. To some, it is a golden age.

But Earth is devoid of resources, now harvested on or around Mars. Nations are ruled from above by governments owned by enormous transnats, and from below by powerful street gangs who have largely usurped the police.


This world is not for everyone. A fifth of the world's population has withdrawn into the drug Nirvana, while millions more have chosen Martian exile. And a phantom group called 'The Patriots of Mars' has committed an act of rebellion that shocks the world.

Josh Reynolds, a Martian-born teen with a secret, is trying to change his life when he gets caught up in the wake of the Patriots' insurrection. As he struggles to both find and save himself, Josh begins to realize that the change he had hoped for could become something more far-reaching than anyone had imagined.


Review 3*


I received a complimentary book from the author in return for an honest review.


This is the first book in a new science fiction series.


Josh Reynolds is a wonderful character. He is a young man of seventeen who was born and lives in a colony on Mars, and works in one of the mines that supplies Earth with resources that have been long depleted on that planet. He was also born with a special ability: He has visions and speaks to the Guide, who is a deity or some kind of spirit that helps him when he's in danger or in need of assistance. When a mine accident is triggered by sabotage, Josh finds himself in the midst of an uprising by The Patriots of Mars, a group of rebels determined to break ties with Earth. Or are they? Things are not all they seem and Josh is thrown into a dangerous adventure that could change the face of Mars forever.


This is a book that I struggled to get into at first. However, as the story unraveled, I found myself completely hooked. The book is set in the future, where man has conquered the colonisation of Mars and are mining it for its resources. Everything is overseen (on Earth and on Mars) by MOM, an AI system that keeps things running smoothly. As I was reading this book I kept thinking of the movie I, Robot with Will Smith. Though this book has similarities, there are some major differences too. I was also intrigued with the different characters. I liked meeting Josh's friends: Emily, who is like a sister to Josh though they are not related, Kat is Josh's best friend and John is a big softy though most people are intimidated by his size. I think my favourite character has to be Elvis though, as he is very outgoing and quirky. There are also a few other characters that are brought in, though I struggled to figure out where they fit in with the tale. However, they all came alive on the page.


The story had several different plots and I was unsure as to where it was going. There's several different themes: friendship, politics (both Earthly and Martian) and robots seeking autonomous freedom for their own identity. However, by the time I reached the end, most of the sub plots had come together and I had a bit of an "A-ha!" moment. There are several twists that I didn't see coming and enjoyed the Bazaar scene where Josh and Lowrie meets a slave trader called Ugato, as well as the Steampunk Samurai fight scene with Elvis for an upcoming and brand new TV game show. Josh's destiny is still evolving by the end of the book and his character is growing, so there are several unanswered questions which, I hope, may be revealed in the second book, Rise Of The Technorati. I was, however, intrigued with the Guide aspect of the story as it gave it a spiritual feel. I am not sure what is in store for Josh in the future, but am looking forward to finding out. Although this book doesn't end on a cliffhanger as such, it is set up to begin the second story.


This is Jeff Faria's debut novel. I really enjoyed his writing style, which is fast paced and entertaining. However, I felt that there were too many things happening plot-wise and his story didn't flow as well as it could have done. Nevertheless, I will follow his career with interest.


Although there is no sexual content or bad language, I do not recommend this to younger readers (under 16) as I am not sure if they would understand it properly. I do, however, recommend this book to older teens and adults who love YA science fiction and/or space opera genres. - Lynn Worton

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