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Search tags: my-science-fiction-fantasy-reading-project
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review 2020-02-27 21:24
A Crown of Swords / Robert Jordan
A Crown of Swords - Robert Jordan

In this volume, Elayne, Aviendha, and Mat come ever closer to the bowl ter'angreal that may reverse the world's endless heat wave and restore natural weather. Egwene begins to gather all manner of women who can channel--Sea Folk, Windfinders, Wise Ones, and some surprising others. And above all, Rand faces the dread Forsaken Sammael, in the shadows of Shadar Logoth, where the blood-hungry mist, Mashadar, waits for prey.

 

I think I’m losing steam as this series keeps getting drawn out! I started this tome somewhat reluctantly, thinking, “Jeez, book 7. You’d think the guy could wind this up!” And he really does seem to dawdle along with the action. We follow so many characters and get nitty gritty detail about each one. Although I prefer fantasy over every other genre, I sometimes feel this series really pushes my patience!

But here’s the thing--Jordan knows how to END an installment. Suddenly, in the last pages of the book, stuff happens! Things that startle and intrigue. Things that make you wonder what will happen in the NEXT book. This is what this author excels at--ending with a bang that sends the reader on to the next volume. For example, the return of Lan. Unexpected, but welcome.

So I started with relative indifference but I will look forward to The Path of Daggers.

Book number 356 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

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review 2020-02-19 22:46
The Sparrow / Mary Doria Russell
The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russell

In 2019, humanity finally finds proof of extraterrestrial life when a listening post in Puerto Rico picks up exquisite singing from a planet that will come to be known as Rakhat. While United Nations diplomats endlessly debate a possible first contact mission, the Society of Jesus quietly organizes an eight-person scientific expedition of its own. What the Jesuits find is a world so beyond comprehension that it will lead them to question what it means to be "human". 

 

4.25 stars

I enjoy First Contact stories and this was a particularly good one. I think my enjoyment of it was increased by reading it soon after Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson, about a man who worked (sometimes with, sometimes against) the Jesuits in 17th century French Canada. Since a Jesuit priest, Emilio, is the main character in this novel, the historical context really helped me to appreciate him and his actions.

I found the switching between chapters set on Earth and those set on Rakhat to be very effective. Russell could reveal just enough in one setting to make the reader think they know something and then in the next section show how our assumptions can be dead wrong.

Although I thought that the humans’ easy ability to eat the flora and fauna of Rakhat to be a bit unlikely, I found their confusion and incorrect assumptions about the beings that they encountered to be wholly believable. Despite Emilio’s extreme talent as a linguist and language learner, it is difficult enough for us to understand the cultures of other Earthlings, let alone that of beings on another planet.

It wasn’t until the very last pages of the book that the title became clear to me, but once it came into focus, I appreciated it’s subtlety. A very interesting book and one which I will continue to think about for days to come.

Book number 355 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

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review 2020-02-11 23:46
Callahan's Legacy / Spider Robinson
Callahan's Legacy - Spider Robinson

For years, Callahan's was the place where friends met to have a few drinks, tell a few jokes, and occasionally save the world. Until that unfortunate incident with the nuke a few years ago....

But Jake Stonebender and his wife have opened a new Callahan's, Mary's Place, and all the regulars are there: Doc Webster, Fast Eddie the piano player, Long Drink McGonnigle, and of course the usual talking dogs, alcoholic vampires, aliens, and time travelers. Songs will be sung, drinks will be drunk (and drunks will have drinks), puns will be swapped...and as a three-eyed, three-legged, three-armed, three-everythinged alien flashes through space toward the bar, it just might be time to save the world again....

 

Suffice it to say that if you like Robinson’s Callahan novels, you will like this one. This offering was perhaps a bit better than the previous volumes or perhaps the series is growing on me (like a fungus). Something about Robinson’s voice in these books irritates the shit out of me--to me he sounds rather smugly self-satisfied. I hope that I’m wrong on that, but that’s my experience.

This story hasn’t aged well, being specific about certain computer and internet details as it is. It is definitely a creature of 1996. Also, be prepared for a LOT of pun-ishment. The puns are a characteristic of this series, but if you are allergic to this form of humour you may wish to pop an antihistamine before wading in.

Book number 354 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

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review 2020-02-11 23:38
The Gap into Ruin : This Day All Gods Die / Stephen R. Donaldson
The Gap Into Ruin: This Day All Gods Die - Stephen R. Donaldson

As the crew attempts to pursue the pirate ship Soar and her captain, their hopes turn to Angus Thermopyle. Angus, Morn Hyland, and her son, Davies, race home, unaware that Warden Dios and The Dragon are locked in a final confrontation that may alter the fate of humankind forever.

 

Put a mark on the wall, I actually enjoyed a SRD book! Nevertheless, I’m glad to be finished this particular series and know where all the chips have fallen. I will give Donaldson this, he is particularly skillful at recognizing when to end a chapter and when to switch view-points. I found his timing in this book to be right on the money.

I don’t require likeable characters, but for whatever reason, I find SRD’s characters to be particularly difficult to care about. What I could get into was the downfall of Holt Fasner (and the eventual release of Norna, omg I felt for that woman despite her unpleasantness).

It may have been Frank Herbert who wrote about “wheels within wheels” when writing about plots, but Donaldson wrote the superior plotting and backstabbing novels with this series. All the twisty, turny bits required close attention to know who was fooling whom. And Donaldson’s characters do it without spice to see into the future.

Book number 353 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

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review 2020-02-11 23:33
Inheritor / C.J. Cherryh
Inheritor - C.J. Cherryh

Six months have passed since the reappearance of the starship Phoenix—the same ship which brought a colony of humans to the hostile environment of alien atevi nearly two hundred years ago. During these six months, the atevi have reconfigured their fledgling space program in a bid to take their place in the heavens alongside humans. But the return of the Phoenix has added a frighteningly powerful third party to an already volatile situation, polarizing both human and atevi political factions, and making the possibility of all-out planetary war an even more likely threat.

On the atevi mainland, human ambassador Bren Cameron, in a desperate attempt to maintain the peace, has arranged for one human representative from the Phoenix to take up residence with him in his apartments, and for another to be stationed on Mosphiera, humanity's island enclave. Bren himself is unable to return home for fear of being arrested or assassinated by the powerful arch conservative element who wish to bar the atevi from space. Desperately trying to keep abreast of the atevi associations, how can Bren possibly find a way to save two species from a three-sided conflict that no one can win?

 

Still very much enjoying this series and C.J. Cherryh’s writing. I love the complexities that she forces her main character, Bren, to deal with. His job is supposed to be translating between humans and atevi on the atevi’s planet. It sounds simple, but there are humans involved here and wherever there are at least three humans (or chimpanzees) there will be politics. So he must deal with human factions and humans are rank amateurs at intrigue compared to the atevi! Add to that mix the long-lost interplantary ship which has returned to look for the humans that it left behind, and the situation becomes even more complex. The atevi believe that a ship full of humans will undoubtedly side with the planet-side humans and have a hard time believing Bren that humans aren’t a monolithic group.

I think Cherryh must have studied colonial histories, perhaps Britain and India or similar patterns, to help her structure a believable narrative. The humans planet-side are so sure of their technological superiority that they get complacent and let their skills slip. They are arrogant because they overestimate their position and under-estimate the skills of the native population, the atevi.

Cherryh certainly knows how to torment a main character. With all the other complexities, she throws in a human ship representative who seems destined to blow a gasket, a burgeoning romantic relationship for Bren, and deteriorating relations with his family. Watching him negotiate this maze of details is fascinating!

Book number 351 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

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