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review 2018-05-28 21:35
Not bad, not great
The Other Teddy Roosevelts - Mike Resnick

Not bad. If you've read any SFnal anthology since the middle 1980s (earlier, actually, but I'm too lazy to go look up his first appearance in print) you've read some Resnick. I'm no big fan of his pedestrian writing, but I'm a BIG fan of TR.

 

Red Whitechapel puts TR at the centre (cause it's in Lunnon I misspelled center, see?) of the Jack the Ripper hunt. Resnick even says he wrote this to get some attention for a theory he proposed in a non-fiction article published in the 1970s regarding his (quite plausible and eminently sensible) idea of who and what the real Ripper was. Wasn't much impressed by the fictionalization. 3 stars

 

Two Hunters in Manhattan was a real eye-roller, TR making the acquaintance of an ancient Greek vampire who, inexplicably, pays no slightest attention to TR's request for assistance in specific ways but instead whimsically decides to do it his own way. Who knows, maybe that comes with having blues eyes, black hair. 2 stars

 

The Roosevelt Dispatches puts Teddy in Cuba and has has him meet the Martians from Wells' The War of the Worlds. Okay. 3 stars

 

Bully! got the otherwhen versions of TR rolling in Resnick's creative world. Nominated for the big awards. I enjoyed this one. 3.5 stars

 

The Bull Moose at Bay is the most intriguing story to me...how TR got to where he is at the beginning of the tale is deeply satisfying, the place where the tale takes off is spot-on, and the ending is also satisfying. My quibble is why be coy about the identities of the birthday party guests? Still, hands-down my favorite. 4 stars

 

Over There was depressing and unlikely. TR was too full fledged a politician to fall for what happened to him; the ending was inevitable and seen clearly from the beginning. 2 stars

 

The Light that Blinds, the Claws that Catch is unmemorable and uninteresting. 3 stars because it's competently written.

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review 2018-05-28 16:52
Evergreen plot with a few nifty add-ons
The Wrong Stars (Axiom) - Tim Pratt

I enjoyed it. Lesbian sex scene averted, blessedly, so I had no need to flee screaming. I never heard of a "demisexual" before, so my education continues. 

One instance of the dreadful pollutant w-verb on p244. I damn near unswallowed on the page. But to be fair to the writer, both characters (sender and recipient) were in imminent danger of death when the heinous abuse of my eyestalks took place, so I don't doubt but what he was under some significant existential stress.

The characters, Captain Callie and Xenobiologist Elena anyway, are all as well made as one could wish. Lantern the Liar, of an alien race called "the Liars", was less three-dimensional but that's not really surprising or remediable for a character whose backstory is related late in the game via infodump. Lantern is positioned now to be a regular in future books, and she and her race and her religious order are fascinating to me, so patience is a must in reading this first volume.

The master aliens are creepy and xenocidal, and their tech is to die for (haw). The slave-alien Liars have been making hay off selling the said tech to humans for a good while. They've sold more than trinkets and trash to humanity, though it's all come on one Bill of Goods. The Liars have told their customers, who despite knowing the species' tendency to prevaricate whenever they feel like it, that the amazing permanent wormholes the Liars let them use to get to twenty-nine different star systems that humanity is allowed to colonize and the big dumb schmucks bought it!

The truth is, needless to say, a lot more nuanced. And a lot scarier: The tech the Liars are selling turns out to have been developed by a race that's so evil that the Liars are terrified of them returning one day. After all, the Liars are their genetically engineered slaves.

Okay, yeah, it's all very Flash Gordon versus Ming the Merciless, but it's fun and it's got humor and heart, so I'm in for one more read before I decide its fate at my readerly hands. Far from the worst I've read, not the best either, and the author's willingness to take the slow road out to a higher vantage point is in his favor. Can't *quite* get to another half-star, but it's not because the story is bad but because it's been good for the past hundred years.

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review 2018-05-28 16:50
How NOT to write a mystery
The Ornamental Hermit - Olivier Bosman

DNF @ 45%

 

Don't care to know if my conjecture as to the crime's resolution is correct. Tedious, lumpen prose and dreary characters make me sneeze and itch. I don't like you, book. I can't get invested in you because you don't do anything to entice me in, or beguile me into supine acceptance of your heaviness.

 

It's not me, it's you. I do like your premise so I won't give you a single star.

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review 2018-05-22 22:49
Harrowing, cathartic, satisfying
A Second Harvest - Eli Easton

Only two instances of the loathsome w-verb. Both gratuitous and unnecessary, of course.

 

An enormously resonant story for my elderly self. I knew and tricked with these men most of my life. Had one terrible relationship with one of them, a horrible, painful experience of being the agony and the release from it at the same time. He died of liver cancer after over two decades of alcohol abuse, and a few months later I moved to New York City.

 

So David's story, his wretchedness, moved me deeply. Christie's part I lived in reverse...after getting to Paradise I was a busy, busy boy for a few years. Over a decade, in fact, and I adored all but the last 18 months. When my life unravels, it does the job with verve and gusto. Anyway, Christie deciding to move to Auntie's place made perfect sense to me...I ran back to Austin...and his ultimate fate there mirrored my own, if mine was less painful.

 

I left Austin because, after one night of gay-barring, I was followed home by two tradies (google it) who'd been somewhat unsettlingly focused on me. The truck they drove had a gun rack.

 

It wasn't empty.

 

Nothing happened.

 

I don't care. I am never, ever again in all my life going to live in a place where guns are anything other than tightly regulated. I'm also deeply averse to going west of the Hudson or north of the Bronx. When home doesn't want you, it's not home, so here I stay.

 

This book made all the same feelings as I felt then come roaring back, strong as ever, nauseating as ever. The highest function of storytelling is catharsis, it's why myths are evergreen and stage/screen drama has such a tenacious hold on human psyches. Author Easton has, in each of her stories I've read, given me a safe catharsis, a world built to experience and survive the strong negative emotions parts of her tale evokes. It takes skill to do this well. It requires convincing your readers that this *is* a world, this space is in fact telling truths to your emotional core. That takes talent and courage, which Author Easton has and uses for our benefit.

 

And here I was looking for a light, fun read. Haw. Instead I got a deep and thorough dose of spiritual salts. And, mirabile dictu, was made to enjoy it.

 

Congratulations, Eli Easton, and to you readers not squicked out by gay men making love to each other, this is a fine and satisfying read.

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review 2018-05-13 01:18
More Golden Age goodness with a piquant modern edge
Lonesome Road - Patricia Wentworth

Much more modern in that Miss Silver is quite the force in moving the story. Much more Golden Age in that The Ladies are Ever So Ladylike and one silly chit of a slip of a girl gets all twisted up and confused by A Big Bad Man. Also irritating is the fact that it takes a man to sort out Miss Rachel Treherne, a quite redoubtable party until it comes to her ghastly family and their disgusting behavior.

 

Well, autres temps autres moeurs, don't you know, and in the end the right couples are coupled with the Big Baddie most satisfactorily served a comeuppance. If Miss Silver is ever silver screened, this entry in the series will be loaded with a lesbian subplot that is absolutely accurate...right there for anyone with ~2 eyes to see. Dunno that it'll make diddly squat difference. You either like this book or you don't, but forevermore don't read on because the final formula is fixed with this book and the next 25-plus don't vary it.

 

I also liked a lot that Miss Silver came to Miss Rachel Treherne's attention via Hilary Cunningham, née Carew. I don't recall if this little easter egg is repeated, but I hope so.

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