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review 2017-12-12 21:38
β€œAll Systems Red – The Murderbot Diaries #1” by Martha Wells – fresh, fun, science fiction novella
All Systems Red - Martha Wells

I picked up “All Systems Red” because it was one of the Best Science Fiction Nominees in the GoodReads Choice Awards 2017   It’s my first Martha Wells book, but I’m sure it won’t be my last.

 

I’ve been reading Science Fiction for more than forty years and it’s rare for me to come across a novella as fresh, engaging and original as “All Systems Red”.

 

Told from the point of view of a part machine, part organic, Security Bot that secretly refers to itself as “Murderbot”, “All Systems Red” is a turn-the-page-I have-to-know-what-happens-next read. Murderbot has gone rogue, is proud of himself for not having murdered everybody yet and mostly wants to be left alone to watch entertainment videos. Strange and violent happenings that threaten “his” humans mean that he has to put the entertainments aside and take risks to keep his humans alive.

 

Murderbot’s interior monologue is simple, alien and compelling. He is not human but he is not just a machine either. He’s a person that you end up rooting for.

 

The mystery at the heart of the book is relatively simple and is soon resolved but a whole universe of expectations and rules and behaviours are revealed along the way.

 

The ending is pretty much perfect. It allows “All Systems Red” to work as a standalone novel while leaving me hoping that there will be a sequel soon..

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review 2017-12-11 22:33
Magic's Promise / Mercedes Lackey
Magic's Promise - Mercedes Lackey

The wild magic is taking its toll on the land, and even Vanyel, the most powerful Herald-Mage to ever walk the world, is almost at the end of his strength. But when his Companion, Yfandes, receives a call for help from neighboring Lineas, both Herald-Mage and Companion are drawn into a holocaust of dark magic that could be the end of them both.

 

How wonderful to have a more mature and thoughtful Vanyel to narrate the second volume of this series. Not there is no angst, but it is dealt with in a much more adult way.

A depleted & exhausted Vanyel returns from the battle front, only to discover that his family insist on his presence at home—not the most restful place for the young man. His father is having difficulty accepting Vanyel’s sexual orientation and his mother frankly refuses to believe him, proceeding to push any and every attractive young woman at him. If that wasn’t enough, he has to deal with his former master-at-arms and the local priest, both of whom made his younger life miserable.

However, Vanyel is now a hero, his exploits sung about by the bards, and he & his companion, Yfandes, are called to rescue another young man & Companion during their visit. Demonstrating his magic, skill, bravery, and good judgement, Vanyel is able to start the healing journey for his family relationships.

Book number 268 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

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review 2017-12-09 04:49
The Daughter of Time (Alan Grant #5)
The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey

A Scotland Yard detective is recovering in hospital with a broken leg and needs his mind distracted, what eventually gets him moving is the quandary on why the portrait of the reprehensible Richard III looked so different from the constructed popular history.  In her 1950 Alan Grant mystery, The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey has her veteran detective investigate the mystery of the Princes of the Tower and if Richard instigated their deaths.

 

In a brief summary of the plot, a recovering and bedbound Alan Grant is battling boredom when his friend Marta Holland suggests he research a historical mystery.  Knowing his love of reading faces, she sends him portraits of various individuals and he becomes intrigued with one of Richard III.  Through the help of friends, acquaintances, and young American researcher Brent Carradine, Alan gathers information and tests out theories.  After weeks of work and logical thinking, Alan comes to the conclusion that Richard did not murder his nephews and his bad reputation the result of Tudor propaganda.

 

Coming in at a brisk 206 pages, Tey’s novel is a quick paced mystery that doesn’t get bogged down in details that many non-history geared readers might feel intimidated with.  However, for those seasoned history readers there are some problems with the book that come to the fore.  Tey’s arguments in support of Richard and her theory (though Alan) that Henry VII murdered the Princes are not rock solid especially as pointed out by other authors like Alison Weir though in other areas Tey bests Weir even with a 40+ year difference between their publications and new primary sources that Tey didn’t have.  There are other little mistakes, like calling the Buckingham conspiracy the Dorset-Morton plot, or completely ignoring the before mentioned Buckingham has a plausible suspect (though Paul Murray Kendall would do that a few years later).

 

Overall The Daughter of Time is a quick, enjoyable read that will either make you think about things more critically or simply think of it as a nice plot device.

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review 2017-12-08 15:29
An Excess Male / Maggie Shen King
Excess Male, An: A Novel - Maggie Shen King

Under the One Child Policy, everyone plotted to have a son.

Now 40 million of them can't find wives. China’s One Child Policy and its cultural preference for male heirs have created a society overrun by 40 million unmarriageable men. By the year 2030, more than twenty-five percent of men in their late thirties will not have a family of their own. An Excess Male is one such leftover man’s quest for love and family under a State that seeks to glorify its past mistakes and impose order through authoritatian measures, reinvigorated Communist ideals, and social engineering.Wei-guo holds fast to the belief that as long as he continues to improve himself, his small business, and in turn, his country, his chance at love will come. He finally saves up the dowry required to enter matchmaking talks at the lowest rung as a third husband—the maximum allowed by law. Only a single family—one harboring an illegal spouse—shows interest, yet with May-ling and her two husbands, Wei-guo feels seen, heard, and connected to like never before. But everyone and everything—walls, streetlights, garbage cans—are listening, and men, excess or not, are dispensable to the State. Wei-guo must reach a new understanding of patriotism and test the limits of his love and his resolve in order to save himself and this family he has come to hold dear.

 

I have to hand it to Maggie Shen King—she takes several assumptions and trends, plays them out to their logical conclusion, and makes a dramatic book out of it. Plus I always enjoy speculative fiction that isn’t set in North America!

First, take the Chinese one-child policy. Add to that the preference for having a male child to inherit your goods. Mix in a good dose of authoritarian Communist party, which like most authoritarian regimes is ultra-conservative. This is the world that King introduces us to—where women are so scarce that men compete to be second and third husbands in polyandrous households. We meet Wei-guo, an excess male, who is rather desperate to become someone’s husband and the household that he aspires to join: that of May-ling and her two brother husbands.

Unattached young men are always a dangerous potential source of upheaval in a society, so despite the extreme shortage of women, the Chinese government frowns on single men. Many of these men, like Wei-guo, spend their free time playing war games out in the countryside, something that the government keeps close tabs on, seeing it as a potential challenge to the state instead of a way of venting aggression. Illogically, the government also disapproves of homosexuality, which really they should welcome in their demographic predicament. When the government disapproves of both of these safety values for their society, things are bound to go wrong.

All of these tensions come together to produce a human drama that is well worth your reading time.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-12-08 00:53
NIGHTEYES NIGHTEYES NIGHTEYES NIGHTEYES
Royal Assassin - Robin Hobb

"Wolves have no kings."

Nighteyes is here, if you weren't certain of that based on the review title!!!! Yayyyyy Nighteyes my BOY.

Also known as the one where Fitz doesn't know how to have a conversation about birth control, Verity is established as a Cool Uncle, the Fool is the best (okay, that's every Fitz book tho) and then it gets really fucking depressing at the end. Like, Jeepers, Robin. Take it down a notch?

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