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review 2018-11-19 22:40
Hellburner / C.J. Cherryh
Hellburner - C.J. Cherryh

Lt. Ben Pollard thinks he's traded the perils of the Belt for security as an Earth-based computer jockey for United Defence Command. Then he's forced to perform a mission of mercy - and lands on an isolated, intrigue-riddled space station.  He's been named next-of-kin to a man he never wanted to even see again: Paul Dekker, a young pilot who attracts crises like dead flesh draws flies. The centerpiece of a top-secret war project, Dekker has just lost his entire crew in a mysterious freak accident and lost his mind to amnesia from an attempted suicide. Or attempted murder. Suddenly two more faces from Dekker and Pollard's past are shanghaied to Sol II: their occasional lovers, renegade pilots Meg Kady and Sal Aboujib. Together they had once smashed the criminal cover-ups of a mining cartel. Now, they're all caught in a shadowy, deadly maze of power-mongering rivalries between UDC and Fleet Strategic Operations, the Senate and Peace Lobby, and the corporate lords of both Earth and Mars.

 

Thus far, as I have been reading Cherryh’s Company Wars books, they have overlapped slightly (mentions of Pell and its inhabitants occur in pretty much every book, for example). But this is the first time that I would call a book a sequel. Hellburner seems to me very much to be a sequel to Heavy Time, as we follow the further association between Paul Dekker and Ben Pollard.

If you have ever felt manipulated at work, you will feel great sympathy for Paul & Ben. They are frenemies, both trying to find their way in the universe. Ben thinks that he has finally landed a cushy spot for himself on Earth, far from the wars ongoing in space. This is a big achievement for a boy who grew up in the asteroid belt and who had never seen the ocean! He really doesn’t understand Earthers (OMG, they think that they have the right to air and water, how misguided are they?) but to find a peaceful work environment, he is willing to try.

Paul Dekker is Ben’s mirror image, a kid who grew up on and around Sol and who escaped an uncertain and unpromising future in Earth orbit by going to the asteroid belt. In the process, he has made himself some powerful enemies and has undergone a lot of mental disturbance. Still, he has awesome piloting skills and he’s a valuable commodity if his enemies can be dealt with.

Ben had hoped to never, ever see Dekker again. He is on the cusp of getting his ideal job when he is called away as Dekker’s “next of kin,” when Dekker is experiencing mental problems again, having been left to die in a flight simulator. Ben considers simply beating Dek to death and returning to Earth.

Instead, they are rejoined by their partners in crime from Heavy Time, Meg Kady and Sal Aboujib, and they set out to conquer the new experimental ship, the Hellburner, that no one else has been able to run successfully. Can Dekker hang onto his sanity long enough to do this? Can Ben rein in his temper? Can Meg and Sal make the cut?

As a person struggling with a new computer system at work, one which no one seems to want to provide training for, I have great sympathy for this team.

Book number 299 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.

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review 2018-11-19 16:41
When Darkness Comes / Alexandra Ivey
When Darkness Comes - Alexandra Ivy

It’s been a hell of a day for Abby Barlow. In just a few hours, she’s survived an explosion, watched her employer die, had a startling dream, and now she finds herself in a seedy Chicago hotel with the sexy, unearthly Dante, a vampire she both desires and fears.

For 341 years, Dante has stood as guardian to The Chalice, a mortal woman chosen to hold back the darkness. A terrible twist of fate has now made Abby that woman. Three hours ago. Dante would have used all his charms to seduce her. Now she is his to protect. And he will do so until his very death.

A terrifying plan has been set in motion, one that will plunge Dante and Abby into an epic battle between good and evil – and a desperate race to save their love…

 

Put my reading experience in the 2 to 2.5 star range.

I would recommend this novel to those who enjoy the writing of Christine Feehan, J.R. Ward, or Jeaniene Frost.

Obviously, this book didn’t appeal to me, nor did the works of the writers listed above, but they are still very highly rated books. So, not my jam but very appealing to others. I’m not a big fan of the damsel in distress, so that’s part of my problem here. Abby seems desperately passive to me, staying in a job that she hates and putting up with harassment from Dante (although she’s a bit conflicted about that, seemingly wishing that she was in his league so to speak). Now, I’ve been stuck in some jobs that I loathed too, but I’ve found my way out of them and into a way of supporting myself that I find quite enjoyable, so I know it can be done. And the whole “Me Too” movement tells the story of systemic harassment, I think the vast majority of women have their Me Too moments that they could tell you about.

Abby is stubborn—Ivy goes out of her way to prove this to the reader. I’m stubborn too. If you could ask my (non-Danish) mother about the stubbornness of her Danish-Canadian husband and daughters she would tell you that we are champions at it. However, I think all of us realize that being stubborn does not equal being independent. If you want me to believe that your main character is strong and independent, you can’t just rely on her sense of stubborn.

Add to this some editing issues: for example, using beaconing rather than beckoning, flaying rather than flailing and a few other words that were close but not quite right. A quote: “While Selena pampered and preened…” You can’t just pamper. You have to pamper something. So the sentence should read “While Selena pampered herself and preened….” Finally, stop reading right now and trying to wrap your own arms around your waist. Perhaps I’m not very flexible, but I can’t seem to find a way to do that. But Abby does it repeatedly—annoying me more that I would have thought possible.

I chose this book for my Women A-Z reading project for this year. I had hoped to find another enjoyable urban fantasy series for future reading, but I will leave this to others who enjoy this style far more than I do.

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text 2018-11-19 16:16
Reading progress update: I've read 295 out of 1006 pages.
The Shadow Rising - Robert Jordan

 

Wow, you can read and read in this series and barely make any progress!  And I say that despite the fact that I'm still enjoying the series.

 

There are so many details to remember and I find I'm dredging my memory, trying to remember plot points from previous books.  Still, I'm muddling on--perfect recall isn't necessary to enjoy the current action.

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text 2018-11-17 21:44
Reading progress update: I've read 51 out of 1006 pages.
The Shadow Rising - Robert Jordan

 

Slipping back into this series is like putting on a comfortable old pair of jeans.  Just feels like it is meant to be.

 

 

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review 2018-11-16 10:08
"V For Vendetta" by Alan Moore. Narrated by Simon Vance.
V for Vendetta - David Lloyd,Alan Moore

"V for Vendetta" is one of the few movies that, in these days of crowded shelves and almost infinite digital storage, I chose to own a physical copy of. It is beautifully shot, perfectly cast and boldly told. It is that rare thing, a movie that dares to be true to its intent, even at the risk of being unpopular. The result is a cult classic.

 

Take a look at the trailer below to get a feel for what I mean.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCzfxcVrxfE&w=560&h=315]

 

I first saw it in the cinema in 2006 and found it startling and inspiring. At the time I was more transfixed by how well a comic (graphic novel for all you who just groaned) could be brought to the screen rather than by the political message. I saw the anti-fascist stance as obvious and necessary but the idea of fascism gripping the UK so firmly seemed like an exaggeration to make a point.

 

This year, in response to the Guy Fawkes Night book task in the 24 Festive Tasks challenge, I decided to do something new. I read the "novelisation" of the movie or, rather, I listened to the audiobook, expertly narrated by Simon Vance.

 

I've always avoided novelisations. The word itself is ugly and the literary snob in me, which is quite happy to watch movies adapted from books, was instinctively scornful of reading novels adapted from movies.

 

As usual, my literary snob was an idiot. If I had come to this novel without seeing the movie, I would have been praising the quality of the writing and the structure of the story. It's well-written, faithful to the movie but enhancing it in ways that are appropriate to the novel form. I recommend it to you.

 

Listening to the audiobook in 2018, twelve years after seeing the movie, Britain as a fascist state no longer felt like an exaggeration to make a point. It felt like a possibility that we are only a few missteps away from. The mechanics of the manipulation of the media, the creation of enemies of the people, the appeal to national pride in a mostly-mythical glorious past, the exploitation of the fear and hatred of the foreign and the different all felt too contemporary to be dismissed.

 

V, the hero of this story, is not a nice man. Not a man you'd want to make friends with or even spend time with. When I first saw the movie I was horrified by his treatment of Evie, who he shapes into a weapon of sorts.

 

Now, I begin to understand that there may be times when we all need someone like V to remind us that our governments should be more afraid of us than we are of them.

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