Friday, April 29, 2016

Shadow Rites by Faith Hunter

In synopsis form:
Jane's home and person are scanned by witches unknown, leaving behind a curse, of sorts.
Jane is attacked by Gee di Mercy, nearly getting killed, which ties back to the scan and an earlier spell cast by Gee.
Bruiser traces a brooch left behind to a location where a missing master vampire has been held captive for a couple of years.
The witches conclave is beginning soon, and Evan and Molly and the kids (Angie and Evan Jr) are coming to stay with Jane.
Jane is having troubles shifting.

Everything else logically follows from those issues, and there's nothing truly surprising in this installment of the Yellowrock saga. In fact, it's mostly more of the same old, same old.

Jane gathers more friends and allies about herself.

Jane has the obligatory sweat lodge session, complete with hallucinogens.

Jane and Bruise grow closer.

Jane needs to protect the people around her, and they show her they don't always need to be protected.

Jane plays dominance games with the Master of the City of New Orleans.

Hope this series turns around soon.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Burned by Benedict Jacka

The title of this book is just far too appropriate. We begin the story when Alex Verus finds out that a vote has been taken by the council to issue a writ of execution against him and all of his dependents, for reasons unknown. Upon confering with his friends, they determine that there are only two courses of action open to them; to get enough council votes from the members who weren't present when the writ was issued in order to counter it, and to make sure that Anne and Vari and Luna are not longer his dependents, but are either assigned to other mages, or have immunity through a change in their own status.

In the meantime, and entirely different group of mages have decided that Verus is a threat in some unknown manner, and are issuing threats and sending minions to first intimidate Alex and later to assassinate him. The Keepers have also become aware of an effort under way by Verus' old master, Richard Drakh, to acquire a powerful magical artifact, and he is recruited to accompany the team sent to keep Drakh from getting the object.

Burned...Alex's home and business are burned to the ground, Alex is "burned" by the council's death warrant, and a number of twisty betrayals in the latter half of the book, leave him "burned" in the classic sense.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs

This story begins when Mercy and the werewolves and Joel get called out to fight a bridge troll. What's not to like here? I mean bridge...troll...rollicking battle...good times.

After the smoke clears, it becomes apparent that a small group of the Fae are trying to reestablish their hold on the area, after years of peace.

Zee and Tad show up, having escaped from a Fae dungeon with a changeling child in tow, called Aiden. His stay in the Underhill has changed him, giving him a unique relationship with the element of Fire. Mercy offers him the sanctuary of the pack, which triggers a bit of a power struggle with Adam's people, and sets the pack up in opposition to the power hungry Fae.

But Mercy aligns herself with another faction, and they undertake a dangerous mission into the land of Faerie to recover an artifact which is the price of peace.

There's some good tie-ins here with some of the short stories in Shifting Shadows, and Mercy's powers are getting a bit stronger with every novel in the series. Fun to see where Briggs is going with this.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop

This book is, if not THE climax, at least a climactic point in Bishop's series about The Others. The most powerful of the natives, who are seldom seen by humans, or even some of the more public Others, have finally come to the conclusion that the human race must be culled, and removed from the lands they acquired by treaty and subsequently violated its terms. I'm sure that any parallels to the story of native Americans and early settlers in this country are merely coincidental, aren't you? The story seems to serve as one of those "what if?" parables, given the premise that the technology of the Europeans turned out to be less powerful than the magic of the natives, who in this world are not at all human, instead of the all too human Indians they encountered in reality.

The question is not whether the humans must be culled, but how deep the cuts should go. We are stuck with hoping that the humans who have been cooperating with the Others in places like The Courtyard will be granted reprieve from the general slaughter which is to come.

The only issue after the end of this novel is exactly where Bishop will take us next, whether to tales of rebuilding and survival, or into some utopic time of cooperation between the survivors and the Others.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold

Though this novel was actually published a number of years after The Warrior's Apprentice, where we meet Miles Vorkosigan for the first time, it precedes that book in the Vorkosiverse timeline. It picks up shortly after the end of Shards of Honor. Cordelia and Aral are married and living on Barrayar, expecting their first child. Emperor Ezar is dying, and needs Aral to act as Regent for the five year old boy, Gregor, until he reaches his majority. Aral definitely does not want the job, but Ezar points out to him the serious flaws in all of the other candidates for the position, and Aral is forced to do the task.

His appointment, followed shortly by the death of the Emperor, triggers plotting by those who wanted the power for themselves. One of those consequences is the soltoxin grenade attack on Aral's home, which leaves him and Cordelia briefly poisoned, while the antidote to the poison threatens to destroy the skeletal structure of the child in her womb. They take the drastic measure of placing their child in one of the recently acquired uterine replicators (which Aral fortuitously took charge of at the end of Shards), bombarding the baby with massive amounts of bone-enhancing therapies while he is growing.

When one of Aral's colleagues in the council of counts decides he must have the regency for himself, he takes Princess Kareen, Gregor's mother, hostage, claims that Aral has had the boy murdered, and begins to imprison and execute any of Aral's loyalists he can find. Ezar's old head of Security, Captain Negri, escapes the fighting with the boy emperor and in his last dying effort, delivers him to Aral for safekeeping. Aral's father and Cordelia and Sargent Bothari take the boy and escape into the mountains to hide, leading Vordarian's troops on a wild goose chase while they attempt to capture him.

When the man charged with fetus Miles' care shows up suddenly to tell Cordelia and Aral that Vordarian has seized the replicator and that it is being held hostage in the palace, Cordelia defies Aral and heads into the capitol to rescue her son.

This book is filled with ties to tons of the other events in the rest of the Vorkosigan series, and provides a number of in jokes later on for dedicated readers, as well as filling in some of the gaps in characters' backgrounds. Another one of the books that has grown on me with time.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Emmaus Code by David Limbaugh

This turned out to be one of those books that I actually had to purchase a copy of  for my personal library, so that I can refer to it whenever I feel the need. Despite the title, there's no "code" involved, just a serious and thorough study of the Old Testament which reveals the promise and presence of Christ permeating the text far more than I, after years sitting in the pews, had ever realized.

Limbaugh gives us some good information summarizing the contents and purpose of each of the OT books right up front, covers the locations of a surprising number of recapitulations of the history of God's redemption plan for his people from Deuteronomy through Psalms, then continued in the New Testament, put there for both for the purpose of reminding the Israelites of the things he had done for them already and his plan for their future and for the disciples to demonstrate how that history set the scene for Christ's gospel.

One little tidbit that I hadn't understood before was concerning the origins of the Samaritans (remember the tales of the Good Samaritan, and of the woman Jesus met at the well?). When Assyria conquered Israel in 722 BC, they removed a large portion of the population, and replaced them with forced settlement by other conquered people. When these settlers intermarried with the remnants of Israel, they eventually became the Samaritans.

There is a nice section on all of the biblical covenants (most Christians could probably only identify the Mosaic and New Covenants), from the Edenic to the Adamic, Noahic and Abrahamic, Mosaic, Palestinian and Davidic, culminating in the New Covenant established by Christ. Like the repeated histories, the essence of the covenants is repeated many times throughout scripture, beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation. He also explains the difference between conditional covenants, where God promises to do certain things in response to Man's behavior, versus the unconditional covenants, where God's actions are not predicated upon Man's actions, but will be fulfilled by God without fail.

Limbaugh also clarifies one little doctrinal issue that I'm sure I've heard preached on before, but simply forgot - the difference between Dispensationalists and non-Dispensationalists. The Dispensationalists believe that the New Covenant promises are still applicable to Israel, while the other side believes that Israel has lost the favor of God.

Many biblical prophecies are a type of progressive revelation, wherein God reveals a bit of his plan at first, gives more information at a later date, and eventually fully reveals what he has in store for Israel and/or Christians.

In Chapter 8, Limbaugh begins to discuss the subject of Titles, Christophanies, Typology, Prophecy and Analogy in the OT. He explains the difference between the pre- and post-Incarnate appearances of Christ, and shows examples of the appearance of the triune godhead in the Old Testament.

All in all, I found this a very enlightening book, and will definitely return to it for reference in the future.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The first two thirds of this book were somewhat entertaining, though perhaps a bit of a ripoff or maybe a veiled sendup of Harry Potter and Hogwarts, written for the disaffected loner teen genius crowd. The hero, Quentin, arrives at an interview with an Ivy League alumni who can recommend him for his alma mater to find the man dead, and is given a mysterious package with his name on it by one of the paramedics. The package leads him to an entirely different interview and series of tests that end with him being admitted to Brakebills, a college for magicians in upstate New York.

His studies there are somewhat amusing and interesting, with a more R-Rated take on life in a school filled with very very bright teens.

Quentin has been obsessed for most of his life with a series of books about a land called Fillory - a slightly twisted version of the chronicles of Narnia - wherein a family of youngsters experiences adventures in a magical land, until they are too old to return.

The book turns much more serious and sadder when Quentin and his companions are finally given what they've dreamed of, entry into the land of Fillory to free the land from evil powers. The story goes through a number of unexpected twists from that point forward, and Quentin is, we hope, a much wiser magician at the end of it all.

There are sequels. I might pick them up on a slow reading day.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Somewhere in my meanderings, I found glowing recommendations for the Broken Empire series by Mark Lawrence, so I put them on my hold list at the library.

Finally picked up the first book in the series, Prince of Thorns, and unfortunately after about fifty pages, I gave up.

The writing is good, but the protagonist, Jorg Ancrath is such a hateful anti-hero that I quite simply could not bring myself to care about him and his horrid band of thieves.

If you love a hero who rapes, murders and pillages the guilty and innocent alike, in response to the way he was treated in the past, you'll love this one.

If not, give it a pass.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold

It's hard to believe that I never got round to writing about some of the early books in the Vorkosigan saga, but it appears that Memory came out during the early days of this blog, and I never went full retro, as I did with Cole & Bunch's Sten novels. I recently finished Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, and it led me to re-read Shards of Honor (and continue through to Barrayar) in a moment of temporary new novel drought, as I had copies on my tablet ready to hand.

There are certain stories which I cannot read without sentimental tears coming to my eyes at times, and Bujold has written a fair number of them. A Civil Campaign is the weepiest one for me, but Shards did a pretty good number on me, too, and as I mentioned before, I began grieving for Aral all over again while reading Gentleman Jole. Crazy thing is, Shards used to be my least favorite story in the series. But I began by reading The Warrior's Apprentice when I was in my twenties, and now I'm in Cordelia's demographic. Odd, that.

This is, at the moment, the true beginning of the story. Captain Naismith is in charge of a peaceful survey expedition on an uninhabited planet (later named Sergyar), which is attacked by a small Barrayaran force which has arrived to garrison the planet and prepare a stockpile for their invasion of Escobar (we find this out over the course of the first half of the book). Also caught up in the scuffle is Captain Aral Vorkosigan, a man of strong personal integrity who has run afoul of the secret political police, and who is assaulted by one of his own crew and assumed to be dead, though  it turns out the conspirators really didn't truly understand the motivations of the man they picked to murder him.

Cordelia is left with one crew member dead and another nerve-damaged, when Aral arrives on the scene to make her his prisoner, technically, though the relationship soon develops into something far different. Together they journey for a week or so, facing the dangers of an untamed planet, followed by the dangers of untamed Barrayaran soldiers. Aral retakes command of his ship, but is forced to fight against another round of mutineers, and Cordelia manages to flee to freedom in the confusion.


Cordelia is now the commander of a top secret mission to supply the Escobaran forces with a secret weapon, a force shield which will reflect the Barrayaran (space) navy's weapons straight back at their own ships. The mission is successful, but she and her crew are captured by the Barrayarans and she is taken aboard the flagship as a prisoner - again. The fleet is commanded by Admiral Vorrutyer and Prince Serg, heir to the Imperium. These two are well suited to partner up, as they are both sexual sadists, and Cordelia is dismayed to learn that Vorrutyer has taken a personal interest in her, but she is rescued in a surprising manner, and then encounters Aral again on the same ship.

I don't want to say too much more, cause there's plenty of spoilers, but I think we all know the end of the story, if we've been reading Bujold for a while.

One little note that made me laugh out loud was when Cordelia bamboozles a pilot officer into smuggling her off of Beta Colony, one step ahead of the authorities. The pilot officer's name will be very familiar to anyone who has read The Warrior's Apprentice, and we wonder why the man didn't run screaming the minute he heard the name, Naismith.

Great story. Barrayar to follow.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Rose-Red Chain by Seanan McGuire

You know, a person can slog along, trying to finish reading books over longer than normal periods of time, and begin to think that it's because they're distracted, too busy, under the weather, or some sort of excuse to justify matters. Then, suddenly, you pick up a book that is quite simply so riveting that you have to force yourself to put it down so you can get a decent night's sleep before work, finding yourself halfway through it in the first hour, and tearing through the rest as soon as it is possible to pick it up again. This latest book in the saga of Toby Daye is one such book. Loved it.

The book opens with Toby, the bridge troll Danny, her squire Quentin and her fiancee, Tybalt battling a large group of supernatural Mauthe dogs that has gotten loose from one of the inner realms of faerie. When Toby realized that the Mauthe were not hostile, but rather terrified of the modern world and decided to rescue them instead of killing them all, I made a mental note of this, thinking that the dogs would end up in the role of calvary to the rescue later on, but it turned out that they were simple a device to introduce us to Madden, one of the "dog" Sidhe, who becomes the first casualty when war is declared on the Kingdom of the Mists by the Kingdom of Silence, where one of the villains of a previous novel has taken sanctuary, and seduced its King into attacking Arden's domain.

In the category of Really Bad Ideas Arden's subsequent decision to send Toby as the chief diplomat to begin negotiations with Silence to try to halt the war really ranks near the top. Toby and her fetch, May, Tybalt and Quentin, and her friend the alchemist, Walther all journey to Portland where Silences is located in the physical world. Why Walther? The Sea Witch tells Toby she should take someone who knows the lay of the land with her, and Walther was born there before a coup by the present ruler, and fled to the human realm, where he has hidden ever since.

As it turns out, Walther is key to the success of the mission. It turns out that he is related to the former royal family in Silences, and that he also is the only person with the skill, combined with some of Toby's special knowledge, to create a potion which can waken the elf-shot true rulers of the land, who have been kept asleep for more than a century now, as conditions in their rightful kingdom grow more and more oppressive.

This plot moves right along, never a boring moment. After nine novels, McGuire's tale is still going strong.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Nocturnal Interlude by Amanda Green

One might begin to think that all of the bad guys in the shapeshifting society are out to get Mac, from the way things are going. She and Jackson return from a trip to Hawaii, where they have lots of fun in and out of the sun, and decide to tie the knot in a small ceremony, and find out that Mac's partner, Pat, has disappeared, apparently kidnapped, by an unknown entity who has abducted shifters and weres in several other cities previously - none ever being seen alive again.

Mac gets recruited, technically her enlistment in the Marines is re-activated, to detached duty for a division of Homeland Security which is aware of the existence of shifters and is committed to making sure that the "torch and pitchfork" scenario never comes to pass when shifters are finally outed to the public, which is only a matter of time, given modern forensics. Her cousin, Matteo, is part of the unit, and her grandmother, Ellen, has been aware of its existence for some time now, though her former colleagues in the Conclave are not.

Another good story in the series. Book # 4 is out already, and I think I'll pick it up next week on Kindle.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Nocturnal Serenade by Amanda Green

Another fair tale in the saga of McKenzie Santos, wherein we learn a bit of her family's history. It turns out that Mac's mother was freaked out by the family's furry moments, and refused to tell Mac about them when she was young, and had forbidden her own mother, Ellen, from telling Mac either. So we know now why Mac was shocked and appalled to find herself changing with the phases of the moon after being attacked by a were.

But when the brother of the villain Mac vanquished in the first books turns up on the scene and makes it his goal to destroy Mac and her family, and Mom is attacked and hospitalized, old issues rear their heads, and Mac and Mom must make up. Grandma Ellen turns out to be quite a handful, and will probably provide her granddaughter with some much needed training in the shifter skills.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen

I needed my Vorkosigan fix way too much by the time this book came out. It had been long enough since the last one that I had completely forgotten the death of Aral Vorkosigan, Miles' father, and found myself grieving once again with Cordelia, three years later in book time. Cordelia, herself, and Aral's long time protege, Oliver Jole, now an admiral in his own right, and as we learn fairly early in the story, Aral's lover.

The menage a trois evidently worked quite well when Aral was alive, but Oliver and Cordelia were unable to kindle any fire between the two of them when Aral was gone, so they simply lapsed into being friends, and Jole ended up in charge of the Sergyar fleet, while Cordelia continued to serve as Vicereine of the colony.

These chapters of their lives are drawing to a close, as Oliver approaches his "twice-twenty" years of service to the Emperor in the fleet, and Cordelia considers turning over the reins of power to a younger person as the colony matures. She has also decided to quicken some of the fertilized eggs that she and Aral put in cryogenic storage back before Miles was born, and to raise a number of sisters for the new Count and his wife, Ekaterina's children to play with.

Always even-handed, she also gifts Oliver with some of the embryos, leaving the choice up to him of whether and when to start a family of his own, with the children of the man he loved.

So, this book isn't filled with all of the danger and frying pan to fire goodness that we've come to enjoy from our old friend Miles and his cousin Ivan (who doesn't even put in a cameo here), but at least we get to spend a bit of time with some old friends and to see the man whom Miles has become, now that he's not off derring and do-ing.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Ctrl Alt Revolt by Nick Cole

Very much like Armada, by Ernest Cline, Ctrl Alt Revolt is an example of going one too many times to the well in using computer gaming as the scenario to play out real world events in a novel. Fun once, but after that it grows old quickly. It was my choice when I got a free week of Kindle Unlimited, and I never really did get into it enough to regret not having finished it when the week ran out.

This novel ended up being independently published when the editor at one of the major publishing houses took offense to the AIs (artificial intelligences) in this novel concluding that humans were a murderous species after observing the number of abortions that take place each year, but there were far more attacks on progressive shibboleths throughout the book that probably would have given her apoplexy should she have actually finished reading.

Wonder if Cole simply got tired of all of the lazy writing by liberal authors in their depictions of dystopias caused by global warming and so forth, and just decided to shake the tree and see what fell out.

Personally, I'd recommend that you either pick Soda Pop Soldier or this book to read as an example of Cole's gaming-based works. Two of them is one too many.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Soda Pop Soldier by Nick Cole

This is another one of those books that is a lot of fun for hard core computer gamers to read. Professional gamer Perfect Question falls into the middle of deep plotting by multinational corporations trying to get the monopoly on marketing through battles fought in a Halo-like environment. He is a mid level officer for Cola Corp's online army, and as the novel begins they're getting their tails seriously kicked by a competing army. As his pay for gaming is based on victories, things are starting to get a little tight in the real world, and when his girlfriend (whom we get to know not at all other than a quick description at the beginning of things) runs off with someone in show business who can help her career, he has to join an online fantasy game on the dark net to try to win some money to pay the rent on his apartment.

The mix of live and online game action in this one is tons of fun and a roller coaster ride through a world that reminds me of my first impressions of Neuromancer, back in the day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Betrayal by Amazon

Shortly after I first began book blogging, I decided it was taking way too long for me to scan an image of the book cover for what I was reviewing at the time, uploading it to blogger, etc. I discovered that if one became an Amazon associate, you could create a link to Amazon where the book was on sale, that included the cover picture, and so I signed up for associate status. Never made any money from people buying books at the link, but at least I had a nice image on every post.

A few months back, I noticed that the images on all my older posts had disappeared. Amazon changed the image URLs, and it was all cut adrift. Now, to make the blog look nice once more, I either have to go out and re-link those images, scan some independent ones, or simply delete all of the images from over a thousand posts.

Thanks Amazon!

Her Brother's Keeper by Mike Kupari

There might be a decent beginning to a swashbuckling science fiction series here for Kupari, if he chooses to follow up on it. Catherine Blackwood is a privateer, originally from the planet Avalon, who has been estranged from her family ever since she chose a career not suitable for a noblewoman of the Arthurian system (I think Kupari could have spent  bit more time with his place names rather than choosing something as overused as these).  Her father has requested her presence and asks for her help in rescuing her younger brother from a lawless world where one of his treasure hunting schemes has gone awry, leaving him a hostage in the hands of a megalomaniac.

Catherine recruits a crew of mercenaries to help break her brother free, as this isn't exactly the type of mission her own crew normally encounters while escorting merchant vessels from planet to planet. Some very entertaining adventures ensue, and Kupari makes use of some nice little plot devices to make sure things fall out the way they need to.

Hope to see more of this sort of thing from him in the future.

Monday, March 14, 2016

His Father's Eyes by David Coe

The main talent that Justiss seems to have is getting into trouble with other sorcerers who can reliably kick his butt. Once again, Phoenix is invaded by powerful users of black magic, who are using blood sacrifices to power their rituals. And again, as soon as he starts investigating their activities, he gets smacked down hard.

The bad guys, to their dismay, make the mistake of threatening people close to him, which definitely motivates him to get to the bottom of the crimes and to thwart their plots. Justiss' father, it turns out, was not as powerful a mage as his son is going to be one day, and even in his untrained way, he comes up with some very powerful spells when sufficiently motivated.

If this series keeps going along the same lines, it might turn out to be as good as Dresden.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Making it Up

I'm going to go ahead and publish a bunch of short book reviews this week, to make up for long silence, one each day until I clear the backlog. Short on substance, perhaps, but enough info to make the read/no read decision.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Apologies may be in order

Life has been, well, just life, lately. Too busy to write reviews, barely have time to read. I got a week of free Kindle Unlimited, and didn't even finish the one book I checked out.

Things will ease up at some point, and I'll get more reviews out.

In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Oysters: Recipes that Bring Home a Taste of the Sea by Cynthia Nims

My wife and I spend a lot of time vacationing on the coast of Washington State, and one of the local visitor bureaus was recently bragging about a Washington author's oyster cookbook, so when I found it in the library 500 miles away, I was surprised, and immediately checked it out to...check it out.

Nims provides a great deal of information on the history, biology, and cultivation of oysters, and the many ways they can be prepared. In my years in the restaurant business, I think I've tried most of them, but there are always a few new twists to be found. I think a few of the tips and recipes she showcased may end up on my personal menu pretty soon.

To rewrite an old cliché, there are two types of oyster eaters; those who enjoy the fresh taste of the sea, and the delicate texture of a newly shucked oyster, and those who enjoy smothering the oyster with enough other distractions to ensure that they can forget they're actually eating one.

Come to think of it, there are a number of foods people regard that way.

Nims, however, is of the first sort, and in most of the recipes the ingredients are simply there to enhance in subtle ways the experience of slurping a succulent oyster. Raw oysters with mignonettes, relishes and granites, baked, grilled and smoked oysters, fried and sautéed, steamed and poached, they're all here.

I think a copy of this book may make its way to my kitchen shelves pretty soon.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Intergalactic Medicine Show by Orson Scott Card

Actually this collection is edited by someone else, but it's the product of one of Scott's writing workshops, so that name fades easily into obscurity, and you'll have no problem finding the book if you search for the title, which is, I believe, also the title of Scott's online publication. Y'all know, if you've been around here a while, how much I love Scott's writing, both fiction and non, and any writers whose stories he is thrilled about are sure to be good.

If you're looking for a few newer authors to add to your watchlist, Card can pick 'em.

Card also publishes a couple of new stories in Ender's universe, and in one of the afterwords he penned a paragraph that had me nodding and chuckling at the same time.

"I had to force myself to keep Bonzo's family from getting too strange. Still, in the real world, everyone's family is strange, in one way or another. On average, families are pretty much alike, but in detail, every family does tings that make people from outside the family shake their heads and wonder how any of the children emerged with their sanity."

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Saturn Run by John Sandford and Ctein

Once in a while you take a flyer on something new, and it turns out to be a nice experience. Such is the case with this book. John Sandford is well know for his "Prey" series of suspenseful mysteries, and I've read a couple of those randomly, so I knew he was a decent writer. Ctein I'd never heard of. Turns out he's an internationally know photography expert with degrees in English and Physics, and he seems to bring a good deal of that knowledge to the project. Indeed, one of the primary characters becomes the videographer for the U.S. expedition to Saturn, which is the whole point of the book, the title, and so forth.

This is some good old-fashioned hard SF, with a minimum of magical handwaving regarding the technology necessary to successfully make a trip to Saturn survivable about five decades from now. A rich dilettante, Sandy, is working in an astronomy facility in California, more interested in surfing and seducing women than watching the stars. So everyone is quite surprised when he is the first to discover an anomaly out near the orbit of Saturn - a massive alien spacecraft on a rendezvous with an artificial moonlet.

There's a bit more to Sandy than meets the eye, and he ends up with what appears to be a plum job when the expedition gets on its way to investigate the aliens and especially to beat the Chinese space ship to the prize.

A good plot, fun characters, and some believable fictional science.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Lawyers of Mars by Pam Uphoff

I have to wonder if the title of this book, though appropriate, wasn't initially conceived as a parody of the Burroughs John Carter series, as in Fighting Man of Mars, Warlord of Mars, Princess of Mars, etc. The book is actually three related novellas about a race of Martians which once existed (16mbillion years ago?) on the Red Planet when it still had water and enough atmosphere to sustain life. The funny thing is that their society seems very much like our own modern technological society, with a few twists.

I'm fairly certain that the names of many of the "Martian" characters in the book, if pronounced correctly, would be quite punny or ironic; one I easily spotted was Orton N'drea (Andre Norton) a science fiction writer. I'll leave it to other readers to puzzle out a few more.

The lead character, Xaero, is a lawyer in the family firm, assigned to defend an accused REM (Red Ever Mars - like Earth First?) terrorist in court. When her assistant is captured after he foolishly decides to tail the acquitted criminal, she undertakes a rescue on her own, and gets into a comedic caper filled with incompetent crooks and Bond-ian villains.

In the second novella, she and her allies outwit a time-traveling mad scientist, and in the third she journeys to a Jurassic period Earth with a group of scientists trying to mine uranium to sustain Mars' faltering energy resources.

Not deep, but fun for an evening or two.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Spell Blind by David B. Coe

I had never previously read any of David Coe's books, so this first book in his most recent series served as a good introduction. When one does this, it is a bit dangerous, as you might assume that if this book is good, then all previous books will be good, too. However, the author may merely have hit his stride at this point in their career, or finally found the right genre and setting to tell the tale they were meant to. At this point I can only recommend this particular series as being worthwhile, though I may try to work my way backwards in time later on.

Justis Fearsson is a weremyste, a practitioner of magic who has certain inherited native abilities in that direction. Weremystes have a serious problem, though, in that when the moon is full- called a phasing - their magic goes out of control, and the experience is not unlike a psychotic episode, filled with hallucinations and delusions. Justis' father was a successful police detective at one time, until the effects caused by the phasing of the moon cost him nearly everything, and Justis is beginning to follow in his footsteps, having lost his job with the Phoenix PD, becoming a private investigator instead.

When a serial killer, known as the Blind Angel, who uses magic to burn out the eyes of his victims strikes against the daughter of a prominent politician, Justis' former partner, Kona Shaw, pulls him in to consult on the case, and he rapidly becomes deeply involved in trying to find the killer before he strikes again. Justis is helped in his journey by the spirit of a powerful Native American magician named Namid - these powerful ghost magicians are called runemystes, and are somewhat like guardian angels of the magical community.

Harry Dresden, he ain't, but Justis Fearsson is a pretty good wizard PI, and Coe delivers an amusing tale.