It is with no small amount of irony and quite a large piece of humble pie that I finally sit down to write this review a full month after the book's release. With how much I harped on the poor treatment Mr. Abraham received surrounding the publication of his Long Price series and the single fact that I consider Daniel Abraham to be my current favorite fiction author today, you'd think that I'd be more on top of things when it came to the release of this book. The U.S. trade omnibus paperback treatment of his story has been a long time coming--longer than I think it had any right to be--but I am supremely happy to see it finally happen. In my mind, this is one of those stories that deserves all the praise and publicity that can be heaped upon it.
THE PRICE OF WAR is an omnibus of the final two novels in the Long Price quartet (AN AUTUMN WAR and THE PRICE OF SPRING). The first two are found in the omnibus SHADOW AND BETRAYAL, which was released earlier this year. The four books in this series make up one of the most engaging and engrossing fantasy stories that I've ever read. It's just that good.
AN AUTUMN WAR picks up about 15 years after the close of BETRAYAL IN WINTER. The characters that we've been introduced to in the first half of the series have grown again from those that we know. Maati, the andat Poet. Itani become Otah Machi and Khai of the Cities Khaiem. Liat, past lover of them both and mother to Maati's child. New to the cast of characters is the Galtic general, Balasar Gice. The story herein revolves around these few as the Galts finally come within reach of their ever-present drive to destroy the power protecting the cities of the Khaiem and thus the people themselves. Although there is little actual "war" in this book, the characters and their lives are all intimately affected by the results of the devastating punishment inflicted upon the cities of the Khaiem by the Galts. It is devastating and yet supremely powerful in its portrayal of the events.
THE PRICE OF SPRING comes in another 15 years after the close of AN AUTUMN WAR and brings to a close the story of Otah and Maati that began in A SHADOW IN SUMMER. The people of the Khaiem are suffering the effects of the Galtic war, reeling from the blow dealt to their power and learning a new way of living. But there are those that will not give up the old ways, those that want the Khaiem to return to their position of power, and they will give anything to see them have it once again.
The ultimate strength of this series is found in the presentation of its characters and their intimate connection both with the world at large and with each other. They are strong and nuanced and driven. There's no real "bad guy" in this series, and although the Galts can definitely be seen as the antagonist of the series, their motives and passions are relayed to us through Balasar Gice and given a humanity and level of sympathy that makes the lines of "good" and "evil" disappear completely. It is through these characters, through the morals and decisions of each, that the world is shaped and changed.
And oh boy is it changed.
It was so easy to get caught up in these books. Every story line and every character was my favorite. I loved them all. Seriously. So often in books there'll be a character or two that I just want to get done with. I think we all have them. There weren't any like that in this series for me. True, the story is a fairly slow-moving one. None of these are books that fly by and quickly forgotten. They build slowly and surely, and every piece weighs upon the next. The amount of extraneous in this series is essentially nil.
Don't read this series to learn everything there is to know about the Khaiem and its people, although you will learn of them. Don't seek to understand completely their religion or the economy of their enemies, but you will see plenty. Find these characters and let them live and breathe through the pages. It'll be an easy path from there. Mr. Abraham will take you on a trip through their lives and the strength and heartache and even devastation that comes to both them and the world around them.
This is an amazing series and not one to be missed by anyone that loves fantasy. This guy has everything in his stories that I, over three decades of reading, have come to love and admire.
He makes me believe. And a little bit more of that is exactly what this world needs.
Recommended Age: 16+
Sex: It's been a while since I read these, but I don't remember there being much
Violence: The war fallout gets pretty brutal
Profanity: Infrequent but strong
Buy these books and read them all! Start your year off right with some goodness from the mind of Daniel Abraham:
SHADOW AND BETRAYAL
THE PRICE OF WAR
PATHFINDER, the first book in Orson Scott Card’s Pathfinder series (of which RUINS is the second book), kind of blew me away (read my review here). I am a big fan of Card’s older work. ENDER’S GAME is a classic. I loved the rest of the Ender series, (the Shadow series not so much) and I loved both WYRMS and TREASON. But I have had a hard time getting into his work lately. This series however feels like a bit of that Old Card coming through.
The plot, for those of you who haven’t gotten on board, follows Rigg a boy who can see paths, the paths that humans have traveled in and how recently. To some extent it lets him see the past, who went where and when they did it. I’m gonna get all spoilery of the first book in a second so if you want you can just jump down to the bottom of the review where I will tell you if this is a good book or not (hint: it is).
The first book, PATHFINDER, ends with Rigg having found his sister, who can manipulate time as well, though in different ways, and together with her, his friend Umbo and two ex-soldiers Loaf and Olivenko have crossed the barrier between their land and the land bordering it. RUINS deals with Rigg and his pals exploring some of the other lands that make up the planet Garden. The scope of the series is almost immediately widened and a bigger view of where the series is going as a whole is brought to the forefront. I thought maybe Card would spend this book dealing with just the one one new place and the problems that the new Wallfold faces, but I was wrong. Card wastes no time moving from one place to the next, and indeed even one time to the next. It was difficult at times seeing the characters go back and forth in time. The group would travel forward and backward in time to see certain events or bypass various obstacles. There was a lot of it and at times I wasn’t sure WHEN the book was happening. It didn’t matter. The story unfolded pretty smoothly and was a fun quick read.
During the book as Rigg and his friends go from land to land (called Wallfolds in the book), the group would discover something new, something that those particular inhabitants had spent the last ten thousand years cultivating and exploring. As I was reading I had an uneasy sense that I’d read that before. Card is plagiarizing someone else’s idea I thought. Then I realized where I had read the idea before. It was in a previous Orson Scott Card book called TREASON (an excellent book, one of my favorites of Card’s writing). The idea is still cool here and going from place to place to see what each different set of people had created or discovered was one of the joys of the book.
That being said, I think I enjoyed the idea a bit more in TREASON. The book was shorter, more action packed and to the point. That’s not to say that RUINS wasn’t a lot of fun (it was). Just that particular idea seemed better used in that shorter work.
RUINS is still a lot of fun. At a time where I had almost given up on Card’s work he comes out with this Pathfinder series to remind us all of why we liked him in the first place. This series isn’t destined to be another ENDER’S GAME. But then what is? RUINS is still fun and worth your while.
Age Recommendation: I dunno, whenever they want to read it I guess. The time travel stuff can be a bit confusing and the two boys Rigg and Umbo, are immature and make a few rude jokes, but nothing really offensive here.
Language: Not really
Violence: Nothing I recall was too bad
Sex: Maybe mentioned but nothing to get upset about.
Want to give this series a try? Here are your links:
I don't know if I can accurately describe just how excited I was to dive into this book. Mark Hodder's Adventures of Burton and Swinburne were some of the most amazing books that I read in the last few years. Major anticipation in this corner. So the fact that this book was nothing like I thought it would be, AND ended up being Science Fiction, AND I still really liked it says something impressive about Mr. Hodder and his burgeoning array of great stories.
A RED SUN ALSO RISES, to all appearances, is a stand-alone novel in the same vein as Hodder's previous trilogy and definitely a not book that you'd find Arthur Krystal picking up at your local bookstore. Go ahead and check out the very fine book cover and tell me that it doesn't make your mind just go, SPROING! Seriously great artwork there. And the story ain't half bad either!
Inside, we delve into the life of Aiden Fleischer, a priest struggling to make the connection between playing the part of a man of the cloth and actually being one in truth. In short order, a woman comes into his life, Miss Clarissa Stark, and the both of them are soon romping around an alien planet, filled with the weird and strange lifeforms of Mr. Hodder's supreme imagination and trying to understand just what kind of world they've been thrown into. Massive bag aliens, and hybrid wolf aliens, and aliens erupting from other aliens-aliens. Seriously wild stuff.
The background is built upon many aspects of the history of our world, introduces a very large change, and then flies into the speculative stratosphere. Unlike Hodder's previous books, RED SUN was very much enamored with two foci that I see as being highly important to Science Fiction: exploration of the unknown and the exploration of God. An overwhelmingly large portion of the book was devoted to these two ideas, and yet they were all wrapped up and woven throughout the tapestry of the over-arching story so well that they frequently disappeared amongst the strata. A good thing in my book.
The downside was that the development of these aspects overtook a few of the other very important pieces of the story. Those being characterization and direction. Fleischer's character is well-drawn during the beginning of the book. Inner-torment over his priestly duties and his understanding of God and the presence of evil in the world (by way of a Jack the Ripper cameo) paint the conflict within Fleischer very well. Once the new venue made a showing however, the book made a pretty large shift. The adventure portion of the story took hold, and consequently the direction of the plot also became a bit more nebulous. This did make the story drag a bit in parts, especially toward the middle, but the end made for a rip-roaring mash-up where all the cards finally came tumbling out of Mr. Hodder's hand. I really liked how it all turned out.
I think Hodder's fans will like this new adventure, especially those whose tastes tend more toward the realm of Science Fiction. It's a relatively short read with a interesting premise, logical plot progression (peppered with wandering exploration), and a satisfying ending that will remind Hodder's readers of all the things they love about his work. Definitely one to add to the old bookshelves.
Recommended Age: 18+
Sex: Inclusion of sex without any scenes or real description
Violence: Themes surrounding Jack the Ripper. Quite grisly and violent in sections.
Profanity: Very low.
Find the book here: A Red Sun Also Rises
Like the hair in your panna cotta, or the blow fly in your bisque, a bad salesman will most often destroy the goodness that surrounds it, no matter how much of that goodness may be available. At least, it will often destroy the idea of large-scale goodness for me. This single idea represents one of the most important reasons why I just couldn't bring myself to love this most recent read. And yet, I will often pull the fly out and eat the soup anyhow. I mean, who can resist a good soup!
KOP KILLER, by Warren Hammond, is the third book in his Kop series, but is handled well-enough that it has little problem standing on its own. The story is set on the planet of Lagarto, where the long day and night cycles make for some interesting dynamics, and nearly every inhabitant living there understands that their lives can sink no further than this.
Juno Mozambe is a waste of a man. His wife is dead. He's lost his job with the Koba Office of Police (KOP), where he and his now dead partner ran the joint with a pair of fists dirtier than septic tank cheese balls. Now all he has left is his wits, a few of his old connections, and his drive to see KOP taken down. So he's hired a few cops that are still on the beat and still dirty as he is and starts a business as a thug for hire. But things are never as simple as they seem, and very soon Juno is juggling more pins than he has hands.
This book really has a lot going for it. It's dark, gritty, and fast-moving. Right from the get-go we have a large number of characters with history that shapes the way they interact with one another. Juno is strong and driven toward a single goal, and the frenetic pacing of the novel never once lets you rest. It's part police procedural, and part dystopian science fiction, but all punch and kick and scream. The largest hit to its karma, though, comes through the poor sales of Juno as a “bad guy”. From the very beginning he's out to let everyone know just how terrible he really is, and yet the way that he thinks about and responds to the various situations in which he finds himself made me think of him more as weak and scared and often incompetent.
Also despite his rock-solid driving force at the beginning, as the end of the book gets closer his driving force wavers all over the place: from destroying KOP, to setting up a new leader for KOP, to avenging the deaths of several people, to killing someone that is even worse than he is, to... It soon got very confusing why he was doing anything that he did, other than the fact that one event led him to next and the next and finally to the end.
The second bad sell was the alien planet bit. There's very little to no atmosphere or detail contained in the story to give the impression that these events are actually happening anywhere other than Earth. Yes, there's a long day/night cycle. And a spaceship blasts off into the sky once. And he eats four different gecko tacos that dribble hot sauce onto various parts of his anatomy. But still. It was a tough sell for me.
And yet, despite these fairly large flaws, I liked the way that things played out. Hammond's prose isn't amazing by any stretch of the imagination but it's strong and connective. It pulls you along, and relays a story that is twisted, and strange, and ultimately engaging, even if it's not perfect. Reminded me quite a bit of the little Richard K. Morgan I've read, though I've seen that comparison bandied about a lot lately.
Sound decent? If it does, give it a whirl. It's probably a book for you.
Recommended Age: 18+
Sex: Numerous, strong references throughout
Violence: Very high. Gory, bloody, and descriptive
Profanity: Frequent. Strong. Sometimes distracting.
Want it? Here's your link!
Emma Bannon is a sorceress in the employ of the Queen herself, tasked with protecting Archibald Clare, an unregistered and failed mentath. Why? Because other mentaths all over Londinium are dying unexplainable and grisly deaths and there's more to it than a serial killer.
Set in an alternative Victorian England, THE IRON WYRM AFFAIR blends magic and steampunk with enthusiasm. Known for her Urban Fantasy series, Lilith Saintcrow tries something different with a steam-sorcery-mystery tale that threatens Britannia herself.
In chapter one our PoV characters meet through Clare's eyes as he deduces who Emma is as well as her Shield Mikal, her protector. Clare's character is interesting because he sees the world differently and Saintcrow paints him well (despite some later inconsistencies). Emma is a sorceress with a knack for darker magic, who is powerful enough to expect to get everything she asks for. Their PoVs aren't particularly disparate, and sometimes I even confused their dialogue. But they're likable characters well aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. Mikal could have been a more interesting secondary character if only his brooding glowers were less frequent. Saintcrow's other characters are fun to read and she gives them the details they deserve.
From the beginning we're thrown into Saintcrow's world of magic. There's Victrix, the vessel of Britannia, the soul of the kingdom itself. Magic-wielders with varying degrees of ability. Gryphons who are the protectors of Britannia, but love to eat sorcerer flesh above all. Young dragons who live in the shadows while their elders sleep. Mentaths whose abilities with logic and deduction border on the obsessive and require constant work or they go mad. Tideturn re-supplies magic-wielders the energy for creating their magic. I could go on but that would ruin the story for you--you'll have to discover Saintcrow's cleverness for yourself.
But where WYRM's strengths of setting is what makes this a fun read, it's also unfortunately its weakness. Saintcrow has so much information of place, magic, verbiage, and people and she immerses us into the story so quickly we get lost amongst all the New Words. Not everything is explained. And while it's great when authors move a story along and reveal as they go, it's not so great when the reveals are choppy or arrive frustratingly late. Add to that transition issues between scenes and within action scenes, which made it hard to sometimes know what was going on. And alas I'm not sure I can bear to discuss Saintcrow's sometimes florid prose.
I almost gave this book a Like rating, it barely made it into Mediocre, the main reason being that I don't want to steer dear EBR readers wrong thinking that this book is without much flaw. But those who like the flair of typical Urban Fantasy but with a Victorian romantic twist will likely enjoy this addition to Saintcrow's body of work.
Recommended age: 15+
Language: A couple instances
Violence: Throughout the novel, and it's occasionally gory
Sex: A few references only, and without detail
You can find the start of this new series here:
THE IRON WYRM AFFAIR
Do you know Repairman Jack? If you don't, you've been missing out on a terrific series of books by F. Paul Wilson. The Repairman Jack series has, over the years, grown into one of my favorite series. It has a near perfect mix of horror and thriller elements while managing to inject humor here and there.
Through the series, I've always had questions in my mind about Jack. I know what happened to his mom (and his reaction to it), but what did he do after? How did he meet Julio and Abe? What events forged him into the man we meet in THE TOMB?
Those questions start to be answered in COLD CITY.
COLD CITY is the first in a trilogy of the the early years of Repairman Jack...when he was just Jack. He's just a young guy who has decided he wants to live completely of the radar. He's just moved to New York City, and it's 1990. That cold and calculating professional we all know and love? Yeah, he doesn't exist yet. This Jack is still figuring things out. He does more on the fly than we the readers are used to. He makes knee-jerk decisions without thinking, and gets out of control. The natural fear here is the reader's ability to buy into this, and perhaps a lesser author would have had difficulty pulling this off. Not F. Paul Wilson.
COLD CITY feels like a perfect line was drawn from Repairman Jack's present self to his youth.
So what is this novel about? Like I said, this is about the fire that forges Jack into the vigilante we cheer for. Trouble is drawn to Jack, and COLD CITY wastes no time throwing Jack into the deep end of the pool. He gets a job driving a truck smuggling cigarettes. The pay is outstanding, the job easy for a bright kid like Jack. And then everything goes wrong. Jack finds himself the target of some vengeful Dominicans and Islamic terrorists. He starts up a love affair with an old friend. And then there is the whole thing with helping Julio with a couple of problems.
You know, business as usual for the fixer that Jack will become.
The pacing of the novel is relentless. There's no fat needing trimmed here, and for me, the pages flew by. When I absolutely had to put the book down to get some sleep, I dreamed about it. I couldn't stop telling my literate friends at work about it.
So yeah, I freaking loved COLD CITY.
I do have a few things I need to point out. First, for all you veterans of the series, there's none of the the monster/supernatural/Adversary feeling in this book. That stuff starts in THE TOMB. Secondly, this book is not a standalone like the rest of the books in the series. In fact, my biggest complaint of COLD CITY is the ending. It just stops. Huge, massive cliffhanger. I literally screamed at the book that it could NOT BE DONE YET!!!! Needless to say, it didn't listen. None of the plot threads are resolved. In a way, it's frustrating. The year waiting for the next book is going to be complete agony. Last, the love affair Jack starts up didn't really click for me. It may not bother you at all, but it did me.
All that said, I loved this book. Have you ever gone a looooong time without a truly amazing steak dinner? When you take that first bite, and the medium cooked morsel (or however you personally like it cooked) melts in your mouth. You don't mean to, but you close your eyes and chew in pure, decadent pleasure. Every bite thereafter is like the best treat ever...and then suddenly, the steak is gone. You've eaten it all. That's how COLD CITY was for me.
Maybe you've never read a Repairman Jack novel before. Maybe you read the first few, but now catching up seems daunting. If you fall in either of those two camps, COLD CITY is a great place to start (or re-start, if you will).
Enough talk. Go buy this book.
Recommended Age: 17+
Profanity: Yep. It can get pretty strong depending on the character talking.
Violence: Oh geez. Some scenes are just crazy in their brutality.
Sex: A couple of detailed scenes, not to mention some frank discussions. Additionally, one of the main themes of the novel is sex slavery.
Here's you link to buy COLD CITY, and the first Repairman Jack novel, THE TOMB:
Military Science Fiction, oh how I've missed you. In the never ending journey to expand my interests I find that I have neglected my favorite of all genres. The recent release of Halo 4 had me jonesing for a military sci-fi fix. Fortunately, around that time the notorious William C. Dietz asked if I would be interested in reviewing ANDROMEDA'S FALL, the latest Legion of the Damned novel.
This marks my first Legion of the Damned novel, and it tells the story of Catherine Carletto, a wealthy socialite. In the blink of an eye Catherine's life is turned upside down when the Emperor's sister makes a bold power grab. In order to consolidate power and excise the threat of rebellion the newly crowned Empress has the dead Emperor's friends and supporters assassinated. Catherine's and her family fall under this category. Orphaned and on the run, Catherine enlists with the Legion under the alias Andromeda McKee.
ANDROMEDA'S FALL is the tenth book in the Legion of the Damned series, though as I understand it is also the beginning of its own mini-arc. A prequel of sorts. I've always wanted to get into the Legion of the Damned series but I just never got around to it. The more books that have been published the more daunting it seems to begin. ANDROMEDA'S FALL strikes me as a middle ground - a good starting point for beginners and a glimpse into the background lore for the fans.
ANDROMEDA'S FALL is very accessible. Though largely military oriented the hardcore jargon is kept to a minimum. I was looking forward to learning about the Legion but ANDROMEDA'S FALL is primarily focused on McKee. Not that I'm complaining. I mostly like McKee as a character. She's a strong woman, a dedicated soldier, and a quick thinker. The transition period between celebrity Carletto and soldier McKee might be a little too smooth. For someone who has lived such a privileged life Catherine Carletto adjusts to life on the run and then life in the military rather well. McKee does express moments of self doubt and sadness however, and these scenes help to flesh out her character.
The supporting cast could use some development. Trooper Larkin is a lovable rogue and I find his relationship with McKee to be interesting. I like the way it is handled and I appreciate the fact that Larkin lives in a moral grey area. I do want to see more from the rest of the cast, especially some of the cyborgs. I find the Legion's use of cyborgs fascinating and I would love to learn more about them and catch some more from their perspective.
I like Andromeda McKee and Trooper Larkin well enough but I will be sticking around because of the Legion. I've read about future Marines, future Navy, and future Army plenty. ANDROMEDA'S FALL is the first I have ever read about the future of the French Foreign Legion (Legion etrangere). What a fascinating organization! From the bits and pieces I picked up from this novel I am now hooked on the history of the Legion. I just want to read more. Both the Legion's past and future are highly interesting. I love the use of cyborgs alongside standard infantry. I've seen mechs and power armor in Military Sci-Fi but I like this approach.
ANDROMEDA'S FALL is full of action and suspense. I usually rate one of these novels by how memorable the battles are and two from ANDROMEDA'S FALL are emblazoned in my brain. I can't wait to continue the story of Andromeda McKee (there are definitely sequels on the way) and in the meantime I'll try and grab a few copies of the earlier books.
Recommended Age: 14+
Language: Some, what do you expect from soldiers?
Violence: Lots, what do you expect from soldiers?
Sex: Suggested but nothing vivid.
Want it? Get it here. While you're at it you may want to check out the LEGION OF THE DAMNED video game on iPhone and iPad. I bought it a couple days ago and it's a really cool way to round out the ANDROMEDA'S FALL experience. If you enjoy strategy games it will be right up your alley.