Ink and Bone

I’m going to start my book review of Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine with the most important part. I finished this book then went and bought the second one and started reading. It has been pointed out to me that is a rare circumstance and speaks more to the quality of the story than anything I could have to say about it. So there’s that ~ there might be spoilery stuff below…

What if we didn’t lose all the works from the great library? What if indeed.

I really enjoyed the pace of this book. The story didn’t slow down for me. Even when the students were studying or working out how they were going to be tested next there were bits and pieces that tied in to the rest of the story. There was a lot more action than you might think for a bunch of librarians. The action was also believable – Jess ends up in the hospital more than once. None of that “I’ll just continue on because I’m so tough…” actually working out. He’s got the attitude for that, but more often than not he wipes himself out with that thought process.

Jess as a character was trying to do the right thing. He was not a whining anti-hero. I enjoy and appreciate that more and more these days. He was anxious, clever and dense in various turns, in love and certainly passionate about what he was doing. He really worked as a character for me. He played well off the others as well.

The rest of the cast of characters developed well. I consider it a well written character when I’m reading and think, “wow that guy is a douche. I wouldn’t get along with him…” and I got those visceral reactions more than once. Well done.

There is one thing that I would quibble with – and it is just a quibble really. The timeline. This book, even with the magic of obscurists, didn’t feel like a “modern” story. Despite having stated someplace in there that this was set in 2025 or something like that it absolutely felt like 1890. The technology, the locations and the general societal attitudes placed it there, but also the “technology” of the books hurts the concept if you move further forward. What I mean by that is this: you’ve got the ability to pass notes from one linked book to another all over the world. You have the ability to transport matter (if you can send books, you can send anything) and people across the planet without appreciable delay… even if it’s a limited ability. IF you take this time line as an “alternate history” those bits of technology change how major developments in our past happen during the 1900s. World War II CAN’T happen the way it did in our world if you have instant communication across distances like that. There’s no accident of timing. There’s no struggle to travel the distances necessary to fight others in a distant land… but why would you send soldiers at all? Just send the bomb and let that do the work for you with none of the danger.

I think there’s a lot of potential for this series and I am already enjoying the next book. I would recommend picking this one up and giving it a shot.

Divine?

City of Stairs (The Divine Cities, #1)City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m going to give this one a weak 3 stars. I struggled with this book on a couple of fronts.

Third person current tense? I’m not sure, but it was like a nature show narrator during certain parts and it really bothered me.

I actually liked the characters quite a lot once I got past the author’s style. I think the indestructible secretary was a little much, but I understood why he was there. It’s useful to have that sort of “action” person around if you are not that action person. There were times when Shara didn’t look like a hugely experienced operative, but I was totally willing to roll with that. I also really liked Mulaghesh.

The world building perplexed me a bit. I wasn’t sure how certain parts of technology were or were not supposed to fit. There was no clear definition of what worked and what didn’t, what people were aware of and what they were not aware of. Eventually I put it into the same category as an 80s Batman movie.

There are lots of parts to this book that look like a thinly veiled condemnation of modern religion. I think there’s a lot of potential conversation stuff in here. For that alone, I would say pick it up and give it a shot.

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The West?

Straight Outta TombstoneStraight Outta Tombstone by David Boop
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was really excited about this collection. It has a story in the Monster Hunter universe and a story in the Dresden Files universe – IN THE SAME BOOK! How could that not be amazing?

Well, it could not be amazing because it’s westerns. Don’t get me wrong, I like them, they’re just not the top of my list. It is rare for me to be deeply impressed with a western – the western is very much my father’s genre.

I liked the Monster Hunter story. I liked the Dresden files story. I didn’t love either of them, but they helped fill that need to read in those universes. I liked the story by Phil Foglio even if I could see the end coming. There were a couple of stories that were MEH. My favorite story – far and away was actually “Chance Corrigan and The Lord of The Underworld” by Michael A. Stackpole. Western, steampunk, magic… definitely a worthy read.

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Do not rocket while impaired…

Space TrippingSpace Tripping by Patrick Edwards
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three stars-ish.

IF you’re looking for distant planets, space battles, far ranging corporate plots and drunk aliens doing the equivalent of “hold my beer” then this book is for you. It was amusing and a very quick read. I think I actually knocked it out in a day.

The reason this suffers in my opinion is that I have other drunken adventures that I am much more partial to. Totally not a “fair” thing to this author, but it is how I feel.

If you like this book and you’re looking for something else, you will probably very much enjoy the works of the Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in Scary Tales of Scariness (Fortress Publishing).

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Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom for Sale—Sold!Magic Kingdom for Sale—Sold! by Terry Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think I read this once a long time ago. I suspect it didn’t fit with the sort of fantasy I was expecting at the time so I didn’t particularly remember it, but I picked it up again since it was a book group choice.

This actually falls directly into the category of “matters when you read it”. The main character is NOT the typical fantasy hero. He’s already had a lot of life and success in his career. He’s middle aged, not the mystery secret sixteen year old prince who’s been in hiding all his life. At this time in my life I really appreciated the difference in character.

Yes, there are other fantasy tropes in there that were kind of expected. Yes, there are some small hints of anachronism since the book was written over 30 years ago. None of those things bothered me and I really enjoyed the story this time. This may very well move up to the top of the Terry Brooks list for me.

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Justice

Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch, #1)Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of the best science fiction works I’ve read in a very long time. I really enjoyed this book. I understand why it garnered the praise that it did.

Taking the point of view character away from being a human is never easy, but splitting that character apart into the many places an AI can inhabit would be particularly challenging and the author handles it wonderfully.

There is a lot of discussion worthy stuff in here. IF you’re a fan of science fiction this is very much worth the read.

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Barbarian

Conan the Barbarian: The Complete CollectionConan the Barbarian: The Complete Collection by Robert E. Howard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Conan. It took a barbarian’s strength to push through this whole thing. It was a test of endurance for me. Not because I didn’t like the stories, just because there was so much of the same thing stacked up in one place!

This collection was assembled (as I understand it) from multiple novels that were not originally part of the same work. What happens when they are lumped together is that you get a repetition of phrasing you might not otherwise notice. Comparisons to wolves and tigers using the same descriptors gets really old – quickly.

I see clearly where the inspiration for Frazetta and so many others comes from. This is a cornerstone in the building that is modern fantasy. There are many, many things that clearly descend from this ancestor.

At the same time, it does have issues. IF you decide to take the challenge and plow through this whole thing, be prepared for turns of phrases that are out of date. Prepare for the use of language that has developed different connotations over the intervening eighty years or so – giving an odd flavor to the text despite the technically correct usage of certain words. Also be prepared for characters that are placed / labeled or otherwise called out based on their physical descriptions. Any non-white persons in this book are judged and categorized based on that fact. I don’t know if that was the opinion of the author or a shorthand sort of cheat. Why develop a villain when all I need to say is “he was of the darkest jungle with fuzzy hair and sharpened teeth”? It’s uncomfortable and makes certain aspects of the book less enjoyable for it. Females fall directly into either weak and lust worthy or strong and lust worthy – either category to be part of the conquest. There really are women of power in here, just don’t expect them to take on significant roles.

I would say it’s important to read this original Conan material to learn where so much of today’s fantasy comes from, but read it with the age and context in mind.

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Reviews

From time to time I get to post reviews of military science fiction over at MilSciFi and I’m really happy about that. I like being able to share what I thought about various works in a field I enjoy.

When I’m not writing “official” reviews over there, I post up reviews of what I’m reading over at Goodreads. I cross post a lot of my reviews from there to my blog here, but I think it’s worth being on a list like that to see the recommendations (or warnings) from friends about what’s good to read out there. I’ve posted about all this before…

The part I don’t think I’ve written about before is the fact that when I signed up I made a choice. I decided not to go backward. I hadn’t thought about that choice until a book popped up in a friends feed the other day that I remember reading years ago.

I remember this being a good book!

I used to read a ton of epic fantasy. Everything I could lay a hand on. I’ve got hundreds of books here at the house… but I haven’t gone back to list any of what I have on Goodreads. None of them, unless I read them again. There are a couple of aspects to this. First, my memories of how good something was vs. how good I would think something is now matter to me. Second, if I just listed a couple hundred books up on the site would anyone consider my “stars” relevant?

It seems like a daunting task to go back through all the shelves and list all those works. What do you think? Should I figure a good way to list all the books I have up on Goodreads or let it go? What have you done?

Man And Machine!

Man and MachineMan and Machine by Mike McPhail
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Right up front – one of my stories is in here. I *might* be biased in my rating.

I really did enjoy the stories in this book. There are some really good stories and very talented writers in there and I’m very happy to have the chance to share the pages with them.

I won’t give any spoilers, but there is a punch to the feelings at the end.

Go, get a copy!

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Pale dreaming

The Bone Season (The Bone Season, #1)The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First – I find it annoying that this posted to the “read” shelf despite the fact that I didn’t do that. The electronic connection isn’t making me happy.

Also – the version of the book I bought had an “extra” of the prequel “The Pale Dreamer”… at the END of the book. It would have made sense to put that at the START since that’s where it is in the time line of the story. Instead, I got the history of why the folks in her gang like each other AFTER they went through the adventure of the whole previous book. That really put me off.

So, on to the book itself. I liked the style of writing. I liked the main character for the most part. She grew, learned and took on the mantle of hero when she needed to. I have issues with the romance in the story, but that’s my issue – not the story itself. I don’t like the “I hate you, but somehow that means I love you” connection with people. I file it directly next to “boys are smelly throw things at them if you like them” emotional level. Doesn’t work for me.

The world building was a little… odd? There was an awful lot going on. That wouldn’t be such a big deal except at certain points it overwhelmed the stuff I was trying to get out of the story. It was futuristic, but also had alternate history of our current time line. There were bits of UK terminology that were in there that distracted from time to time. There are a handful of little things that I found distracting.

I gave the book 3 stars, but I really think of it as a weak 3 stars. I finished the book, but I don’t see me going and looking for more.

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