Friday, May 15, 2015

Straits of Hell = Pages of Paradise

Pages of Paradise may be a misnomer, trying to be too clever, but Straits of Hell (Destroyermen series #10) is an excellent book. Full disclosure, I received a free ebook pre-release copy for a fair and accurate review. However, by way of evidence of sincerity, I bought the audiobook from Audible.com. It's good enough to own twice, and I expect to re-read it, as I have done with previous titles from Anderson's Destroyermen series.

Matthew Reddy and his surviving Destroyermen are now stationed on different ships around the Alliance Fleets in this alternate Earth. They are battling on two different fronts with allies from indigenous peoples as well as humans from other arrivals from other time periods in Reddy's earth's history.

Enemies similarly include Japanese from World War II, where the old Asiatic Fleet destroyer USS Walker came from; sentient reptiles called Grik; and other humans from different Earths in the past, relative to World War II. The writing about these groups and their thoughts actions just grabs this reader and yanks him along. These enemy characters are complicated, not mere cardboard cutouts to provide opposition in the plot.

Obviously, at number 10 in the series, much has happened before the events of this book. All things being equal, I'd recommend that readers start the series with book 1, Into the Storm. Nevertheless, if a reader is willing to start "In medias res," this book can carry the extra weight. What are characteristics that make this a compelling and worthy read?

As mentioned before, the characters are interesting and complicated. They are put in dire situations and have to overcome being outnumbered, plans that are more clever than they expected at the time. Another facet of these books is research and re-development of technologies that existed in the World War II time frame, but were unknown in the alternate Earth that the Destroyermen arrive at. Much of the technology has been developed in previous books, but the struggle to improve and manufacture items needed for war goes on as a plot thread. Finally, showing characters working hard to create a more ideal civilization including multi-species interests and entertains.

Straits of Hell is worth your reading time and your book dollars--as is the rest of the series.

Friday, July 25, 2014

First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

This novel is a thriller with a time travel twist. North's narrator, Harry August, doesn't travel in time using technology, but some unexplained phenomenon of his person sends him back to his own birth after his death. Every time. And each time he gets sent back to his own birth to re-live his life, he remembers the events of his previous life. Others exist in the future and in the past with this same looped-life quality. Because their lives overlap slightly--one person being a child when another person is old--they can send messages up and down history.

The problem occurs when one of these multi-lived people decides to change history and brings technological advances into existence earlier than they normally arrive. Then he starts killing permanently others with returning lives who would oppose him.

The reader learns the hard-knock wisdom that Harry August picks up in his serial lives and waits to find out if August will be killed permanently by the Other who is trying to manage human history and destiny through his own lives.

This is an exciting read, even if a much less exciting review.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cauldron of Ghosts--Third book in the Crown of Slaves series taking place in the "Honorverse" of David Weber

This book is very good--action, suspense and favorite characters.


Action--fights on a small enough level to follow individuals--space ship takeovers, urban fighting in defended and booby-trapped buildings, and cargo "truck"-jackings gone sideways.

Suspense--will the characters be caught or will they succeed? Will they die? Will they Die AND succeed? The reader in the moment is kept guessing.

Favorite characters--Anton Zilwicki, Victor Cachat, and others from the Crown of Slaves segment of the Honorverse are all here doing their characteristic mannerisms; dangerous, insane plans; and forlorn hope actions. The one exception to known character similarity is Andrew Artlett who acts younger yet more thoughtful than his appearance in Torch of Freedom.

In any case, there's a lot to love in this volume and a reader's favorite villains to hate as well--from bit-part slavers to (literally) evil genius father & sons.

Full four stars from me! The only thing that kept it from being five stars for me is that (as other reviewers of the David Weber Honorverse books have complained about a couple of other titles) is that in this book several paragraphs are taken word for word or nearly from the second book in the Saganami Island series, Storm from the Shadows. Since the scene takes place in both books, it's understandable, if not  justifiable. I found it only a little disconcerting.

Nevertheless, for readers who enjoy the Honorverse or for readers who just enjoy good space / spy / military adventure stories, this is a four-star read that they will want to dive into. Like a number of individual books in a series, it may not be the best volume to jump into from a standing start, but it does read well on its own, and for first time readers, the repeated paragraphs won't even be noticed, because they fit perfectly in this story.

For fun and adventure, read this book!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Missing Simile

Why doesn't anyone ever say "Cute as a zipper"?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Overheard Art Movements

Two Schools of art that I heard of:
Gopher Baroque
Hoosier Dada (this is apparently the name of a race horse as well).

 I just need to think of others for an imaginary art history course.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Sea without a Shore by David Drake, review

The Sea Without a Shore (Lt. Leary, #10)The Sea Without a Shore by David Drake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Drake pours on the adventure and gives readers an excellent time.

The Sea without a Shore by David Drake is the latest (#10) in the Daniel Leary / Adele Mundy space navy series. Drake keeps things fresh in this adventure of the duo in the Cinnabar Navy--RCN as all the insiders call it. Because this is one of a series, and because the author has said he tries to make it possible to start the series from any one of the books, this book has some passages that readers familiar with the series will either welcome as familiar friends or feel some level of annoyance with the repetition of stuff they already know. Mine was the familiar friends reaction.

David Drake (as his author's note explains) takes earth minor historical events and recasts them as a plot framework for Leary & Mundy to work through in different planets and star systems. It's a technique that works very well for me. The author is able to take his characters through multiple adventure scenarios without becoming repetitive (except in as much as some have found the explanations of the Matrix or Leary or Mundy's personal history repetitive, as mentioned above).

In this book, they are not acting as official RCN members. They escort the son (formerly a ne'r do well, but now reformed) of Adele's civilian boss to a planet where there's a revolution going on, where the son hopes to find a buried treasure to help his side buy weapons and win the revolution. They don't know if there really is a treasure, but they set off to help--with Adele having a related secret mission that she doesn't share with Daniel or anyone else!

In one sense, it's a well-known pattern for fans of the series--Daniel & Adele are given a nearly impossible mission, Daniel thinks up a bold and sly plan, and Adele gets normally inaccessible information and fools the opposition. This may sound simple and mundane, especially after nine previous novels in the series, but once again, for me, Drake pours on the adventure and gives readers an excellent time.

I've read all his books in the Leary & Mundy series more than twice! and I expect to do the same with this volume.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

All Men of Genius

All Men of GeniusAll Men of Genius by Lev A.C. Rosen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book stands on its own, but as you've no doubt read in other reviews / previews, it's also a mashup of Twelfth Night and The Importance of Being Earnest. Related to Oscar Wilde's personal issues, and the masquerade / hidden (sexual) identity in Twelfth Night, All Men... has alternate sexuality as plot points. None of it is "R" rated, I think, but perhaps a strong PG-13.

Readers with tenaciously held convictions regarding traditional sexuality may be more or less offended. Readers with less concern with those matters will not be bothered.

The story involves Violet Adams who wants to attend the premier science institution, Illyria College, where only men are accepted as students. She pretends to be her brother (the names of the character and the college are deliberate, not to say obvious allusions to 12th Night). All Men of Genius is not a pioneer after 12th Night using sexual disguise as a plot device. For example, in the first Alanna book in the series by Tamara Pierce, the plot point is exactly the same with all the complications involved for a teen girl trying to pass as a teen boy.

Along side the difficulties and confusions of Violet's progress in science academics is also the couples / mating "rituals" in an alternate Victorian England. This too, is well done. Like much of science fiction, it speaks to issues of today's culture through a lense of an alternate time.

The struggles involved in invention, discovering and fighting an elitist scientific club's plan to take over England and then the world provide page turning thrills. Many readers will finish quickly to appeaase their desire to discover "what happens next".

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