Prador Moon: Grimdark space opera

Prador Moon by Neal Asher

In his far-future POLITY series, Neal Asher writes consistent, dependable, grimdark space opera. Prador Moon is one of three POLITY books that came out in 2006, and the fifth overall. It’s the first in the in-universe chronology, though, telling of the first meeting between the Prador and humanity. To say things don’t get off on the right foot would be to sell the opening scene (and the several novels which follow) short. Prador-human relations tumble to bits in the aftermath of “diplomacy,” and all-out space war erupts.

Asher, as is his custom, provides viewpoints into all sides of his conflicts. Scenes from the Prador general Imminence’s ship grotesquely describe what happens to the humans captured, including the rudimentary research into thrall technology as war increases the pressure on the lab. Meanwhile,... Read More

Penric and the Shaman: Penric solves a murder mystery

Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold

Lois McMaster Bujold’s FIVE GODS novels — The Curse of Chalion (2001), The Paladin of Souls (2003), and The Hallowed Hunt (2005) — are some of the most beloved in fantasy literature. They won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards. That’s why her fans (of which I am definitely one) where so pleased when she began writing novellas set in the same world. These have different characters than the three novels (which each stand alone), so this is a good entry for new readers to Bujol... Read More

End of the Century: Roberson deftly juggles three stories

End of the Century by Chris Roberson

In End of the Century, Chris Roberson takes us on an Arthurian quest for the Holy Grail. While that would be plenty for most writers, Roberson isn’t content to stop with only one story; he also tells the story of a search for a serial killer in London around the time of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, and of Alice Fell, a sixteen-year-old following a vision that may simply be a symptom of epilepsy in 2000. The three stories have a number of factors that seem to be similar, particularly the big fellow who goes around attacking people with a sword that can slice through anything, accompanied by dogs with blood-red ears and teeth. Only in the last 75 pages or so do things start to come together in a startling way.

The book begins in 498 Anno Domini, when Galaad arrives in Caer Llundain, home of the Count of Britannia and victor of Badon, the... Read More

Valentine’s Exile: A violent romp through a post-apocalyptic war zone

Valentine's Exile by E.E. Knight

E.E. Knight’s Valentine’s Exile begins shortly after the events of Valentine’s Rising. David Valentine and his platoon of Razorbacks have just finished playing the key role in saving Southern Command from complete destruction. Valentine’s troops are mobilized to Dallas, a city currently held by the Kurians. When the Razorbacks save the day again, Valentine is promoted and is given three months leave. Unfortunately, Valentine hardly sets out before he discovers himself exiled from his homeland under suspicion of murder.

Valentine’s Exile is a standard addition to the Vampire Earth series. Like the rest of the series, it is a violent romp through a post-apocalyptic war zone of gooey vampires and enemy agents. The Read More

Fever Crumb: Prequel to the fantastic Hungry City Chronicles

Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve

Fever Crumb is a prequel of sorts to Philip Reeve’s fantastic HUNGRY CITY CHRONICLES, which started with Mortal Engines. I say “of sorts” in that it’s set in the prehistory of the HUNGRY CITY CHRONICLES world, but far back enough in time that Fever Crumb doesn’t act as a direct lead-in to the larger series: instead of giving us more of the same characters, it sets up the major concepts and incipient events of the series. Though it’s set earlier, I recommend beginning with the later books, because while I enjoyed Fever Crumb, the HUNGRY CITY CHRONICLES have a much stronger impact (think starting the NARNIA series with Read More

The Lost Colony: Artemis has a nemesis

The Last Colony by Eoin Colfer

The Artemis Fowl series has always been superbly written and brilliantly conceived, with an astonishing array of humor, techno-gadgets, mind-bending plots, daredevil escapes and rescues... frankly, they have a tendency to leave one dizzy — but enchanted.

And The Last Colony is better than the previous installments.

There are many reasons for this. First, there were at least three places where Colfer could have stopped writing, wrapped the book up, given it a different title, and shipped it off to his publisher and wait to collect his generous royalty checks. But he didn't. He took us from climax to climax as if we rode a roller coaster, each one at least as exciting and breathtaking as the last — if not more so.
Second, Colfer introduces a magnificent new character, Minerva, a 12-year ... Read More

Kushiel’s Justice: Disappointing installment in an excellent series

Kushiel's Justice by Jacqueline Carey

Compared to Kushiel's Scion, Phèdre and Joscelin return for a much larger portion of this book and they are as awesome as ever. They add excitement and helped me through much of the slog that was the first 300-odd pages. Yes, that's right. Though previous Kushiel books have been long and probably could have withstood some cutting easily, I never minded the extra. With both Scion and Justice, that extra could have been done without. Seriously, you could knock off the first 200 pages of Kushiel's Justice and not miss a thing.

Part of the problem is Imriel himself. He has his moments of improvement as well in this book. While he's married to Dorelei he actually grows as a character. I actually don't mind him so much. I even find... Read More