2012.02


The Entropy of Bones: The extraordinary origin of an extraordinary Liminal

The Entropy of Bones by Ayize Jama-Everett

When we meet Chabi, the protagonist of 2015’s The Entropy of Bones, she is running the sixty miles from Sausalito, CA, to Napa, CA. She plans to grab a meal and run back. This is our first clue that Chabi isn’t average… and it’s not our last. Chabi doesn’t speak, although she certainly has a voice. Her physical abilities are astounding. Her martial arts teacher is a strange, dangerous man, Narayana, who lives on a ship near Chabi’s mother’s houseboat.

On her semi-regular run this day, she stumbles into a marijuana grow and makes the uncomfortable acquaintance of a pair of brothers and the adult son of one of them. The family originally grew grapes, but a strange fungus is overtaking the vines, so they switched to premium marijuana. Chabi, who finds an odd peace when she’s around the fungus-swamped vines, agrees to provide some patch security for t... Read More

Resident Alien (Vol. 2): The Suicide Blonde: Another murder mystery for an alien detective

Resident Alien (Vol. 2): The Suicide Blonde By Peter Hogan (writer) and Steve Parkhouse (artist)

In Resident Alien: The Suicide Blonde, the story opens with Asta (the nurse) and her father spirit walking in a dream-state, looking in on our resident alien, Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle. Asta’s father warns her not to let Harry know that she knows he is an alien. They do not want to alarm Harry and cause him to run. Asta’s father says that there are people looking for him, and that if he runs, it will call unnecessary attention to Harry.

We also get flashbacks to three years ago when Harry first landed, and we see the government agency go into action trying to track him down after finding his spaceship. They have one image of Harry looking like an alien, an image taken from an ATM at a local mall not far from where Harry crashed. We also get scenes of Harry trying to escape the area three years ago. We follow... Read More

Scarlet: A totally fresh take on Red Riding Hood

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet (2013) is the second novel in Marissa Meyer’s LUNAR CHRONICLES. You’ll want to read Cinder first. There will be some spoilers for that novel in this review.

In Cinder we met the titular cyborg, an orphan who lives with her hateful stepmother and two stepsisters in New Beijing. Cinder is the best mechanic in town, which is how she meets the young and handsome Prince Kai. He needs his personal robot fixed because, unbeknownst to Cinder, it may contain information about the whereabouts of Princess Selene, the rightful ruler of Luna, the human colony on the moon. Nobody knows if Princess Selene is alive but, if she is, Kai may be able to avoid a marriage all... Read More

Siege and Storm: Despite a choppy beginning, this sequel delivers

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm (2013) is the second book in Leigh Bardugo's GRISHA trilogy, and does what any good sequel should do: expands the world, deepens the characters and raises the stakes. On the other hand, it can't quite avoid the pitfalls of a typical middle book — being unable to truly start or properly finish anything; it ends on a note that gives the impression the whole thing has been setup for the third and final instalment. But apart from this inevitability, Siege and Storm is a satisfying read.

Its predecessor Shadow and Bone introduced us to Alina Starkov and the concept of the Grisha. Born with the power to transmute certain elements (whethe... Read More

Fortress Frontier: A captivating adventure

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole

It’s amazing how a main character can spoil a book. Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier is the second book in the SHADOW OPS series by Myke Cole. I didn’t like the first book, Control Point, very well because I loathed Oscar Britton, the main character. He offended my pride as a soldier. Yet I decided to try the second book and this time I have to give Myke Cole some real credit for giving me a reason not to hate his SHADOW OPS series.... his name is Alan Bookbinder.

Back in a 21st Century world that has experienced the return of magic, the US Army continues to run pretty much like it always has. There are oper... Read More

Wayward: We are all just prisoners here

Wayward by Blake Crouch

Wayward (2013), the second book in Blake Crouch’s WAYWARD PINES trilogy, picks up right where book 1, Pines, left off. I'll avoid THE major spoiler for Pines, but minor ones are inevitable, and if there was ever a series where you absolutely need to read the books in order, this one is it. Ethan Burke is the newly-minted sheriff of the small town of Wayward Pines, Idaho (population 461), the prior sheriff having come to an eyebrow-raising end (after reading a few of the flashback scenes in Wayward, one becomes more sympathetic to the urge to dispose of former sheriff, Pope).

Having survived a life-and-death battle with The Powers That Be that control all aspects of l... Read More

Lance of Truth: Rhianna’s adventure continues

Lance of Truth by Katherine Roberts

Lance of Truth (2012) is the second book in Katherine Roberts's four-part story about the daughter of King Arthur Pendragon, and her quest to find the Four Lights (Sword of Light, Lance of Truth, Crown of Dreams and Holy Grail) that might restore her father to life and bring peace to Britain.

Princess Rhianna has lived her whole life on the enchanted isle of Avalon, but after learning of her parentage upon the death of King Arthur, she journeys to the mainland with her friend Elphin in order to claim the throne of Camelot. Having already found Excalibur, the Sword of Light, she now plans to retrieve the Lance of Truth, currently in possession of the disgraced Sir Lancelot.

But Lancelot is himself missing, on a search for Queen Guinevere in the northern lands. Rhi... Read More

The Dream Thieves: Second book delves deeper into plot and character

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

The second in Maggie Stiefvater's THE RAVEN CYCLE, and a direct sequel to The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves (2013) focuses on the character of Ronan Lynch, a teenage boy who — in the last sentence of the previous book's final chapter — reveals to his friends that he can pull real objects out of his dreams.

But that's getting ahead of myself. The gist of this four-part series is that four students of the prestigious Aglionby Academy are on a quest to find the resting place of Welsh king Owen Glendower. Their de-facto leader Gansey believes that he's buried somewhere in the small town of Henrietta, Virginia, built on one of the powerful ley-lines that criss-cross the countryside. Gansey has devoted much of his young life to findin... Read More

SAGA Volume 2: A comic book that lives up to its name

SAGA Volume Two, Issues 7-12 by Brian K. Vaughan (author) & Fiona Staples (illustrator)

I’m so late to the party that the weekend is over and everyone is back to work on Monday. I like to write SF reviews to introduce new books to people who might not have read them yet, but SAGA is already so popular and well known that the only advantage to discovering this series so late is that I can read the first 5 volumes straight through without having to wait!

The story moves so propulsively you have to force yourself to slow down. The characters are so likeable that even the contract killers and military robot royalty are sympathetic. And the dialogue written by Brian K. Vaughan is so infectiously fun, snarky and charming that I kept laughing out loud. It’s a space opera, yes, and a story of star-crossed lovers caught in the middle of a protracted interstellar war. And they have a brand-new baby. Their arguments... Read More

The Devil’s Business: Another excellent Brubaker and Phillips collaboration

Fatale (Vol 2): The Devil’s Business Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

 The Devil’s Business, Book Two of Fatale, continues Ed Brubaker’s noir thriller within a Lovecraftian universe. Josephine, our femme fatale, has been in hiding for about five years since she has gotten rid of Hank from Book One, Death Chases Me. The year is now 1978, and Miles, an out of work B-movie actor, is looking for his friend Suzy Scream. When he finds her in the basement of a party hosted by a religious cult, she is covered in blood and standing next to the dead body of Brother Stane from the Method Church, a popular cult. Playing in the background is a film of some ritualistic human sacrifice. They grab the film and go on the run before the other members of the Method Church find them. Running in the night in Los Angeles, they climb over a wall and find themselves in the backyard of J... Read More

Lair of Dreams: Ghostly problems plague NYC

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

"To believe in one's dreams is to spend all of one's life asleep." – Chinese proverb

"Every city is a ghost." – Opening line of Lair of Dreams

Dreams become traps and deadly nightmares in Lair of Dreams, the second installation in Libba Bray’s DIVINERS fantasy horror series. In 1927, a crew of men is opening up an old walled-off tunnel underneath the streets of New York City in order to build a new subway tunnel. The workers find a desiccated body in a walled-off area. Soon the men begin to die of a mysterious sleeping sickness, where the afflicted cannot be awakened and die after a few days. The sickness is blamed on Chinese immigrants, but really it attacks people regardless of age or race.

Lair of D... Read More

Hot Blooded: More worldbuilding and character development

Hot Blooded by Amanda Carlson

Hot Blooded (2013) is the sequel to Full Blooded and the second in Amanda Carlson’s JESSICA MCCLAIN series. This review will contain some spoilers for the previous book.

Jessica’s mate has been stolen, and her goal is to get him back. Readers who are really hell-bent on the romance aspect of the series will find this rather frustrating. There are quite a few (logical) detours Jessica must make before she can get her man back. There’s business to put in order, and while that makes sense to me as an adult, and I respected Carlson for allowing Jessica to put things in order rather than running hell-for-leather into the action like so many other urban fantasy authors do, I can see where this might frustrate people and get them wanting the plot to move a bit faster.

That being said, all of Jessica’... Read More

Crown of Midnight: A superior sequel to a ho-hum first installment

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

I was about three chapters into Crown of Midnight when I realized it was a sequel — after that it was a matter of tracking down Throne of Glass, catching myself up, and returning with a better understanding of the characters and situation. As it happens, I was a little lukewarm when it came to Throne of Glass, but I ended up much preferring this story to its predecessor.

Celaena Sardothien is the royal assassin to a king she despises, so it's just as well she's never actually killed anyone on his orders. Instead she fakes their deaths and helps them escape the kingdom of Adarlan, though she knows if she's ever found out she'll forfeit her own life — and those of her loved ones at court.

But the latest name on King of Adarlan's list g... Read More

The Shadowed Sun: Mature, intelligent, challenging, unafraid

The Shadowed Sun by N.K. Jemisin

The Shadowed Sun (2012) is the second book in N.K. Jemisin’s DREAMBLOOD two-book series, inspired the ancient kingdoms of Egypt and Nubia. However, rather than simply changing some names and using thinly-disguised history as her template, she introduces an entirely new religious and social system, one centered around worship of Hananja, the dream goddess represented by the moon. The story this time is set a decade after the events of the previous book, and features some of the same characters like Nijiri, now a full-fledged Gatherer, and Sunandi, member of the Kisuati Protectorate now ruling Gujaareh. However, Jemisin introduces three new main characters: Hanani, a young Sharer priestess, the first female granted this position; Prince Wanahomen, son of the power-hungry King Eninket a... Read More

Fall of Light: Takes a while to get going, but rewards the patient reader

Fall of Light by Steven Erikson

OK, look. I’m just going to put it on the table early on. I had a tough time with the beginning of Steven Erikson’s Fall of Light. And by “beginning,” I mean the first 150-200 of its 800-plus pages. It wasn’t just the pace (though it was admittedly more than a little slow). Or all the new characters (though really, one wonders at some point how many Tiste we haven’t met, not to mention Jaghut, Azathanai, Jhelken, Dragons, etc.). Or that there was a lot of table-setting going on (though given how book one had spent a good chunk of its 600 pages laying out the plates and silverware and glasses, I confess I’d expected the food to come a lot more quickly than it did).

All of those issues... Read More

Wednesdays in the Tower: Secrets of a magical castle

Wednesdays in the Tower by Jessica Day George

The adventures of Princess Celie, who lives in a magical castle where rooms appear, shift around and disappear again, continue in Wednesdays in the Tower, Jessica Day George’s lively sequel to Tuesdays at the Castle. Normally Castle Glower only moves its rooms around on Tuesdays, but one Wednesday Celie, heading up the stairs to go to the schoolroom for lessons, finds herself in a passageway leading to a tower room she has never seen before. And in the middle of the tower room is a huge, flame-colored egg, as large and orange as a pumpkin.

Mysteriously, the castle prevents Celie from sharing her exciting discovery with anyone else in her family: the tower room disap... Read More

Tower Lord: A disappointing successor to a promising start

Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan

Tower Lord, book two in Anthony Ryan’s RAVEN’S SHADOW trilogy, picks up where its predecessor, Blood Song, left off, with protagonist Vaelin Al Sorna returning to the Unified Realm following his capture and eventual victory in a duel in the Isles. King Malcius, who has succeeded King Janus to the throne of the Realm, proves to be a fairly weak ruler. Vaelin is eventually reunited with his sister Alornis and is named Tower Lord by King Malcius. Though he is battle-weary and sick of blood, as Tower Lord he is supposed to defend the Realm’s borders in the Northern Reaches. Unfortunately, Vaelin’s hopes of living a life of peace are shattered when both the Northern tribes and the Dark begin to make trouble again.

In many ways, this is perhaps the most powerful p... Read More

Mother of Eden: Birth pangs of a new human civilization

Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett

Mother of Eden, Chris Beckett’s sequel to Dark Eden, was thoughtful, complicated, and engrossing. Starlight Brooking lives with her people, the almost monastic Kneefolk, on Knee Tree Ground, a secluded island on Eden, a planet dominated by water. The Kneefolk make their living by trading bark boats with a few of the settlements nearby and staying out of the way of either Johnsfolk or Davidfolk, the two dominant, antagonistic human civilizations on Eden (the story of which schism is told in the first book). Kneefolk are peaceful, democratic, and content — all except for Starlight, who is unhappy with the secluded nature of her life. Like many young protagonists at the beginning of their story, she itches for something bigger, feeling as though she is destined for more important things than just endless harvesting of bark and daily meditation o... Read More

Midnight Blue-Light Special: Distant relatives and dancing mice

Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire

Midnight Blue-Light Special (2013), book two in Seanan McGuire’s INCRYPTID series, wraps up some plot points, deepens some characters and expands the world of the stories. McGuire takes the expected “The Covenant Strikes Back” plot, but incorporates a few nice twists along the way.

The Covenant of St. George is a group dedicated to a “scorched earth” policy toward magical creatures, working hard to exterminate any cryptid race, no matter how harmless or, in some cases, helpful to humanity it might be. Several generations ago, the Healy family, loyal covenant members, realized that this approach was short-sighted and wrong. They left the Covenant and came to the New World. The Covenant branded them traitors and issued “kill on sight” orders... Read More

Hive Monkey: This fun, fizzy concoction is not completely satisfying

Hive Monkey by Gareth L. Powell

Hive Monkey is the second book in Gareth L. Powell’s ACK ACK MACAQUE series, originally dubbed a trilogy but now, apparently, fated to be a quartet. The eponymous monkey, who likes cigars, rum and flying a refurbished WWII Spitfire, plays a large role in this book, gleefully wreaking mayhem on the bad guys. His sidekicks, Victoria Valois, journalist-turned-airship-captain, K8, plucky girl hacker, and Paul, a hologram, also have roles to play as they battle the colonized drones of an evil hive-mind.

It all gets very exciting, so I was baffled to start Chapter One with a boring, stereotypical character, William Cole. Cole is a meth-addled science fiction writer. He opens the book by standing on a wharf looking at scenery and mourning his dead wife (be... Read More

World After: A strong follow up to the riveting first instalment

World After by Susan Ee

It's been a while since I read Angelfall the first book in Susan Ee's fantasy/dystopian trilogy called PENRYN & THE END OF DAYS, but a few details remain clear in my mind: the strong narrative voice, the desperate post-apocalyptic situation, and the spunky teenage protagonist whose only goal was the protection of her schizophrenic mother and paraplegic sister.

Picking up where Angelfall left off, World After finds seventeen year old Penryn being transported to one of the few human communities that remain intact after the recent angel invasion left the world ravaged by war and destruction. Believed dead after the climactic conclusion of the previous book, she's really just paralysed due to the terrible experiments that angels are performing on human subjects.

That's nothing compa... Read More

Hurricane Fever: Fast action amid climate change

Hurricane Fever by Tobias Buckell

I very much enjoyed Tobias Buckell’s 2012 SF novel Arctic Rising, which was set on a near-future Earth dramatically affected by global warming. As much as I loved that novel’s main character Anika, I mentioned in my review that I wouldn’t mind reading a novel set in the same world but featuring one of its two excellent supporting characters, Vy or Roo.

Lo and behold, just about two years later, Buckell delivers Hurricane Fever, starring former Caribbean Intelligence Group operative Prudence “Roo” Jones, who made a brief but memorable appearance in the first novel. I’m happy to report that Hurricane Fever is another excellent near-future cli-fi/spy-fi/techno-thriller novel — whatever you want to call it, it’s more t... Read More

Shadow Scale: Disappointing sequel

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina was a subtle, exquisitely quiet novel, nuanced and filled with sharply realized characters. I absolutely fell in love with it, placing it on my list of top reads that year, so it kills me to report that the eagerly-awaited sequel, Shadow Scale, not only failed to meet my (admittedly high) expectations, but really disappointed across the board.

Shadow Scale picks up shortly after the events of Seraphina, with dragons involved in an all-out civil war and their ousted leader Comonot allied with the human land of Goredd. While Princess Glisselda and Prince Kiggs prepare for war, Seraphina travels to find other ityasaari (half-dragons) such as herself, prompted by a discovery by Orma (her full dragon uncle) that the half-dragons might be able to provide a magical defense aga... Read More

Happy Hour in Hell: Rip-roaring fun containing a deeper message

Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams

Happy Hour in Hell is the second novel in Tad WilliamsBobby Dollar series. While readers might enjoy and appreciate the book more if they read The Dirty Streets of Heaven first, its sequel is one of those books that can be understood and enjoyed on its own merit, too. Happy Hour in Hell is darker than its predecessor, the world expands, Bobby Dollar is a more complex character (while never losing his humorous or cynical edge), and there’s strong emotional appeal. The book as a whole benefits from this immensely.

Happy Hour in Hell starts on a rather dark, lonely note with Bobby Dollar crossing the bridge to enter Hell. This sets the tone for the whole novel, which explores the afterlife and death in a... Read More

The Scarlet Tides: Same strengths, fewer problems in this sequel

The Scarlet Tides by David Hair

The Scarlet Tides is David Hair’s second book in THE MOONTIDE QUARTET series, picking up pretty closely after book one, Mage’s Blood, which I gave a 3.5 to last year. The Scarlet Tides has many of the same strengths as Mage’s Blood, and fewer of the problem (though still a few), which is why I’m giving it four stars. As a quick recap, I’m going to paste in a condensed and slightly updated copy of my setting/character summaries from that first review. Warning: the summary will include a few spoilers from book one.
The setting and premise is given to us in an early exposition by two of the characters:
When Kore made this land, he made two great continents [Yuros and Anitopia], separated by vast oceans.... Read More