Review: The Trinity Paradox

The Trinity ParadoxThe Trinity Paradox by Kevin J. Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Got this in the Time Travel Storybundle

This book was a good read. That said, I was disappointed, given the title of the story – The Trinity PARADOX. I thought it was going to be like Back to the Future 2 where our main character ended up in the alternate timeline and then had to somehow stop herself from creating the alternate timeline. Or multiple people would try to change it or something like that.

Instead, what we had was more akin to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court or Timeline in which, like the former, someone is knocked out and knocked back in time. Our main character used to work in the atomic industry then became a protestor. Then the time travel results in her working at Los Alamos during the atomic tests.

The book does a good job pointing out how the war split the scientific community. In modern times research transcends national borders and it was more of a government enforcement that splits them apart during the war. This has consequences as it’s one of the ways that our main character ends up accidentally passing information to the Germans.

The author does a pretty good job of showing how things would have changed and how the war was going from both sides. Good character studies of various historical figures. I liked learning about some of the bickering among scientists on the German side. Although I can’t stop thinking of Fermi and Feynman as depicted in The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 1: Science. Bad.. A fun read although, again, slightly disappointing considering the title.

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Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wanted to read this book before talk of the TV show caused the plot to enter the wider zeitgeist and ruin it for me. I’m going to put any big spoilers in the spoiler tag, but this is a book from the 80s and there’s a TV show now that everyone is talking about. (At least 2 podcasts I listen to have spoken abou it) So if you want a pristine read – stop reading this review or anything else online and go read it! Amazon said it’d take 5 hours to read and I think that’s more or less on point. You can finish it over a couple of afternoons if it’s that important to you. OK, now that we have those preliminaries out of the way we can begin with the review proper.

I have so many things I want to talk about that this review may end up being a bit disjointed. Sorry about that. First of all, this book was devastating to me as a parent. I have two daughters and one of them is the same age as Offred’s daughter in the before timeline. (If you’re reading this review because you don’t care about minor spoilers – not because you’ve read it and want to see what others have said – there are 3 timeslines plus a meta-timeline. 1 – Before the formation of dystopia; 2 – Our Protagonist in the reeducation camp; 3 – present time for our narrator; meta – it’s a narrative being told to someone so there’s an after the fact-ness to that timeline) I’ve struggled in the past with the knowledge that if I were to die today, she’d not really have anything but the foggiest of memories of me. The idea that Offred’s daughter could have been brainwashed so easily because she didn’t really remember the past is heartbreaking – especially considering the role of women in the society. Also, the crazy pressure the women were under to get pregnant. As part of a couple who took a while for both pregnancies, it was hard enough without the threat of death over your head. Although I’m not a woman, I felt like Ms Atwood did an awesome job of communicating the way pregnancy and birth are traumatizing in normal circumstances and in the circumstances of Gilead.

Second, I looked at Ms Atwood’s age and correctly surmised the reason for this book’s plot. She’d grown up and reached adulthood in the 1960s. She’d seen women go from having minor rights to becoming full citizens with equal-ish rights. And then twenty years later she saw the Moral Majority (religious right) campaigning so hard to overturn these gains. I remember reading books from the church library about how the Equal Rights Amendment was going to ruin society and how it was going to demoralize men because they wouldn’t have anything they were special at anymore. And a bunch of other stuff. Ms Atwood has one of her characters use similar lines when explaining motives to Offred. (A podcast interview with one of the creators had him mention that while the TV show might seem of the moment to people who want to criticize it as anti-current administration, it was in reaction to what I stated above)

Third, so I don’t know if this has been going on for a long time, but Bush, Obama, and now Trump – everyone who’s in the other party has diluted the epithet by comparing them to Hitler and fascists. So I don’t want to be yet another me too. I bet there’ll be a few dozen think pieces (thanks to the TV show) about how this is an important story now because of the current administration. I’m going to swing in a slightly different way. To begin with, the march towards ever more freedom and equality and awesomeness is not a given and is not always linear. Ms Atwood was not creating a future that could never be – she’d seen it happen in Iran. Iran before the Ayatollahs was just as liberal as the USA. You can see bikini ads from Iran and their fashion looked just like ours. Sure, they didn’t get as dystopian as Gilead, but I’m sure any women alive at the time of the transition would have felt as much dissonance as Offred. And we’ve reached some kind of world zeitgeist with fascist or far right parties winning elections or at least being taken seriously for the first time in decades. It’s not 100% unlikely that things like this could happen here. Shoot – the book even starts with a terrorist attack blamed on Muslim terrorists. That is STILL happening. There have been at least a half dozen attacks that were blamed on Muslims before we realized, nope – right wing white guys. eg The Oklahoma Bombing

Fourth, maybe this is because ever since reading 1984 and Brave New World, I’ve mostly read YA Dystopia, but I kept forgetting our protagonist was a grown woman. It doesn’t help that they were referred to as girls and the Aunts at the reeducation center treated them like kids.

Fifth, I really enjoyed Ms Atwood’s great ability to create compelling and realistic characters. Offred wasn’t a blameless Mary Sue. She had an affair with Luke before he was divorced and they got married. (The second marriage was a great plot point – although I think I missed that’s why they had to run away until I got to the epilogue) She acts selfishly at times. Shoot, her whole thing with Nick was crazy.

Sixth, it was interesting having an unreliable narrator. Most recently I’ve been dealing with that from the A Song of Ice and Fire books (Game of Thrones to you TV-only people). But in that case, most of them don’t realize they’re being unreliable. They don’t have complete understanding of what’s going on or are fooling themselves. This one was someone recollecting what happened. Although the most fun part (and the part that really drove it home) was where she had 3 descriptions of what happened with Nick (and I think even after the third one she said it wasn’t the whole truth).

Seventh, I couldn’t stop myself from schadenfreude against Serena Joy. Because it’s such a weird human trait that we let people get away with such hypocrisy without calling them out on every turn. Women on TV constantly calling for a return to domesticity while they avail themselves of the freedom to have the same jobs men do. Oh, the deliciousness of Joy’s lack of Joy in the world view she made money peddling.

Eighth, Ms Atwood made good use of the concept – “they came for the gypsies and I did nothing because I wasn’t a gypsy….etc”. She had the society slowly remove people until it was too late. First the gays then the slutty people and so on until they reached the people who were on a second marriage and it was too late at that point – too many people had bought into the new society.

Finally, the scene where Offred is cut off from the economy has completely soured me on electronic-only money. I didn’t get why it mattered if you weren’t buying drugs. But now I completely understand – it is control over commerce. (in fact, I’d seen similar issues with credit card companies being shied away from processing payments from certain online places, but hadn’t put 2 and 2 together).

Like all dystopia books, I think people need to read it and then remain vigilant against the dangers. I think 1984 has done more to keep us safe from fascism than any other book. It’s only in modern times that we’ve started to screw ourselves via Facebook and allowing rights to be eroded because fewer people died in a few plane crashes than die from most things we can actually prevent via diet, or restricting gun access, or keeping pools safe, or driving at the speed limit….

Post Script: Because 2 of the first Handmaids we’re introduced to are Of and then word that could be a place or name – Glen and Warren – it took me WAAAAAAAAAAY too long to realize they were possessive names.

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Review: Lightspeed Magazine, March 2013

Lightspeed Magazine, March 2013Lightspeed Magazine, March 2013 by John Joseph Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Got this as part of a Humble Bundle in 2015, I think. Finally got around to it. There were some really great and moving stories in here. As usual with anthologies, a collection of my status updates:

“Things Undone” (Novella) – That was a crazy emotional ride. We often read time travel stories concerned with what might change.

This one takes place in the alternate world in which a discovery changes the progress of technology completely. A catastrophic time travel event takes place and we follow investigators trying to root out what happened.

“Midnight Blue-Light Special” (novel excerpt) – First few chapters of a pretty darned interesting-looking book. The premise: a woman is part of a multi-generational cryptozoologist family that helps and catalogs the “monsters”. And to make ends meet, our protagonist also works as a dancer at a burlesque club in Manhattan. If I didn’t already have such a ridiculously long to-read list…

Interview with Angelica Gorodischer: insight into Argintenean SF. According to this author there isn’t much of it. Odd, I thought everyone would have stories that speculate about tech or the future.

Interview with Philip Pullman: Discussion of various books he’s written, teaching in England, and an example of being an athiest and respectful of religion.

Artist Showcase: Matt Thkocz – Cover Artist for this issue

**Fantasy**

“Lily Red” – A woman leaves life behind and goes to a small town. Metaphors for love, attraction, and gender.

Ash Minette – So far, a family of 3 girls born into wealth suffers a reversal of fortunes. They get invited to a ball by a baron that doesn’t realize the family is no longer noble. The two older girls go, leaving their younger sister – under the excuse that the rich are more evil than the mundane. Turns out it’s a retelling of Cinderella.

“The Dream Detective” – This took a wildly different turn than the early parts suggested it might. It’s a neat urban fantasy tale with a great ending. Good use of the short story form.

** Science Fiction **

“Biographical….Prince” (SF) – I always enjoy when an author doesn’t use straight narrative to tell a story. Blog posts,newspaper clippings, etc have specific goals that don’t align perfectly with story-telling. This story was in the form of the Wikipedia page of an author in a post-apocalyptic Earth. Like good SF lots of uncomfortable themes that help us reflect on today. Even more relevant with the Syrian Crisis going on now.

“Three Days of Rain” – A moody piece about a city in Latin America where all the water has dried up. There’s a background story about whether to stay or go, but the main story is just about living and doesn’t really have any plot. Still, a good read.

“Let’s Take this Viral” – So much to say about this. Lots of post-cyberpunk fiction has these worlds where everyone can do every drug because tech keeps us alive anyway. Also common theme of the lack of death leading to boredom leading to crazier stunts. This one hit me hard, emotionally, though. Especially the ending. Great example of an author doing short fiction so well;gets you to care about someone you just met.

“The Sense of the Circle” – A bit of an archeological mystery set on another world. The literary style is quite different, which makes sense as the author is South American. Some of the turns of phrase were odd – perhaps from translating idioms? Neat.

Author Spotlight: John Barnes – Interview with the author of “Things Undone” – this is the kind of interview I love with authors. Too often they focus on trivialities, but this one plumbed the depths of what was most fascinating about the story in the magazine.

Author Spotlight: Karen Fowler – “Lily Red” – put it into a bit of perspective and made me like it more.

Author Spotlight: Sarena Ulibarri – “The Bolt Tightener” – interesting, but no new ways of viewing the story.

Author Spotlight: Felicity Savage – “Ash Minette” – neat getting her opinion of tropes and when they’re helpful and how best to work with them in speculative fiction.

Author Spotlight: Lisa Tuttle – “Dream Detective” – neat little story of how she got the idea

Author Spotlight: Jake Kerr – “Biographical….Prince” – cool interview about how he decided to use Wikipedia to tell the story

Author Spotlight: Kevin McNeil – “Three Days of Rain” – a look into the mindset of the author when he wrote the story

Author Spotlight: Rich Larson – “Let’s Take this Viral” – wow, he wrote that story quickly and it was so great.

Author Spotlight: Angelica Gorodischer – a few tidbits on the story.

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Review: You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself

You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding YourselfYou Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself by David McRaney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a great book that I think would have blown my mind if I hadn’t already been listening to Mr McRaney’s podcast for the past few years. However, if you’re in to amateur psychology and understanding all the ways that your brain is getting in the way of your life, this is a great book. It’s also great for understanding the world. There’s a chapter that explains why people end up with Realistic looking Sex Dolls (those creepy Japanese ones you’ve probably seen) or super old men. Another chapter explains why we always have issues telling if someone is flirting with us or just being nice. Overall it’s a fun read – David used to be a journalist so he has a conversational style that works well.

Nitpick: 2 of the examples he uses Kitty Genovese and the Student Guard/Prisoner study have been proven false and/or called into question. There is a chapter in there that would tell you that this doesn’t mean you should discount everything. Just because something someone says is wrong doesn’t mean everything they say is wrong. In other words, sometimes you find yourself agreeing with the President even if you think he’s a bumbling buffoon. (Whether it’s this one or the previous one or any president who doesn’t match your party and/or beliefs)

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Review: Whiskey and Water

Whiskey and Water (Promethean Age, #2)Whiskey and Water by Elizabeth Bear
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was hard to read. I enjoyed it, but it was definitely hard. Goodreads says it’s the second book of this series and it probably is (the info is populated by GR people who volunteer to be librarians and is sometimes wrong). So I’m sure part of my difficulties come from jumping in past the initial narrative. Ms Bear has created a semi-alternative world that is complex and full of complex characters. This realism to the characters is what drew me in despite how much I had to work. Ms Bear also did a great job at making this an acceptable entry point into the series as she explained characters’ relationships to each other whenever they were introduced.

What made it hardest was the fact that it presupposed a LOT of fantasy knowledge. If I hadn’t read a few books from fantasy bundles recently introducing me to things like The Summer Court, The Unseelie, and Kelpies I would have been utterly lost. If you are a huge fantasy geek, you will probably love this book.

Second hardest was the fact that everyone had at least two names or identities. The Kelpie was also known as Whiskey and Usebaugh (not spelt correctly) and the Queen of the Unseelie was known as Aine or The Cat Anna.

So what was this actually about? I’m not 100% sure. In addition to everyone having two names, everyone also had at least one if not two ulterior motives. Do you like the intrigue and back-stabbing of A Song of Ice and Fire? That’s got nothing on this book. I will say that, somewhat realistically, there’s a lot of churn for what seems like very little gain. Which – depending on whether you’re a journey or destination type of reader – might be fun or frustrating. I used to be exclusively the latter and now I’ve moved towards the middle.

Just as time travel can be a real mind screw to get your head around, this book employs a similar theme to Bill Willingham’s Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile – the stories people tell about mythology affect things. In the most non-spoilery example, there are 3 different characters of the Christian Devil to represent different stories about him. There’s Lucifer, Satan, and one who goes by Christian. I think one is from the Bible, one is from Milton, and one is from Chaucer.

I think this review probably seems a lot more negative than I intend it to be. I’m more just trying to explain why I didn’t quite get it – why I read and read and am not sure exactly what happened. I’ve been reading constantly since I was a kid – sometimes reading adult fare as a kid and sometimes reading YA as an adult and there are very few books (outside of time travel) that have ever left me feeling so befuddled. And yet, I enjoyed all the characters – they have pathos and real motivations for their actions. They’re earnest, mean, tricky, petty, megalomaniacal, horny – they’re “real” human beings And that’s great. I’ll read more of Ms Bear’s work and I might even read more of this series.

I guess in the end, this review is a great meta example of how I felt while reading.

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Review: Clipping Through: One Mad Week In Video Games

Clipping Through: One Mad Week In Video GamesClipping Through: One Mad Week In Video Games by Leigh Alexander
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I discovered Ms. Leigh Alexander when she appeared on one of the E3 podcasts at Giant Bomb. I found her perspective fascinating in a sea of men. I was still too new to this world to understand why this led to so much hate and abuse that she hasn’t been back on. (At least that’s how I understand what happened) Since then I’ve followed her on twitter (and even made an ass of myself with a tweet to her) and I generally enjoy her reading of the industry and games. From her pieces, she seems to be slightly older than me, but we’re roughly from the same era in video games and so it’s a voice that speaks with the same cultural background and that’s always neat.

This book is in the gonzo style of journalism. If you haven’t heard of that term, perhaps you’ve heard of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? It was supposed to be a newspaper article about a race in the desert; it ended up a tale of Hunter S. Thompson and his lawyer doing drugs in Las Vegas. Essentially, gonzo journalism is using an event as a jumping off point to learn more about the author. Tim Rogers, who makes an appearance in this book, is famous for this style. He has a review of Super Mario Brothers 3 that is more about creating the perfect video game and living in Japan than it really is about SMB3. You either tend to love or hate this style – at least based on the types of comments his articles tend to get.

So this book is ostensibly about GDC, the Games Developer Conference, but it’s really about Ms. Leigh Alexander and the industry and her place in it. I think if you know that going in, you’ll be more likely to appreciate it (subject to how much you like her writing). Having interviewed some of my favorite creators at Comic-Con (Chew, Vol. 1: Taster’s Choice creators John Layman ( https://youtu.be/yjO7J3MY4wk ) and Rob Guillory ( https://youtu.be/UpI6DgmYgFw ) ) I can definitely sympathize with her nervousness at interviewing the Castlevania creator. There’s this need to keep the fan(boying|girling) to minimum while also making it something different than everyone else has asked this person.

Recommended if you enjoy the new games journalism.

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Review: Big Pulp Fall 2011: On The Road From Galilee

Big Pulp Fall 2011: On The Road From GalileeBig Pulp Fall 2011: On The Road From Galilee by Michael D. Turner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fun anthology that had more stories I liked than didn’t. As usual for an anthology, a collection of my status updates as the review:

“On the road from Gallilee” – time travel and it tackles the age-old question. But they deal with it in a very creative way.

“Built for the Kill” – a future Chicago in which the mob genetically alters their muscle to make them better at their jobs. The story’s about a job – told in a reminisce. Very fun.

“Nether-Air Ambush” – a poem about a steampunk air battle

“Luna Springs” – A reminder that sometimes we do not treat the elderly with the respect they deserve.

“My Dumb Summer Job” – last story for the SF section. A valley girl works at a refugee camp for aliens. Pretty funny and a nice little twist on the ending.

“Sensitive Ice” – a mix of romance and urban fantasy. It’s pretty neat and didn’t quite go where I thought it might.

“A Kiss and Makeup” – Very short story and very interesting ending.

“Struck by Lightning” – some urban fantasy, magical realism story. Not quite the ending I was expecting based on the setup.

“Misunderstood Identity” – Someone is stealing a mystery writer’s identity. I really enjoyed the ending on this one.

“Blood Tells” – Some Americans go to Ireland and encounter some spooky times.

“One Night in Manhattan” – A crazy stream of consciousness story about a writer experiencing an ever changing universe. I grew more confused with every sentence.

“What Happened while Don was watching the Game” – very fun and witty portrayal of what happens to things we lose and can’t find. And the ending was GREAT.

“Flight Risk” – I think this story would work better as a novella. I think it was just getting started when it was finishing. There are a few places I think it could have expanded and really freaked me out. That said, good story and nice mini-twists and plot fakeouts.

“Virus” – Great look at surburbia and dealing with your ideals clashing with reality. I thought it was great up until the last sentence. I think it should have ended about a paragraph earlier.

“Promises” – Maybe I’m just too biased due to my history with super hero stories and comics, but this was my favorite story. We always get the POV of the super hero because that’s exciting and fun to read. But what’s it like for the people who grew up with X-men to see their best friend suddenly constantly saving the world?

“Aboard the Lady Maria” – a ghost ship terrorizes a rich couple on a Yaht. Interesting narrative style – I enjoyed it.

“Virgin Sacrifice” – Some fun pokes at Buffy. What if there was another group fighting monsters – the kids in shop class? What if they kept doing it even after they graduated? Story isn’t a parody or satire, just another look at the same tropes. Wouldn’t mind more stories in this universe.

“Parker/Jesse” – That was …. disturbing.

“Paying for it” – 2nd best story in the volume. It’s only a page so I can’t say anything without ruining it.

“By Association” – the desperate lengths an artist will go to in order to become famous

“The Annual Scarecrow Festival” – strange little horror poem

“Lodger in the Ripper’s Room” – Another weird poem.

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Review: The Machine God

The Machine God (The Drifting Isle Chronicles #3)The Machine God by MeiLin Miranda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, this story functions quite well to continue the story from Black Mercury. We see the fates of many of the characters from the previous novel, but this really is quite a different story with a different focus. The series is going from mostly Steampunk to Steampunk Fantasy in this book while also exploring ideas of colonialism, fallen empires, and racism. (Also university and identity politics)

The characters were quite relatable and I actually found Adewalle to be some I liked a lot more than Cas in the previous book.

If you found the previous entry fun, I’d definitely continue on to this book. I actually stands alone very well. Like many Discworld books you’ll be poorer for not understanding more subtleties of the world, but it’s not required to know who Hildy or Cas are to enjoy the story here.

It’s a nice, measured pace and a good read. Check it out!

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Review: Black Mercury

Black Mercury (The Drifting Isle Chronicles #2)Black Mercury by Charlotte E. English
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book started off seeming as though it would be some sort of Victorian, Steampunk Speed Racer. But that turned out to just be a red herring to introduce us to the characters and set up some of the conflicts. I also thought it would focus more strongly on the floating island, Inselmond. It seemed as though it would be one of those islands that feature in many anime and JRPGs where the rich or magical live. Nope, that served as a McGuffin of sorts – although in a lot of ways the Black Mercury of the title is practically a McGuffin, but there might be some debate about that.

In actuality, this ends up being a Victorian Steampunk thriller. Like many of the steampunk novels I’ve come across, the main theme is that of a world in which women do incredible things, but have to fight for recognition and prosperity. The world as conveyed by Ms. Charlotte English is a fascinating world full of many characters I’d love to see again. I’ve come to find out this was a Kickstarter-funded series. I hope it did well enough to convince the authors to return to their characters.

On the assumption that Ms. English is not writing under a pen name, I don’t know if it’s because she’s a woman or if it’s inherent to the steampunk genre, but it was nice to read a story that focused strongly on relationships and how people react as the relationships change. Sure, that’s story-telling 101, but it’s not always as believable as it works out in this novel.

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Review: Massively Multiplayer

Massively MultiplayerMassively Multiplayer by P. Aaron Potter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t really think this book was “AMAZING”, but I gave it an extra star for doing a good job of messing with my expectations. I’ve been reading nearly 30 years now so it’s very hard for an author not to fall into the trap of various tropes that leads me to be able to guess the plots of most books before they get to their twist. (With the exception of noir or detective novels and some POV books like ASOIAF because the characters have an extra-limited perception of what’s going on)

This book, however, was quite timely for me to read now as I just heard the Fresh Air interview about the book Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked in which he mentions how some MMOs like World of Warcraft use psychology to keep us coming back to the games almost against our wills. That’s not exactly the plot of this book, but it’s not too far off.

Speaking of that, I got this book as part of a bundle and most of the other books in the similar vein focus on either the players or the designers. This one focuses on both and actually does a good job of not drowning under too many characters. Everyone’s set up well and has a pretty good arc. Even the most one-dimensional character, CEO secretary Mrs Hernandez, ended up being one of my favorite characters because of how her portrayal made me think of secretaries differently. It was also neat to get glimpses of the side characters’ real lives because it gives an idea of the diversity of gamers and how their real lives affect their gameplay.

I also like how the book is layered – both the players of the MMO and the employees are playing games and in each case, those who understand the game mechanics best do the best in their respective games.

Finally, let me add that P. Aaron Potter (hopefully old enough not to have been teased about that surname) has done a pretty good job on the realism of everything and everyone. The parents are pretty realistic parents, not YA book parents. The gamers seem pretty realistic compared to gamers I know. The feds are portrayed pretty realistically as far as fiction goes. Shoot, the author even avoids all the stupid NSA tropes and more or less seems to understand what the agency does (and how it differs from the CIA and FBI).

Excellent all the way through and so far the best of this genre that I’ve come across.

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Review: Hunt at the Well of Eternity

Hunt at the Well of Eternity (Gabriel Hunt, #1)Hunt at the Well of Eternity by Gabriel Hunt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m pretty dang sure I got this book during one of B&N’s free ebook fridays. I don’t know if they still do that, but it’s something they used to do when I first got my Nook. There’s no way I would have bought this book on my own. That said, this book is just as pulpy as you’d expect from the cover – a painted look from back when they would use illustration rather than photos for book covers and a mostly naked woman watching a muscular man dispatch someone else. This cover’s pretty accurate to a scene in the book except that the woman isn’t wearing a bikini – she’s fully clothed, but her recently ripped shirt has exposed her bra.

Reminding me of the action of an Indiana Jones movie mixed with Johnny Quest, it was a blast to read this action-archeology fiction. It’s like The Da Vinci Code, but without its head up its arse trying to seem all conspiratorial. To keep the comparisons going, the main characters – the Hunt Brothers – reminded me of Batman and Oracle. Not in the sense that an animated version of their most famous story ends up with an awkward sex scene, but in that they’re rich and well-connected in society, but one also can do battle with bad guys and survive despite the odds while the other stays at home and does all the research and smart guy stuff.

As for the plot, again it’s nice and pulp and McGuffin-y. A woman tries to give the Hunt brothers a historical artifact and is kidnapped. One of them tries to save her and that chase leads all over the world. There’s sex (but no sex scenes), action, adventure, ruffians, rich people who are pure evil, and bad guy Russians. Oh, and despite the cover and pulpy nature – it was written in 2009 and takes place in modern times.

If you want some pure dessert as a break from more serious fare, this is a good book to read.

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Review: Augie and the Green Knight

Augie and the Green KnightAugie and the Green Knight by Zach Weinersmith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I was a kickstarter backer on this book

I Kickstarted this book because I liked Weiner’s work on Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and because the description sounded appealing to me – create a book that would appeal to a young, nerdy female. I’ve two daughters and the one who can talk (the other is only 15 months old) appears to be genuinely curious about the world around her and might relate to Augie in this book.

I think I would have reached peak enjoyment of this book around middle school age. I think it has a good plot for a kid’s book and I like the logic, math, and ethical problems it asks the reader to consider. However, it has a certain level of absurdity that I’ve outgrown – I can appreciate it from a distance, but it doesn’t tickle me as it once did. And that’s OK, our tastes change as we grow older – I can still appreciate Dr. Suess, but a lot of it was also way more appealing to me when I was in elementary school.

Depending on your child’s reading level and understanding of concepts like fractions and logic, I’d recommend somewhere around 7 years old and up as a good age to share this with a budding nerd in your life. Augie’s a good role model and while the number of female protagonists continues to grow, it’s nice to have one for girls (and guys) to read.

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Review: Angel’s Ink

Angel's Ink (The Asylum's Tales, #1)Angel’s Ink by Jocelynn Drake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While in some ways this is an OK thriller, it makes for a very fun read. Ms Drake has created a very interesting universe which has the relationship between witches/warlocks and humans as the inverse of Harry Potter. In HP the magical world is kept hidden from muggles to prevent persecution. But in this alternate version of our world, humans know that warlocks have god-like powers and are keen to make themselves scarce when warlocks and witches are around.

I like the tone of the book, which reminds me of Joss Whedon or John Scalzi – a sarcastic witty that walks a line between too serious and too funny.

While there are a couple spots where things perhaps worked out a bit too cleanly, I think Ms Drake sets up a good set of conflicts, only one of which is fully solved by the end of this book. (Which I believe is part of a trilogy) I think the characters have a great, believable dynamic and I enjoy her take on the various fantasy tropes and characterizations.

Reader beware (either for good or for bad depending on your morals/personality/etc) there’s a pretty explicit sex scene. I think it did a pretty good job on titillation vs the natural corniness of putting sexual feelings and actions into words.

Ms Drake has created a fun playground and I’ll probably come play in it again.

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Review: Pretties

Pretties (Uglies, #2)Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the middle book of a trilogy (I think….maybe a quadrilogy? Because there’s another book called Extras). Therefore, not much happens narratively. I think it continues to have pretty good metaphors for teen life revealed via this dystopia, but it was slightly disappointing to not really move forward very much compared to the first book. In fact, it takes the entire book to do what they planned at the end of the first book. Like the middle book in a trilogy, there is a lot of fleshing out of the world, and that’s neat.

Some of the SF also goes a bit wonky for narrative reasons. Explaining it to the wife revealed how silly it can sound.

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see where this thing goes.

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Review: Singular Irregularity: Time Travel Gone Terribly Wrong

Singular Irregularity: Time Travel Gone Terribly WrongSingular Irregularity: Time Travel Gone Terribly Wrong by Kimber Grey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I was a Kickstarter backer on this anthology.

As usual for an anthology, here’s what I thought of each story.

“Standing Still – A police psychologist confronts someone that looks liek he’s going to blow people up. The entire short story is their conversation. I think it suffers only slightly from being in a time travel anthology because it takes a while for one of the characters to admit that. I thought I knew what the twist was going to be, but damn you, Donald J Bingle, for screwing with my emotions on that ending.Great job”

“The Hourglass Brigade – Once again involves and agency involved with maintaining a certain timeline, but very different than the previous one. This time it involves agents and who to trust. Could be a great episode in a revived Twilight Zone.”

“The Master of Time: A fantasy story in a world where keeping a clock running is essential to keeping time going. Good world-building, even if I saw the twist coming.”

“The Mistakes of the Past – Very short story. A prince seeks greater glory for his empire and uses time travel to achieve his means. Saw the ending a mile away,but it was still very fun to read.

Alfie’s Choice – Now this one did NOT go the way I thought it would. A young man has to convince a Victorian person to come to the future with full consent. Good story.”

“The Tea-Space Continuum: Cute story about why tea keeps disapearing and someone who tries to figure out why.

Foundering Fathers: Time Travelers visit an important era in US history. A good amount of humor. One of those stories where the assistant is better than the master.”

“Postcards From Home: An archeologist finds letters to her buried in her yard. To say more would ruin the short story. No twists this time, but very emotional.”

“Repeat Performance: Plays with the trope that time travel aways ends up in sex with one’s self.

Fixed Point: A professor invents a time anchor for time travel. GREAT Ending. Love the characters as well. Well done, Liam Hogan.”

“The Light of Tomorrow: Some kids go to an abandoned area to make out and find out it’s a very important place.”

“True Mileage Unknown: A scary urban fantasy that has a very unexpected ending.”

“The Neverending Patch Day: Management, IT department, patches, and a time machine. What could go wrong? Sadly reminds me too much of my reality (minus the time machine)”

“Serendi-Bunny: This was an awesomely fun romp! In a world that’s almost ours, but has werewolves, a scientist is working on a cure for brain cancer when he has to deal with some people that don’t agree with his research. Lots of fun puns and references to pop culture. I’m not sure I agree with the last few paragraphs, but the rest of the story is top notch.”

“Gesundheit: Very sad.

Arbiters: Well, that was a huge mind-screw. LOVE IT! And you will too, if you enjoy seeing how authors get out of time travel paradoxes.”

“Destinations: A catty rivalry between two women who sell time travel destination packages (like travel agents). Fun with just the right amount of seriousness.”

“Equinox: A wizard gets stuck in a time loop. A slightly more magical, condensed version of groundhog’s day. That ending’s a real doozy, too.”

“Martin the Guinea Pig: A guy who doesn’t have it all together ends up signing up for a professor’s experiment. The style was fun. But I REALLY did not get the ending reveal.”

“For the Greater Good of All: A man goes back in time to kill The Enemy. Great world building. A savvier person would have guessed the ending from the date, but I had to read the last sentence twice before I realized the brilliance of it all.”

“<500: A terrifying accidental time travel story. I think you can PROBABLY guess the twist ahead of time, but they did keep me guessing, running through all the tropes in my head.”

“A Time to Change the Present: Very short, but very well done.Too short to say much about it, but it’s a great one.”

“Sunny Days: A diner in the 1960s has a run-in with a time traveler. Loved it.”

“The Long Haul: This one is the most unlike all the others in the collection. There is time travel, but nothing at all like the rest. It is beautiful and poetic, even if it doesn’t meet the subtitle of “Time Travel Gone Terribly Wrong”. I really, really enjoyed it a lot, but to speak of why would ruin the beauty.”

“Time’s Up: Ms Kimber Grey weaves a lovely story involving an acolyte at a priesthood serving the God of Time. While I don’t feel it meets the subtitle of Ms Kimber’s anthology here (I didn’t feel Time Travel had gone wrong), it is a great story that I’m glad I was able to experience. I certainly wouldn’t mind more stories in this Universe.”

“Liminal House: Didn’t like it because it was a bit too coy about how the main premise worked.”

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