A Sword Into Darkness (Thomas Mays; self-published) is better than I was expecting. There’s been a fair bit of buzz about it on G+ and elsewhere in the corners of the net I frequent; the buzz led me to expect a well-executed work of space opera and military SF that could stand comparison with (for… Continue reading Review: A Sword Into Darkness
The Mandala (Timothy R. O’Neill, Publish Green) is an airport thriller with an SF premise. In the badlands of northern Montana there appears something that produces gravitational pulses powerful enough to perturb satellite orbits, and drives people who wander too near it insane. Satellite imagery reveals a vast, intricate pattern of subtle changes in the… Continue reading Review: The Mandala
At the end of my review of The Devil’s Concubine I wrote “it would be nice to think that the sequels will be about something other than her approach-avoidance dance with the guy, but experience has taught me to be pessimistic in such matters.” To my pleased surprise, my pessimism was not fulfilled. In The… Continue reading Review: The Devil Incarnate
One of the trials of reviewing books is first novels that aren’t very good, but are so well-meant and earnestly attempted than simply panning them would feel like kicking a puppy. Patrick Swenson’s The Ultra Thin Man is a case like this.
Space Opera (Rich Horton, editor; Diamond Book Distributors) starts off with an introduction that gives a historical overview of the evolution of the term “space opera” from its disreputable beginnings in the 1940s to the self-conscious modern revival of the subgenre after 1985. It’s a pretty good summary with a few odd lapses. Missing, for… Continue reading Review: Space Opera
Trial By Fire (Charles E. Gannon, Baen) is the sort of book that divides those who notice it into two parts. One group will sneer “Yard goods from Baen, yet another space opera full of stuff blowing up”; the other will nod and smile and say “Good clean fun, I’ll take it.” I’m cheerfully in… Continue reading Review: Trial By Fire
M. C. A. Hogarth’s The Worth of a Shell (self-published) is a complex, serious, well-thought-out extrapolation of the consequences of alien sexual biology marred only by the fact that one of its central premises is not at all credible. The Jokka are presented as a humanoid species with three sexes; males, females, and neuters. There’s… Continue reading Review: The Worth of a Shell
Peter Watts writes complex, dark novels full of intellectual fireworks – disturbing tours-de-force that question our most cherished notions of consciousness, self, free will, and agency. I often disagree with his logic and conclusions, but he plays the game honestly and shows his work – usually with extensive citations to the published literature in half-a-dozen… Continue reading Review: Echopraxia
My post requesting introductory-SF suggestions got accidentally deleted due to a WordPress interface feature I didn’t quite understand and momentary inattention. Never fear, I had already digested most of the suggestions and am working on the result.
I’ve been friendly with Walter Hunt for some years, so when he told me that his new novel Elements of Mind (Spence City) involved Victorian mesmerists, I knew to expect an atmospheric and meticulously researched fantasy full of period language and detail, probably one dovetailing with real history as seamlessly as anything by Tim Powers.… Continue reading Review: Elements of Mind
I learned from his previous novels Fools Errant and Fool Me Twice that Matthew Hughes seems to have chosen crafting really high-quality tributes to Jack Vance as his artistic mission (at least when writing SF). As a long-time Vance fan myself I consider this a worthy goal, and in Template (self-published) he does not disappoint.
Reach for Infinity (Jonathan Strahan, ed., Rebellion Publishing) is an anthology of new hard SF. The authors and the editor are stretching themselves, taking chances; some of these stories are failures. In general, however, even the failures are interesting efforts that will push you to think about their premises and consider the ways in which… Continue reading Review: Reach for Infinity
S.L. Dunn’s Anthem’s Fall (Prospect Hill Press) wants to be a high-concept SF novel. What it actually achieves is more like a bad comic book. Without the pictures. In New York City, scientist Kristen Jordan (brilliant and beautiful, and very young, of course) is growing increasingly worried about an übertechnology she helped create, as the… Continue reading Review: Anthem’s Fall
While most life on Earth is powered by chemical energy captured from solar radiation, deep in our seas there are entire ecologies powered by volcanism – specifically the hot water issuing from hydrothermal vents. Hot mineral-rich water supports a food chain based on chemosynthetic bacteria and archaea; it extends upwards in complexity through giant tube… Continue reading Review: A Darkling Sea
As with my last review subject, if you’re in the market for Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter: Nemesis, you probably already know you’re going to like it. Though maybe not as much as the previous Monster Hunter outings; the author tries for a change of tone in this book, not entirely successfully.
If you’re in the target market for Tom Kratman’s The Rods and the Axe (Baen) you probably already know you’re going to like it. Though nominally SF, this is in reality pretty straight-up military fiction. Bimpty-bumpth in his continuing series on the wars of Patrick Carrera on the colony world of Nova Terra, it delivers… Continue reading Review: The Rods and the Axe
There are many kinds of bad SF out there. One of the subtler kinds is written with enough competence that it might be good if the author had any original ideas, but reads like a tired paste-up of familiar genre tropes and plot twists that an experienced reader can see coming a light-year off. Edward… Continue reading Review: Right to Know
Fearless monster killers have been a very popular trope in SF and fantasy lately, in a trend perhaps best exemplified by Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter sequence but extending to the dozens of nigh-interchangeable Buffy clones in leather clogging the Urban Fantasy subgenre lately. Hugh A. D. Spencer’s Extreme Dentistry seems to have been intended as… Continue reading Review: Extreme Dentistry
A few days ago I was thinking about one of the most provocative Damned Facts from population genetics, and came up with a prediction that as far as I know nobody has uttered or tested before. I throw it out here because someone with access to the right kind of primary data might be able… Continue reading Time preference and latitude
Nina D’Aleo’s The White List (Momentum Books) is a strange combination of success and failure. The premise is preposterous, the plotting is perfunctory – but the prose is zippy and entertaining and the characters acutely observed.