Book Review Archives

REVIEW SUMMARY: A murder mystery with big aspirations that tries its very best, but is tripped by a detective-bard that’s the antithesis of a bard.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The travelling bard Talus and his companion Bran find themselves with a murder on their hands as they pass through the island of Creyak. The victim? The king. Who could commit such a crime? At first, it appears there is no clear motive and no suspect daring enough to kill the king and anger the spirits in the afterlife. But Talus and Bran soon find that the peaceful and isolated Creyak holds its share of secrets.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: The juxtaposition of a detective narrative and investigation that reminds you of many police procedural dramas against an unlikely setting; the murder mystery and reveal are decent and satisfactory; the interpersonal relationships between the island natives, especially the sons of the king, are genuine and interesting to see unwind; the novel diversifies the cast with the inclusion of a gay character.
CONS: The writing tries to evoke a film noir feel, but most sentences turn into telegrams and at times it feels like you have a woodpecker in your head; Talus is supposed to read as a smart and cunning character who has everything under control, but remains a condescending grouch throughout the novel; Bran reads like a plot device that prompts Talus to explain every detail and break in the case to the reader.
BOTTOM LINE: I’ve had a maddening experience with Talus and the Frozen King because when Edwards nails it, this book is a page turner. I had no idea who the murderer was and all the suspects had the motivation to commit the crime. I loved the concept and how the investigative process translates into the Neolithic era. But when Edwards misses the mark, the novel makes me want to bang my head against a wall. I fluctuated between adoration and pure rage every thirty or so pages.

Talus and the Frozen King is at its core a whodunit murder mystery, so any discussion of plot holds little to no merit. I’m going to provide key points with as few spoilers as possible, but some minor spoilers may slip in. Beware, reader!
Read the rest of this entry


Kathryn Ryan is a blogger and infrequent reviewer. She can be found posting on her blog, The Forged Forest, as well as on Twitter as @Loerwyn

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Drothe, now a Gray Prince, journeys to a foreign land to track down his best friend, only to find himself trapped in a hostile city with dangerous people and factions calling for his blood.

RATING:

MY REVIEW
PROS: A more complex plot; intriguing and likeable new characters; greater exploration of the world and its lore.
CONS: Still continues with a too-short time frame; twists and turns are frequent and over-dramatic.
BOTTOM LINE: An improvement on Among Thieves that continues to be enjoyable and compelling.
Read the rest of this entry

REVIEW SUMMARY: An unassuming, I-will-not-spoil-it-for-you look at this just-released novella in the popular Expanse series.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SUMMARY: The spotlight turns on Earth, specifically Baltimore, as a crime syndicate comes under pressure from a private security crackdown.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Gives some solid back story to the first three Expanse novels; gritty portrayal of the criminal element alive and well in the future of Planet Earth; an (electronic) page-turner; satisfying conclusion; contains preview story material from the upcoming novel Cibola Burn.
CONS: Complaints are already out regarding the price and how much story is given at that price point; the full impact of the story is completely ruined if you read the story’s description on sites like Amazon.
BOTTOM LINE: Suckers for…or fans of…the Expanse series are going to want to read this. Each work of short fiction set in this universe has proven to be worthwhile reading, if only because they give readers a glimpse back to see how various aspects of these stories began. The story is tight, suspenseful and whets the appetite nicely for the June release of Cibola Burn.

Read the rest of this entry

ART BOOK REVIEW: Mark Schultz’s CARBON

REVIEW SUMMARY: Carbon is the first in a new series of books gathering together the very best graphic work of artist Mark Schultz.

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Carbon boasts high production values; many full-pages illustrations; four large gatefold pieces; book features examples of the artist’s experimentation with watercolors; the majority of illustrations are in print for the first time; preliminary studies next to completed works demonstrates the creative process.
CONS: The beautiful hard cover editions are sold out (only available in paperback); buyers wishing for quantity over quality may find the size of the book disappointing.
BOTTOM LINE: I have been collecting the Flesk Publications editions of Mark Schultz’s Various Drawings books for several years and was excited to see this new project come to fruition. Mark Schultz is a contemporary illustrator who channels the spirits of past pulp masters like no one else. Each work exudes a sense of adventure, a sense of story, and this gorgeous volume of recently completed art is a perfect introduction for those unfamiliar with his work and a must-have collectible for anyone who considers themselves a fan.

Read the rest of this entry

BOOK REVIEW: Heaven’s Queen by Rachel Bach

REVIEW SUMMARY: The explosive, glorious finale of Bach’s incredible trilogy where all questions are answered and all fates are decided.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Devi Morris is beaten and broken, but she’s not down for the count yet. She has one last job that will decide the fate of the universe if only she can stay alive long enough to fulfill all the promises she’s made.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Intense final volume; heavy on action and moral quandaries; moments of genuine terror and heartbreak; a sharply written conclusion to an already great series.
CONS: A few loose ends that don’t get sufficient answers.
BOTTOM LINE: Masterful storytelling will make this series a classic of the genre. This trilogy deserves a standing ovation!
Read the rest of this entry

BOOK REVIEW: Afterparty by Daryl Gregory

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A woman who long ago overdosed on the designer drug Numinous sets out to discover who is pushing the drug on the streets.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Amazing characters traveling through a diverse and convincing near future based on speculative neuroscience.
CONS: A possibly overly optimistic view of mental illness.
BOTTOM LINE: Fast-paced and engaging with a great narrative voice, perfect for those who like their science fiction to explore the borders of human consciousness.

With the title of his fourth novel, Daryl Gregory has given his game away. In his four novels so far he starts his stories where other people might end theirs–after the party, after the crisis. In his Crawford-award winning debut, Pandemonium, the main character is still a mess twenty years after being possessed by a demon. In Devil’s Alphabet, a town has settled into a new ‘normality’ after a mutagenic plague hit them; the protagonist comes back to try to heal his old wounds. In Raising Stony Mayhall, the zombie plague was intense but short lived; the few remaining zombies have been living underground, and the title character is the only zombie baby to have grown up. In the hands of other storytellers, these stories would be centered on the demonic possession, the mutagenic plague, or the zombie apocalypse. For Gregory, those moments of drama are back story, traumatic events that haunt the main characters for the rest of their lives.

Read the rest of this entry

Ben Blattberg is a freelance writer currently living in Texas. He blogs about movies and story structure at incremental-catastrophe.blogspot.com and makes jokes on Twitter @inCatastrophe.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In a Western frontier torn between agents of the Gun and of the Line, three people are drawn into a conflict over a secret weapon that may finally end the war.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Engrossing setting; engaging writing; interesting ideas; exciting action.
CONS: Long and occasionally feels it.
BOTTOM LINE: Fascinating “fantastic western” with strong writing; a book that can spark a debate or provide entertainment.
Read the rest of this entry

BOOK REVIEW: The Memory of Sky by Robert Reed

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Reed’s newest novel offers astoundingly vivid world-building and visuals that set the stage for an unusual coming of age story.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Astonishingly unique world; interesting characters; a true blending of science fiction and fantasy elements.
CONS: Uneven pacing; world building descriptions can be infodumpy; ending won’t have as big an impact for readers unfamiliar with Reed’s previous Great Ship novels Marrow or The Well of Stars.
BOTTOM LINE: Reed presents a fascinating and alluring world, but muddled exposition gets in the way of enjoying every level of the story.

I’ve enjoyed every Robert Reed short story I’ve come across, so I figured it was time to try one of his longer novels. It’s very difficult to talk about this story without dumping a lot of plot on you, but please trust me when I say I’m barely scratching the surface of the plot and the far-reaching consequences. The world-building and sprawling plot are presented in a very dense way, and there is a lot to tell.

Let’s talk about world-building first, because it’s as stunningly vivid as it is complex.
Read the rest of this entry

BOOK REVIEW: The Fell Sword by Miles Cameron

REVIEW SUMMARY: Epic Sword & Sorcery.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Freshly blooded from the defense of Lissen Carrak, the Red Knight and his company venture to Morea where they find themselves in the midst of a civil war. Elsewhere in the realm factions move one step closer toward total warfare. Alliances are made and schemes are fulfilled.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Larger-than-life characters; authentic descriptions; densely woven plot; bold scope; high stakes; complex and mysterious magic; enthralling action.
CONS: The large cast of the first book is expanded even further, and while the characters are well developed, it results in a slowed pace.
BOTTOM LINE: The sequel to one of my favorite novels of 2013 continues to deliver on the promise of the first book. This series is bound to please fans of Epic Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery, and likely even Historical Fiction.
Read the rest of this entry

BOOK REVIEW: Coldbrook by Tim Lebbon

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In an underground facility among the Appalachians, a door has been opened into another world, but now something has come through that threatens the very existence of our world.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Interesting characters, solid story, lots of zombie action with a big twist.
CONS: Quite a few dream/vision sequences that pulled me out of the narrative a bit.
BOTTOM LINE: This is not your momma’s zombie book. Coldbrook is an intelligent thriller that offers much more than flesh eaters on the prowl.
Read the rest of this entry

BOOK REVIEW: Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear

REVIEW SUMMARY: Jam-packed with the best fantasy elements, Steles of the Sky‘s diverse characters and beautiful prose beautifully closes out the Eternal Sky trilogy.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: Re Temur, Samarkar, Edene and their companions stand against much more than just an usurping Uncle, with the fate of much more than the Eternal Sky of the Steppe in the balance.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Deep worldbuilding; rich characters; beautiful prose and dialogue that sings.
CONS: The ending brings tears; one secondary character still feels a little underdone.
BOTTOM LINE: Sticking the landing, Steles of the Sky magnificently ends the Eternal Sky trilogy

Read the rest of this entry

BOOK REVIEW: Honor’s Knight by Rachel Bach

REVIEW SUMMARY: The second volume in Bach’s sci-fi series raises the stakes to insanely high levels.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Devi Morris has some massive new problems: her memory has been tampered with, she’s starting to hallucinate little glowing bugs and a lot of people want her dead. She has to sort through the mess in her head and figure out who the bad guys are before it’s too late. The fate of the universe rests on her mech shoulders.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: A satisfying middle book in the trilogy; adds more details about the universe and the shady agencies that run things behind the scene; moments of intense action with awesome fight scenes and more of Devi’s brand of sarcasm.
CONS: Suffers a little from second-book syndrome; tons of enemies thrown in at once and who is good or bad changes frequently; Devi makes some choices that left me scratching my head.
BOTTOM LINE: Another great book in the Paradox trilogy that leaves you desperate to learn all the answers.

Devi Morris has problems. She’s missing huge chunks of her memory, she’s beginning to see things and everyone seems to want her dead. Just another day in the life of the universe’s best mercenary.
Read the rest of this entry

BOOK REVIEW: The Barrow by Mark Smylie

REVIEW SUMMARY: The creator of the comic Artesia manages to convincingly jump from comics to novel in this full text debut.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: A mercenary cartographer and a motley set of mutually distrustful companions set off to obtain a legendary sword in a poisoned and dangerous realm outside civilized lands.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Deep worldbuilding, richly invoking the Known World; diverse set of characters with agency; evocative description of places and violence alike.
CONS: Highly charged sexual content may turn off some readers; prologue is tonally very different from rest of the novel.
BOTTOM LINE: A bloody, violent, sexy and evocative novel debut that captures the spirit and feel of the author’s graphic novel efforts.
Read the rest of this entry

BOOK REVIEW: The Abominable by Dan Simmons

REVIEW SUMMARY: Based on the title and Simmons other works (The Terror), I was looking for the Yeti; I was looking for lots of Yetis! What I found was an excellent alternate history between the Great War and World War II on the slopes of Everest, slow to rev, but a fast and furious ending.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Three world-class climbers, Jake (a young American), Jean Claude (a French Chamoix guide) and the Deacon (a British veteran of the Great War) volunteer for a trip to find the body or whereabouts of Lord Percival Bromley, who either died climbing the mountain or met with an “Abominable” fate.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Set in a time when Everest has yet to be summited, that complicated point in history between World War I and World War II; in-depth descriptions of climbing in the cold; like The Terror, vivid descriptions about what it feels like to be very cold; have I mentioned the cold?
CONS: NEED MORE YETI! A few side trips to climb mountains for character-building; not sure the “I got this manuscript from a guy I met named Jake” handed-off memoir strategy is required.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s Dan Simmons. Read it.
Read the rest of this entry


Kathryn Ryan is a blogger and infrequent reviewer. She can be found posting on her blog, The Forged Forest, as well as on Twitter as @Loerwyn

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Drothe, a thief, finds himself navigating a conflict which threatens his personal and professional lives, one which has the all-too-real potential to destroy much more than just the criminal underworld of the city of Ildrecca.

MY RATING:

MY REVIEW
PROS: A persistent sense of humour; a great range of male and female characters; an interesting plot that doesn’t overwhelm.
CONS: Easy to overlook in the grand scheme of things; a potentially immemorable, safe plot; too many events crammed into too short a time frame.
BOTTOM LINE: A fun, engaging read that pulls you along but likely won’t leave a lasting impression.
Read the rest of this entry

BOOK REVIEW: Age of Shiva by James Lovegrove

REVIEW SUMMARY: Possibly Lovegrove’s best yet.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A team of godlike super-powered beings based on the ten avatars of Vishnu from Hindu mythology is assembled, but are they in fact a harbinger of apocalypse?

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Original take on superheroes, exploration of a vivid and colorful religion, sympathetic protagonist, deft plotting, great action.
CONS: Not enough development of the Avatars.
BOTTOM LINE: A combination of science fiction and mythology, superheroes and deities, further solidifying Lovegrove’s title as Godpunk King.

I’ve been a devoted fan of James Lovegrove since I first read The Age of Zeus, his second Pantheon novel. Each year I anticipate the release of the next Pantheon novel. As far as running series go, this is one of my favorite. Six novels and three novellas (collected in one omnibus) in and Lovegrove continues to thrill. There’s no over-arcing plot and no recurring characters. It’s a series united in theme rather than narrative, a technique that results in a cohesive whole while continually managing to change up the dynamic that makes the Pantheon novels so compelling. With Lovegrove novels you always know what to expect and yet he still manages to subvert these expectations. You’re always going to get solid prose, dry English humor, a gripping mix of science fiction and mythology, and ultimately a clever plot. Age of Shiva is tied for my favorite novel in the series. Here’s why…
Read the rest of this entry

BOOK REVIEW: Lockstep by Karl Schroeder

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: Toby McGonigal, after being frozen in space for millenia, is awoken into a world where his family holds power by means of a time-spanning government.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Amazing and well-thought out world building and premise; tight, focused story keeps a large world and its facets manageable.
CONS: Some parts are almost too breezy; novel feels more like action/adventure rather than YA.
BOTTOM LINE: A wide-canvas universe ultimately defined and delineated by the compelling story of a young man far from home in time and space.

“The Sleeper Awakes” is a trope in fantasy and science fiction at least as old as Rip Van Winkle, and legends of time running out of alignment with the outside world predates that story to at least the Mabinogion. It’s a form of one-way time travel that avoids paradoxes and still allows the man-out-of-time trope to play out.
Read the rest of this entry

BOOK REVIEW: Code Zero by Jonathan Maberry

REVIEW SUMMARY: Code Zero? More like Code Awesome!

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A new foe has resurrected old threats. With DMS already spread thin, can Joe Ledger and Echo Team end a wave of bio-terrorism that is sweeping the nation?

MY REVIEW
PROS: Best villain in the series to date, nice buildup, Joe Ledger’s trademark wit, phenomenal finale, big potential changes in store for the future.
CONS: Pacing issues due to interludes.
BOTTOM LINE: The series is still going strong and Code Zero is one of the best entries yet.

Read the rest of this entry

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Rachel Morgan must deal with magical mayhem in Cincy while also juggling her forbidden feelings for Trent Kalimack in the penultimate book in the Hollows series.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Attention to detail is flawless in a fully realized magic-rich Cincinnati, and longtime fans will be very satisfied.
CONS: While fans will be satisfied, this one is not for the uninitiated. Make sure you’re caught up before diving into this one. Also, it gets off to a pretty slow (but steady) start. I personally like this, but it may try the patience of some readers.
BOTTOM LINE: With intricate characterization, plotting, and a story line that stays very true to firmly established back stories, Harrison more than delivers in one of the best urban fantasy series going.

[Note: There are no spoilers for this book, although there may be for prior books. This review assumes you’re caught up with the series.]
Read the rest of this entry

REVIEW SUMMARY: A good anthology that manages to show the possibilities of the sub-sub-genre.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS:: A collection of 25 stories revolving around the idea of Kaiju — Giant Monsters in the tradition of Godzilla and Pacific Rim.

MY REVIEW:
PROS: Some very strong stories that transcend the limitations of the subject matter; a good editorial hand in story choice based on perspective and point of view; well done illustrations add to the impact of the stories.
CONS: Story quality varies somewhat wildly.
BOTTOM LINE: SF readers interested in pursuing their Kaiju cravings from movies over to the written word should look no further.

Ever since our ancestors were shrew-sized dwellers in the shadow of the dinosaurs, we’ve been fascinated by and terrified by giant monsters. When Godzilla destroyed Tokyo, we shivered in our seats and reached for more popcorn. T-Rex gobbling up a repulsive lawyer in Jurassic Park is a funny moment.

And yet, for the average watcher of a Godzilla movie on TV, or even most SF fans, these were merely giant monsters, some of them with names, but no single word to tie them together. The movie universe of Pacific Rim, a taxonomic name for Giant Monsters and always present within the subgenre, was adopted and spread from there to wider culture. That name for Giant Monsters is derived from the Japanese: Kaiju. Kaiju Rising is a kickstarted anthology edited by Nick Sharps and Tim Marquitz that brings the power, the pathos, and even the humor of Kaiju to print, in an anthology of 25 stories.

Read the rest of this entry

 Page 4 of 64  « First  ... « 2  3  4  5  6 » ...  Last »