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Reviews in Project: Miscellaneous Reviews (316)

Dresediel Lex Spring

Last First Snow  (Craft Sequence, volume 4)

By Max Gladstone  

7 Jul, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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The thing to bear in mind about Gladstone’s Craft series is that while it has an internal order, that’s not the order in which Gladstone is publishing them. The titles suggest an internal chronology, but the title of 2015’s Last First Snow is a bit ambiguous on that point. 

It is forty years after the God Wars, when craft-wielding mages overthrew the gods. The city of Dresediel Lex is a well-ordered oasis in the middle of a vast desert. It is a city freed from the superstitions of the past and from the oppression of chattel slavery, a vibrant community whose economy is growing quite nicely. At least that’s the point of view of the King in Red, the skeletal autocrat who runs the city. If you cannot trust your dictator, whom can you trust? 

The one sore point in the King in Red’s otherwise satisfactory eldritch post-life 


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Not saving these for a rainy day

White Trash Zombie Apocalypse  (White Trash Zombie, volume 3)

By Diana Rowland  

6 Jul, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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I hadn’t actually planned to write a review today, because I knew I would be spending Saturday [1] moving enough wood to fuel the campfires for an upcoming camping weekend. Turned out that three determined people can move a lot of dead trees very quickly. Fortunately, I had packed a paperback just in case [2].

White Trash Zombie Apocalypse picks up a few months after the conclusion of Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues. Angel Crawford is still working at the parish Coroner’s Office and as far as she knows, the biggest crisis facing her is her looming GED test. It’s just too bad for Angel that while the parasite responsible for zombification confers on its hosts a number of useful abilities, a facility for studying isn’t one of them. 

Even the zombies shuffling around town don’t alarm Angel much, because they’re just extras from a horror film being filmed in Tucker Point, Louisiana. 

Or so Angel believes. 


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Not Exactly Queen of the Undead

My Life as a White Trash Zombie  (White Trash Zombie, volume 1)

By Diana Rowland  

30 Jun, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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2011’s My Life as a White Trash Zombie begins with a scene with which readers will be familiar from scores of movies and books: protagonist Angel Crawford wakes in a hospital bed with no idea how she got there. The news that she barely survived an OD is believable given her drug habit. What is inexplicable, thanks to the giant hole in Angel’s memory, is why she was found wandering naked on a back road miles from anywhere. More mysteries: is her appearance on that back road related to a murder that had taken place nearby? Which mysterious benefactor left her a supply of unfamiliar tasting but nummy slushies, along with a letter explaining how to conduct herself over the next month in order to avoid jail and inevitable death? 

Angel’s amnesia erased hours from her life [1] but at least (unlike many characters in her position) she knows who she is. What she doesn’t know is what she is.


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Canadian Content

Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril

By Judith Merril & Emily Pohl-Weary  

29 Jun, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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2002’s Hugo-nominated Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril is the posthumous autobiography of noted writer/editor Judith Merril. Merril having passed away in 1997, the work of turning Merril’s notes into a book fell to her granddaughter Emily Pohl-Weary. Better to Have Loved is also a forthright and frank reply to a few sanitized histories of science fiction published in recent years.

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And now for some hard science fiction

Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues  (White Trash Zombie, volume 2)

By Diana Rowland  

25 Jun, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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I picked Diana Rowland’s 2012 novel Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues o read after a painstaking selective process: I needed something to read and it was the first book I saw at eye level in the library. Why more authors don’t arrange for their books to be in the sweet zone [1] I don’t know.

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Everything you know is wrong!

H. Beam Piper: A Biography

By John F. Carr  

22 Jun, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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You may remember that I was recently sent a Big Box of Books. I was elated to discover John F. Carr’s 2008 H. Beam Piper: A Biography in the box. I had been wanting to read the book ever since I discovered it existed. It was inevitable that at some point I would review this book. Even if nobody paid me to do so! I am just that dedicated!

Anyone who (as I did) discovered Piper thanks to the late 1970s reprints learned certain facts about Piper from book introductions, magazine and review articles, and (eventually) online discussions about Piper. We learned that he had killed himself believing his career was over, unaware the check was literally in the mail. We learned that he had been a detective for a train company and that he had been victimized by a selfish ex-wife. We read speculations that the H in his name stood for Horace…

Piper did kill himself, but (as Carr discovered) a surprising amount of what is supposedly known about Piper is flat-out untrue. Not entirely because people got their facts wrong: Piper himself went out of his way to obfuscate the facts. In this short biography, Carr sets out to put the facts right, even when they do not reflect well on Piper.


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Murder in the White House!

State Machine  (Rachel Peng, volume 3)

By K B Spangler  

16 Jun, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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2015’s State Machine is the third book in the Rachel Peng series [1]. The protagonist, Peng, is among the survivors of an ill-conceived experiment in neural prosthesis. Having struggled back to sanity, the surviving cyborgs have banded together under the banner of the Office of Adaptive and Complementary Enhancement Technologies for mutual support and protection. They offer their services to the government in an attempt to convince society in general [2] that the cyborgs are more useful than dangerous. 

Rachel Peng’s personal contribution to the cause is serving as OACET’s liaison to the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police. She uses her unique array of senses to crack baffling cases. Her latest case, a murder, is notable because it took place in a heavily secured section of the White House and because the only apparent motive for the murder is theft. But theft of what? 


(light spoilers)


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Some days I wake up wanting to read a Zen Cho work

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

By Zen Cho  

9 Jun, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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This review came about because Romantic Times editor Regina Small very considerately assigned me Zen Cho’s upcoming novel Sorcerer to the Crown (of which more later, over at Romantic Times, which if you are not reading you should be). The wheels of reviewing grind slow but sure. Today I woke up thinking I am really in the mood to read an unfamiliar to me Zen Cho work!” but … alas, the book is still on its way to me. 

Then I remembered: the author has a website and on that website she has links to works of hers one can buy in ebook form. While I have read and reviewed Spirits Abroad], I had not yet read her 2012 novella The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo! Which, to be honest, is an epistolary historical romance, a genre in which I am not well read and with whose conventions I am unfamiliar. There are many pitfalls for reviewers dabbling in new genres, but, in the same bold spirit that led Napoleon to Moscow and Vercingetorix to Rome, I forge onwards! 


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Buy this book

Station Eleven

By Emily St. John Mandel  

4 Jun, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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Among my many charming quirks is a general dislike of back-swing” novels. That’s Andrew Wheelers term for novels where the author kills off billions of humans to make room for the protagonist’s sword’s back-swing: your Dies the Fireses, your Directive 51s, and so on. I am also not keen on most modern dystopias; I find most of them shallow and trite, with hilari-bad world-building. Station Eleven looked exactly like the sort of book I would hate.

Sometimes my expectations are totally wrong.


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After the Great War

Cuckoo Song

By Frances Hardinge  

26 May, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews

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Sometimes commissions arrive as N possible choices, chose one.” Even when a suggested title doesn’t make the first cut, I often leave it on my reading list as a possibility for an unsponsored review. I’m particularly likely to do this if it is a title I’ve not read but that looks interesting or is critically acclaimed. Novels like Frances Hardinge’s (Carnegie Medal short-listed) Cuckoo Song are the rewards I get for expanding my reading list.

~oOo~

The Great War came and went, taking Triss Crescent’s brother Sebastian with it. The post-war era brought material prosperity to the Crescent family, but nothing that could compensate for their long-mourned loss. Money could not bring Sebastian back; nothing could bring Sebastian back. No method known to mortal man, at least.

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