Tag: SF/F


Review – A Long Day in Lychford

Posted 20 April, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 1 Comment

Cover of A Long Day In Lychford by Paul CornellA Long Day in Lychford, Paul Cornell

Received to review via Netgalley

I haven’t been loving the Lychford novellas as much as other folks have, but Paul Cornell does have a way with characters — the differences and similarities between Judith and Autumn, how that all tangles up around them and has to be straightened out, it’s all really compelling. He also put his finger on the tensions of Brexit in a way that was painfully real: I’m not even a person of colour, but like Autumn I had that awful feeling about everyone around me, trying to figure out how they voted, what they secretly want. And I really felt the way the microaggressions got under her skin; mine are different, but it happens the same way, all the same.

Obviously, from the ending of this, there’s plenty more to come. I’m torn: I like the characters, but I don’t find the story itself that compelling, somehow. It’s a pleasant enough read, but I’m not compelled to find out what happens next. I’ll read more in this series, yes, but… I don’t know. It doesn’t quite work for me on some level. It’s not the book, it’s me.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – A Wizard of Earthsea

Posted 15 April, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le GuinA Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula Le Guin

I read this shortly after Ursula Le Guin’s death was announced, and it was a comfort: “Only in silence the word, only in dark the light, only in dying life.” There are aspects of Le Guin’s world that it takes The Other Wind to truly make satisfying and comforting, but all the same, it’s always a relief to come to Earthsea. It’s beautifully written, and though the women are absent (fixed or at least commented on in later Earthsea books) and one could wish for more dragons, it still works.

I don’t think there’s more I can say, beyond noting that the book saved my life.

Rating: 5/5

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Review – Meddling Kids

Posted 9 April, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Meddling Kids by Edgar CanteroMeddling Kids, Edgar Cantero

There’s a lot that I found annoying about this book: the allergy to using the word “said” (in one page: smirked, ranted, argued, retorted, started — and not one ‘said’), some of the made-up words and overenthusiastic descriptions of Kerri’s hair being alive, the breaking of the fourth wall… On the other hand, it’s all part of the exuberant pastiche, I think. And mostly it does work, for me anyway: I had a lot of fun. It’s goofy, but it’s pretty much Scooby Doo: of course it is.

For that reason, it’s reasonably predictable if you’ve seen a couple of episodes of classic Scooby Doo (plus maybe the movies like Zombie Island where it turns out that some supernatural stuff is real). Well, except for the Latina heroine, the lesbians, and the fact that one of the four is already dead.

It’s not the best thing I’ve read all year, but it was such solid fun I can’t give it less than four stars. I can understand those who find it too annoying, but for me it just about toed the line.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The Hazel Wood

Posted 8 April, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 5 Comments

Cover of The Hazel Wood by Melissa AlbertThe Hazel Wood, Melissa Albert

It took me a while to get a handle on where this would fall exactly in terms of genre and audience; part of it really strongly reminded me of Joanne Harris’ Chocolat, though I think it’s more intended for the YA market than that book was. Once I got into it, I really enjoyed it: some lovely writing, some very creepy scenes, and lovely use of fairytale tropes — the original sort of brutal, horrible fairytales, not the sanitised versions. I think the pacing was a bit jerky at times. Given the fairytale setting, I don’t think I can really complain about some of the rules not seeming clear/consistent at times… Fairytales are like that, and it spills into the book as a whole.

I enjoyed the fact that the ending didn’t go with anything too easy… though I’ve learnt that this is a series, or at least that there’s going to be another book. I’m somewhat reluctant to read it, actually, in case it changes Finch’s ending — that just seemed so apropos after what we see through the rest of the book.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – A Matter of Oaths

Posted 3 April, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 5 Comments

Cover of A Matter of Oaths by Helen S. WrightA Matter of Oaths, Helen S. Wright

Throughout reading this, there were basically two major thoughts in my mind: one, why didn’t I read this sooner? And two: fans of Ann Leckie and Becky Chambers are probably the ideal audience (and maybe fans of Yoon Ha Lee, as well). And hurrah! It’s been republished recently, so it’s out there and ready to be picked up by just those people. I can’t quite put my finger on all of the things that reminded me of those authors, but nonetheless, remind me it did (without them being in any way derivative — that’s not what I’m saying).

Worldbuilding? Got it in spades. A unique way of interfacing between ship and crew, two warring empires, a mystery plot that turns out to reflect on the politics quite significantly, overt and perfectly matter of fact queerness… I loved the characters, even though they have their flaws (and I think I’d have liked to see more of Vidar, who kept fading in and out). I loved the way things came together, one question raising other questions while answering things you wouldn’t expect it to answer. And I read it really fast, too: I’d look up and I’d be 50 pages down the line with no real sense of time having passed.

And the ending. So much potential, without the need for more but just… telling you that more is there: the world goes on after you’ve left, as it began before you arrived. I’d love more time with Rafe and Joshim and Rallya; I’ll probably eventually reread this to get that. But the ending in itself is satisfactory and doesn’t, to my mind, leave anything hanging in a bad way.

I’m trying to think if I have criticisms, and really, I don’t. What the hey: I’m going for five stars here.

Rating: 5/5

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Review – Masquerade

Posted 22 March, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Masquerade by Laura LamMasquerade, Laura Lam

I was pretty much glued to this for a train journey in which I just ate it up. There are some very satisfying reveals, and one particular plot element I was somewhat dreading was actually handled in a way that made me feel not so terrible about it. Content note, though, if you have problems with addiction — there’s quite a few references to drugs and craving in this one. There’s a lot I still want to know — how can Cyan be Matla and Micah, Dev? What exactly did Doctor Pozzi do? And other aspects wrapped up a little too easily; the change in the aristocracy was just, whomp, suddenly there in the epilogue.

But it was still really satisfying, and what I really loved is the relationship between Drystan and Micah. I wasn’t sure I’d support it from the first book, got fully on board in the second, and have now decided they’re a definite favourite fictional couple. I adore that they make mistakes and have trouble with communication, but they deal with it. And where authors often have adversity tearing characters apart, straining the relationships almost to breaking point, Drystan and Micah turn to each other even more, and that’s just… yeah.

Also, shoutout for Cyril as a pretty awesome secondary character in his unwavering acceptance of his sibling, always.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – A Borrowed Man

Posted 19 March, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of A Borrowed Man by Gene WolfeA Borrowed Man, Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe’s work is reliably weird, and this is another example. It’s nearish-future SF with a noirish mystery plot — I say noir because of the characterisation and treatment of women, and some of the protagonist’s ways of talking. He sounds like he stepped out of Chandler, and some of the narration feels like that too. The background idea, that an author can be scanned, cloned, and then the clone be made available like a book to be borrowed from libraries, is intriguing and weird and creepy all at once. Honestly, I’m not sure this book really used to the idea to its fullest extent: in a way it’s just Castle, only with a clone of the author coming along to solve things based on his books instead of the author himself.

(Except Ern is less charming than Rick Castle.)

I was hooked as long as I didn’t think too much about it, and then I took a moment to think about the way Colette (the main female character) and Arabella (love interest, ex-wife) are treated and just felt kind of grossed out. Curves in all the right places, every man’s daydream kind of women — bleh. They’re just there to be desired, particularly in Arabella’s case.

I worked out the mystery fairly easily too. Overall, it’s entertaining, but I doubt I’ll keep thinking about it or come back to it in the future. The idea is pretty awesome; the execution is pretty slender.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Ironclads

Posted 18 March, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Ironclads by Adrian TchiakovskyIronclads, Adrian Tchaikovsky

It’s frightening to me that the UK separating from Europe and ending up alone (and usually screwed, as in this case) is a theme in fiction these days. I feel like there’s no positive (and believable) predictions for how this is going to go and — although I’m a Remainer myself — I do wish we had a little more hope all round. So in this one, the UK splits off and ends up on its own, and has to call in the US to save them. That’s just background to this story, but gah!

I wasn’t totally in love with the story in general. It’s entertaining enough, and it’s interesting to see the point of view of the grunts and cannonfodder in a world of people fighting in big mechs. There are some really fun moments, like when someone complains about being bombed by regiments from Ikea — not fun for them, I mean, but for that recognition for the reader. I found the plot pretty predictable after the aftermath of one of the characters’ injuries, and I felt like the story just stopped without much by way of payoff. Big things happened for society, maybe, but I wanted something more emotional — and I didn’t want the characters to all go their separate ways.

Still, it’s an interesting take on a near-future world where knights in shining armour are basically a thing again, only mechanised.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – The Master Magician

Posted 13 March, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of The Master Magician by Charlie N HolmbergThe Master Magician, Charlie N. Holmberg

The Master Magician makes a good end to the series, bringing Ceony to the end of her apprenticeship, and her relationship with Emery to a satisfying point. If you found everything a bit too fluffy and light, and Ceony’s abilities a bit too good to be true, then this book will probably tier up with that — she’s now able to do pretty much anything she wants, and does, having mastered all other kinds of magic in the meantime.

I don’t think it was the best written trilogy ever, but I enjoyed it, particularly when I wanted something pretty easy and fast to read. There are some horrific bits (i.e. when Ceony faces psychopathic magicians), but for the most part… yeah, just a really easy read.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Kushiel’s Dart

Posted 11 March, 2018 by Nikki in Reviews / 6 Comments

Cover of Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline CareyKushiel’s Dart, Jacqueline Carey

I’m not quite sure why it took me so long to get through my reread of this book, because I still find it incredibly rich and rewarding. It’s true that it can be problematic in some ways — it exoticises various cultures pretty much as a part of the plot, and it’s practically text that white French people are the best in the world (the most beautiful, the most talented, the most educated) because they’re descended from the equivalent of Jesus. And if you’re not into sex, well, there’s several extensive scenes that include plot-necessary information, and even if you don’t mind the occasional sex scene, S&M might be rather less your thing.

Nonetheless, there’s a deep feeling in the novel and it packs in a lot of action. Sometimes reading it I feel like it could be a trilogy all on its own in the hands of another writer. There’s so much going on with the politics and relationships between people, and the sense of history between nations as well. It’s not just about the kinky sex: there’s a whole complex plot here revealed partly through those scenes.

I still love it, though maybe I’m side-eyeing the exotic Celt and Roma analogues rather more this time.

Rating: 5/5

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