Book Review: Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks
So. After everything I’d heard about the AI-driven utopian world of “The Culture” in Iain M. Banks books…I was expecting a bit more, well, utopia in my Science Fiction read.
Instead, Consider Phlebas delivered a gritty military science fiction: A disconnected protagonist, rotating cast of loosely sketched out supporting characters, relationships based on alienation, violent conflict, lots of slow-build tension and suspense, and a loosely connected series of action sequences. Oh and a bunch of exposition on democracy vs theocracy (life vs AI, systems vs chaos, the meaning of being alive, etc etc) that I grimly power-read my way through.
I’ve been checking the canary review request inbox periodically, browsing around for jewels to catch the eye, but last week, I decided to get serious about it.
The Unread pile had grown to a little over 600 emails since February, and I wanted to do something about it. Over the next hour or so, I cut the pile down to a more manageable 100 review requests that had piqued my interest, then down again to some 50 books to check out and try.
I thought I’d share some general observations about my process and what worked and didn’t work to intrigue me as I powered through the requests. Here are some things that immediately struck emails from consideration:
1. Not the right genre. Poetry anthologies, political thrillers, historical literature. Gone.
2. Couldn’t find the blurb. If I couldn’t immediately see what the book was about, or if it asked me to open an attachment to read the blurb, or if I had to click a link, I moved on. Continue reading
Book Review: Omega Rising by Jessica Meats
What’s this? A quick 90-page novella of a story about a down-on-her-luck Jenny who moves to New York City in hopes of getting a minimum wage job to cover her rent, only to find herself hired by a security firm and leading a secret battle against aliens.
I know, right? Continue reading
Book Review: The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
The body you are wearing used to be mine.”
Myfanwy Thomas opens her eyes to find herself standing in the pouring rain, in a London park, surrounded by bodies, with absolutely no memory of who she is, and a letter in the pocket of her coat addressed to her.
This book had me hooked from that first line.
The mystery is tantalizing – I couldn’t get enough of it. Who’s after Myfanwy? Aliens? Evil scientists? Paranormal? Government conspiracy? The story unspooled its revelations one by one, teasing and keeping the tension taught. Myfanwy starts out as a brilliant combo of practical, cool-headed, and completely lost as she tries to a) stay alive and b) navigate the deadly life of her past self. Continue reading
Book Review: Brimstone by Cherie Priest
This author has been on my canary radar ever since I first came across the happy chatter surrounding her debut novel Boneshaker – and let’s not forget that gorgeous steampunk cover. So when I saw her latest, Brimstone, I had to have it. That the blurb promised a character with a tortured past was just icing on the cake.
“In the trenches of Europe during the Great War, Tomas Cordero operated a weapon more devastating than any gun: a flame projector that doused the enemy in liquid fire. Having left the battlefield a shattered man, he comes home to find yet more tragedy–for in his absence, his wife has died of the flu. Haunted by memories of the woman he loved and the atrocities he perpetrated, Tomas dreams of fire and finds himself setting match to flame when awake. Alice Dartle is a talented clairvoyant living among others who share her gifts in the community of Cassadaga, Florida. She too dreams of fire, knowing her nightmares are connected to the shell-shocked war veteran and widower.” Continue reading
Book Review: Stolen Ink by Holly Evans
You know that shortlist of back-of-the-book keywords that are krypton to your wallet? One moment you’re browsing the shelf, the next you’re in the checkout isle, and all because the book mentioned a psychic cat familiar or told you you’re about to embark on a urban fantasy romance filled with tattoo magic. Or both.
Enter Stolen Ink by Holly Evans.
The concept kicks ass. In this story’s alternative modern day, everyone has an animal spirit that’s bursting to come out. This spirit takes its physical shape through a magical tattoo, which, once inked, becomes a psychic familiar (think Pullman’s The Golden Compass). Drawing these critters is Dacian’s job. He’s a tattoo magician who runs a parlor with his elven partner and pretends to be a middling, third-tier tattooist. Except he’s not.
In a world where everyone is magical to some degree, Dacian’s an ink magician, with a direct line to the heart of magic, who spends most of his time in denial, not doing anything about it. Which is fine and dandy, right up till the Big Bad shows up in his city and starts stealing people’s tattoos and killing them. Continue reading
Book Review: Wanted and Wired by Vivien Jackson
A mercenary running from a past she can’t remember, a renegade scientist running from a past he can’t forget. What more can you ask for? Throw in a double-cross, explosions, hacking, cyberpunk shenanigans, plenty of heat, and you got something.
It’s a fun read, light on the plot, good with the pacing, with a kind of space opera romance vibe without the space part (well, mostly). It’s a partners-to-lovers story with sizzling romance that builds on the characters’ long history of working and relying on each other. Continue reading