Tuesday, February 28, 2012

read: Iron Lake (4 stars)

Iron Lake (Cork O'Connor, #1)Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very solid mystery novel with elements of a thriller. The setting is a small, frozen town in the Northern corner of Minnesota in Winter and the author makes good use of it. Adding to the regional color are interesting characters and a dollop of Native American culture. The prose is smooth and solid.

The one weak point is the actual story, which remained oddly aloof for quite a while. Things were happening, but only in a vaguely mysterious and threatening way. Bodies were piling up with no actual clues about why. The dénouement felt a stitched together and the motivations of all a bit stereotypical. But that did not detract from this reader's emotional attachment to the characters and satisfaction with the resolution.

I look forward to reading more of the adventures of Cork O'Connor and the denizens of the Iron Range.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

read: The Ghost Brigades (4 stars)

The Ghost Brigades (Old Man's War, #2)The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The only reason to allow someone to have this much fun writing a book is so that we can have almost as much fun reading it. I'm sure Mr. Scalzi would disabuse me of the notion that writing a 300+ page novel, and doing it with such skill, should be described using a word usually reserved for leisure and entertainment. But I kind of think he would also agree that creating a world where you can successfully sky dive from space in a unitard and immolate mosquitoes just by thinking about it does fit the definition of fun.

If you like your science fiction filled with mysteries, space ships, nanobots, alien worlds populated by actual aliens, mind transfers, and clones, all populated by intelligent and likable characters, you will like this book. There are a few spots where I caught the characters or narrator doing a science, politics, or philosophy info-dump. But these go by fairly quickly and aren't overly distracting from the actual storytelling.

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

read: The Alloy of Law (4 stars)

The Alloy of Law (Mistborn, #4)The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book so much, I am now in a bit of a quandary. Do I yield to the temptation to get my hands on the rest of Mr. Sanderson's vast output and read it (including, especially, the original Mistborn trilogy)? Or do I patiently work my way through the rest of my fiction backlog, allowing myself to pick up the occasional Sanderson tome.

I think I will do the latter, for tomes he does write, in multiple parts. Although this is not one of them. This is a fun, quirky, almost stand-alone thriller novel set in a steampunk, Wild West version of his Mistborn fantasy universe. With great art, the author manages to get the reader up to speed on as much magic and history as they need in order to follow the story. He does this with the story unfolding at full speed--a neat trick.

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

read: Canticle (2 stars)

Canticle (Psalms of Isaak, #2)Canticle by Ken Scholes

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm not too happy with this series. There are aspects to it that are very attractive and make me want to read all the way through to the end. I think the author has created a fascinating world filled with fascinating characters and stories. I just wish that he would get out of the way and let the characters and stories come through.

One problem is that there are plenty of hints that there is a lot more going on than meets the eye, but very few of these hints get born out into fulfilled promises. Another problem with this book (that I don't remember from book one Antiphon) is that the fascinating characters spend too much time ruminating, instead of being fascinating. This slows things down even more.

My biggest issue, and I'm still deciding if this is insurmountable, is that there are too many logic problems with the world. This is supposed to be a big world, with many different peoples and thousands of years of history. Yet, they all speak pretty much the same language, using the same stale metaphors in both speaking and the aforementioned ruminating, using the same stagnated (lack of) technology. This cannot be. With that much history, there must be scientific and technological breakthroughs every now and again. There must be bigger cultural differences than the ones we have been shown.

And maybe that's the problem. The author doesn't want to show us. But if there has been some sort of brake put on advancement, at least give us more than a hint of it. Show us the real consequences. Show us the rebels. Show us this big world you've invented. I'm getting impatient.

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