November 22


Archived Newsletter Content


Newsletter #73 March - May, 2006

Short Recommendations
by Don Blyly

        At All Costs by David Weber ($26.00) is the latest Honor Harrington novel, and it's far better than the previous several books in the main sequence. However, since the last Harrington novel, Weber wrote two novels in the universe that follow secondary characters, Crown of Slaves ($7.99) and The Shadow of Saganami ($7.99), and both of the side-novels advanced the main plot line significantly, so you'd better read both of them before picking up At All Costs.

        Walter Jon Williams' Conventions of War ($7.99) does a fine job of wrapping up the Dread Empire's Fall trilogy. This highly recommendable military sf series with multiple alien races along with the humans began with The Praxis ($7.50) and continued with The Sundering ($7.99).

        I was skeptical when I picked up Kitty and The Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn ($6.99), about a werewolf dj named Kitty, but it was a lot of fun. Kitty recently became a werewolf, but for many years has been a late-night dj in Denver. When she turns her radio show into a call-in advice program for the supernaturally disadvantaged, she gets national syndication, death threats from the local vampire community, and hassled by her local werewolf pack.

        The Rivers of War by Eric Flint ($25.95) is the first of two novels of alternate history involving the Cherokee. The first novel involves the War of 1812 and reads like a straight historical novel, with only small changes from the way it actually happened. But the reader is introduced to characters and situations that will lead in the second book to the five southern tribes voluntarily moving to Oklahoma (instead of the Trail of Tears that occurred in our history) and the establishment of a nation west of the Mississippi made up of Indians, freed slaves, escaped slaves, and some whites, strong enough to stand up to the U.S. government.

        It took me a long time to get through Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson ($14.95 trade pb or $27.95 hc), the third in the series that began with Gardens of the Moon ($7.99) and Deadhouse Gates ($7.99), and it wasn't because I didn't like the book. The story is so rich and complex that I found that it was a mistake to try to read it in 5 minute chunks. I had to wait until I could commit at least half an hour, or else I'd just barely get my mind wrapped around the story before I'd have to put the book down again. In the third book, so much is explained about the magic systems, the gods, and the history of major characters from the first 2 books that I have a great urge to go back to re-read the series from the beginning with the new knowledge gained in the third book. Among other things, we learn that war has broken out amongst the gods, which could result in the extermination of all life on the world. Some of the mysterious events from the first two books now fit into the new "big picture" of what's really going on.

        Over a decade ago, Steven Gould came out with Jumper (apparently only in print currently as a $5.99 trade paperback aimed at the juvenile market), a highly recommendable novel about a teenage boy who discovered that he could teleport in order to get away from his abusive alcoholic father. Reflex ($6.99) is a highly recommendable sequel. Davy has been married for about a decade to Millie, a therapist in Oklahoma, and he selectively accepts high-paying special assignments from the NSA. After a fight over having kids and how to get a young kid to keep the secret that dad can teleport, Davy goes off to meet with his NSA contact about a possible new assignment, and he doesn't come back. Some very bad people have penetrated the NSA, killed Davy's contact, and snatched Davy. Millie sets off to try to find Davy, while trying to avoid being snatched herself, not knowing who she can trust. Highly entertaining, and it could be read by itself, but Jumper is so good that I recommend reading them in order.

        Iain M. Banks has been writing novels in the Culture series for quite a few years, and I understand that they are very popular in England. They've never really caught on in the U.S., which means that most of them are not currently in print here, and the few that are in print are spread among several publishers and formats. The Culture novels are independent stories set in a civilization that spans many thousands of years and much of the galaxy, and you can pick them up in any order you manage to find them. Customers have been telling me for years that I should try them if I like Peter Hamilton and Neal Asher. I tried Looking to Windward ($6.99), and found it full of fascinating ideas to please hard-science fans, with artificial intelligences, ringworld-like constructs to house 50 billion inhabitants, interesting aliens, etc. While the story was interesting, it just didn't grab me the way Hamilton and Asher do. But I will be reading more novels in the series. (Note: Banks uses his middle initial on all Culture novels and leaves off his middle initial for his non-Culture novels, and all of the customers who have recommended him have told me that the Culture novels are better than the non-Culture novels.)

        I've previously recommended Gridlinked by Neal Asher ($7.99). The Skinner ($7.99) is set in the same universe, but doesn't have any overlapping characters. I thought The Skinner was even better than Gridlinked, but the author expects you to already be familiar with how the universe works, so you should read Gridlinked first.
        In Gridlinked all of the AIs that keep the system running are noble beings that are looking out for the best interests of the humans. In The Skinner, we meet AIs with secret bank accounts to buy unauthorized upgrades. And the worldbuilding in The Skinner is fascinating. Spatterjay has a very interesting ecology where everything has teeth and is very hungry, but humans are capable of gaining almost immortality if they get infected just right without getting killed. Once infected, they can only remain somewhat human if they continue to eat human food-otherwise, they turn into something very vicious and non-human. Among those who come to Spatterjay are Sable Keech, a cop who has been dead for 700 years, but he's still trying to track down the last of a gang of renegades from the Prador Wars, and some of the very alien Prador who want to exterminate all witnesses to the atrocities committed during the Wars. The novel is full of fascinating ideas and fast action. I highly recommend both books.

        Once upon a time, I liked everything Harry Turtledove wrote. But he now turns out so much in so many different styles that I've become more cautious. Days of Infamy ($7.99) is the first of a series where the Japanese invade Hawaii rather than just bombing Pearl Harbor, and it's very good. It's told about 50% from the points of view of various members of the Japanese military, about 40% from the points of view of various people in Hawaii at the time of the invasion, and about 10% from the points of view of various people on the mainland. The sequel, End of the Beginning ($25.95), came out a couple of months ago, but I haven't had a chance to get to it yet.

        I've read most of Patricia Briggs' fantasies, and I've like them all. Her latest book, Moon Called ($7.99), is her first contemporary fantasy, featuring a feisty female shapeshifter VW mechanic in eastern Washington. (As a coyote, she chases rabbits, and in human form she fixes Rabbits.) She gets involved in a deadly werewolf power struggle (with witches, vampires, a gremlin, and a troll on the side). The book was a lot of fun, and should appeal to those who like Kim Harrison, those who like Laurell K. Hamilton for the story rather than the sex, and perhaps those who like MaryJanice Davidson. I didn't think it was quite as well crafted as her last couple of more traditional fantasies, but I suspect it will sell more copies. It's obviously the first of a series, but tells a complete story.

Contact Us Privacy Credits

2002 Copyright Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore