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Newsletter #83 September November, 2008

Short Recommendations
by Don Blyly

        David Weber’s By Schism Rent Asunder ($25.95) is a direct sequel to Off Armageddon Reef ($7.99) and advances the story by about half a year. While much of the second half of Off Armageddon Reef consisted of naval battles (sort of like Patrick O’Brian on another planet), there’s much less naval action and much more political plotting in the second volume. I’m eagerly awaiting the next fat installment of the story.

        Naomi Novik’s Victory of Eagles ($25.00) is the fifth in the series of Napoleonic era novels, where both the British and the French have air forces of dragons. The original trilogy, His Majesty’s Dragon ($7.99), Throne of Jade ($7.99), and Black Powder War ($7.99), were wonderful. I thought the fourth book, Empire of Ivory ($7.99), was a little weaker that the first three, but I recently heard a customer claim that the fourth book was better than the first three. At the end of the fourth book, the dragon Temeraire and his human Capt. Will Laurence are separated.
        I thought Victory of Eagles was back to the quality of the first three books. With dragons providing air cover for his invasion fleet, Napoleon invades England and captures London. The British government retreats to Scotland, and Temeraire and Capt. Laurence lead a guerilla effort through the British winter to keep Napoleon’s army bottled up and hungry.

        Back in 1998, Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover ($7.99) came out, labeled as a fantasy but actually a science fiction/fantasy hybrid. A future Earth, which may or may not be our Earth, discovers a method to send people to another world where magic works, gods meddle in everyday affairs, and human and non-human races compete. The people at the top of the rigid caste system on Earth decide that the best way to exploit this situation is to implant devices into the brains of people that are sent to Overworld, and then sell tapes of the adventures of these “actors” as entertainment for the masses. Hari Michaelson, a kid from the slums of San Francisco, becomes rich from the adventures of his alter-ego, Caine of Overworld. In 2001, the second book of the series, Blade of Tyshalle came out, but it is now out of print. The first two books spent a large amount of time dealing with the social/political situation on Earth, along with lots of action-adventure in Overworld.
        I’ve been recommending Heroes Die since shortly after it was released. We’ve sold over 100 new copies of it since we started using our computerized inventory system, and we may have sold another 100 new copies before we computerized. We also sold a large number of new copies of Blade of Tyshalle when it was in print. And whenever we get back used copies of either book, they disappear very quickly.
        Caine Black Knife ($14.00, due mid-October) is the third book in the series. It’s full of crude language and excessive violence, which is fine because that’s the kind of guy Caine is. Half of the story takes place before the first novel in the series, in the first adventure that made Caine a star, and half of the story takes place after the second novel. Almost the entire storyline takes place on Overworld. If you read Heroes Die before Caine Black Knife, you’ll understand the concept well enough to enjoy the book even if you can’t find a copy of the middle book. If you don’t read Heroes Die first, you’ll have no idea what’s going on.

        X-Rated Bloodsuckers by Mario Acevedo ($7.99) is packaged as if it were vampire porn, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s much better than the packaging would lead you to expect.
        Felix Gomez went to Iraq as a soldier, came back as a vampire, and is now a private detective in Denver. He’s hired to investigate the murder of a politically-active porn star in Los Angeles, who made so many powerful enemies that the police quickly hushed things up to avoid finding evidence against somebody the police would rather protect. As long as he’s going to L.A. anyway, the Araneum (the international vampire governing group) drafts him to look into strange happenings in L.A.; the last several agents that the Araneum sent to L.A. to investigate have all disappeared without a trace.
        This is a fun hard-boiled detective novel with a vampire angle, some humor, and just a bit of soft-core erotica thrown in. I haven’t had a chance to read the other two books in the series, but I’ve heard that they are also very good. The second book is The Nymphos of Rocky Flats ($7.99), and the third is The Undead Kama Sutra ($13.95, with the $7.99 paperback due early November).

        The Age of Conglomerates by Thomas Nevins ($14.00) is set in the near future, when the Conglomerates have taken over everything. When a people reach 80, the government declares them “Coots”, seizes all their belongings, passes a share of wealth to their heirs, and uses the rest to cover the cost of shipping the Coots to special communities in the desert southwest. But with profit as the prime motive, the communities are not exactly as advertised on TV, and the life expectancy of the Coots is low. The Conglomerates are also into genetic engineering of children, partly for the profit and partly to get rid of undesirable traits (from the Conglomerates’ point of view). If a kid becomes a problem, or if the parents just get tired of dealing with the kid, the kid will be declared a Dyscard and given to the government to deal with–which results in the Dyscards being dumped into the New York subway system to try to survive on their own.
        The ideas are interesting, but the writing style didn’t really grab me, and the author seems to think that the country consisted only of New York City and the desert southwest. In spite of these problems, I still enjoyed the book.

        Love in the Time of Fridges by Tim Scott ($12.00) is a strange book set in a near future Seattle, where the city government is obsessed with controlling people to keep them safe, and the U.S. government has decided that accidents cost the economy billions of dollars per year–so a trial program attempts to predict accidents in advance to prevent them. The main characters hang out with a bunch of feral refrigerators (plus a feral clothes dryer) that want to make it to the Mexican border to escape. The writing style reminded me of Matt Ruff’s early work. This is a fun book if you don’t care too much about how logically the plot develops.

        Dangerous Dames by John Zakour & Lawrence Ganem ($8.99) is an omnibus reprint of The Plutonium Blonde and The Doomsday Brunette, the first 2 of a 5 book series of humorous adventures about the last free-lance private investigator on Earth 50 years in the future. I found some of the attempts at humor early in The Plutonium Blonde downright irritating, but by the time I reached the end of the book I had decided that it was alright popcorn. The second book was much better popcorn. The rest of the series are The Radioactive Redhead ($6.99), The Frost-Haired Vixen ($7.99) and The Blue-Haired Bombshell ($7.99).

        I’ve been recommending The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald ($7.99) as “Aussies in Space”.
        As the ecological system of Earth deteriorated, an alien-constructed space warp to terraformed planets was discovered, and giant settler-ships use the space warp to move colonists from Earth to the new planets. Lt. Jodenny Scott was recovering from wounds from the destruction of her last ship, cooling her heels on Kookaburra, when she decides to pull some strings to get aboard the next ship out, the Aral Sea. Soon she’s in the middle of corruption, murder, and learning more than she wants about the alien technology, which somehow ties in with Australian Aboriginal legends.
        A sequel, The Stars Down Under ($24.95) recently arrived, but I haven’t had time to get to it yet.



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