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Newsletter #118 June August, 2017

Short Recommendations
by Don Blyly

        The Gathering Edge by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller ($25.00, signed copies available) is the twentieth book in the Liaden Universe series. That means that you should not start the series with this book, but rather with The Agent Gambit ($12.00, contains Agents of Change and Carpe Diem) and then work your way through this excellent space opera series.
        For those who have been following the series, The Gathering Edge is a very good addition to the series. Theo Waitley and her crew on the AI spaceship Bechimo discover that in addition to the debris leaking through from another universe, whole spaceships that have been trapped in time are leaking through from the other universe, including a spaceship with some precursors to the Yxtrang and a spaceship with only an intelligent tree on board. Plot threads that have been spun out in the last half dozen books are starting to come together.

        It’s been 35 years since P.C. Hodgell’s first novel in the Kencyrath series, Godstalk, was published. The Three-Faced God brought together the Kencyrath peoples 30,000 years before the start of Godstalk to fight the chaos of Perimal Darkling. Since then they have retreated from planet to planet as Perimal Darkling consumes the planets. They retreated to the planet Rathillien three thousand years before the start of Godstalk, but are still in conflict with the native peoples and gods of Rathillien. The main character of the series, Jame, is a Highborn woman of the Kencyrath who suspects that she is one of the three Tyr-Ridan that prophecy says the Three-Faced God will use in the final battle with Perimal Darkling.
        The series as now published consists of The God Stalker Chronicles ($7.99, contains Godstalk and Dark of the Moon), Seeker’s Bane ($7.99, contains Seeker’s Mask and To Ride a Rathorn), Bound in Blood ($7.99). Honor’s Paradox ($7.99). and The Sea of Time ($15.00). The newest volume, The Gates of Tagmeth ($16.00, August release, author signing at Uncle Hugo’s Saturday, August 12, 1-2 pm), is a fine addition to this excellent fantasy series. While the author did a very good job of providing reminders of what has gone before, it had been 3 years since I read the previous book and I think it might have been better if I had re-read the previous book before starting the new book. There are the nine houses of the Kencyrath, with plots between the houses and within the houses, plus the various native groups with their plots, plus the local gods, and just a whole lot of names to try to keep straight. While I enjoyed The Gates of Tagmeth without re-reading The Sea of Time, I have to wonder how many clues I missed because I no longer associated This Name with That Plot.

        The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland ($35.00, due mid-June) is interesting not only for the story, but also how the story is told.
        In modern Boston, a young woman who is a low-level faculty member in Harvard’s Department of Ancient and Classical Linguistics meets a man from a shadowy government agency who offers her a large amount of money if she will sign a nondisclosure agreement and translate a bunch of old documents for him. She signs on, ditches a job and a department chairman she can’t stand, and becomes part of the shadowy D.O.D.O., which she eventually learns stands for Department of Diachronic Operations. It seems that magic used to work, but its effectiveness began to wane with the scientific revolution and it died completely in 1851. Something about the modern world “jams” the “frequencies” that allow magic to work, and D.O.D.O. is supposed to figure out a way to make magic work again, so that the military can use magic to alter historical events to bring about changes in the present.
        The story is told by various diary entries from various time periods, correspondences, e-mails, transcripts of congressional hearings on black ops funding requests, and (my favorite) a PowerPoint presentation by an MBA efficiency expert sent in by the Pentagon, who doesn’t understood either the theory or the practice of D.O.D.O but insists that he knows how to “secure the future of D.O.D.O. by aggressively monetizing its unique skill set”.
        The military and political people in Washington never view things the same way that the people actually doing the work in Boston see things, and even the people in Boston never fully realize the extent to which the people from the past are working towards their own goals instead of D.O.D.O.’s goals. Which leads to things like a Viking raid on a Walmart store.

        Robert Conroy wrote a large number of alternate history novels which I enjoyed. He died of cancer at the end of 2014, but he left behind a partial novel, which was completed by J. R. Dunn. The Day After Gettysburg ($25.00, due early June) postulates that after the battle of Gettysburg, General Lee tries to return his army to Virginia but the Potomac is too high to ford. So he attacked the disorganized pursuing troops of General Meade and achieves a victory. From that point, Lee controls a large portion of Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, John Wilkes Booth is building an organization of supporters to engage in sabotage, espionage, and plotting against Lincoln.
        I’m not sure how much of the story was finished by Conroy, but the writing style and the use of characters feel like the other Conroy books.

        The Courier by Gerald Brandt ($7.99) is a fresh example for not judging a book by its cover. It shows somebody in black leather jacket and black helmet riding a motorcycle. At least at Uncle Hugo’s you would realize that it must be science fiction, which wouldn’t be true at most stores. It didn’t look at all interesting to me, or to most of our customers. But the author was visiting from Canada and stopped into the store to sign stock and talk about the book. I decided to try the book, and I’ve now moved it to our recommended sf display.
        In 2140, the world is run by the major corporations, and the major corporations have black ops squads to deal with their competitors. California from San Francisco to the Mexican border is one huge city, with 7 levels of construction. Only the corporate elite are allow in the top 2 levels, and the residents of the lower levels never see the sky. Because of the dangers of hacking, the major corporations don’t send their important data through the internet–they use courier services, and 90% of the courier runs are transporting either false data or no data, so that the other corporations won’t know which couriers to try to intercept. Kris Ballard is a 16-year-old orphaned street kid from level 2, working as a motorcycle courier. One night her run is hit by a corporate black ops unit, and she barely escapes with her life, and her information package. Soon she is the target of other black ops units.
        ACE is an underground anti-corporate organization that learns of what’s going on. They’d love to get their hands on Kris’s information package to find out what has the big guys so stirred up, but they assume Kris will be killed by one of the black ops units. As Kris barely avoids death repeatedly, they decide that it might be worth trying to save her as well as getting the information package. As the action continues, we see a lot more of southern California, the low-level corporate warfare which one corporation wants to escalate, and what the package really contains.
        The sequel, The Operative ($26.00), starts 9 months after the end of The Courier, after Kris has joined ACE, gone through their boot camp, and is ready to join the fight against the corporations. The third in the series, The Rebel, is scheduled for November release.
        
        The Kill Society by Richard Kadrey ($25.99, due in June) is the ninth book in the Sandman Slim series, and I enjoyed it more than any of the books since the first one.
        Sandman Slim is back in hell again, but this time it’s because somebody murdered him on Earth. Death has placed him directly in the path of the havoc, a collection of Hellions and lost souls being lead on a crusade by a ruthless con artist who calls himself the Magistrate. He can either join the havoc or die (again), so he joins the havoc. There are a few lost souls among the havoc who knew him back on Earth, but they go along with the false identity he made up on the spur of the moment, and he tries to figure out what the purpose is for the crusade, what the Magistrate really wants, and how he does what he does. Lots of wise-cracking, profanity, and violence ensues. The story line is nicely tied up just in time for a teaser for the next novel.

        The Gods of Sagittarius by Eric Flint and Mike Resnick ($25.00) is a space opera with a humorous feel to it. Russ Tabor is a cranky security specialist who is assigned, much against his will, to protect an eccentric genius who likes to style himself “Lord Shenoy” on a mission to the planet Cthulhu. I found the alien characters more interesting and more amusing than the human characters. People who enjoy Laumer’s Retief series are more likely to enjoy this book than are fans of hard sf. It has the feel of being the first of a series.

        Monster Hunter Siege by Larry Correia ($25.00, early August) is a delight. There are a lot of authors who are good at writing action stories, but nobody does it with Larry’s sense of humor.
        The Monster Hunter series has some books in the main story arc and some books that follow particular characters. The last book in the main story arc was Monster Hunter Legion, where the monsters and the monster hunters destroy much of the Las Vegas Strip. The next book, Monster Hunter Nemesis, followed Agent Franks. At the beginning of Monster Hunter Siege the survivors of Las Vegas are trying to heal enough (with help from an orc witch doctor) to go on another mission, while the physical damage caused by Agent Franks is being repaired.
        MHI’s top monster hunter, Owen Z. Pitt, learns that some of the hunters that are missing in action from the battle in Las Vegas may still be alive, but are being held captive in a nightmare dimension by the powerful creature behind the attack in Las Vegas and a number of other attacks. He starts planning a rescue mission, which snowballs into the largest single operation in MHI history.
        Larry Correia will be signing at Uncle Hugo’s on Friday, August 4, 4-6 pm.

        Pirate Freedom by Gene Wolfe ($9.99) was a fun adventure story. After the communists lost power in Cuba, the main character’s father is sent from New Jersey to oversee a casino. The son is sent to a Cuban monastery, but years later when he leaves the monastery he finds that he has fallen back in time three centuries, and he eventually becomes a pirate. Much of the book demonstrates how well Wolfe researched the period, historical characters, ship construction, etc., before coming to a less than satisfying resolution of the time travel component of the story.

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