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Newsletter #70 June - August, 2005

Short Recommendations
by Don Blyly

        The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold ($24.95, due around May 26, signing at Uncle Hugo's Saturday, June 18, 1-3 pm) is sort-of the third book in the Chalion series. In the multiple award nominated The Curse of Chalion ($7.99) we learn about the five gods, and one of the gods uses one of the characters to achieve a change in Chalion. In the Hugo and Nebula Award winning sequel Paladin of Souls ($7.99 pb or $24.95 signed first edition hardcover), a different god uses another character to bring about changes. When Lois was signing Paladin of Souls at Uncle Hugo's, she said that she intended to write five books, with a different god messing with people in each book.
        The Hallowed Hunt is set in the same world with the same five gods, but in a different country and with entirely new characters. And another of the five gods is messing with people.
        Centuries before the story began, the country of Weald worshiped other gods and practiced dark magics, but then they were conquered by followers of the five gods. After all these years, most people have accepted the new gods and the new rulers, but there are those who still practice the old magics and plot to take their country back.
        The old Hollow King is nearing death and the crown is in play when the exiled, half-mad Prince Boleso is murdered. Lord Ingrey kin Wolfcliff is dispatched to "investigate" and smooth things over. He finds that the Prince died while trying to use old, forbidden magic. He believes that the young orphaned noblewoman accused of killing the Prince should be found not guilty, even if a quick finding of guilt would be much more effective at smoothing things over. As Ingrey struggles to do what he believes is right, instead of what is expedient, he starts to uncover dark secrets, and one of the gods decides that he would make a dandy tool.
        I found The Hallowed Hunt darker than The Curse of Chalion or Paladin of Souls, but just as skillfully told.

        Paradox by John Meaney ($25.00) is another of the complex space operas that have also been coming from newer British writers like Neal Asher, Peter F. Hamilton, and Richard K. Morgan.
        The planet Nulapeiron has been undergoing terraforming for centuries, while almost the entire population lives in vast underground cities maintained by organic technologies. The cities are ruled by the elite Logic Lords, and at the top of the heap are the Oracles, suprahuman beings who use their ability to truecast the future to maintain the status quo.
        At the beginning of the book, young Tom Corcorigan sees a mysterious woman cut down by a militia squad's graser fire in a crowded underground marketplace, and learns that she was one of the fabled Pilots. The day before she had given him an info-crystal, which he learns is a series of lessons that follow the training of an early Pilot on Earth 1300 years ago, in the early days of mu-space travel. As Tom grows older, we follow the two story lines 1300 years apart, and Tom gains skills that will eventually put him in a leadership position in the underground movement to overthrow the power structure of Nulapeiron. Unfortunately, this is the first book of a trilogy, so the connections between the two story lines are still not very clear at the end of the book. I'll be eagerly waiting for the next volume of the trilogy.

        Crown of Slaves by David Weber and Eric Flint ($7.99) is a spin-off book in the Honor Harrington universe. I really enjoyed the early Honor Harrington books, but in the last few books it seemed that both the good guys and the bad guys would almost fall to their knees and worship Harrington at the mere mention of her name.
        I enjoyed Crown of Slaves more than the last few books in the main sequence. A batch of fun, interesting secondary characters go off to have adventures in the familiar universe, and in the process also advance the plot for the main sequence. I suspect that somebody who is not familiar with the Honor Harrington universe would still be able to enjoy the book, but anybody who has been following the series will get much more enjoyment from it.

        Some customers commented very favorably on Sister Alice by Robert Reed ($7.99). I had never tried one of his books before, so I tried Sister Alice, and I was also very impressed.
        Millions of years from now, mankind had spread to many star systems, but warfare was threatening the survival of the human race. The leaders of humanity tried an extreme solution: they selected an elite group of 1000 people with superior wisdom and ethics, gave these 1000 people special talents denied to everybody else, and charged them with maintaining the peace and safeguarding humanity's future. They were not allowed to marry, but each was encourage to clone themselves (as both males and females) to pass along their talents. Thus began the 1000 Families.
        For 10 million years, the Families maintained the peace, explored the galaxy and beyond, and greatly increased their abilities. All members of the Families are practically immortal, and the younger members of the Families have a childhood of centuries before they are considered trained enough and mature enough to leave Earth and take up the Family tasks. Various Families specialize in particular tasks. The Sanchex Family excel in military tasks, the Chamberlain Family are the most creative terraformers, some Families are skilled bureaucrats, and the Nuyen Family seems to act timid while secretly looking for a chance to seize power.
        After 10 million years, the elder members of the various Families have near god-like powers and pride, and a group from the more creative Families gather at the galaxy's core to conduct secret experiments. One of the experiments gets out of hand and starts eating the galaxy, and Alice Chamberlain (for millions of years the most creative and talented member of a very creative Family) returns to Earth to warn people of what has happened, to accept responsibility for what has happened, and to secretly provide Ord Chamberlain, the Family baby not yet 50 years old, with tools and clues that could save the galaxy. The Nuyens decide that the disaster is the perfect opportunity to seize power and humble the more powerful and creative Families (this clearly being a more important task than trying to save trillions of lives of ordinary humans and aliens). Ord must find a way to outsmart opponents that are millions of years older than him, with occasional help from Sister Alice and a few others, in order to fulfill the Family obligation to preserve the peace and save mankind.

        Pashazade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood ($12.00) is a near-future murder mystery set in an alternate-world Alexandria, Egypt where the Ottoman Empire never fell, the Second World War never took place, and the Ottomans are still heavily influenced by the Kaiser's men over a century after the 1916 American-negotiated end to the First World War.
        Ashraf al Mansur ("Raf") is sprung from a U.S. prison for a murder he did not commit so that he can marry the daughter of a major Egyptian smuggler in an arranged marriage negotiated by a woman who claims to be his aunt. The "aunt" has created a past for him that shows him to be the son of a high Ottoman aristocrat, thereby allowing her to extort millions of dollars from the smuggler for arranging such a high-ranking marriage for his daughter. Before Raf can begin to figure out what is really going on, the "aunt" is murdered, and he becomes a major suspect.
        Felix Abrinsky is an alcoholic American policeman, now the Chief of Detectives in Alexandria, and is the only man on the police force more interested in actually solving a crime based on evidence, instead of doing whatever seems politically expedient. When he becomes convinced that Raf is innocent, he and Raf team up to solve the crime. But before long Raf is on his own, and the hardwired helper in his brain (which he knows as the fox) is starting to die.
        This is the first of a trilogy, but tells a complete story. The crime is solved by the end of the story. The next adventure, Effendi ($12.00), will be available in early September.

        Every Which Way But Dead by Kim Harrison ($6.99, due at the beginning of July) is the third in the series that began with Dead Witch Walking ($6.99) and continued with The Good, the Bad and the Undead ($6.99). The series gets better with every book.
        Rachel Morgan is a witch who opened a private investigation service with Ivy the vampire and Jenks the pixy as partners. In the previous book, she had agreed to be a demon's familiar in order to get his help in putting away the vampire drug kingpin for the Cincinnati area. Now she must find ways to outsmart "Big Al", as she refers to him in order to avoid using his full name and accidently calling him, or he will pull her away to the ever-after for perhaps 1000 years of slavery. But with the local kingpin in prison for centuries, another organization from the West Coast is trying to take over the Cincinnati drug, gambling, and protection rackets, and everybody expects Rachel to help drive out the new bad guys. And her boyfriend has left town for months with no forwarding address. Lots of things are happening, the plot moves right along, with interesting characters and fun smart-mouthed comments.

        Whispering Nickel Idols by Glen Cook ($6.99) is the latest in the Garrett series, about a hard-boiled private investigator in a fantasy world. I grabbed a copy the moment it came into the store, and I enjoyed it very much. If you've been following the series, you'll also want to grab a copy immediately. If you have not been following the series, you're out of luck. Although each book in the series tells a complete story, there is enough development of characters and advancement of on-going plot elements that it is much better to read the books in order, and the publisher has allowed all of the earlier books go out of print. (We stocked up on the previous title, Angry Lead Skies ($6.99), so we still have copies even though the publisher does not.) People who already own the earlier books rarely turn them in as used books, and when used copies do come in, they disappear within hours.
        Chodo, the head of organized crime, hasn't been seen much since his stroke. His deadly but beautiful daughter Belinda has been running things for him while keeping his degree of disability secret, hoping to prevent gang warfare to replace her and her father. His crooked lawyer wants Garrett to help bust Chodo free of his daughter, suggesting that he is being drugged to keep him disabled. Belinda wants Garrett's help in various ways. The head of the secret police has decided to clean the city by getting rid of organized crime, and is leaning on Garrett to help. And then he gets caught in the middle of a religious war between two out-of-town cults. Meanwhile, his dead business partner is sound asleep, and his other helpers, a ratgirl and a band of pixies, are drinking beer almost as fast as Garrett. The story get interesting fast, races through 359 pages to a satisfactory conclusion, and still leaves the reader eager to start the next in the series.
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