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Newsletter #97 March May, 2012

Short Recommendations
by Don Blyly

        Before I started reading A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin ($7.99) I had heard several very favorable comments, which is fortunate because otherwise I would have given up on it after about 20 pages. It’s about 50 pages into the book before the reader gets a clue as to what’s going on, and finally on page 238 the reader is provided with the background needed to understand what has been happening up to that point. (Most readers don’t find this as irritating as I found it.)
        This is the first of a series of urban fantasies unlike any other urban fantasy series. Magic exists everywhere, but it is different in urban settings than in rural settings, and the urban magics featured in this series are extremely interesting. Among the magical elements are the blue electric angels, which evolved in the telephone lines and then extended to all electric media. They feed on all telephone conversations, all e-mails, and all of the internet. They thought they understood humans until they became part of a human sorcerer in modern London. The sorcerer, now partly human and partly electric angels, is the main character for the series, but there are lots of other very interesting urban magical characters in the series.
        Although I was irritated about some of the writing early in the first book, by the time I finished the book I was completely hooked and immediately moved on to The Midnight Mayer (#2, $7.99) and The Neon Court (#3, $7.99) and I’m now impatiently waiting for The Minority Council (#4, $7.99, early March). Each book tells a complete story, but they should be read in order.

        Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey ($15.99) is the most satisfying space opera I’ve read in a few years. Humans have spread through the solar system, and are preparing the first generation ship to go to the stars. Mars is independent of Earth and has it’s own military fleet. The asteroid belt and outer planets are to some extent controlled by Mars, to some extend by Earth, and to some extent by huge corporations, but there is a revolutionary group that wants independence for the outer planets (including the asteroid belt). The story is told from the point of view of two very different characters: Jim Holder, who was sent with a few other crew members in a shuttle on an ill-fated rescue mission by the captain of a freighter hauling ice from the rings of Saturn to the belt, and Detective Miller, a burned-out cop on Ceres who was assigned the task of searching for a missing girl and then was fired when he took the assignment too seriously. As war breaks out, Holder believes that he should broadcast everything he knows and let other people figure out what’s really going on. Miller is great at figuring out clues nobody else notices, but likes to keep everything to himself until he has the entire puzzle figured out. And then there is the two- billion-year-old alien artifact that a huge corporation secretly found orbiting Saturn, which could dictate the fate of the human race. The first book comes to a satisfactory conclusion (no cliff-hangers), but at least two more books are promised in the series.

        I finally got around to reading The Native Star by M. K. Hobson, which appeared on several best of the year lists for 2010 and was a Nebula Award nominee, and I enjoyed it very much. This alternate history fantasy is set in a world where the Union used Warlocks to help win the Civil War, and after the war continued to use Warlocks to advance the country’s “manifest destiny”. In 1876 Emily Edwards, a small town witch in California, acquires an enchanted artifact (or perhaps the artifact acquires her) and suddenly she has to flee for her life from evil government Warlocks, with the assistance of Dreadnought Stanton, a pompous and abrasive non-government Warlock from New York City. Much of the book is an entertaining flight across the country by horse, train, and biomechanical flying device. Most of the bad guys are dealt with by the end of the book, but there’s still that pesky blood-thirsty Aztec goddess that wants to destroy the world, who gets dealt with in The Hidden Goddess ($7.99). Both books have more romance that I’d prefer, but they are both so entertaining that I’m happy to recommend them.

        Christopher Moore has written many humorous books, but Sacre Bleu ($26.99, due early April, signed copies expected) feels a bit different than his other books. It feels more like a historical novel set mainly in the Parisian art world of the late 1800's, with some fantasy elements and some funny bits (including some laugh-out-loud funny bits) mixed into the historical novel.
        There are many colors of paint available to artists, most available from multiple sources, but there is a very special color of blue paint, sacre bleu, which is superior to all other shades of blue, and it is only available from one source. And the price (not in the monetary sense) of using sacre bleu is very high to any artist who uses it. Baker-turned-painter Lucien Lessard and bon vivant Henri Toulouse-Lautrec try to solve the mystery of sacre bleu, and it is a very strange mystery.

        A Rising Thunder by David Weber ($26.00, due early March) is the latest in the Honor Harrington series, #17 in the universe. Although this is one that supposedly features Honor as the main character, she doesn’t show up until about 1/4 of the way through the book, and much of the book follows other characters. The Solarian League and Manticore are at war, battles are fought, secrets are revealed, new alliances are forged. The only disappointment is when you reach the end of the book and realize you have to wait for the next installment to find out what happens next.
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