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Terrible Swift Sword

It's kind of strange to see the Confederate flag becoming a flashpoint now, triggered by the mass murders in Charleston. I have always been very skeptical of the "Heritage not hate" crowd — I'm sure there are Southerners for whom the battle flag of a failed insurrection just represents their childhood and their upbringing, but you really cannot get away from what it symbolizes. In the 70s it could be painted on a Dodge Charger for an inane TV show, but if you wave it around today and affect wide-eyed indignation that anyone might think you are sending a message, I'm going to call bullshit.

My father, who was born in Mississippi, raised in backwoods Alabama, and spent his childhood in the deep, deep pre-Civil Rights era South, has never in his life indulged in veneration of the Confederate flag or other antebellum nostalgia.

But, the purpose of this post is not to weigh in on Confederate flags per se. People have posted thoughtful (and not so thoughtful) things about that all over the Internet. Instead, I'm just going to use it as a springboard to write about my current obsession: board games.

Board games! Images! Nazis! Suicide bombers! (No images of Nazis or suicide bombers.)Collapse )


Apple is a small town like Sunnydale that makes you wonder why the hell anyone would stay there.

Bloody Bloody Apple

Bell Bridge Books, 2014, 204 pages

Apple, Massachusetts is rotten to the core.

Every fall, when the orchards ripen and the leaves begin to die, there are murders. We know it, and we accept it. It's the price we pay for living in Apple. Families mourn, but no one is ever caught. Now, there's a body in the woods, and the cycle is starting again. People bruise easily in Apple.

Finding a murdered and mutilated girl plunges Jackson Gill into the middle of a decades-old horror. For Jackson, the newest murders become personal.

When sick, cryptic predictions prove true, Jackson will have to believe the unthinkable and stop what no one has been able to stop in sixty years.

He has no choice. He lives in Bloody Bloody Apple.

A classic teen popcorn slasher movie in a book.Collapse )

My complete list of book reviews.
The earliest generation ship tale. I could not resist using the Baen cover.

Orphans of the Sky

Science Fiction Book Club, 1963, 160 pages

The Jordan Foundation sponsored the Proxima Centauri Expedition in 2119, in attempt to reach the nearer stars of the galaxy. But that was far in the mythic past. The original purpose of the Ship's epic voyage has long been forgotten, and for generations the giant spaceship, lost between the stars, is the only world that the people aboard have known. A strange civilization has evolved, with its own superstitions, savage religion, rigid class structure and mutant outcasts. Then, one young man discovers the truth about the Ship and changes everything, forever....

Early Heinlein is pretty good Heinlein.Collapse )

Also by Robert A. Heinlein: My reviews of Have Space Suit, Will Travel, Starman Jones, I Will Fear No Evil, and Farnham's Freehold.

My complete list of book reviews.

Book Review: Swords of Waar, by Nathan Long

Jane's back on Waar, buckling the swash.

Swords of Waar

Night Shade Books, 2012, 320 pages

Jane Carver, a hell-raising, redheaded biker chick from Coral Gables, Florida, had found a new life and love on Waar, a savage planet of fearsome creatures and swashbuckling warriors. Until the planet’s high priests sent her back to Earth against her will. But nobody keeps Jane from her man, even if he happens to be a purple-skinned alien nobleman. Against all odds, she returns to Waar, only to find herself accused of kidnapping the Emperor’s beautiful daughter. Allying herself with a band of notorious sky-pirates, Jane sets out to clear her name and rescue the princess, but that means uncovering the secret origins of the Gods of Waar and picking a fight with the Wargod himself. Good thing Jane is always up for a scrap....

Swords of Waar is the wildly entertaining sequel to Jane Carver of Waar, and continues the raucous adventures of science fiction’s newest and most bad ass space heroine.

The continuing adventures of a foul-mouthed biker chick on a planet that is totally not Barsoom.Collapse )

Verdict: Recommended for fans of the Barsoom series, of course, who will appreciate all the references and probably not find Jane to be too terrible an antithesis of John Carter. For those who are not particularly fond of classic planetary romances, you may still enjoy Swords of Waar as a dissection of the tropes, but it works much better read as a kind of fan fiction than as critique. Should Nathan Long write more books in this series? Well, I'd probably read them, but I think they'd quickly become as repetitive as the Barsoom books did. 7/10.

Also by Nathan Long: My review of Jane Carver of Waar.

My complete list of book reviews.

Book Review: Faith, by John Love

Moby Dick in space - or, a Book About Spaceship Battles with Significantly Capitalized Words.


Night Shade Books, 2012, 373 pages

FAITH is the name humanity has given to the unknown, seemingly invincible alien ship that has begun to harass the newly emergent Commonwealth. 300 years earlier, the same ship destroyed the Sakhran Empire, allowing the Commonwealth to expand its sphere of influence. But now Faith has returned.

THE SHIP is as devastating as before, and its attacks leave some Commonwealth solar systems in chaos. Eventually it reaches Sakhra, now an important Commonwealth possession, and it seems like history is about to repeat itself. But this time, something is waiting: an Outsider, one of the Commonwealth's ultimate warships.

OUTSIDERS are almost as alien as Faith - instruments of the Commonwealth, outside all normal command structures. Slender silver ships, full of functionality: drives and weapons and sentience cores, bionics and electronics, packed to almost dwarf-star density. And crewed by people of unusual abilities, often sociopaths or psychopaths. Outsiders were conceived in back alleys, built and launched in secret, and commissioned without ceremony.

FAITH continues to destroy the Commonwealth's regular spacecraft and planetary defenses. With each new engagement, the Kafkaesque enemy reveals a new set of abilities.

ONE SYSTEM away from Earth, the Outsider ship Charles Manson makes a stand. Commander Foord waits with his crew of miscreants and sociopaths, hoping to accomplish what no other human has been able to do- TO DESTROY FAITH.

The ship is called the Charles Manson. The enemy ship is called Faith. It"s pretty strange.Collapse )

Verdict: I recommend Faith for fans of space opera that's a little off-beat and trying to be more than it is; if the idea of an obsessive duel between two evenly matched, strange and lethal starships with bizarre and unknowable crews sounds interesting, it's definitely worth your time. The execution fell a bit short for me, but I am willing to read more by John Love. 7/10.

My complete list of book reviews.
Everyone wants to mind their own business until the serial killer gets sloppy.

The Killer Next Door

Penguin Books, 2014, 400 pages

Everyone who lives at 23 Beulah Grove has a secret. If they didn't, they wouldn't be renting rooms in a dodgy old building for cash - no credit check, no lease. It's the kind of place you end up when you you've run out of other options.The six residents mostly keep to themselves, but one unbearably hot summer night, a terrible accident pushes them into an uneasy alliance. What they don't know is that one of them is a killer. He's already chosen his next victim, and he'll do anything to protect his secret.

Runaways, refugees, pensioners and serial killers in the non-posh parts of London.Collapse )

Also by Alex Marwood: My review of The Wicked Girls.

My complete list of book reviews.
Why grown men cruise the Sunset Strip in fuzzy purple hats and eyeliner.

The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists

Regan Books, 2005, 464 pages

Hidden somewhere, in nearly every major city in the world, is an underground seduction lair. And in these lairs, men trade the most devastatingly effective techniques ever invented to charm women. This is not fiction. These men really exist. They live together in houses known as Projects. And Neil Strauss, the best-selling author, spent two years living among them, using the pseudonym Style to protect his real-life identity.

The result is one of the most explosive and controversial books of the year -- guaranteed to change the lives of men and transform the way women understand the opposite sex forever.

On his journey from AFC (average frustrated chump) to PUA (pick-up artist) to PUG (pick-up guru), Strauss not only shares scores of original seduction techniques but also has unforgettable encounters with the likes of Tom Cruise, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Heidi Fleiss, and Courtney Love. And then things really start to get strange -- and passions lead to betrayals lead to violence.

The Game is the story of one man's transformation from frog to prince to prisoner in the most unforgettable book of the year.

Hate the game, don"t hate the player... well, actually, the players are kind of shitty too.Collapse )

My complete list of book reviews.
The war against the Lankies comes to Earth, and Andrew Grayson once again has a grunt's eye view of the action.

Angles of Attack

47North, 2015, 352 pages

The alien forces known as the Lankies are gathering on the solar system's edge, consolidating their conquest of Mars and setting their sights on Earth. The far-off colony of New Svalbard, cut off from the rest of the galaxy by the Lanky blockade, teeters on the verge of starvation and collapse. The forces of the two Earth alliances have won minor skirmishes but are in danger of losing the war. For battle-weary staff sergeant Andrew Grayson and the ragged forces of the North American Commonwealth, the fight for survival is entering a catastrophic new phase.

Forging an uneasy alliance with their Sino-Russian enemies, the NAC launches a hybrid task force on a long shot: a stealth mission to breach the Lanky blockade and reestablish supply lines with Earth. Plunging into combat against a merciless alien species that outguns, outmaneuvers, and outfights them at every turn, Andrew and his fellow troopers could end up cornered on their home turf, with no way out and no hope for reinforcement. And this time the struggle for humanity's future can end only in either victory or annihilation.

The third book in the series gets the job done, except for ending the story.Collapse )

Verdict: Angles of Attack is a great combination of space warfare, alien-killing ground combat, and politics, and while I do hope the author will conclude this series eventually, it remains on my must-read list. 9/10.

Also by Marko Kloos: My reviews of Terms of Enlistment and Lines of Departure.

My complete list of book reviews.
Okay, I am up to 189K words now. So I'm averaging about 5000 words a month. Yes, I can do the math - I am not even going to finish this year at that rate. I'm working on it, which means, among other things, cutting back on some of my other time-sinks. Sometimes that is not easy.

The story is slowly moving towards the third and final act, though that act is going to be long, and multi-part, and there is a major segment that I am not yet sure will fit into this book or needs to be moved into the next.

Alexandra: Sometimes more Chaotic than Good

Alexandra will be doing some things in this book that some readers will not approve of. (Well, when does she not? But she's really crossing a few boundaries this time.) Partly it's because she's going to be pushed pretty hard, and partly it's because it turns out that she's not always iron-willed when it comes to resisting temptation. Also, she's got a bit of her father in her, which will be more obvious in this volume.

Which makes this new piece of fan art, sent to me by KadinD on DeviantArt, appropriate, as it's a rather fierce-looking Alexandra.

Alexandra Quick, by KadinD

The way things are looking right now, you will be seeing a lot more of Alexandra's sisters, but significantly less of her friends. That's not to say Anna, David, and the Pritchards have no role in AQATWA, but this book will be kind of like Alexandra's adventures in Dinétah, only moreso - she spends much of it on her own.

I know many readers don't like it when her friends get sidelined, and they want to see more of the dynamic that characterized the Harry/Ron/Hermione relationship. I do have even more important roles for her friends (even poor David) in future books. But Alexandra was never Harry, parallels notwithstanding. Her friends are important, but often she goes her own way - even when she shouldn't.

The draft is currently kind of a mess, though, as I've said before, so there may be substantial changes after I finally get around to revising and then getting it beta-read.

(And I just clicked back through all my aqatwa entries and found my "New Year's Resolution" to finish the book... in January, 2014. And that these update posts sometimes repeat themselves. Now I am really bummed.)
A U.S. marshal investigates sinister goings on at an island mental hospital for the criminally insane.

Shutter Island

William Morrow, 2003, 325 pages

Summer, 1954. U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels has come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane. Along with his partner, Chuck Aule, he sets out to find an escaped patient, a murderess named Rachel Solando, as a hurricane bears down upon them.

But nothing at Ashecliffe Hospital is what it seems. Is he there to find a missing patient? Or has he been sent to look into rumors of Ashecliffe's radical approach to psychiatry; an approach that may include drug experimentation, hideous surgical trials, and lethal countermoves in the shadow war against Soviet brainwashing ...Or is there another, more personal reason why he has come there?

As the investigation deepens, the questions only mount. The closer Teddy and Chuck get to the truth, the more elusive it becomes, and the more they begin to believe that they may never leave Shutter Island because someone is trying to drive them insane ...

Paranoia and hurricanes in a moody period thriller.Collapse )

Verdict: A psychological suspense novel and thriller, you know right away that bad things are going to happen on Shutter Island, and if the bad things revealed do not really come as a great surprise, the book is still effective at telling its story. I enjoyed it, and would read more by Lehane. 8/10.

My complete list of book reviews.

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