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Book Review: Nightwise, by R.S. Belcher

A grimdark modern sorcerer fights grimdark villains grimdarkly in this grimdark urban fantasy.


Tor, 2015, 320 pages

In the more shadowy corners of the world, frequented by angels and demons and everything in between, Laytham Ballard is a legend. It's said he raised the dead at the age of 10, stole the Philosopher's Stone in Vegas back in 1999, and survived the bloodsucking kiss of the Mosquito Queen. Wise in the hidden ways of the night, he's also a cynical bastard who stopped thinking of himself as the good guy a long time ago.

Now a promise to a dying friend has Ballard on the trail of an escaped Serbian war criminal with friends in both high and low places - and a sinister history of blood sacrifices. Ballard is hell-bent on making Dusan Slorzack pay for his numerous atrocities, but Slorzack seems to have literally dropped off the face of the Earth, beyond the reach of his enemies, the Illuminati, and maybe even the devil himself. To find Slorzack, Ballard must follow a winding, treacherous path that stretches from Wall Street and Washington, DC, to backwoods hollows and truck stops while risking what's left of his very soul....

It"s like Harry Dresden but sooooooo DAAAAAAAAARK MAAAAAAAN!!!!Collapse )

Book Review: Strip Tease, by Carl Hiaasen

A dancer at a strip club becomes the unwilling nexus of a scandal that endangers her life.

Strip Tease

Pan, 1993, 405 pages

No matter what you heard or thought about the movie version of Strip Tease, forget it. Film simply can’t catch the layers of humor, satire, and imagination that author Carl Hiaasen creates in each of his novels.

When a deranged Florida congressman falls for a gorgeous but virtuous stripper, he dedicates himself to pursuing this tasselled princess. Not only is she a real beauty, she’s a damsel in distress. The effects of his quest will ripple through the spotlights of the strip joint, the sugar cane fields of south Florida, and some powerful political careers.

Fueled by innocent lust and dizzy miscalculations, this story will keep you howling with surprise. George Wilson’s colorful narration is the perfect vehicle for Carl Hiaasen’s twisted fairy tale.

Sugar, snakes, strippers, and lust-crazed Congressmen.Collapse )

Verdict: A clever, funny novel that is less sexy but much, much better than the movie. Strip Tease isn't just a humorous tale about a stripper up against corrupt politicians and sugar magnates; it's also humanitarian and satirical and makes me think Hiaasen writes with shades of Vonnegut. 8/10.

Also by Carl Hiaasen: My reviews of Nature Girl and Double Whammy.

My complete list of book reviews.
A do-gooder lawyer tries to get a spoiled rich kid off of death row.

The Price of Justice

Thomas & Mercer, 2015, 271 pages

Seven years ago, Winston Melton was on top of the world: a privileged kid fresh off his first semester at Princeton. Life was perfect - until he was accused of the rape and murder of an ex-girlfriend. Years after his conviction, another death-row inmate has come forward with an 11th-hour confession, casting Win's conviction in a new light. But with the ink drying on his death sentence, time is running short.

Win's grandmother, the family matriarch, has her eyes set on one of the Help Innocent Prisoners Project's defense lawyers: Dani Trumball, and her reputation for results, no matter the cost. Dani, concerned she is being bought, initially refuses but eventually takes the case.

Soon, Dani can sense that something's off, both with Win's conviction and the new confession. But seven years after the incident, is there still a chance of uncovering the truth?

Predictable twists and telegraphed motives.Collapse )

My complete list of book reviews.


Book Review: Dark Intelligence, by Neal Asher

A space opera full of genocide, mayhem, and vengeance.

Dark Intelligence

Night Shade Books, 2015, 416 pages

One man will transcend death to seek vengeance. One woman will transform herself to gain power. And no one will emerge unscathed....

Thorvald Spear wakes in a hospital to find he's been brought back from the dead. What's more, he died in a human vs. alien war that ended a century ago. Spear had been trapped on a world surrounded by hostile Prador forces, but Penny Royal, the AI inside the rescue ship sent to provide backup, turned rogue, annihilating friendly forces in a frenzy of destruction and killing Spear. One hundred years later the AI is still on the loose, and Spear vows for revenge at any cost.

Isobel Satomi ran a successful crime syndicate, but after competitors attacked she needed power and protection. Negotiating with Penny Royal, she got more than she bargained for: Turning part-AI herself gave Isobel frightening power, but the upgrades hid a horrifying secret, and the dark AI triggered a transformation that has been turning her into something far from human….

Spear hires Isobel to track Penny Royal across worlds to its last known whereabouts. But he cheats her in the process and quickly finds himself in her crosshairs. As Isobel continues to evolve into a monstrous predator, it's clear her rage will eventually win out over reason. Will Spear finish his hunt before he himself becomes the hunted?

Dark Intelligence is the explosive first novel in a brand new trilogy from military SF master Neal Asher and a new chapter in his epic Polity universe.

Genocidal alien crabs, cryptically sinister AIs, and a protagonist named Thorvald SpearCollapse )

My complete list of book reviews.
A family of wisecracking polymaths take a rocket ship to Mars and beyond.

The Rolling Stones

Charles Scribner, 1952, 276 pages

One of Heinlein's best-loved works, The Rolling Stones follows the rollicking adventures of the Stone family as they tour the solar system.

It doesn't seem likely for twins to have the same middle name. Even so, it's clear that Castor and Pollux Stone both have "Trouble" written in that spot on their birth certificates. Of course, anyone who's met their grandmother Hazel would know they came by it honestly.

Join the Stone twins as they connive, cajole, and bamboozle their way across the solar system in the company of the most high-spirited and hilarious family in all of science fiction.... It all starts when the twins decide that life on the lunar colony is too dull and buy their own spaceship to go into business for themselves. Before long they are headed for the furthest reaches of the stars, with stops on Mars, some asteroids, Titan, and beyond.

This lighthearted tale has some of Heinlein's sassiest dialogue - not to mention the famous flat cats incident. Oddly enough, it's also a true example of real family values, for when you're a Stone, your family is your highest priority.

Golden Age SF that shows its age.Collapse )

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

My complete list of book reviews.

Book Review: Maelstrom, by Taylor Anderson

The third book in the Destroyermen series continues the alt-Earth war.


Roc, 2009, 400 pages

Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy, along with the men and women of the U.S.S. Walker, are once again at war. Having sided with the peaceful Lemurians against the savage, reptilian Grik, they now find themselves scrambling to prepare for the attack that is sure to come, searching for resources to support their forces - even as they look for allies to join their struggle.

Meanwhile, the Japanese juggernaut Amagi, also trapped in this strange world, is under Grik control---with her fanatical commander approaching madness. And soon they will have amassed a force that no amount of firepower and technology will be able to stop.As the raging conflict approaches, Reddy, his crew, his allies, and his loved ones face annihilation. But if there is one thing they have learned about their new world, it is that hope - and help - may be just over the horizon.

Still a swashbuckler of a book, but three books in and the war has barely begun.Collapse )

Also by Taylor Anderson: My reviews of Into the Storm and Crusade.

My complete list of book reviews.
A hard-boiled detective story about gangsters, rich people, dames, drunks, adulterers, and writers.

The Long Goodbye

Vintage Crime, 1953, 379 pages

Down-and-out drunk Terry Lennox has a problem: his millionaire wife is dead and he needs to get out of LA fast. So he turns to his only friend in the world: Philip Marlowe, Private Investigator. He's willing to help a man down on his luck, but later, Lennox commits suicide in Mexico and things start to turn nasty.

Marlowe finds himself drawn into a sordid crowd of adulterers and alcoholics in LA's Idle Valley, where the rich are suffering one big suntanned hangover. Marlowe is sure Lennox didn't kill his wife, but how many more stiffs will turn up before he gets to the truth?

Philip Marlowe learns the rich are not like us.Collapse )

Verdict: A classic detective story that holds up well if you liked hard-boiled noir. Few writers have really improved on the classics of the genre, and Raymond Chandler is fun to read, as Philip Marlowe hobnobs with the rich and crazy and spars verbally with cops and gangsters. The Long Goodbye is a good introduction to the character even if it isn't the first in the series. 9/10.

My complete list of book reviews.

AQATWA: So I wrote

A little. Not much, and it's literally been so long since I actually opened the document that it took me a while to remember where I was in the story. Yeah, I have been that blocked/distracted.

But I wrote a little bit, and I'm going to try to write some more. Small steps...

Book Review: NOS4A2, by Joe Hill

A crazy psychic child-abductor vs. a crazy psychic biker chick.


William Morrow, 2013, 686 pages

Victoria McQueen has an uncanny knack for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. When she rides her bicycle over the rickety old covered bridge in the woods near her house, she always emerges in the places she needs to be. Vic doesn't tell anyone about her unusual ability, because she knows no one will believe her. She has trouble understanding it herself.

Charles Talent Manx has a gift of his own. He likes to take children for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the vanity plate NOS4A2. In the Wraith, he and his innocent guests can slip out of the everyday world and onto hidden roads that lead to an astonishing playground of amusements he calls Christmasland. Mile by mile, the journey across the highway of Charlie's twisted imagination transforms his precious passengers, leaving them as terrifying and unstoppable as their benefactor.

And then comes the day when Vic goes looking for trouble...and finds her way, inevitably, to Charlie.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, the only kid ever to escape Charlie's unmitigated evil is all grown up and desperate to forget.

But Charlie Manx hasn't stopped thinking about the exceptional Victoria McQueen. On the road again, he won't slow down until he's taken his revenge. He's after something very special - something Vic can never replace.

As a life-and-death battle of wills builds her magic pitted against his - Vic McQueen prepares to destroy Charlie once and for all...or die trying....

Joe Hill really is a chip off the old block.Collapse )

My complete list of book reviews.

Star Wars

Didn't suck. Was not great. I liked it, but it wouldn't become a blockbuster, or a classic, without 35 years of nostalgia and hype behind it. JJ Abrams does epic eye-candy well, and he's better at characterization than George Lucas (but who isn't?), but there wasn't a damn thing original in this film. It took no risks, did nothing new, and thus it's hard to see it as anything other than a cynical merchandising machine.

As a snobby serious science fiction fan, I have always been willing to suspend my disbelief for cinematic sci-fi, but Star Wars still has to offend with egregious stupidity. The first Death Star really made no sense, and a super-duper Death Star makes even less sense. Who the hell builds these things? Where did the "First Order" get the income to build planet-sized war machines when the Empire has fallen apart? So the Republic remains a useless collection of idealists who sit around drinking martinis until their planets are blown up, while a new Empire just pops up and is capable of wiping them off the map? What is the Rebellion rebelling against if the Republic is supposed to be the legitimate government now? The politics and economy are as incoherent as the science.

These are the things that bug me, not Kylo Ren's stupid cross-guard light saber or his being p0wned by two novices in a duel.

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