Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mary Gentle "The Black Opera" (2012)

Initially, I was intrigued by the concept.  An alternate history with magical operas?  Awesome.   Unfortunately, some structural problems kept me from enjoying this book as much as I would have liked.
The book opens slowly, with lots of tell don’t show.  I did not find the religion vs science debate(s) compelling.  And as the book continues, the discussion becomes more polemicized & repetitious.  I was reminded of Heinlein, and his characters being obvious mouthpieces for the author, giving long speeches that don’t convert, but rather are more in the vein of “preaching to the choir”.
As the book progressed, there seemed to be a problem with its pacing.  The ultimate denouement seems to be artificially delayed again & again.  By the time the story ended, I was more than ready for its conclusion.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Kevin Hearne "Tricked" (2012)

With “Tricked”, Hearne seems to be back on track.  I felt that by “Hammered”, Hearne had lost the plot.  Our favorite druid seemed to be overpowered, making his problems feel too insignificant.  Much of the humor of the earlier books was lost.  (And I’ll admit it – I’m a fan of Oberon, so less Oberon is a very bad thing for me.)
Hearne seems to have hit the reset button for “Tricked”.  The bad guys are more than capable, pushing Atticus to his limits.  Oberon is back, along with his hilarious conversations & his love for sausages.  And of the various deities in the series, Coyote is one of my favorites.

Kim Stanley Robinson "2312" (2012)

Please note:  This is *not* a plot driven novel.  It is primarily a love story.  You aren’t going to find space battles, aliens/monsters, or lots of adventure & intrigue.  There is a plot, with touches of conspiracy & adventures, but they are of a tertiary importance at best.  The primary focus is on character development, with a surprising & wonderful examination of the natural wonders of our solar system coming in second.
Given all the problems of our age, the genre seems to be more & more focused on dystopian visions of the future.  I found “2312” to be a wonderful optimistic answer to this doom & gloom.  Yes, we have problems, but perhaps they are solvable.  This optimism & overall sense of wonder seemed to be a return to some of the best qualities of golden age science fiction.  I think that in times like these, we need more of this sort of vision.

Daniel Abraham "The King's Blood" (2012)

“The King’s Blood” picks up more or less where we left “The Dragon’s Path”.  The writing style & major POV characters remain the same.
Abraham does a great job with the moral ambiguity of some of these characters.  Because portions are presented from their POV, characters whose actions (& at times motivations) are repugnant become somewhat sympathetic.  I found myself liking the characters even while they did horrible things.
My major complaint is that this book is not enough of a stand alone novel.  I felt that “The Dragon’s Path” reached acceptable levels of plot resolution.  “The King’s Blood”, however, just seems to end.  It’s not that there are cliffhangers, it feels more like Abraham simply decided to stop once he got to a certain page count.  If you are reading this once the next novel in the series has been published, that won’t really be a problem.