Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Eye on New Releases for June 30, 2015

"Twenty years have elapsed since the events of The Just City. The City, founded by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, organized on the principles espoused in Plato's Republic and populated by people from all eras of human history, has now split into five cities, and low-level armed conflict between them is not unheard-of.
The god Apollo, living (by his own choice) a human life as "Pythias" in the City, his true identity known only to a few, is now married and the father of several children. But a tragic loss causes him to become consumed with the desire for revenge. Being Apollo, he goes handling it in a seemingly rational and systematic way, but it's evident, particularly to his precocious daughter Arete, that he is unhinged with grief.

Along with Arete and several of his sons, plus a boatload of other volunteers--including the now fantastically aged Marsilio Ficino, the great humanist of Renaissance Florence--Pythias/Apollo goes sailing into the mysterious Eastern Mediterranean of pre-antiquity to see what they can find--possibly the man who may have caused his great grief, possibly communities of the earliest people to call themselves "Greek." What Apollo, his daughter, and the rest of the expedition will discover…will change everything."

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review: The Water Knife

The Water Knife
by Paolo Bacigalupi

Format: Hardcover, 375pages
Publisher: Knopf
Cover Art: Oliver Mundy
Release Date: May 26, 2015
ISBN-13: 978-0385352871

Paolo Bacigalupi burst on the scene in 2009 with his debut novel, The Windup Girl.  He had already put out a collection of short fiction, but it was this story of a setting in a world run rampant with genetic engineering of crops, animals, and people, where the dependence on a dwindling supply of oil had led to the collapse of economies and governments that garnered awards and much critical acclaim.  He followed that up with two Young Adult books set in the same world, but different locations; a zombie book for middle schoolers; and Young Adult thriller called The Doubt Factory so The Water Knife is his first adult book in several years.

Compared to The Windup Girl, the world of The Water Knife is set in a future much closer to the present where drought has devastated the Western United States and partially fractured the country.  Lucy is a hard-bitten journalist who fights tooth and nail for her adopted city of Phoenix, Maria is a refugee from the failed state of Texas, and Angel is the titular water knife from Las Vegas, a detective, assassin, and spy for the powerful Southern Nevada Water Authority.  They all come to together in the failing city of Phoenix as a various individuals and interests clash over rumored, near-mythical water rights that could have the power to reshape the entire region.

The book starts off a little preachy at first as it settles into the world-building of the setting, but it becomes less so as the thriller plot gets going.  The political background of water politics is still of vital concern and an important one I think, especially considering how little people in other regions of the world understand the importance of water.  Several times throughout the novel, the book Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner is mentioned almost in terms of idol worship.  However, having read much of the book myself I can say the book is quite an eye-opener detailing keen insight into the history and mindset of water politics in the West.  Given current events like Governor Brown's new regulations in the face of California's exceptional drought, The Water Knife feels even more timely.

The Water Knife is a engrossing and compelling near-future thriller.  It also feels more pessimistic than Bacigalupi's earlier works, perhaps because being set a closer future with known politics, it feels like a possible future that could happen very easily.  And perhaps for that reason it's all the more reason to read it.

Rating: 8.5/10.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Review: mini-reviews for The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet, Wild Cards 11, Nemesis Games, and The Goblin Emperor

 Vandana Singh first came to my attention with her short story, Infinities, in Tor's anthology, Twenty-first Century Science Fiction.  It's quite a good story with a bit about math set in India, which then led me to this collection by a feminist India publishing house.  While a few stories in this collection have a more fantastical and realism bent, the rest are more grounded in science fiction and often have a strong Indian and Asian feel.  I'm glad to have found a new author that does something outside the norm for speculative fiction. 

Rating: 8/10.
Wild Cards 10 did not work for me at all, despite being written by Melinda Snodgrass who can usually be counted on to give a good story.  So after #10, 11 was a bit of a relief.  This one is back on Earth finishing off the plots featuring the jumpers, Bloat, and the Rox as they face off against aces and the US military.  While it's a straightforward and entertaining story, it does suffer from a lack of plot and has a fair bit of padding.  Nevertheless, it's good to finish off the stories and I'll soon be ready to move on to the next in the series.

Rating: 7/10.

 I have a few conflicting feelings about the fifth book in the Expanse series.  It starts off very slowly with the ship in repairs and the crew splitting off getting their own POV chapters.  This part felt very contrived to me.  However, once it gets going, it goes and gives the readers some major sucker punches worthy of George R.R. Martin to the mind and soul.  Then it slows down again at the end and finishes almost with a whimper.  So a wham-bam middle bookended by slow starts and finishes, Nemesis Games is still another compelling entry in the series and I'm looking forward to the next.

Rating: 8/10.
I wasn't planning to read this one.  But I got the whole book in the Hugo reading packet and I was planning to try all the Hugo nominees this year so I gave it a try.  It's fairly average feel-good political story about a nobody and nice guy who becomes emperor and does a good job at it.  However, despite the rave reviews about it, I didn't find anything particularly good about it, nor anything particularly new about the story.  It's been billed quite often as the antithesis to recent surge in "grimdark" and my feeling is why is such a thing needed?  There is enough stuff being published in speculative fiction these days that a reader shouldn't feel overwhelmed by "grimdark".  And it's hardly the first feel-good story about a nice guy so I'm a little baffled by this one.

Rating: 7/10.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Eye on New Releases for June 9, 2015

"A vast conflict, one that has encompassed hundreds of worlds and solar systems, appears to be finally at an end. A conscripted soldier is beginning to consider her life after the war and the family she has left behind. But for Scur—and for humanity—peace is not to be. 
On the brink of the ceasefire, Scur is captured by a renegade war criminal, and left for dead in the ruins of a bunker. She revives aboard a prisoner transport vessel. Something has gone terribly wrong with the ship.

Passengers—combatants from both sides of the war—are waking up from hibernation far too soon. Their memories, embedded in bullets, are the only links to a world which is no longer recognizable. And Scur will be reacquainted with her old enemy, but with much higher stakes than just her own life."

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Eye on New Releases for June 2, 2015

"A thousand worlds have opened, and the greatest land rush in human history has begun. As wave after wave of colonists leave, the power structures of the old solar system begin to buckle.

Ships are disappearing without a trace. Private armies are being secretly formed. The sole remaining protomolecule sample is stolen. Terrorist attacks previously considered impossible bring the inner planets to their knees. The sins of the past are returning to exact a terrible price.

And as a new human order is struggling to be born in blood and fire, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante must struggle to survive and get back to the only home they have left."

(B&N, Amazon)

"At the darkest hour, when all hope is lost, a hero is born.  When Brann is wrenched from his family home after witnessing its destruction and the death of those he holds dear, he is thrust into a life of slavery.  Miles away, a deposed and forgotten Emperor seeks an instrument to use in his bid to rise once again to power. Ruthless and determined, nothing and no one will stand in his way.
Brann might be the Emperor’s tool, but heroes can be forged in the most unlikely of ways…"