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Meet the Murderbot
Posted by Galen
December 16, 2017
4:30pm CST

Martha Wells' All Systems Red is the first in a series known as The Murderbot Diaries. It is another release from the Tor.com novella program, much better than the previous one I read. I am interested in continuing with the story, but I'm not sure I will, the reasons for which I give in the last paragraph of the review.

 


River of Teeth
12/14/17; 12:45pm CST - Galen
Sarah Gailey's River of Teeth is another release from the Tor.com novella program. It already has a sequel, so I'm not sure why it couldn't have been held for a single, novel-length edition. Then again, I got the Kindle version when it was on sale, and after reading I felt I still paid too much. Not recommended, and it's the reason I'm not bothering to add it to the banner announcement above, since I'd be replacing it very soon with another.

 

New York 2140
12/12/17; 10:45pm CST - Galen
Set in the titular year, Kim Stanley Robinson's latest, New York 2140, is more of a character-driven story than I expected, but that is its strength. Recommended.

 

Persepolis Rising
12/7/17; 5:30pm CST - Galen
The seventh novel in the Expanse book series is Persepolis Rising. I could nit-pick a couple of plot points (and I do), but they don't hinder this from being one of the better entries of the series. I'm still a big fan, on board for the ride as long as it lasts.

 

An Unkindness of Ghosts
12/4/17; 9:00pm CST - Galen
In spite of what the title might suggest, Rivers Solomon's debut novel, An Unkindness of Ghosts, is not horror, although horrific events do occur. It transports a society much like the antebellum South onto a generational starship. It is not clear whether the society of a dying Earth was an alternate world in which segregation and slavery still existed (or existed again), or if the society on the ship changed after an accident some 250 years prior to the main action. Based on current political trends, including racial strife, I don't think it matters, either scenario is believable. Recommended.

 

Borne (+ The Strange Bird)
11/30/17; 5:55pm CST - Galen
Jeff VanderMeer's Borne was one of my most anticipated books ever since it was announced, seeing as how I loved the Southern Reach Trilogy. Unfortunately, I didn't like it as much as I expected, although I can't say I'm sorry I read it. The Strange Bird is a companion novella, which I liked more.

 

Hunger Makes the Wolf
11/22/17; 4:25pm CST - Galen
Alex Wells' debut novel, Hunger Makes the Wolf, has been described as "Sons of Anarchy meets Dune." Get ready for biker gang witches battling an evil corporation on a desert mining planet. Hob Ravani ROCKS!

 

Labyrinth Lost
11/18/17; 9:45pm CST - Galen
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova is the first book in a new series, Brooklyn Brujas. It's good, with some familiar elements, but lots of surprises, and great characters going through life-changing events.

 

Worlds of Exile and Illusion
11/12/17; 5:30pm CST - Galen
The first two stories in this collection may actually be novellas by current standards, but all three were originally published separately in paperback, and later collected as Three Hainish Novels, and now as Worlds of Exile and Illusion. While they are worth reading to track Le Guin's career path, they lack the polish of her later award-winning work. Still, even less than brilliant Le Guin is better than a lot of other author's best work.

 

Annals of the Western Shore
10/24/17; 6:00pm CDT - Galen
It's been almost a year since I posted a review of Ursula Le Guin's Powers, which won a Nebula in 2008. At that time I did not have the first two books in the Annals of the Western Shore trilogy, but it was so good I knew I'd get to them eventually, and now I have. I actually think the second book is the best of the group, very close to the best I've read by Le Guin, which is very high praise from me.

 

The Hidden Face
10/20/17; 4:30pm CDT - Galen
The Hidden Face is the second novel from S. C. Flynn. Sadly, I didn't like it as much as I did his first. It's due to be published on Nov. 25, but not listed on Amazon yet, so the link on the review page takes you to a site where you can sign up for a book excerpt, and for notification when the book is available.

 

Autonomous
10/14/17; 3:10pm CDT - Galen
Autonomous is the first novel from Annalee Newitz, co-founder of the genre/tech blog site io9, and currently an editor at ArsTechnica.com. It involves robotics and bio-tech in the mid-22nd Century. It's very good.

 

Blade Runner 2049
10/9/17; 1:50pm CDT - Galen
At this time I am saying that Blade Runner 2049 is almost as good as the original. It will take many more viewings to determine my final rating. Considering I had no interest in a sequel for a long time, that should tell you something. I do recommend it, and it is one best appreciated on the big screen.

 

The Dark Tower
10/6/17; 1:30pm CDT - Galen
The Dark Tower movie is much better than most any review led me to believe. I do recommend it, and since it's probably not in many theaters now, check out the link for the DVD coming October 31.

 

Artemis
10/4/17; 12:00pm CDT - Galen
Andy Weir's second novel, Artemis, is not as good as The Martian, but I suspect it will be successful just from name recognition alone. I don't recommend it though.

 

The Snow Queen
10/1/17; 6:50pm CDT - Galen
Joan Vinge's The Snow Queen won Hugo and Locus awards, and was also a Nebula finalist. This was the first time reading it for me, and I did not like it as much as I'd hoped. It has three sequels, two of which I already have, but I doubt I'll be getting to either of them any time soon.

 

Null States
9/21/17; 12:30pm CDT - Galen
Null States is the second book in Malka Older's Centenal Cycle, which began last year with Infomocracy. I kept the URL on that page the same, giving the new book a sub-header. If you haven't read the review of the first book just scroll to the top of that page, or even if you have, since I've edited it several times.

 

The Speed of Dark
9/14/17; 12:50pm CDT - Galen
Another Nebula winner, this time it's Elizabeth Moon's The Speed of Dark from 2003. It's an interesting, compelling look at the life of an autistic adult in the near future, who has to grapple over the choice of a revolutionary new treatment that might possibly cure his condition, or else remain as he is. Recommended, even though the ending is rushed and unsatisfying.

 

The Healer's War
9/9/17; 6:25pm CDT - Galen
Elizabeth Ann Scarborough's The Healer's War is a harrowing look at the Vietnam War, with a slight fantasy element. It won the Nebula in 1989, and is highly recommended.

 

The Graveyard Book
9/4/17; 6:00pm CDT - Galen
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman won the Hugo in 2009. Sorry, but I can't give it a recommendation. Essentially a fairy tale, which is okay, but without the seriousness the subject deserved.

 

The Beautiful Ones
9/1/17; 10:10pm CDT - Galen
Silvia Moreno-Garcia's The Beautiful Ones is a romance, a novel of manners, but with a twist. The two main characters are telekinetics, although that bit of fantasy only affects the plot toward the very end. I liked it much more than I expected.

 

The Obelisk Gate, Broken Earth #2
8/29/17; 6:45pm CDT - Galen
The Obelisk Gate is this year's winner of the Hugo Award, which marks only the third time an author has won in succeeding years, and the first time it's happened in 25 years. I'm still puzzled by a lot of the story's elements, especially whether or not to consider this science fiction or fantasy. It will take the concluding volume of the trilogy to be sure, but I won't be surprised if I'm still confused then.

 

The Fifth Season (Revised Review)
8/24/17; 9:20pm CDT - Galen
I've just finished a re-read of N. K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season, which won the Hugo last year. I've revised my review, since I liked it a lot more this time around. It's sequel, The Obelisk Gate won this year, although I didn't finish reading it before voting. I think I'll have an easier time getting into it now with the first one fresh in my mind.

 

Slow River
8/19/17; 1:40pm CDT - Galen
Nicola Griffith's Slow River won a Nebula in 1996. It is good and recommened, but with a caveat. It could be traumatic for anyone who has suffered from mental or physical abuse themselves.

 

Iron Fist
8/11/17; 6:55pm CDT - Galen
I've edited the Marvel on Netflix page, adding comments about Season 2 of Daredevil, extra info on Blu-Ray releases, plus Iron Fist, which I haven't watched completely yet, but probably will before The Defenders drops next Friday.

 

2017 Hugo Results
8/11/17; 2:25pm CDT - Galen
I just edited the current Awards page to reflect the winners of this year's Hugos, plus updated various other pages for things that have been reviewed. Last year's novel winner was not my favorite, and I didn't get through its sequel before voting, but now I will have to go back, maybe re-read The Fifth Season, and try The Obelisk Gate again.

 

Stand on Zanzibar
8/10/17; 7:25pm CDT - Galen
I recall liking John Brunner's Hugo winner Stand on Zanzibar when I first read it around 45 years ago. This time...not so much. I think I conflated some memories of it with another of his books read around the same time.

 

Reincarnation Blues
8/4/17; 2:40pm CDT - Galen
Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore is another title I got free from NetGalley in exhange for an honest review. This is his second novel, but I'm pretty sure I hadn't heard of him until recently, when this book was recommended by another writer/reviewer I follow on Facebook. It's a mixed bag, quite a bit of humor, but also insight on being a good person, what perfection might be. Its unpredictability is its greatest asset.

 

The Gunslinger, Dark Tower #1
7/30/17; 5:50pm CDT - Galen
I believe this is the third time I've read Stephen King's The Gunslinger, and I'm not sure why I haven't read any of the others, yet, even though I've had them for many years. One of these days...

 

Timescape
7/25/17; 9:40pm CDT - Galen
Gregory Benford won a Nebula for 1980's Timescape. Probably not that year's best, but still strong in spite of a slow start and a few other flaws.

 

Valerian & the City of a Thousand Planets
7/20/17; 9:45pm CDT - Galen
The latest film from Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) is similar in style, but with many more CGI effects. Spectacular visuals, but not as strong a story for Valerian & the City of a Thousand Planets. Still, I think I'd like to see it again.

 

Now an update on the Expanse book series
7/18/17; 8:50pm CDT - Galen
The latest novella in the long-running Expanse series by James S.A. Corey was released today. It's Strange Dogs.

 

Syfy's The Expanse - Updated for Season 2
7/15/17; 3:35pm CDT - Galen
Blu-Ray & DVD release coming up on Tuesday, so I've updated The Expanse review for Season 2.

 

Two Reviews: Shadowshaper & The Falling Woman
7/11/17; 6:00pm CDT - Galen
The better of the recent books I've read was Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older. There has been one novel and two novellas in the sequence so far, with another novel due out September 12. The other book is one I can check off the award winners project, Pat Murphy's The Falling Woman, the Nebula winner in 1987.

 

The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu
7/8/17; 6:35pm CDT - Galen
As is usually the case, the book is better, but I wouldn't dissuade anyone from watching this adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale, especially if you already have Hulu, or if you've been considering it. It's exclusive to them for now, but there will likely be a DVD/Blu-Ray release in the future. A free trial is available, which should give you enough time to watch the short (10 episode) season.

 

2017 Best Graphic Story Finalists
7/5/17; 5:25pm CDT - Galen
I've already reviewed Ms. Marvel and Saga. Now I take a brief look at the four other finalists for this year's Best Graphic Story Hugo Award. All are good, some better than others of course, but the one thing I felt about all of them is that, since they are all first volumes in a continuing story, it was hard to judge the plot. My final voting preference is listed at the end of the article.

 

Saga
7/2/17; 8:25pm CDT - Galen
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples is a very good graphic story, although maybe not to everyone's taste. It features some violent content, as well as nudity and sexual situations, definitely not a kid's comic, although a couple of the featured characters are children. Volume 1 won a Hugo in 2013, Vols. 2 & 3 were nominated in 2014-15, and this year, Vol. 6 is up for consideration. That's as far as I've read, but one more has been published since then, with another due early next year.

 

Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan
6/22/17; 9:25pm CDT - Galen
Finally got around to some graphic novels. First up, Ms. Marvel, the latest incarnation being Kamala Khan, a sixteen year old Pakistani-American Muslim girl. Volume 1 won a Hugo two years ago, Vol. 5 is up for that award this year. Very good, highly recommended.

 

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter
6/13/17; 7:25pm CDT - Galen
The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter is Theodora Goss' first novel. It's a quick and enjoyable read, but also deals with serious issues, as did the other stories it uses as a basis of a joint narrative. One of the best I've read this year, highly recommended.

 

The Changeling
6/6/17; 2:15pm CDT - Galen
Victor LaValle's The Changeling is a fantastical horror story, continually surprising and unexpected. Recommended.

 

Wonder Woman
6/3/17; 6:15pm CDT - Galen
I'd just about given up on overblown CGI action fests, but Wonder Woman saves the day. Highly recommended.

 

A Closed and Common Orbit
5/26/17; 12:10pm CDT - Galen
Becky Chambers' second novel is a Hugo finalist this year. It's a sequel, but enough of a stand-alone story to appreciate on it's own. I will get around to reading the first book one of these days, so that's why I've given the page the collective name for the series, Wayfarers.

 

Radiate (Lightless #3)
5/22/17; 3:10pm CDT - Galen
If you've read any part of my review on C. A. Higgins' Lightless series, you might share my puzzlement as to why I would bother with the third installment, Radiate. Yeah, I got it free from NetGalley, and I do feel obligated to finish any that I get from them, but this was just as much a struggle as the first two books, if not more so. Not recommended.

 

2016 Nebula Awards
5/21/17; 8:30pm CDT - Galen
Congratulations to Charlie Jane Anders and all the other Nebula winners. I've updated the Awards page with the results announced this evening in Pittsburgh.

 

A Taste of Honey
4/30/17; 7:15pm CDT - Galen
Kai Ashante Wilson has several well reviewed stories over the past few years. His latest novella, A Taste of Honey, is a finalist for both the Nebula and Hugo this year. I review it along with another connected story, "The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps."

 

City of Miracles
4/26/17; 11:30am CDT - Galen
Robert Jackson Bennett's Divine Cities trilogy comes to a grand conclusion with City of Miracles. Just as exciting and unpredictable as before, with lots of action and great characters. I honestly can't say it is better than the previous two, since in retrospect I have to upgrade my rating for them and give the entire trilogy a near perfect 5/5 stars.

 

The Handmaid's Tale
4/19/17; 7:45pm CDT - Galen
Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is likely as relevant now as when it was written in 1985. Perhaps it will always be relevant. Let's hope is remains a cautionary tale for us, although I know there are some countries where it has already come to pass.

 

Grunt Hero
4/16/17; 2:30pm CDT - Galen
Weston Ochse's military SF/alien invasion series, Task Force OMBRA, comes to a conclusion (?) with the third book, Grunt Hero. The whole trilogy is recommended. The "?" reflects the fact that the story's hero, Ben Mason, is alive (and mostly well) at the end, with probably many more adventures ahead of him. Not sure if we'll ever read any of that, or if Ochse has other things in mind for the future.

 

Who Fears Death + The Book of Phoenix
4/9/17; 9:30pm CDT - Galen
Some books are fascinating to read but difficult to review, for me at least. I know I didn't do these justice, but I know I'll re-read them eventually, maybe I'll understand them better the next time. For now, I highly recommend Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death and its prequel, The Book of Phoenix.

 

Hugo & Nebula Finalists
4/5/17; 12:30pm CDT - Galen
I've just edited the Hugo & Nebula Awards page, listing the finalists for this year, along with links to Amazon for all available titles. The 2016 Nebulas will be announced May 20 in Pittsburgh, with the Hugos being presented August 12 in Helsinki, Finland. Please note the use of the term "finalists" this year. There have been problems with some writers promoting themselves as award nominees just because someone had listed them on their nominating ballot, they had never actually been on one of the final ballots, so hopefully this will clear up any confusion in the future.

 

Waking Gods
3/27/17; 1:30pm CDT - Galen
The second book in Sylvain Neuvel's Themis Files, Waking Gods, continues in the same style. Mostly all dialog from recorded interviews, military and personal logs, etc, with no other narrative exposition. It gets a bit tiresome at times, but the story is still intriguing, and if sales are good there will be at least one more book, although not announced yet.

 

Parable of the Talents
3/22/17; 8:20pm CDT - Galen
I've added to the Earthseed review with thoughts on the second book, Parable of the Talents. I did make a few edits to previous comments, so if interested, or if you haven't read that part yet, scroll to the top of that page.

 

Parable of the Sower
3/18/17; 9:30pm CDT - Galen
This is the first book of Earthseed by Octavia E. Butler. It was nominated for a Nebula in 1994. A chilling look at a post-apocalyptic America, but surprisingly it is also hopeful and optimistic. I'll follow up with thoughts on the second book as soon as I can.

 

Lincoln in the Bardo
2/9/17; 6:00pm CST - Galen
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders will likely be embraced more by mainstream critics, simply based on his previous work, but it is borderline fantasy no matter what anyone else says. It's also damn good, highly recommended.

 

In Calabria
2/7/17; 7:20pm CST - Galen
The latest book I got from NetGalley is not as good as the previous one, although for a lot of people I think it might be a pleasurable enough read. In Calabria is the latest fantasy from Peter S. Beagle. It is about unicorns, but not as good as The Last Unicorn in my opinion.

 

The Voices of Martyrs
2/6/17; 9:10pm CST - Galen
The Voices of Martyrs is a story collection from Maurice Broaddus, which covers a wide range of the Black experience, in Africa, America, and elsewhere, and should appeal to anyone who loves intriguing characters and plots. Recommended.

 

Binti
2/1/17; 6:50pm CST - Galen
Last year, Nnedi Okorafor won a Hugo and Nebula in the novella category for Binti. I read it as part of the voting packet provided by MidAmeriCon2. I liked it a lot, and was satisfied with the win, even though it had just been my #2 pick. I recently re-read it, and yesterday the second part of the sequence, Binti: Home, was released, and I review both. Highly recommended.

 

Sleeping Giants
1/30/17; 7:40pm CST - Galen
Another debut novel, and the start of another series. Sylvain Neuvel's Sleeping Giants is the first book of the Themis Files. It's pretty good, and I'm looking forward to the second book.

 

Too Like the Lightning
1/28/17; 1:30pm CST - Galen
This is the first novel by Ada Palmer, in a two book series known as Terra Ignota, which means Unknown Earth. Similar to a utopia, which means "no place." It is good, very ambitious, but it does have its flaws. The second book is out in March.

 

Another trip 'round the sun
1/1/17; 10:30am CST - Galen
Happy New Year, everyone! Starting a new home page, with all of 2016's updates moved to the Archives. It might be a while before I upload the next book review, since I am currently reading as many shorter stories as possible, from the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction on my Kindle, print copies of Asimov's borrowed from my brother-in-law, and scores more bookmarked online. The next review might actually be an update of a previous TV show page. We'll see.

 

 

 

 

 

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