Thursday, May 31, 2012

Downbelow Station

It's time for another fifth Thursday review, this relic courtesy of a friend who's been pestering me to read this author for months now. I read Cherryh's Faded Sun trilogy years ago and vaguely remembered enjoying it, so I gave this one a spin and ended up enjoying it quite a bit.

The quick and dirty: 
Rating: 3.5 stars
Length: Surprisingly long and intricate for the pagecount (432 pages)
Publication: 1981 from Daw Books
Premise: The station of Pell stands in neutral territory between the Earth-based Company Fleet and the Union, which has taken over the outermost stars. The two sides are at war, but the Company Fleet is run by Mazian, who long ago stopped taking orders from Earth and is willing to resort to desperate measures to hold the Union back. The people of Pell and the planet below are caught in the middle, forced to take in refugees and pass on supplies, and there is no guarantee that they can preserve their neutrality, or their lives.
Warnings: implied offscreen sexual assault
Recommendation: If you're partial to intricate worldbuilding, particularly with plenty of politics mixed in, give this one a try. It does move a little slowly, though, so don't go into it expecting standard space opera. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Lost Fleet: Dauntless

The quick and dirty: 
Rating: 4 stars
Length: Slim and snappy (293 pages)
Publication: June 27, 2006 from Ace Books
Premise: The Alliance has been at war with the Syndics for nearly a century, and their desperate mission is turning into a failure when they find Black Jack Geary, a legendary war hero who they thought had died, in a frozen survival pod. His temporary command of the fleet during negotiations becomes permanent when the discussions go south, much to his dismay. Tired and worn, John Geary faces threats from the Syndics, from his own fleet, and from the gaps in his own knowledge about how and why the war has spiraled in the way it has. He has to try to get the fleet back home without dying on the way...and find out how to live up the reputation of the greatest war hero in Alliance history.
Warnings: For all the grimness, the worst this book gets is discussing concerns about killing enemy prisoners and some off-screen deaths on other spaceships.
Recommendation: If you're into science fiction, space opera, or military fiction at all, check this one out. My largest complaint was that it felt like it ended too quickly, and the rest of the series is on my list of popcorn reading. The book is intelligently written but also compact and delightfully easy to follow.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Red Hot Fury

This one was high on my list of anticipated fun when I made up the stack for the next month; Furies are some of my favorite mythological creatures, and I've seen them done right in fantasy more than once before. My disappointment here introduces what's going to be a common theme on this blog: if you show me something I'm excited to read and execute it poorly, it's so much worse than just writing a mediocre book.

The quick and dirty: 
Rating: 2 stars
Length: Moderate but dragging (341 pages)
Publication: June 29, 2010 from Ace Books
Premise: Marissa Holloway, a member of the Sisterhood of Furies, is called in to a murder scene to examine a body. At first glance, it appears to be a fellow Fury: specifically, her best friend, who has been missing for three years. But things are more complicated than they seem; when Marissa is suspended from her police duties, she's forced to seek help from Scott Murphy, the former lover who betrayed her years ago. They and their allies have to combat old tensions to continue the investigation, and each step leaves them less certain about who they can trust.
Warnings: References to past serial rapes and forced impregnation, only non-graphic combat and a mild consensual sex scene in the present. 
Recommendation: Unless you have a deep attachment to mythology manifesting in the present day, give this one a miss. The author's worldbuilding makes me hope that she'll write a better series in the future, but this one is just grating to read in places, and by "places" I mean about three-quarters of the book. I read it, and you really don't have to. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Year of Our War

The quick and dirty: 
Rating: 3.5 stars
Length: A touch long but speedy nonetheless (400 pages)
Publication: February 1, 2005 from Eos Books
Premise: Jant Comet is a member of the Emperor's Circle, one of the chosen fifty who cannot die. He is the only person in the Empire who can fly, and he uses that talent as Messenger to relay everything from diplomatic concerns to battle orders in the war against the Insects who constantly threaten to expand the sterile Paperlands throughout the Empire. When the heroic King Dunlin of Rachiswater dies in battle, his younger brother's cowardice starts to pull the delicate structure of the Empire to the edge of destruction.
Warnings: Sex with very dubious consent in the backstory, sexual harassment, a few sequences of intense gore, and graphic depiction of needle-based drug use and side effects
Recommendation: Give this one a try just for the sake of all the unusual flavors of fantastical oddness that it pulls together. None of the characters are loveable, but the world they inhabit stands as a character in its own right. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Except the Queen

The quick and dirty: 
Rating: 3 stars
Length: Solid but quick (384 pages)
Publication: February 2, 2010 from Roc Books
Summary: The sisters Serana and Meteora live in the Greenwood with careless ease until they see the deadly Queen with a mortal lover and accidentally let the fact slip to others. The sisters are banished to the mortal world, transformed into middle-aged women, and trapped in different cities. Each sister encounters a troubled young adult touched with the scent of magic and tries to root out their secrets. As they exchange letters and experiences about the mortal world, the dangers of the UnSeelie Court draw ever closer on all sides. Every character hides a different agenda, and one false step can easily spell disaster.
Warnings: Two instances of attempted rape and murder, not graphic; one is against a child. Some of the tattooing scenes have a non-consensual eroticism that reads as....drugged sexual/magical assault, perhaps, though the tattoo artist isn't actually touching them much.
Recommendation: If you like your modern-day fantasy laced with humor and an echo of an older world, this might well be for you, though if you demand that everything be explained properly then you'll be better off looking elsewhere.