Thursday, September 27, 2012

Slow Train to Arcturus

Rating: 3.5 stars
Length: A sneeze on the long side, but uses space well (432 pages)
Publication: October 7, 2008 from Baen Books
Premise: A crew from the planet Miran has been sent to investigate the enormous spaceship that's headed toward their system. Their scientists have speculated for years about the possibility of parallel intelligent life, so the crew is wildly enthusiastic about communicating with these humans....until the primitive people they've found try to slaughter the whole landing crew. One scientist, Kretz, is injured but escapes through an airlock into the next "bead." He will have to pass through several alien habitats to get to a landing craft near the front of the train, and each one is its own harrowing challenge.
Warnings: attempted rape, offscreen rape or attempted rape of an adolescent (ambiguous sequence), threats of castration
Recommendation: If you're looking for something that's just plain fun and pulpy, give this one a try. It's not going to blow your mind with originality, but it's a good adventure. It's likely worth it in mass market, and lots of libraries tend to stock up on Eric Flint, so give it a whirl. 

Minor spoilers in the red pen section to discuss the attempted rape; steer clear if you're worried about that. I also describe some of the habitats, so if you'd prefer to be surprised by each one, maybe wait and read this afterwards. 

Monday, September 24, 2012


The winter is going to have to pass without more young adult reviews because my schedule has gotten terrifying, but they'll be back next summer once I've rebuilt a buffer and gotten more sleep. As always, feel free to let me know what you want to see on the docket in the next few months.

Rating: 1.5 stars
Length: Briskly meandering (480 pages in trade paperback)
Publication: May 25, 2010 from St. Martin's Griffin
Premise: Nick Gautier has enough to do just dealing with bullies at school and trying not to upset his mother, but when an illegal job with his friends goes wrong, he has to deal with a whole new world. Kyrian, the man who saved him from his friends' attack, has offered him a job. Finding himself accepted by Kyrian's wealthy associates is odd enough...and then the school is suddenly threatened by zombie attacks from living students.
Warnings: Lots of faux-zombie bites, threats to kill brainwashed civilian teenagers, very offscreen past statutory rape
Recommendation: This one....I don't know, it's a fun exercise in honing your trope-spotting abilities, but if I didn't have a blog, I would have sent it packing somewhere around the end of chapter two. It has redeeming qualities, but it gets lost too easily and distributes detail in an odd way.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Better Part of Darkness

The quick and dirty: 
Rating: 3.5 stars
Length: Decently long without dragging (394 pages)
Publication: November 24, 2009 from Pocket Books
Premise: Charlie Madigan is an investigator with the Integration Task Force, a group created to help the Elysians and Charbydons from the magical realms work their way into normal life. Some days the job is quiet, but this time a supernatural drug is going around the streets and has finally struck someone close to Charlie's daughter. Being a divorced mother isn't easy, especially when you're still recovering from being dead, and solving the newest case tests Charlie's already-frayed limits to the breaking point.
Warnings: Abundant blood and gore, occasional sexual harassment vibes
Recommendation: There's enough that's unusual about this one in good ways to make it well worth trying; give it a spin and see if you like the style despite Charlie's absolutely baffling lack of common sense in places.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Warded Man/The Painted Man

The quick and dirty: 
Rating: 2 stars
Length: Respectably long, but mostly uses space well (480 pages) 
Publication: This was released in the UK as The Painted Man on March 8, 2008 from Voyager and in the US as The Warded Man on March 10, 2009 from from Del Rey.
Premise: In a world where humanity fears the night for the demon Corelings that rise from the earth, people sit huddled behind their wards and pray to live until the dawn. Three young people hold the potential to do more, though they will take very different paths to get there. Arlen wants to become a Messenger, one of the men who braves the night between towns and cities to carry important news, but his desire to fight the demons will carry him farther. Leesha forsakes her earliest dreams of family to become a healer, guarding the knowledge of the Herb Gatherers in the hope that it can be used to hurt and cripple the demons. Rojer has one crippled hand and dreads the way people who try to protect him die, but his music can charm or repel the corelings. Together, they may manage to lead the world in another war.
Warnings: attempted rape, offscreen gang rape, incestuous abuse, abundant gore
Recommendation: It' If you're okay with incredibly casual and stupid treatment of rape and don't mind an overly pedestal-perching main character, by all means, don't let me stop you. It's rare for a book this conceptually interesting to annoy me this much. Absolutely get it at a library or on a large sale; this isn't worth paying full price.

The are spoilers down in the red pen section once I start talking about Leesha, partly because I think the "Beautiful Leesha, who has suffered at the hands of men as well as demons" tag on the back of the book is a heavy hint and partly because it's such a badly executed plot twist that I don't care about spoiling it.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment

Rating: 3 stars
Length: Average but snappy (422 pages in trade paperback)
Publication: April 11, 2005 from Headline Books Publishing
Premise: Six genetic experiments, children who had avian DNA grafted into them in the embryo, escaped from the School, the laboratory that created them. Now they're living in isolation and trying to maintain a tenuous family when Angel, the six-year-old among them, is kidnapped and taken back to the School. Maximum Ride and her flock go to rescue their lost member, but venturing back will rip open the wounds of the pasts....and raise more questions.
Warnings: some fairly brutal beatings, children being abused in laboratory experiments
Recommendation: If you're looking for something snappy and don't mind style over substance, you could do a lot worse than this one.