Thursday, October 09, 2014

REVIEW: A Crack in Everything

Title: A Crack in Everything
Author: Ruth Frances Long
Genre: fantasy
Price: $8.97 (ebook) / $8.55 (paperback)
Publisher: The O’Brien Press
ISBN:  978-1-84717-635-6
Point of Sale: publisher’s website Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

I recently attended Shamrokon, the 2014 European SF convention, held in Dublin Ireland.  While I was there, Ruth Frances Long held a launch party for her novel A Crack in Everything.  Unfortunately for her, most people attending were just interested in the cupcakes, but she did sell me a copy of her book.  I’ve finished that book and greatly enjoyed it.

Isabel “Izzy” Gregory is a typical Irish teenager, living in Dundrum, a southern suburb of Dublin.  She does have a minor problem with electronics – it’s not infrequent that she touches an electronic device and it explodes – but other than that she’s solidly normal.  Or so she thinks.  While out and about in downtown Dublin, Izzy comes across an angel, a fae, and discovers that there’s a whole other city – Dubh Linn –interweaved into the city that humans see.  Izzy also discovers that some of the stories she was told as a child are real, and other concepts, such as angels being good, are not entirely accurate.

The story then becomes one of Izzy trying to figure out how to survive and use powers she didn’t know she had, while the fae Jinx, a werewolf-like being, has to figure out how to deal with Izzy and the various backroom deals and double-crosses of his world.  I have to admit I had a problem keeping all the various non-humans straight, which I think was in part intentional.

Dublin, the real city, plays a key supporting role in the story, and at several points I found myself digging out my tourist map of the city to see where the events were happening.  Having seen the city and then reading the book greatly improved my overall experience, but I think it would be enjoyable even if you never get to Dublin.

I highly recommend A Crack in Everything.  O’Brien is an Irish publisher, so my best recommendation for US purchasers is to buy direct from the publisher.  It appears to be the only way to get the ebook, while Amazon can get you the paperback.

8/10

Thursday, October 02, 2014

REVIEW: The Queen's Librarian

Title: The Queen's Librarian
Author: Carole Cummings
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $6.99 (ebook)
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Psyche Skinner

In a feudal fantasy world, Lucas is living a life full of responsibilities.  For his unmarried sisters, his spend thrift mother, his tenants who are facing a poor harvest... but on the up side he has the support of his devastatingly handsome boyfriend Alex and his cousin is the Queen.

Lucas get sucked into a magical mystery full of adventure, flirting, intrgue, humor and cute animals.  I enjoyed the characters, the elements of farce, and the world building.  And then at the end the whole thing suddenly fell flat.

Why?  because I suddenly realized that while no doubt funny, handsome, charming, and overwhelmingly nice, our hero Lucas never really did anything to bring things to a satisfying conclusion--although he certainly took a lot of credit for it. I realized that Mary-Sue-ness of it had been gradually building up and ultimately killed my enjoyment of the story.

6/10 for being full of many other great ingredients.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

REVIEW: Memento Mori

Title: Memento Mori   
Author: Katy O’Dowd
Genre: steampunk
Price: $3.99 (ebook) / $11.69 (paperback)
Publisher: Untold Press
ISBN:  978-0692022351
Point of Sale: Amazon  
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

The back-cover blurb for this book talks about taking a walk with the Victorian English Mafia.  I have to say, I wish I had read that first, because I found myself wasting sympathy on the death of an English crime lord in Chapter 1.  I eventually caught on, although in fairness to the author, I was supposed to find Mr. Lamb sympathetic. 

Memento Mori is a difficult book to categorize.  I’ve ended up listing it as “steampunk” but even that’s a bit unfair.  There’s nothing in the book that’s not solidly within Victorian technologies.  However, its sensibilities are distinctly non-Victorian, featuring a female Irish assassin, O’Murtagh, working on behalf of a young woman, Carmine Fox.  O’Murtagh is given a list of enemies to kill by Fox, and she goes to work, rather gleefully (and fairly realistically) killing a collection of Victorian stuffed shirts – all affiliated with the Lamb family.  The Lambs prove ill-named, being more wolves than sheep.

Various bloody complications ensue, including a convenient discovery by O’Murtagh, and an extended visit to London’s famous Bedlam mental hospital.  (Your Reviewer recently visited there, as it is now the site of the Imperial War Museum.  Any irony on putting a war museum on the grounds of a lunatic asylum is purely intentional.) 

I found the story and writing well-done, and the characters well-realized.  I did have a bit of an issue – too much of the plot hinges on the idea that when Victorians engaged in mourning, they did not manage their businesses for a year and a day.  Although that may be true, I found that hard to swallow, especially for a crime family that may not be fully “respectable.” 


At any rate, I quite enjoyed Memento Mori.

8/10

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review: Raygun Chronicles

Title: Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera for a New Age
Editor: Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Genre: science fiction / space opera
Price: $29.95 (hardcover) $17.95 (trade paperback) $6.99 (ebook)
Publisher: Every Day Publications
ISBN: 978-0-9881257-5-9
Point of Sale: various retailers via publisher's website
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib


I have to admit, when I was handed a copy of Raygun Chronicles, I was a bit daunted.  At 360 pages, the book would appear to make a fine doorstop.  Usually in such a broad anthology, I only end up finishing half the stories.  Not so with Raygun – I finished and enjoyed every single one!

Raygun Chronicles is the brainchild of Bryan Thomas Schmidt, and is an outgrowth of his now-defunct webzine Raygun Revival.  Basically, the book is a “best of” anthology with a few original stories added.  Since I hadn’t heard of Raygun Revival, everything in the book was new to me, and as I said above, really very good.

In general, what I liked about the stories was the characters.  In the serious stories (the bulk of the book) the characters were realistic and I found myself caring about them.  In the four humorous stories, the characters were just enough “off” to be believable in the context of the story.  Some specific stories that stood out for me:

Frontier ABCs: The Life and times of Charity Smith, Schoolteacher by Seanan McGuire: The lead-off story, this is a Firefly-inspired tale of a schoolteacher one should not trifle with.  It’s set in our Solar System, with the bulk of the action taking place on a terraformed Ganymede.

Rick the Robber Baron by Kristine Kathryn Rusch:  This was an interesting story in which the female lead starts by being tied to a wooden post on her own ship.  To make matters worse, the person who did the tying was somebody who had had a fling with our heroine.  It’s complicated, to say the least, but enjoyable.

Sword of Saladin by Michael S. Roberts:  In this tale an enemy tells the captain of the Earth battlecruiser Himalaya that she should have sex with herself.  She thinks that’s a fine idea – on the bridge of his ship!

Holly Defiant by Brenda Cooper:  The titular character is one heck of a singer.  She also appears to be the target of some evil men, and our narrator decides to help.  There are several turns in this tale, none of which I saw coming.

The Slavers of Ruhn by Rob Mancebo:  This is another Firefly-inspired story, in which a woman’s dress proves critical to saving the day.

The Heiress of Air by Allen M. Steele: A rich young woman is kidnapped, and our daring band goes forth to save her.  Again, things are not what they seem.

9/10

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Title: Lex Talionis      
Genre: science fiction / space opera
Price: $6.95 (ebook) / $14.35 (paperback)
Publisher: Dragonwell Publications
ISBN: 978-1940076126
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib


One of the authors I follow, Tobias Buckell, recommended Lex Talionis on his blog.  The author, R. S. A. Garcia, is, like Buckell, from the Caribbean.  In her case, she still lives in the region on the island of Trinidad.  I decided to take Toby’s recommendation, and I’m glad I did.  The book opens on a spaceship where a badly wounded man is desperately trying to get to the bridge, and has to avoid the thing that’s killed all of his fellow crewmembers.  We then cut to an alien city where a human merchant discovers another human in the gutter being attacked by a local alien.

The story then races off from there, and becomes a mystery.  The human in the gutter is a woman, a soldier, genetically engineered and suffering from amnesia.  The man on the spaceship reveals his secrets more slowly, but he proves to be less than sympathetic.  The world created by Garcia is less than friendly, and has many problems.  It’s also a place where humans are by no means the top species in the universe.

I have to say I found Lex Talionis an engrossing read.  Figuring out who did what and why was interesting.  I found the characters well-developed and believable.  I did have a bit of a problem with the structure of the novel, in that there were multiple flashbacks and other jumps in time, but I was able to sort out where and when with no real problem.  Highly recommended.


9/10