Sunday, August 23, 2009

Space Magic

Space Magic by David D. Levine is a collection of science fiction and fantasy short stories. Some of stories might even tip over into the horror genre (just a bit.) Of the 15 stories in this collection there isn't one I can say that I hated. There were some, like "Brotherhood" that I didn't really get into. I have the feeling I've read "Tk'Tk'Tk" before. I been trying to figure out why a story about a salesman on an alien world seems so familiar but so far I've got nothing.

All of the stories are well written. It's easy to fall into the different worlds Levine has created in each story. More than once I ended up thinking "cool" as I finished a story. I think my favorite might be "Charlie the Purple Giraffe Was Acting Strangely." I'll admit the "cuteness" factor of purple giraffes and orange squirrels is quite high and the end might be a little predictable but it is a fun story.

Another favorite is "Zauberschrift" about a man who gave up studying to be a wizard must go back and save a village from a spell gone wrong. My least favorite story would have to be "I Hold My Father's Paws" where the main character's father has decided to change species.

I think writing short stories is more difficult than writing novels. A author has so little time to explain his world in a short story. The background of the story has to be established right away. The reader has to be sucked in to a new world with very little information. Space Magic is filled with stories that will suck you in before you know it.

Buy Space Magic

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Acheron

Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon is the 12th book in her Dark-Hunter vampire series. It is a stand alone book that goes into the history of a character in other novels. Much like The Vampire Armand in Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles.

Acheron is the son of two Atlantian gods. The Fates have prophesied that the child would destroy them all if it was permitted to live so his father orders the child killed. His mother rips Acheron out of her womb and has her niece put him in the belly of a pregnant queen in Greece. She has their life forces tied together so that if her baby died so would the prince. The Greek king disowns him because he has silver eyes. Acheron is sent to the king's brother in Atlantis.

Somewhere in this Acheron is cursed and becomes irresistible to practically everyone. The uncle soon forces himself on the boy. After that his is rented to anyone willing to pay the price. Next comes 400+ pages of abuse, torment and pain.

I got a little bored with it. Yes Acheron has a very good reason not to trust anyone. And it goes to show that good intentions can backfire badly. But 467 pages? I'm sure got the point by page 200.

The second half of the book shows us Acheron as he is 11, 000 years later. One would think that a fair amount of ennui would have set in but he has a mission. He trains Dark-Hunters. On a personal side he must keep all his secrets hidden in Atlantis. When a female archeologist tries to present her proof that Atlantis existed he must discredit her.

The next few chapters read like a romance novel. He likes her and is sure she'd never like him. She keeps imagining him naked but is sure he'll never like her. SIGH. Fortunately things pick up when unknown forces are looking for an artifact she's brought up from the ocean floor. Oh, and they want to kill her.

Other than the first section dragging on, this book is a good read. It may even tempt me into trying one of the other 11 books in this series.

Buy Acheron (Dark-Hunter, Book 12)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Jumper

In Jumper by Steven Gould, David Rice is a 17 year old living with an abusive father. To escape from a beating he "jumps" to his favorite hideaway. Realizing that this new found ability is his chance to really escape, David runs away to New York. Things don't turn out as he planned because he has no ID and therefore no job. He decides the only thing to do is rob a bank (oh come on - you know you'd do it too.)

Living is pretty easy until he stops his neighbor from beating his wife to death by jumping him to Central Park. It's Davy's bad luck that the abuser is a NYC cop. He finds a series of safe places, each more remote than the last, where he can live without being seen. His next job is to find the mother who left him six years before. The two reconnect but before they can really get to know each other the mother is killed by a highjacker.

Davy decides to find the man who killed his mother. His search brings him to the attention of the NSA. They want to use his abilities (of course) but he refuses at first. It is only after they kidnap his girlfriend, Millie, that he decides to come to some kind of arrangement he can live with.

I enjoyed this book. I'm glad that Gould didn't spend a lot of time with Davy researching how his teleportation was possible. He's more interested in knowing if there are other like him out there. The first part of the book was a little slow but it serves to build up a character that the reader can like. The search for the terrorist is a little bit drawn out because of a constraint Gould put on Davy's ability (you'll have to read it if you want to know.)

My favorite line in the book comes from Davy just before he jumps in full view of an NSA agent, "We mean your world no harm."

Jumper was the basis for a movie but the only thing they have in common is the character named David, his abusive father and the fact that he can jump. I found the plot summery online:

David is a Jumper who can teleport himself anywhere in the world, which creates a fun and exciting life. But things turn deadly when David finds himself pursued by a secret organization sworn to kill Jumpers. Forming an uneasy alliance with another Jumper he becomes a player in a war that has been raging for thousands of years.

A lot of reviews seem to think the movie version is like the TV series Highlander.

There is also a sequel titled Reflex in which Millie finds out that she can jump too.

Buy Jumper: A Novel

Buy Jumper (the movie)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Nightingale's Lament

There are two words I never thought about putting together: fantasy and noir. There isn't any other way to describe Nightingale's Lament by Simon R. Green. While this is the first book I've read by Green, it is the third in his Nightside series. Nightside is like a magical world hidden inside London. It's always 3 AM there. It is inhabited by all kinds of things that can kill you so it's good to have a sense of humor.

Green's protagonist John Taylor is a private investigator with a reputation for being tough (natch) and a talent for finding people. The problem with using his talent is that it lets his enemies know where he is. He's got a lot of enemies. He's a good guy but somehow his cases always seem to go pear shaped before he through.

John is hiding out after one such fiasco (in which he did the moral thing but caused a lot of problems) when a man asks him to find out what's going on to his daughter. She's a singer by the name of Rossignol. She's very popular with the Goth crowd. All that angst has caused people to kill themselves. John knows that there has to be magic involved but he can't find it.

Nightingale's Lament has a good story and interesting characters. I found myself chuckling quite a bit at things like the funeral home whose motto is: It's YOUR Funeral. I picked this book up because the cover blurb was from Jim Butcher who writes a series pseudo-noir mysteries about a wizard named Harry. If a writer you like thinks a book is great you should definitely give it a try. I can't wait to read the other eight books in the series.

Buy Nightingale's Lament (Nightside, Book 3)

Promises in Death

The 29th Eve Dallas novel begins with the murder of Detective Amaryllis Coltraine. This murder is personal for Dallas because Coltraine is the girlfriend of the Medical Examiner Li Morris who is not only a colleague but a friend. Someone took out a cop. To add insult to injury they killed her with her own weapon.

Dallas promises Morris that she will get justice for Amaryllis. Right off she suspects the killer is someone the victim knows. Morris is in the clear. Coltraine's squad mates are not. Just as she starts looking at those cops Dallas finds out that Coltraine had a previous relationship with the son of a murderous criminal she helped put away for life. The son, Alex Ricker, just happens to be in New York at the time of the murder and evidence mounts against him. But early on Dallas starts to doubt the evidence.

Alex's father Max at one time employed not only Roarke but Roarke and Dallas' fathers as well (Judgment in Death). The theme of this book is relationships between fathers and their children. Dallas continues to wonder if good can come from bad seed even though she and Roarke are proof that genetics are not destiny. None of the three fathers would ever win any awards but how far would Ricker go to punish his son for walking away from him? Who would he use to do it?

Promises in Death has all the requisites elements of a Dallas novel. A decent mystery. Sex (although not enough for me). And humor which usually comes from Dallas having to navigate the evil waters of social interaction (in this case the bridal shower planned in the previous book). As I've said before one of the things I like about this series is how Dallas gradually gathers friends. The crowd around her gets bigger and bigger with additions every other book or so. Dallas' still isn't comfortable ("I have to get the thing for the thing") but at least she's trying.

The only things I didn't like about this book were the three dream sequences where Dallas talks to the victim. Other than that I have no complaints and I read this book straight through.

Previous book review for Salvation in Death

Buy Promises in Death

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

States of Grace

States of Grace by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro is one of more than twenty novels about the vampire St. Germain. Even though he is a vampire, Yarbro makes it clear that St. Germain is not the monster.

I started with Blood Games which is somewhere towards the middle of the books. The events in the books are not in chronological order. One book will be set in Rome at the time of Nero and then next will be in Russia with Rasputin.


Grace takes place in the in the early 16th century a time of religious upheaval. St. Germain (called San Germano) lives in Venice. He is a book publisher at a time when books are becoming suspect and the Church is all too eager to burn books and people.

If you like historical fiction you will love Yarbro's St. Germain books. There is a lot of detail in every book. The politics and society of each period is explained through conversations and letters. I have learned more about fashion through the ages than I ever wanted to know. It occurred to me while reading that clothing is often described when it is going on (St. Germain) and coming off (his lovers.)

Yarbro uses St. Germain to discuss some important issues: the place of women in society, the treatment of foreigners, corruption and religious fanaticism. The main plot of Grace revolves around book publishing in different countries at a time when the Church feels its hold on people is slipping as Christianity breaks up into rival factions. The subplot concerns two women who want non-traditional lives, one as a musician and the other as an author. St. Germain is rich so he becomes the patron of both women.

St. Germain is forever at the mercy of those in power. He is always the foreigner. He is permitted in society with a lot of restrictions. He pays more tax. Storekeepers charge him twice the normal rate. He is looked on with suspicion, not because he is a vampire, but because he is foreign. St. Germain could easily be thrown in prison or into the inquisitive hands of the Church. Many times he has to flee because he is not a citizen of the city or country he is in.

I find it amusing that almost no one figures out that St. Germain is a vampire. He always gets in trouble by being the outsider. His undoing is always through some corrupt politician after his money or a fanatical clergyman after his soul.

The other thing I've learned from reading these novels is that the more things change the more things stay the same.


Buy States of Grace: A Novel of the Count Saint-Germain (St. Germain)

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Strain

Written by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, The Strain is the first book of a trilogy. Del Toro is probably best known for the movie Pan's Labyrinth. Which might be the book's biggest problem. The book reads like a movie. They might as well as put "soon to be a major motion picture" right on the cover. I'm sure it will be a good movie, very violent and graphic. I won't watch it because, truth be told, I'm squeamish. I will read horror but I very rarely watch horror movies. I can skip over graphic violence in books but movies seem to leave those scenes etched in my subconscious ready to jump out at me while I sleep.

Anyway.

While I was reading, I kept wondering why the book was written. Why not just write a script? It's going to be a movie anyway. I did learn that a solar eclipse is not actually an eclipse but an occultation. But the whole section called occultation wasn't necessary. It will look good on the screen but it didn't really do anything to move the plot of the book along. For my taste there was too much of that in this book.

The Strain is all about vampirism being spread like a communicable disease. Our modern world is able to deal with epidemics but they've never had to deal with something like this. In a time when almost everyone knows what a disease vector is medical catastrophe stories have become all too common. This one doesn't have anything special to make it stand out.

The book doesn't have any strong women. They are secondary characters, almost after thoughts. And why is it that the male protagonist of disaster movies... um books... is always divorced or on the verge of divorce? And why do they always seem to have rebound affairs with a young co-worker?

The other cliche of the book is the elderly "Van Helsing" character. He's a Polish gypsy who survived a Nazi concentration camp. It was in the camp that he first saw the vampire and he's spent his life learning about the creatures. Of course the protagonist thinks he's a crazy old man but as things get weirder he turns to him for help. There's another similarity between The Strain and Dracula: The protagonist balks at how the problem must be dealt with. The vampires have to be beheaded and/or the bodies destroyed. Del Toro's protagonist is a doctor and sees the vampires as his patients. He can't believe that they can't be saved by some medical intervention. He also hesitates at mutilating corpses.

My overall opinion of the book is that there is nothing special in it. There's very little I hadn't read/seen before. I didn't care about any of the characters. I didn't care whether the rogue vampire was stopped or not. I doubt that I will bother with the two other books in this trilogy.

Time will tell.

The authors seem to know enough about the vampire myth. Both men collaborated in an Op-Ed on vampires that is very readable.

Buy The Strain: Book One of The Strain Trilogy