Thursday, June 21, 2012

God's War, by Kameron Hurley

Am between series right now, having finished Alex Benedict and soon to start Game of Thrones.  In the interlude I read God's War, by Kameron Hurley.  It is a very intense and inventive book, but be ready--it is as dystopian as they come, every hero is an anti-hero, and not a whole lot of hope for a happy ending.

Nyx is our lead anti-hero, a thoroughly hard-bitten war veteran and former bel dame--women who hunt down deserters and other rogues.  Umayma is a truly sad world, made habitable by insect-driven technology but being slowly destroyed by a very dirty holy war.  She and her team have a side, but basically travel between them.  Some of the setup impresses me as reversal for its own sake--in Nasheen women are the strong fighters, and Nyx's "love" (not really, but sort of) interest is a soft and graceful man.  But that's part of the war, as the other side is kind of the opposite.  And they're all being egged on by outside forces.  And so we meet all the characters, slogging along through the worn world, slugging it out between uncertain endings and the sad status quo ante.  Sounds too familiar.  In the end, I enjoyed it--good characters, good tension, kept me going.  Kameron Hurley has apparently had some close calls with death, her acknowledgements and bio mention it a lot, but I have not followed up with it on her blog.  Three stars for this one, though I would nearly give it four.  It didn't get the Nebula for 2011, but it was a worthy nominee.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Firebird, by Jack McDevitt

So now I have caught up on the Alex Benedict series, with its latest installment Firebird, nominated for a Nebula this year. 

This one is quite an entertaining read.  One can see the maturing of the series as it goes along--the characters get better, and more interesting stuff is in the plots.  In Firebird, physicist Christopher Robin (and no reference to Pooh!) is investigating the occasional appearance of mystery ships.  They fade in, but are often so ancient they can't communicate, and fade out again.  Robin himself disappeared mysteriously.  Some of his belongings are brought in for auction, which puts Kolpath and Benedict on his trail.  And solve it they do, though the tension is still simmering between them.  Kolpath is getting somewhat tired of Benedict's moral "flexibility". 

It is still weird reading stories set 10,000 years in the future, with people still using technology the way they did 10 years ago (like setting the password on their notebook to "brane"--goodness).  Not only do things not change, they got frozen in 2001. But the stories are entertaining.  Would I have enjoyed "Echo" if I had read the other four books first?  No doubt.  But I just didn't have time to catch up all the series last year.  It would have been another six books.  Well, I probably could have, but that would be all I would read in the year.  In the future I'll try harder, because a good series does develop from the beginning even if the author assures you you can jump in anywhere.

3 stars for this one, in an old-timey sort of way.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Devil's Eye, by Jack McDevitt

Continuing my catch-up on Alex Benedict, I turned to The Devil's Eye.  The books continue to get more interesting in this series.  Kolpath and Benedict get involved in a mystery that takes them to Salud Afar, a world a month out from anywhere in the Confederacy.  They are lured by a famous author with a large check and her own mind wiped clean, and end up saving a world.  There's a lot more action in this one, and we see more of Chase Kolpath as an action hero.  I'm beginning to think that calling it the Alex Benedict series is meant as irony, or something.  But she's still pretty casually slutty in a way that doesn't really build out her character, and that still galls.

In any case it's a good engaging read.  Next up would be Echo, but I have read it already.  I'm not sure my conclusion would change, as Chase Kolpath goes in a very different direction there that, if I recall correctly, would end up taking away from her and possibly simply be a response to criticism.  Reinforces the notion that one really needs to read a series from the beginning to be fair to an installment.  But I'm not going back now.

3 stars for this one.