Saturday, August 28, 2010

Book Review: A Brother’s Price, by Wen Spencer

310 pp.                 

A Brother's PriceWen Spencer does some interesting things with the “female dominated society” trope that appears in science fiction and fantasy from time to time in this book. From my reading of The Shore of Women, Glory Season, The Gate to Women’s Country etcetera, whenever this story appears, it is usually clear that the writer has an axe to grind about gender politics. Spencer is mainly attacking the “females are not innovative” meme and the “females are naturally more peaceful and nonaggressive” memes that occasionally appear in these works. A Brother’s Price seems to be mostly a response to the axe grinding, than to gender politics. It is at its base a historical romance fully of derring-do and plucky heroes, and there is no sense that the society is “superior” to a male dominated society--it is just different from a male-dominated one.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler II Episode Eight "Divulging Butler"

This episode manages to reveal quite a bit about Alois and his true history. We also find out how and why he developed his little obsession with Ciel and Sebastian. This episode is very grim and bloody, and we get some confirmation on the level of depravity of the previous Earl Trancy. (This episode in particular contains scenes and situations that may be “triggering.” Please bear in mind that this entire series has been rated for “mature” audiences.)

We open with Alois dreaming about Claude and what happened in the previous episode, and waking up to find that his wound has started bleeding through the bandages. Hannah attempts to change Alois’ bandages, but he strikes out at her, and demands that Claude change them. During a conversation with Claude, something causes the demon to smile, which disturbs Alois greatly.

Read the rest of the review on Associated Content.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Omnitopia: Dawn, by Diane Duane

360 pp
Omnitopia Dawn: Omnitopia #1Omnitopia: Dawn is the first in a new series by Diane Duane. Reading it, I was reminded strongly of Daniel Suarez’ Daemon and Freedom ™, but mostly by way of contrast. Suarez’ book is about a computer game programmer who decides to make the world a better place by creating a daemon program which pwns the internet and uses hackers, various dupes and corporate espionage to completely destroy capitalism. Diane Duane’s book is about a computer game programmer who has to deal with a massive hacker attack,  corporate espionage, family, and is trying to make the world a better place by providing a place to play, and making his staff a better place to work. Both are set in the near future, and both have a strong populist theme.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler II Episode Seven “Deathly Butler”

I had a very mixed reaction to this episode due to having been slightly spoiled for many of the details. This episode involves a number of interesting discoveries and interactions. There is also a second appearance of a particular character that I can’t stand, and hated since the previous season (a random comedy fop. Random Comedy Fops have annoyed me since David Eddings Belgariad, thank you). The Random Comedy Fop was pretty much an unnecessary character and took away from some of the grimmer plot related details of the episode. (If this was his purpose, he did an excellent job--I missed a lot of what was going on because of his idiotic antics.)

Read the rest of this review on Associated Content.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines

344 pp.

The Stepsister Scheme (PRINCESS NOVELS)The Stepsister Scheme is the first book in Jim C. Hines fairytale princess novels. We open with Cinderella (otherwise known as Danielle Whiteshore nee deGlas) who is trying to adjust to the riches and royal responsibilities of her rags to riches story. Shortly after an assassination attempt by one of her evil stepsisters, she makes the discovery that her royal mother in law has a small espionage service, and two of her lady’s maids are also her agents. One is princess Talia (who is Sleeping Beauty) and the other is Snow White (she prefers her fairy tale moniker to her real name which is Ermillina Curtana).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Finicky Reader Alert (or Why Brother Will Be Eternally Disappointed by My Lack of Interest in Naruto.)

I have always been a finicky reader. I will browse through bookstores for ages, reading excerpts to see if they’ll catch my attention. Sometimes I find something that I love and will always love forever. An example of that would be Chrono Crusade by Daisuke Moriyama, (which I love so much I’ll even watch the anime version on occasion), or P.C. Hodgell’s Chronicles of the Kencyrath. In both of those cases, I only tried them out because of their persistent presence and my finally giving in and taking a closer look. Hodgell’s first book Godstalk was staring me in the eye in the high school library for months before I decided the cover looked cool, and checked out the interior. Chrono Crusade seemed a little silly, but I finally gave into the art and character design, and found myself surprised by a good portion of the storyline and early characterization of the characters--enough that I was willing to watch the entire series, and then move on to the superior manga.

Sometimes something seems shiny that I later discard as the shiny rubs off. For example, I actually liked Rhapsody by Elizabeth Haydon when I first read it. Unfortunately, I became very unhappy and actively disappointed in the writer's world building, stock characters and plotting. Another series I liked, then disliked (and am now beginning to like again) is Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels books. On the other end of the spectrum I was militantly against reading books involving assassins when I was younger (in the eighties), but I quickly changed my tune when I met Vlad Taltos and his wiseass jhereg Loiosh. I had a similar reaction of aversion to the Darkover novels of Marion Zimmer Bradley. (This mostly because I found “Terrans are the bad guys” plots annoying. Also, I was a big fan of Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s Children of Ynell books and I felt “red haired telepaths have been DONE” all ready. Being a kid, I had not realized that actually, the Darkover books had come first.) I changed my mind about the Darkover books when I finally decided to read The Bloody Sun and Sharra’s Exile (they also fit in with the entire “persistent presence” of the other books I’ve liked).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Interview: Elizabeth Moon

Elizabeth Moon is a science fiction and fantasy writer. Her most well known works includeThe Deed of Paksenarrion the Vatta's War series and the novels set in the Familias Regnant universe. Her solo science fiction novels include Remnant Population which was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1997 and for The Speed of Dark which won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 2003--it was also an Arthur C. Clarke finalist.
More information about Moon’s works can be found on her author website here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler II Episode Six “Bedewed Butler”

This episode is a direct continuation of the last episode. In the last episode, Ciel and his friends had been invited to the Trancy estate for a costume party, and Alois had lured Ciel out into the woods on the Trancy estate. After being seemingly cornered, Sebastian made his appearance and the closing scene of the previous episode was Alois and Ciel each delivering an order to their respective butlers.
In the opening of “Bedewed Butler” we see the ending of the previous season, where Sebastian is getting ready to devour Ciel’s soul. It is mostly shown from slightly different angles than in the last season, and there are a lot of violins in the soundtrack playing something solemn and dramatic. Sebastian gets closer, and there’s the sound of a church bell and a solemn chanting broken by the cawing of the raven as we get a view of the ruined castle from the air, and the raven flying away.  Something very wrong has clearly occurred--the next scene is Sebastian making a surprised noise as he pulls away.

Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor

386 pp.

Who Fears DeathWho Fears Death is a difficult story to write about, because it deals with situations that most people find difficult to understand or deal with, such as genocide and war. It’s a very strong book, with a great deal of depth to it. It’s a fast paced and engrossing read, but I wouldn’t call it entertaining. Who Fears Death is a post-apocalyptic fantasy set in a far future Africa, in the general area of Sudan; it is a story about a conflict between two tribes, the Nuru and the Okeke. The Nuru have enslaved and otherwise marginalized the Okeke in an attempt to wipe them out for centuries. The Okeke in turn have been fighting back but are losing as the violence escalates.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Red Hood's Revenge by Jim C. Hines

337 pp.

Red Hood's Revenge (PRINCESS NOVELS)Red Hood’s Revenge takes place not long after The Mermaid’s Madness. The story begins with the discovery that a famous assassin named Roudette “The Lady of the Red Hood,” has turned up. She is apparently after Talia. (Otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty.) Roudette was hired by Queen Lakhim, who wants revenge for the death of her son, whom Talia killed when she escaped from Arathea, the kingdom she was born in. (The reasons why are complicated. Lakhim’s family managed to seize power, and decided to keep it by breaking through the wall of thorns surrounding Sleeping Beauty’s castle, murdering everyone there as they slept except Talia who was still asleep up until she gave birth to twins. You can add “ugly” to “complicated.”)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler II Episode Five “Beacon Butler”

In this episode, we get a little closer to what exactly is going on here. Maybe. At least, we are learning about what happened in the gutter of time between the last episode of the first season, and the first episode of the second. The first thing we learn is that Sebastian went to Prince Soma (apparently running some variety of curry bread-line) and various other people who knew Ciel, telling them that Ciel had lost his memories. We learn that Maylene, Bard, and Finian all survived their battle with the hellhound that was burning down London in the last episodes. They all agree to not tell Ciel about his lost memories, instead relying on Sebastian to find a way to cause him to remember on his own. It’s not explained how Sebastian might have explained the lost time to Ciel. (The only person not told is Lau, who almost spills the beans at certain key points during this episode through ignorance. We get no explanation of how he survived what seemed like his death during the first season.)

Continue to the review on Associated Content.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Wild Hunt by Margaret Ronald

309 pp.

Wild HuntThe sequel to Spiral Hunt finds Evie trying to cope with the power vacuum left behind by the destruction of the Fiana. Since she was the one largely responsible for the destruction, various adepts and other more mundane individuals have been trying to get in contact with her. Meanwhile, Evie’s friend Sarah wants to organize a sort of “neighborhood watch” for the magic users of the city so that no new gangs decide to work their way into the “undercurrents” of the Boston magical scene. (A goal that is seemingly futile since generally speaking, magic users are about as easy to organize as cats. Paranoid junkie cats.)

Wild Hunt opens with Evie at the death bed of the owner of a Chinese grocery store. The owner, a Mr. Yuen is involved in Boston’s magical “undercurrent” and needs Evie’s help in making sure that his death also ends the “life” of the ghost of his grandfather, currently residing in a jar/funerary urn. Evie accomplishes the job successfully, but manages to get her foot stuck in her mouth up to her knee when talking to Mr. Yuen’s daughter Elizabeth after the fact. Not long after Evie is contacted by a mysterious and very slimy individual named Janssen who offers his services as a “muscle” and by an equally mysterious adept who wants to find out if her grandmother is guilty of having stolen a magical object.