No Good Deed – Novella

How the novella is – 4/5
How the novella worked for me – 3/5
Debut novella by D.E Wyatt, a socialite at r/fantasy, is fast and fun. Hieronymus and his protege(or met by chance, we don’t know yet) Elsabeth take on a paid recovery mission for a stolen church property. Doubts creep in when a mysterious figure cautions them of their safety that comes true. How far would you go to find the truth is the story.
I haImaged a love/hate relation with the protagonist character. The writing is fun and prose is crisp and clear. The world is beautifully described, in par with the best in the domain.
Why love/hate with Elsabeth’s? Ok, here is the thing. She is tall but nimble, beautiful but ferocious. Though these characters should have no issue to go hand in hand, her characterization is something I would like the author to solidify.
She is motivated, ruthless but blushes and feels tingling in the stomach at a peck in the lips from a man she is trying to con. She is unafraid to use her sexuality to advance her motivation, but immediately becomes a softie romantic once the deed at the bed is done. She goes to the extent of talking how ‘fulfilling’ the event was, to her older partner. I felt it was disjointed enough for me to stop liking her. But having said that, I was able to empathize with her view of bigger picture and her cool and composed nature at the sight of trouble. But on the other side, the story coming together at the end was forced and immediate. This also contributes the issues I had with the story’s pacing.
We get little of Hieronymus, he is a drunkard, whore monger and fat for his own good types. He behaves juvenile at times when he is supposed to plot with Elsabeth, but takes the lead when interacting with Abbot and the Father. His character needs work too. Oh and yes, the dialogues between these two.
The sentences describing the world is beautiful. It also has funny moments in the lines of Scott Lynch – “love. I have seen rather more of your orb and scepter just now than I would ever like to again in my life”. I did laugh loud. But .. but.. the focus abruptly changes from action and we are presented with couple hundred words describing the world. I was especially turned off when the pair takes on their final journey – around 500 words about the river, bluffs and the church. This is a novella, so I felt the author should’ve toned down on the world and packed a punch on the characters and plot.
Would I recommend it? I would definitely. Why? Because its fun, crisp(even with it’s faults) and I want to know what Elsabeth faces.

 

 

Why I loved Guy Haley’s CRASH?

Or .. how I stumbled upon the most fulfilling book in recent past.

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How would a select few, displaced in a harsh and completely unique world huddle upon to make a society? What would be beginnings of colonization, if man reaches the ability to travel to the stars? Guy Haley tackles in CRASH.

Earth – overcrowded, networked, steeply unequal in distribution of wealth, a near state of oligarchy. A world where we have captured Sol’s sisters – and bring in mined ores from Jupiter and Saturn. A world where financial market is doubted to have sentience by Quants, short for quantitative analysts.

Man has invented drugs to achieve hyper-cognizance that to the brain makes time seem to move slow. Karl, a quant, analyses the market by linking himself to the virtual reality, with drugs inside his head to enhance his ability to run simultaneous simulaitons of stochastic world the financial market was. What he finds, coupled by a revelation from his old friend Cassandra, Sand in short makes him change parameters for further simulations that makes him stumble into a shocking truth, a truth that would never leave his head.

A group of scientifically chosen individuals travel to the stars, individuals who are desperate to leave the slavedom of Earth, a place owned by .01% of population, a uber-rich society called Pointers. They miss their target world and finds itself woken up from the cryosleep, some 500 years later than the designated travel time, amidst the ship crashing into a huge world of Nychthemeron, tidally locked with perpetual day in one side and harsh cold night on the other. How they regroup from the crash, individuals rising up to the occasion, having to make choices ranging from individual vs collective good- to anarchy vs democracy.

The way the story goes is very well explained. There is no ‘just stating’ feel here, one that deterred me from enjoying some books with great ideas in the past. The writing could use some help to keep the flow continuous, but that didn’t deter from the plot’s unfurling. Every idea is well flushed out, and the events are shown to be highly plausible. What happens to the first society and how a new civilization comes out of it’s womb is what this book is all about.

Rating : ★★★★☆ (4/5)

How this book worked for me?

Stumbling at the book by chance, a review I visited as a result of link hopping during a sultry afternoon browsing stating how good the hard-scifi was, I read a sample in Amazon Kindle and chose to take a calculated risk in buying it. Zackery Jernighan- an author himself, reviews harshly. If a book doesn’t work out for him, it gets 2. Never an average. CRASH had received 4.5 stars and he liked it so much that he gave 5 stars on how the book worked for himself. So the risk factor in my buying was low.

Having read numerous space operas and mostly fantasy last year, I wanted a science-fiction that brought the story down to humane levels, but left the reader in awe of the expansive nature of topics it dwelt on. CRASH hit all the above requirements bullseye. I loved the characters of Dariusz and Cassandra De Mona, Sand in short. I practically wanted to date Sand before she found Dariusz. Her ability under pressure and self starting characters, with a touch of emotional heaviness made me interested in her. The pointers of Yuri and Leonid were good sidekicks in story, dancing like puppets to Anderson, photocopy of a ghost they tried hard to escape from.

The final third of the story was very interesting in it’s own right. The society’s take on how far they’d go to survive and philosophical themes were brilliantly discussed. I’d have wanted the author to have gone deeper into it. There are some loose ends that I feel the author would tackle in subsequent books in the series.

My personal feel : ★★★★★ (5/5)

If you are looking for a sci-fi book to immerse you in awe but is firmly grounded in plausibility,carry anthropological debates, yet excites you at the edge of the seat – you gotta read CRASH.

Review : Revelation Space

My rating : ★★★★✬
Cover- Revelation Space
I waited two weeks before penning this review[before which I've started reading the Redemption arc], just to let my feelings for the book sink in. I want to give Revelation Space 5 stars but there are few aspects that pulled it down to 4.5 stars.

I bought the book in early 2011, my second purchase from Amazon ever. Growing up with Jules Verne I was out of touch from reading for nearly a decade. The Mysterious Islands, Journey to the center of the earths were my everyday reads back in school. So when I got in touch of old nerd-buddies, I was strongly advised to ‘start’ back the reading habit with this. They couldn’t be more wrong and let me explain why.

Revelation Space starts off amongst three streams -a  violent desert storm in the far-flung planet of Resurgam where Dan Sylveste investigates the 900,000 year old Amarantin civilization and it’s sudden extension, a mysterious incident called the Event. The Amarantians were found to have achieved great technological feats before getting wiped off from the history.

The second thread starts with the introduction of the great ship Nostalgia for Infinity, a slower-than light interstellar spaceship that visits the Yellowstone in search of Sylveste.
The third thread of the novel happens in Chasm city, Yellowstone, where a professional assassin Ana Khouri gets recruited by mysterious The Mademoiselle to infiltrate Nostalgia for Infinity. The Mademoiselle is able to set a chance meeting making it appear as though it happened by chance, with one of the members of NFI, triumvir Ilia Volyova.
Rest of the story is about how the three threads combine and a great revelation at the end, a reason for Fermi paradox.

Not being a native English speaker or a trained reader patient enough to slug through hours even if the story is a drag, I lost my interest in the first 150 pages. After three years and some 100 books later, I picked it up by chance. One fine evening on the patio of Starbucks, coming into contact with Khouri, my favorite character, and Sylveste, I finished the book in another 3 sittings. I felt ‘wow’d. The concepts in the novel were very interesting, especially the explanation of highly-bio-modified Ultras and the sentient robots. I would even rate this as having a tinge of fantasy in them, the alpha and beta simulations of Calvin Sylveste, AI at different stages of sentience, and the suits that can carry a passenger to several Gs.

The Revelation Space universe is bleak and cold where humans feel less empathy than what it is now. The culture is spread out and has not reached it’s peak. Hardships and assholes are the deal of the day. People fight each other, against un-known terrors, hell class weapons and anti-matter bombs gets hidden inside eyes.

The world-building and the intricate explanation of every scene is detailed enough that it matched the best I’ve read with[Hyperion again]. I state this as The book is author’s debut full-length novel. Every part of the POV character’s vision, every clatter his/her foot makes, every feel from the touches, explained. To a majority of readers this would be a overkill, but to me it was an experience- one I revisited since Dan Simmons’s Hyperion cantos.

Now comes the part I explain about the half-emptiness of the last star. Pacing- something that would’ve used an extra serving.  Several parts in first half of the book drags so slow that you would be tempted to take breaks. One scene that pops out when I think of the pacing is a 10 page explanation (8000 words?) of the simulation scene that takes place at the spider room in NFI, between the Ultras and their new recruit Khouri. It was where I left stopped reading during my second try. Third trial was easier as I was much more patient reader with greater grasp for the language and sci-fi terms that I was able to slug through it. Once that piece got over, the story morphed into something else. I felt like riding on a powerful mammoth carrying me toward the end of the book, it’s foot stomp being the soundtrack and the jerks and shakes explaining the emotional fluctuations I felt through the story.

The final third of the book was so good that gave me gasps and ‘wow’s every 10 pages. The quantum computation was explained succinctly in couple of paragraphs, better than my science book and the LHC like concept was touched upon. Alastair Reynolds love/hated the two pillars of Fermi paradox that this book was born. I enjoyed the epilogue very much although I’d have liked it to end with …………………[spoilers].

This is not for the reader who just finished The Old Man’s War, this is Hard sci-fi that pulls you in, twists your emotions and gives you a satisfying experience. The wordage and artful threading the story gets woven by is a satisfying and great read.

Review : The Lies Of Locke Lamora

My twitter followers would know how exited I was while reading this novel. I can hardly acknowledge the fact that it is a debut. Spanning two story lines, including themes of fantasy, revenge, survival, friendship and never-ending quest for conniving, The Lies of Locke Lamora is an on-the-edge thriller.

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The story follows a group of young adults who call themselves ‘Gentleman Bastards’. Don’t cringe, the book is littered with swear words, and while many reviewers feel a distaste towards this or are downright offended, I don’t have any issue with it. Heck! if Tarantino and Scorsese can use a thousand cuss words in a two hour cinema this is a minuscule issue to be discussed. 

Locke – a nimble boy with huge self-confidence that margins on over-confidence that which gets him into trouble time and again,

Calo/Galdo – twins,

Jean-the fat, powerful  fighter,

Bug – Young, best in crawling over the roofs for recon purposes,

constitute the group of Gentleman Bastards. Led by the ‘Eyeless priest’- Father Chains, the Bastards collude against the affluent acting as con-artists in robbing off their riches. Set in Fantasy-counterpart Venice, the city of Camorr. 

Camorr

 A city is deeply entrenched with sadistic and filthy lives. It is a place where brutality and beauty co-exist. Double-games and secret collusions, characters who come back from the dead with sole aim to act on revenge, the book is filled with pulp’ish characters and action.

Camorr closely resembles the modern day Venice, being composed of a multitude of islands intersected by canals, dotted it is with the archaeological remains of the Eldren, a lost and inhuman civilization. The striking feature are the five Elderglass towers, homes of the city’s greatest families, including the Duke himself, and the Shifting Revel-Camorr’s equivalent of the coliseum. It would be true to say that Scott Lynch’s greatest achievement is the vivid and grandiose realization of this world which, although brilliantly observed, is difficult to capture with short quotes. Take this description of the House of Glass Roses, however, as a short example:

 In the House of Glass Roses, there was a hungry garden. The place was Camorr in microcosm; a thing of the Eldren left behind for men to puzzle over, a dangerous treasure discarded like a toy. . . . Here was an entire rose garden, wall after wall of perfect petals and stems and thorns, silent and scentless and alive with reflected fire, for it was all carved from Elderglass, a hundred thousand blossoms perfect down to the tiniest thorn. . . . And it was flawless, as flawless as the rumours claimed, as though the Eldren had frozen every blossom and every bush in an instant of summer’s fullest perfection.

Non-linear approach

The story overlaps between the present and incidents from the Bastards’ past that loosely interject with it. Their formative years leading up to the present story is intertwined beautifully that the reader feels as if they are bystanders in the story as it happens.

Gist

The Bastards live a life of day to day earnings through robbery and connivance that fall outside the radar of the feudal lord of Camorr – Capa Barsavi. With no notice comes a mysterious Grey king who takes down each one of Capa’s men. The stakes rise when Lamora and his group are pulled in the middle of the war between Capa and the Grey King, to a level which he is not prepared.

Lynch’s hold on the story is so good that the reader, with the knowledge of villainy of the Capa, takes sides with him for a while and after devouring a few chapters takes stance against him. Changing shades, shifting morals, wavering alliances and at the last, an engrossing and deeply moving tale of survival at all cost is what that makes this book the best I’ve read in a while.

Women of Camorr

Lynch’s portrayal of women is different from most of his peers in that they are powerful, mentally strong and are equal in importance with the men. The author has never shown a tinge of being sexist and in fact makes it a point of prevailing equality between the sexes.

At one point the Capa says

“the women of Camorr could be underestimated only at great peril to one’s health”.

The woman for whom our hero falls far, with same powerful character like the rest, Sabetha gets thrown into the story here and there. I hope Scott Lynch plans to bring her back in subsequent stories.

All in all, a powerful and deeply moving debut, The Lies of Locke Lamora is a must read even if you are not a fan of fantasy. With fresh take on the genre the author has made his name echo along the walls of the greats like George R.R Martin and Robert Jordan. Alchemy, a slighter form of magic in the story passes into the heads of reader in transforming them into the story that will affect long after it gets over. Not to worry, the Author has signed up for seven books in the series.

 

My favorite quotes from the book :

“There’s no freedom quite like the freedom of being constantly underestimated.”

“Bug,” Calo said, “Locke is our brother and our love for him knows no bounds. But the four most fatal words in the Therin language are ‘Locke would appreciate it.’”

“Gods, I love this place,” Locke said, drumming his fingers against his thighs. “Sometimes I think this whole city was put here simply because the gods must adore crime. Pickpockets rob the common folk, merchants rob anyone they can dupe, Capa Barsavi robs the robbers and the common folk, the lesser nobles rob nearly everyone, and Duke Nicovante occasionally runs off with his army and robs the shit out of Tal Verarr or Jerem, not to mention what he does to his own nobles and his common folk.”

“I can’t wait to have words with the Gray King when this shit is all finished,” Locke whispered. “There’s a few things I want to ask him. Philosophical questions. Like, ‘How does it feel to be dangled out a window by a rope tied around your balls, motherfucker?”

Off to the second book – ‘Red seas under red skies’.

 

Unfetter the lives of authors

 

Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, not everyone is J.K.Rowling or Stephenie Mayor. Success doesn’t come to most, and just reading about the yet-to-succeed authors’ lives gives you shivers. Their young life, characterized by broader imagination and fantasy, with extremely high handle on the language they write in, combined with ability to carry a story over 1000s of words.

They are shunned for petty reality tv where producers milk the plastic attitudes of general public broadcasting broken families or greedy/gluttony. It might be because the not-so-privileged have some comfort in knowing even the rich’s lives are broken too, but that discussion is for another rainy day.

Coming to the original brothers-in-crime, the authors, especially in fiction(non fiction has better representation in other media like T.V shows) their lives are marked by depression, broken homes, marriages, substance abuse and much more horrors.Even Stephen King has not been left unaffected by these inner demons.

While we talk about their inner struggles, the family takes a step back. With greedy publishers taking bigger pie in the sales, not-yet-successful full time authors’ incomes are so meager that they can’t even afford health insurance. This brings us to the subject of discussion – author Shawn Speakma. Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011, author Shawn Speakman quickly accrued a massive medical debt that he could not pay. Terry Brooks, author of the epic Shannara series, offered to donate a short story that Shawn could sell through to help alleviate those bills.This kicked off massive support from the fraternity that around 15 best selling authors(including Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Tad Williams, Naomi Novik, Lev Grossman and artist Todd Lockwood) have come forward and contributed making up the anthology that is Unfettered.

Still unreleased, the anthology, by the way of Advanced Reading Copy(ARC) sales, is already helping another author Dave Wolverton whose son became comatose in a Longboarding accident. Tor.com is covering this anthology and it’s promotions in their site.

If you’ve loved stories, their capacity to kindle imagination, the adventures and the ones that make you think, please give back to the struggling. Your one day’s meal money will go a long way in helping them out.

 

Just-read : Caliban’s war

Genre : Sci-fi, space opera, military sci-fi

My Rating : ★★★★★

First book that held me hostage for over 7 hours straight.
ImageThree POVs, one more than the first book, intricate political webs woven to carry out machinations of the powerful, mixed with self-righteous serving the humanity’s will to be alive, go on, keep the wheels of civilization running. This second book in The Expanse trilogy will leave the reader soaked in interesting world of near-future, when humanity faces biggest threat yet, before it could set sail to the distant stars.

SPOILER

SPOILER

SPOILER

MILLER IS ALIVE AND RETURNS AT THE LAST PAGE.

Arzvi:

Reblogged from ‘Whatever’ by John Scalzi. Very Impressed by the book expert, this will be the next book I read.

Originally posted on Whatever:

The world isn’t flat. But what would it mean if it was? For his latest novel Quintessence, Philip K. Dick Award winner David Walton resurrected this and a few other ideas from antiquity and took them out for a spin. Here’s why he did it.

DAVID WALTON: 

The “big idea” for Quintessence came from reading up on the wacky world of medieval science. People in Europe believed all sorts of crazy things before guys like Galileo and Newton joined the scene. The amazing thing is not so much how insane it all was, but how logical it was as well–as long as you weren’t too bothered about details like verifiable facts. I thought, what if it were all true? What if alchemy and astrology and all the rest of it described the true nature of the world?

Most everyone has heard of the four classical elements–Fire, Earth, Air, and…

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Book review : Throne of the Crescent Moon (Crescent Moon kingdoms -1)

Genre : Fantasy

My Rating : ★★★★☆

Saladin Ahmed’s debut fiction, a Nebula award nominated work enthralls the reader from the word go. It follows a group of well-wishers of a kingdom fight against a great and powerful enemy that the main protagonist Adoulla a ghul hunter has never come across before. The novel, although it screams ‘Sword and Sorcery’ is in itself more than that. The book does have it’s share of sword fighting  blood and incidents that would make any brave soul cringe, but the portrayal  bequeaths from the genre-type to one that dwells to human meta-physical sense. It speaks about each member’s stance in face of hardship, their choices, their inner battles and the ill-fated bargains they do with negative emotions to reach their goal.

The other important characters are Adoulla’s dervish, Raseed bas Raseed, the tribeswoman and guard of her band, Zamia, an Alchemist and her husband who is Adoulla’s long time friend and the Falcon prince who strives to balance out the divide between the rich and the poor while plotting to kill the iron-fisted Khalif and rule the kingdom himself. The book is heavy on theism and Islamic connotations, which would do good to change the minds of the ignorant who have been brainwashed by fear-mongers to consider Islam being a religion of extremism. The book itself talks about extremist with hope and moderate with experience and calculated approach, and the chemistry between the doctor as the main-protagonist is referred as, and his young dervish is told in well structured manner.

The novel is filled with shape shifters, beautiful ornate castles, watethrone-mmpb1r ghuls, fire ghuls, bone ghuls, zombi like skin ghuls which can reform to totality from every shred it’s attackers tore it into, magicians, alchemists and even a part-shadow part-jackal man. The novel fails short in that the story is too straightforward and every story changing incidents end abruptly, but it succeeds in everything else, the buildup and the characterization. The words are decorated with beautiful explanations and Saladin takes our imagination into the city of Dhamsawaat, which is the setting of the book, with ease. I’d like to add I was put down from less view-of-the-plot from other members of the protagonist gang, perhaps the author liked Adoulla very much that he did less with the romance between the young dervish and the bandit fighter, that I’d have liked to read. And to save the best to last, it was highly refreshing to have a setting far from European Medieval into an Islamic world, where currency is counted in  dinars and dirhams, and you seek answers for the matters of your heart from the loved one kneeling before her placing your forehead on her feet.

The juxtaposition of youthful hope with raw talent and extreme ideals and experience of ages with cautions and calculated approach to every problem, the master and his student’s striking difference  lacquers every chapter of the story. If it has been just days since devouring some Joe Abercrombie or Patrick Rothfuss fast paced books, you might be in for some scour from the initial chapters, but once you get a hang of the writing, you are in for the thrill that is the conclusion where the pace picks up so much that I didn’t recognize the end of the book when it arrived.

Not to be missed, a book that stands by itself, great debut and first in a planned trilogy. The short 288 page fantasy book sticks to you far more than 600 pagers his peers put out every year.

Footnote : Once you are done with the book you should consider the prequel and Adoulla’s introduction in the short story Where Virtue Lives.

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

“There’s a lot of science fiction that talks about the near future. There’s a lot about great galaxy-spanning empires of the distant future. But there’s not much that talks about the part in between. The Expanse is playing on that bridge” – authors’ reply to the question of ‘What kind of story are you telling in this series’.

Written under the pen name James S. A. Corey-a collaboration between fantasy author Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, the story revolves around two men Holden and Miller andImage - Leviathan Wakes their rising-above-human decisions that averts a catastrophe. Two men totally opposite in character, the former a ship’s pilot and the latter a tired and aging criminal detective. The men are similar in that they are solution-driven, in that they’d do anything ranging from lying-to governments, to the guiding systems of missiles and even to self-driven rocks to intimidation, extortion, to get the job done.The similarities end there. This big book is about everything that comprises our solar system, including the meta-physical.

The book is two-faced, chapters divided between Holden’s experiences and Miller’s. The former’s is fast-paced, full of incidents and action, while the latter’s is noir’ish.

Miller sets out to bring home a kidnapped daughter of a wealthy empire so she could forget her personal dreams and do what is best for her family but ends up seeing her having been devoured by something alien to mankind. Holden faces loss in form of his ship and team members and sets out to avenge it.
How these two come into contact, understand the inner political workings, discover something totally bizzare and huge and thwart an end-of-humanity incident is what this book is about. It tries being an hard sci-fi but the latter half of the book, particularly the end throws the impression away.

Written by authors one of who’s name always gets followed with being ‘George R. R. Martin’s assistant, I can understand the scope of story includes meta-physical contacts and inter-species conversations, arguments and bargaining, but can’t say I buy it. It was a great ride and I’d like to stop by saying I thoroughly enjoyed it. The writing is excellent and it felt I was eating a sweet moist cake that I could go on devouring for hours together without getting stressed. To the ‘Caliban’s war’ I go.