The Expanse: Leviathan Wakes

Leviathan Wakes is an pure awesome sci-fi for fans of space operas, military sci-fi, and horror. Oh, and weird-fi. If you’ve caught and enjoyed any of the show, you owe it to yourself to pick up the book. Getting a different overall tone which I prefer as well as a lot more additional information and context. 

Can’t wait to pick up the next book!

More Ghost Stories: Tedium and Ghosts

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More Ghost Stories by M.R. James has been a bit of a grind. So much so, that I’ve put it down multiple times and went on about life thinking, “Do I really need to finish that? By this point, I know how things are going to go.” I’m just so intrigued by the settings and stories that I’m willing to read them even if I find some points a bit tedious.

I can respect the inspiration and foundational impact of M.R. James has provided. Perhaps if I were reading these at Christmas time with some roasted chestnuts and some mulled wine, I’d enjoy them a bit more. However, with 97% of a thirty page story focused on where the garden keys are or courtroom proceedings – not drama, proceedings – or any other mundane proclivities of the early 1900’s, there’s only a blip of a page’s worth of ghostly goodness. 

I wrote this before I even finished reading the last story because, it doesn’t matter. They’re gonna find those keys. The MC Hammer Pants of a ghost of the valetudinarian uncle will show up. The characters will say they are spooked, but it’s really more of a good ole flummoxing. Everyone will be fine and unscarred, except the one and only character to be punished for his trespasses because he killed a woman, thus making her a ghost, and sentencing her to an afterlife of wearing three pairs of Hammer Pants at once and running on all fours. 

Okay fine! There is one more character that was punished, but I do not recall the specifics. I’m not going back to find which one. I’ve taken a cursory glance at the table of contents, nothing rang a bell. Even though I could look at the first page of the story and remember, I don’t want to.

Taking into account that these tales were published well over one hundred years ago, I bet they sure were scary at the time. I can truly appreciate the setting, the ideas; pretty much the whole she-bang minus the execution. I feel like I’m being groomed into accepting the slightest bump on a floorboard to be satisfyingly spooky. 

Which, it is. Each and every single time with previously heavy lidded eyes I say, “You did it again M.R!”. Though it’s fleeting, that’s the payoff. Which is the reason why I read the next story and that I’ll more than likely read the next collection of stories, A Thin Ghost and Others.

Station Eleven

It’s been awhile since I read Emily St. John Mendel’s Station Eleven. This review is long in coming for a book that I absolutely loved. I’ve bought a copy for some friends. It’s excellent and I can’t recommend it enough. 

It’s difficult to fully categorize Station Eleven as a post apocalyptic fiction. Half the story takes place after 99.6% of the entire population has died. The other half takes place in flashbacks that are fully realized and let the reader experience characters pre-pandemic lives.

What Station Eleven isn’t, is a dreary downer of a post apocalyptic tale. “Survival is insufficient.” Is a quote that shapes the theme of Station Eleven. Following a troop of actors through landscapes and scenarios is a vastly different take than many other post apocalyptic stories. Plays are performed for the settlements that have risen after the fall. Joy and needed escape from the new normal are brought to the people and received by the players themselves. 

Unlike other post apocalyptic stories, I found Station Eleven to be a bit more hopeful. There’s  a strong bond in the friendship that is easier to come by. While not void of the typical threats experienced in post apocalyptic tales, foreboding doom doesn’t permeate the entire work. There is not an overabundance of violence. This is the cleanest smelling post apocalypse I’ve imagined.

Full disclosure, I listened to the audio book. Which means when I read the book, I’ll be reading it for the first time. I guess I could watch the show too.

The Lost Plot: The Invisible Library 4

The Lost Plot is an action packed and intriguing must read for fans of the series!

Hands down my favorite in the series thus far and contender for my series favorite. This is a fast paced read with the action starting on the first few pages and not letting up until the end. Dragons abound in this novel and readers get a much deeper understanding of their world and politics.

The more modern setting referencing the 1920’s U.S. was a welcomed change that I didn’t even know I necessarily wanted. Not only do Irene and Kai have to deal with the usual dragons and fae, they also have to deal with mobsters and their guns. Providing a lot of situations that a librarian can’t just simply talk her way out of. 

Mockingbird

Mockingbird

I loved Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig! It’d been awhile since I’d read a new Miriam Black novel. She’s crass, self-destructive, and broken. Yet underneath her cynical protective shell, is the unbroken person she used to be. It may be the person she genuinely wants to be. 

Being tied down to Louis hasn’t been all that good for her. Though Miriam won’t allow anything to be good for her. Whether it’s to hurt herself or save some stranger, Miriam perpetually seeks out destruction and harm. Soon, she’s on the road to a entirely new mystery.

Mockingbird’s mixing of urban fantasy, horror, and mystery leads to a darkly disturbing and thrilling read. I had to put on some music and request I be left alone to plow through the last third. 

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary

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Ghost Stories of an Antiquary gives readers a chance to see a bunch book worm types make poor decisions in these intriguing old times tales of horror and suspense. Not gory and not necessarily scary, but eerie. Though the suspense of  Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad did make me put down the book for the night in order to have a restful sleep. 

If the works H.P Lovecraft or Robert W. Chambers are found intriguing, then Ghost Stories of an Antiquary should be added to the TBR list. Also, check out the podcast, The Magnus Archives. The creator was inspired heavily by M.R. James.

Wanderers

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

Chuck Wendig’s magnum opus, Wanderers, is not for everyone. As many other reviews point out, it’s a lengthy read. The page count is as high as many fantasy and science fiction books as well as Wanderers chief inspiration, The Stand

Wanderers hits a little close to home in 2021, even with it’s publish date in 2019. It’s as much a story about politics as it as about a pandemic. Wendig’s characters don’t stray to far from their real life inspirations. There are a lot of similarities and parallels that readers can easily extrapolate. I wouldn’t say Wendig is prophetic, just really good at seeing what so many others see, and what some clearly do not.

If you’re a a fan of Wendig, then there shouldn’t be anything stopping you from picking this up. Though none of the characters were quite as interesting as Miriam Black, it’s got all of the lewd grittiness of Blackbirds and nearly three times the length. In the end I’m not sure if the length helped or hindered.

Ring Shout or The Hunting of Ku Kluxes In The End Times

Ring Shout continually slid along the scale between like and love. The premise is great! Evil hateful monsters in the guise of humans called, Ku Kluxes, enrapture other humans with their hateful machinations. African-American resistant fighters hunt them down and kill them. 

It’s fictionalized history and revisionist Lovecraft put together. Taking place in 1922, the characters as whole have seen World War I, The U.S. Civil War, slavery and its downfall, as well as the Tulsa massacre a year prior. There is so much history crammed into the book. There’s also a lot of folktale roots and influence, both in the story and how the story is presented.

After wondering about the length, wanting more depth in the characters and just more space for the story to breath I realized something. Ring Shout is not only inspired for folktales, but it is also a pulpy fantasy book that should could have been written sixty years ago. That realization pushed Ring Shout into love territory. It explained the brevity and the elegant simplicity. There’s plenty of things glossed over, but all the reader needs to know is that there are bad things that need killing and heroes to kill them.

Hounded

Hounded is overall okay. It’s the first book in The Iron Druid Chronicles that currently sits at the count of nine, arguably ten, but whatever. Being that it’s the first book there are a lot introductions in this book. Characters and the world, are introduced and constructed well enough for the story. I just felt like there were way to many characters and plot threads going on.  

Hearne builds from Irish folklore and culture. Magic, creatures, and pronunciation of words harken back to Ireland. Which I assume he is from or at least his ancestors are. There’s a glossary at the front of the book that goes over the pronunciation or words and names which is truly helpful. Some words are completely different than I would have presumed. 

There’s a humor in Hounded that I enjoyed for the first half. Then it became slightly less funny. Being able to communicate with his dog was probably my favorite druid power and a source of much of the humor. 

Hounded started out strong. I thoroughly enjoyed the first one hundred pages. After that, it got a little soggy. It felt like a collection of short stories were combined into a larger work. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great. I think I will give the next book a try. If not the next in the series, Oberon’s Meaty Mystery: The Squirrel on the Train does sound like something I would be into.

The Guest List

The Guest List is a fantastic mystery novel. Lucy Foley has created a suspenseful story that never loosens its grip, but doesn’t exhaust the reader either.  She also seemed to have said “Hold my beer!” and engineered the entire story to keep the reader guessing the entire time. Which is what a mystery novel should do, but she’s taken it to another level. Almost as if she has called out readers for a challenge. The reader doesn’t even know who has died at the beginning!

The whole story takes place somewhere between twenty-four and forty-eight hours. Chapters are told from the perspective of the five main characters. Which gives the reader a chance to get to know and become familiar with – even attached in some cases – to the characters. As an avid reader of fantasy I can’t help but be reminded of A Song of Ice and Fire.  

There isn’t much that can be said without giving too much away. Not knowing anymore than the blurbage on the cover is the best way to approach this – and pretty much – every book. Like mysteries? Want to keep guessing? Then read this!

Remarkables: Book Review

Remarkables is okay. After reading a few post read reviews I now understand that this isn’t one of Margaret Peterson Haddix’s better books. It’s fine. I don’t regret reading it. Though I’m not sure how much I would recommend it. I’m not the demographic for the book, but I do not see my younger self liking this book more than the present me did. Younger me required swords and magic in his fantasy. I was expecting fantasy along the lines of Madeline L’Engles. “There’s a Mystery Next Door…” the cover states. “And some wayward kids are going to solve it. While resolving issues with their parents.” I assumed was going to be the next bit. I was wrong, but okay with it.

There are a lot of good things about Remarkables. Haddix’s prose is strong and clear. It may not be fancy, but readers understand what is going on. Reader’s get to know the main character, Marin, really well. She feels genuine and I’m sure many younger readers can identify with her. She has a great relationship with her family, particularly her dad. The parents themselves are portrayed in a realistic manner. Most grown ups are removed from the pedestals that children place them upon and brought down to a human level. They display the stresses of adult life, weakness, and emotion. The story is as much about Marin’s dad having these moments as it is about Marin and Charly.

While Remarkables has elements of fantasy, it is not a fantasy story. Those elements are used early on to hook the reader. Then it’s really only used as something for the characters to focus on, but not deal with directly until the last eight pages. Remarkables character driven story using mysterious fantasy elements to make life a bit more interesting felt like it took a page from the television series Lost. Not as grandiose or needing re-reads, but just some seasoning to help make starting junior high in a new school more interesting.

Gideon the Ninth: Lesbian Necromancers In Space!

You can read my spoiler free review here or over on goodreads.

Gideon the Ninth is really good book. So good that I had to write about it with a bit more depth, while still striving to remain spoiler free. It’s the first book in The Locked Tomb Trilogy. If that name doesn’t give it away, it’s a fantasy series. Yes, even though there are more than a few sci-fi, horror, mystery, and urban fantasy elements sprinkled around the book, it is a fantasy series. Gideon the Ninth includes goodness from so many genres taking inspiration and components and mixing them together in a skilled manner to create an intriguing tale.

In some ways the universe of Gideon the Ninth reminds me of Dune’s. There are a bunch of houses, with their own roles and cultures, in control of their respective planets. An absent yet fear imbuing emperor is in charge of them all. Characters have mouthy greek inspired names like Atreides, Nonagesimus, and Tridentarius. One can’t ignore the – perhaps coincidental – similarities of the names Harkonnen and Harrowhark. There’s a mixture of space age technology and the tried and true staples like swords and daggers. Society with all it’s idiosyncrasies and traditions has existed for millennia. Though this particular society seems worse for wear and little threadbare. 

Waning society fantasy setting aside, there’s a murder mystery to be had as a motley group of unruly and humorous characters that aren’t the quite the typical fantasy crowd work to become Lyctor. Which is fancy talk for bad bad necromantic side kick to the emperor. While several characters are off beat, they aren’t from completely out of left field either. Readers are only given deeper access to a few of the characters, having them become a focal point in the story.  There’s a high degree of skill in writing and enough time was given to make all the necessary characters feel at least somewhat rounded. With many appearing as fully formed characters. Which is a feat given that the story is less that five hundred pages, in a fantasy setting, and has almost twenty pertinent characters. 

On top of the characters there is also the world building. No, it isn’t as much as some larger fantasy novels and by the end a fair portion of the world is still enshrouded in mystery. That’s what I found so intriguing. By the time I finished, I didn’t understand how the world fully worked. I’m not even sure how far reaching the universe is. Space is the perfect setting for a tale about necromancers. The near infinite cold void is nothing if not an apt metaphor for death itself. I’m fine with having mystery as it gives me something to ponder on.

I found the writing to be strong. Like a several other readers, I found the first part was a bit of a slog. There were many words I had to look up and the reader is getting hit with some world specific lingo that can be a bit unwieldy in the way it was introduced. Though I can appreciate the effort of avoiding exposition. To be honest, I almost gave up. Having to search for a word every few pages was starting to take a toll on my self-esteem. I’m wasn’t too proud, I just thought I wasn’t smart enough. 

After the first act, the writing loosens up considerably. There’s an anachronistic humor to the characters that becomes apparent. Aviators and elements of leathery gothy punkness squeak into the story. The character’s lexicon is not much different than our own current culture’s lexicon. Which in a way was refreshing. Cussing just occurs with no world specific proxy words. Hell is hell and an eff bomb is set to kill. All of this gives Gideon the Ninth an urban fantasy feel. 

Lastly is the predominant horror element. It’s every where as it should be in a story about death and space. Canaan House is a destitute and derelict place staffed with skeletons that even the necromancers find off-putting. A since of greatness and extinguished life adorn the halls and rooms. Winding concourses are dimly lit and blocked by locked doors. There are things in the dark places. Also, once the spaceships are pushed over the edge of the landing strip, there is no escape.

All of the elements mix together to give Gideon the Ninth a refreshingly new take on a few played out fantasy tropes. Why it’s taken humanity so long to get to a book about necromancers in space, let alone lesbian necromancers in space, is anyone’s guess. 

I almost forgot about the lesbian piece! That alone could serve as an indicator for how integral it is to the story. Do not get me wrong, it does factor into the plot. What it isn’t though is the plot. Gideon the Ninth is a amalgamation of a lot of genres, but it isn’t a “coming out” or “mostly about being a lesbian” story. What’s interesting is that the word “lesbian” doesn’t even appear in the book. Perhaps it doesn’t even exist, because what’s even more intriguing and inspiring is that it isn’t a big deal in this world. There are a couple of characters that are lesbian and it’s just accepted. No other characters mumble or glare about it. In fact, they’re beyond acceptance. It’s normal! Just the way it is, nothing to see here other than representation. What if our own world was the same way, for like, all LGBTQIA2S+? Representation. Acceptance. Empathy. 

If any of this sounds intriguing in the slightest, Gideon the Ninth should probably be picked up. I found it great and it resonated with me in such a way that I know I will reread it sooner than later. I cannot wait to read the rest of the series. In fact, I’ve had to actively distract and reroute myself away from neighborhood bookstores in an effort to not purchase Harrow the Ninth. Though the only reason for doing so is out of consideration for my current TBR pile. 

Gideon the Ninth

Gideon the Ninth is a fantastic read! I picked it up on a bit of whim. I’d heard about it a couple of times, but after reading about some fandom merch on Book Riot, I had to pick it up. “Lesbian necromancers in space,” is how it was pitched to me, somewhere. No that doesn’t match the blurb on the cover, but I like it. 

Gideon the Ninth has an amalgamation or anachronism occurring in both the universe and the writing that was, different. I’m not sure where Gideon got her aviators, but they work. I found they served a purpose of letting the reader understand that this isn’t a typical SFF story. All the things fans like are there, but the presentation is different. The writing isn’t as restricted feeling as the genre can be quite serious. Characters and narrators alike say things that are humorous and – for lack of a better word in a world of death – fresh

I started out reading on Libby and was glad I did as Muir used a bunch of words that I did not know. I’m used to running into the occasional word I have to look up. At the beginning of Gideon the Ninth I lost count of how many words I had to look up, but I do know that “prolix” and “soto voce” were two of them. There were plenty more and for a few thirty pages I thought that I wasn’t intelligent enough for this book. I stuck with it though and am really glad I did. 

The whole house and planet system was reminiscent of Dune. However, there is a feeling that civilization has been through a decline of somesort. Desolate and decaying, the life of necromancers mirrors the concept of death that occupies their lives. 

The story is fast paced and gripping. I found myself sneaking off to read when I probably should have been doing more responsible things. Anyway if you like your SFF with a bit of dry dark humor, pick it up.