Ted Nolan <tednolan>
2018-11-21 06:32:18 UTC
Well, this one is very late given a bad cold and the concomitant loss of IQ
and willpower and then some real-world stuff that needed doing, but
here it is:
The Dragon Machine (Magebreakers Book 3)
by Ben S. Dobson
This is the third "Magebreakers" book, and by now even our reluctant
co-protagonist Tane Carver is getting used to the popular name for his
and half-orc partner Kadka's agency.
In this outing, the city is still uneasy after the outing and escape of the
reactionary "Emperor's Mask", and the continuing (though so far non-violent)
social unrest of the Protectorate's non-magical races as they agitate for
equal rights. With all that in the background, Tane & Kadka take a seemingly
unimportant case: to locate a missing goblin girl and return her to her
parents, but things escalate quickly as apparently the girl, while certainly
not a villain, is no hapless abductee, and people she associates with are
either being riven of their connection to the Astra (becoming empty shells)
or burning up with wild magic. To further complicate matters, somehow
this all relates to one of the many secrets being kept by Kadka's kobold
I am still enjoying this quasi-Victorian magical steampunk world,
and Tane & Kadka's adventures at the crux of a turning era of reform.
I do think Tane is becoming a little too much of a well-meaning
sitcom dad who needs to be the butt of insufficient Wokedom while
Kadka has no perceptible flaws, but while that aspect could be
dialed back, so far it has not spoiled things for me.
Night and Silence (October Daye Book 12)
by Seanan McGuire
I have to say, being so late with this month's reviews, that the details
of this Toby Day outing are already going a little blurry for me, which is
never a good sign.
Once more Toby's (now fully) human daughter has been kidnapped, and it is
up to Toby and her circle to make things right. This is complicated as
Toby's fiancee Tybalt, the local king of cats, on whom she can usually lean
heavily for help is still traumatized by the events of the previous book
where he was tortured by Toby's loose-cannon mother. Still, Toby plods
onward, bleeds a lot, discovers some highly unexpected family history and
finally thinks about one of the main series underpinnings which has never
before been explained to the readers.
The main book is followed by a novella done in the point of view of Toby's
daughter, mainly notable for her observation that all the Fae characters
around her need therapy.
On the whole I thought both of these entries were subpar for the series and
I found both the main book and the novella suffered badly from continuing
on past obvious stopping places, probably three or four for the novel.
The Weapon Makers (1943)
The Weapon Makers (1947)
by A. E. van Vogt
I didn't intend to read two books here, but due to an attack of
operator headspace issues, that's the way it worked out.
The site-runner of Prospero's Isle says of this:
Here the narrative not only recounts the conflict between
the Weapon Shops mastermind Robert Hedrock and the ruthless
Empress Innelda as well as his deadly confrontation with
his own Weapon Shops organization, but also follows the
efforts and quite spectacular adventures, both on Earth and
in outer space, of an atomic engineer named Dan Neelan who
has returned to earth on a search for his twin brother who
had suddenly disappeared a year earlier after working with
a group of brilliant scientists on a revolutionary new
This novel was originally published in the February, March
and April 1943 issues of Astounding Science Fiction, the
leading sci-fi magazine of the golden age, with the
illustrations by Kramer that are shown here.
It was later issued in hardcover format in 1947, in a heavily
rewritten and reorganized version in which the two leading
protagonists are essentially merged into the one person of
the super-hero Robert Hedrock, a rewrite that necessitated
some far-out twists such as body transfers and mind-reading
that make it a very different and, we feel, considerably
less satisfactory tale indeed.
This original 1943 version of the novel has never before
been republished anywhere!
Since, like everybody else not subscribing to "Astounding" in 1943, I
had read the fixup version, I wanted to read the original magazine text.
I got about halfway through and then noticed, "Hey, I am seeing those
"far-out twists" here. Looking back at the site, I noticed that *both*
versions are on the same download page, and I had clicked on the 1947
one. So I ended up downloading the 1943 text, reading it all, and then
finishing up the 1947 text.
Why, you might ask (as I did), would van Vogt do a fixup to something that
was actually written as a cohesive novel, rather than his usual practice
of fixing-up related and/or unrelated stories into a novel?
Well, I'm not entirely sure, but I believe in the end, he a) decided that
Earth's immortal man, Robert Hedrock, was just a more interesting character
than random asteroid miner Dan Neelan, and b) he had to paper over an
incredible co-incidence that was one of the main plot drivers. I suppose
he could have done 'b' without doing 'a', but involving Hedrock in the
plot mechanism there feels better, even if it probably doesn't really make
much more sense.
At any rate, while I enjoyed both versions I did enjoy the fixup more, and
it's not like "far-out twists" are unusual in a van Vogt tome.
In either version, _The Weapon Makers_ (which notionally takes place 7 years
after the events in "The Weapon Shops Of Isher", though neither Cayle nor
Fara Clark come on stage) is about the chance discovery of faster than light
travel, and its potential effect on the Empire of Isher (the Empress is dead
set against it, for pretty good reasons), humanity and any other possible
races in the galaxy. In addition, the prize is so great that it sets
the Weapon Shops (which are supposed to stay completely out of politics)
against the Imperial government and sets in motion a rolling crisis on
Earth and in deep space that taxes even the intellect and planning abilities
of Earth's one immortal man.
The fixup does read a bit oddly in places where everyone assumes, and Hedrock
encourages the assumption that he is Neelan, but that's par for van Vogtian
I particularly liked the instances of deep planning we see where Hedrock
puts into motion contingencies he set up hundreds of years before, yet
knowing all the while that he is no smarter (and indeed less logically
trained) than his Weapon Shop opponents.
Van Vogt is not known for his characterizations, but there are some deft
touches here, like Hedrock wondering if he will *ever* get back to his
apartment in a day that seems to be drawing on forever, the story of
the Empress & the snake, and the small bits that make Prince del Curtain
an appealing friend and advisor.
Yes, the ROUS is in both versions, as is the famous closer.
Another winner from van Vogt's golden age.
I'm Not A Villain! (Night Terror Book 5)
by Mia Archer
Book 4 of the "Night Terror" saga saw techno-villain Night Terror
trying frantically to locate and save her girlfriend Fialux after she
had been portaled to a nightmare irradiated world, whose actual location
was unknown except to the now deceased evil Dr. Lana.
This book follows Fialux's adventures on said planet, and is the first
we have seen of her in her own viewpoint. That viewpoint is rather
interesting as it turns out that Night Terror has rather accurately
diagnosed some of Fialux's tropes. For instance, while she's no dummy,
she's about as smart and more to the point as "savvy" as you would expect
a journalism major to be. This, and her superpowers (which thankfully have
returned just in time to have the environment not kill her) often lead her
to punch first and think later, which does not endear her to the locals
despite their being under the thumb of evil cat/worm overlords.
Also, from book one, we know Fialux has one definite weakness, which comes
back into play here in spades.
I enjoyed this book quite a bit more than book 3, which dragged on way too
long with the cat hunt, and the insights into Fialux are nice. In true
comic book fashion, we also get hints of retcon here, which I'm going to
say were probably intended, at least in broad strokes, as it clarifies
an issue I had with book one.
Villains Don't Do Time! (Night Terror Book 6)
by Mia Archer
Book 6 of the Night Terror saga finds us back in Night Terror's
POV, and things are not going well. While she has her girlfriend
back, after a fashion, the whole alien invasion thing is a downer
(she usually tries to stop those at the Kuiper Belt, fighting one
on Earth is much more difficult). To top things off, she, Night
Terror, the Greatest Villain Earth Has Ever Known is arrested by
the new powers-that-be and thrown into Supermax. To make matters
even worse, she doesn't have her super-suit, her sidekick, or her
confidence. While Supermax isn't as bad as it could be (Night
Terror is a bit disappointed that some of the Cinemax aspects of
prison life aren't true), the place was known to be as revolving-door-ish
as Arkham, yet she still can't get out for some reason.
While Natalie tries to snap out of her funk and come up with a cunning
plan, the invasion is spreading out from Starlight City, and the only
hope may be.. her fellow inmates.
I liked this one pretty well. Though the prison setup strains
even comic book suspension of disbelief, it didn't quite break it
for me given the other things we have already seen. I did think
Night Terror went down too easily in the initial fight, though she
was dealing with a lot of unexpected "issues". It's still not clear
what Dr. Lana's messing around with Natalie's mind means. Perhaps
Dr. Lana is not really dead? (That's a guess, not a spoiler).
Centauri Bliss: A Harem Space Fantasy
by Skyler Grant
Centauri Honor: A Harem Space Fantasy (Centauri Bliss Book 2)
by Skyler Grant
I used to think of books like this, roguish smuggler captain, beat-up ship,
quirky crew, as "Han Solo" books. Now I realize in the current era they
are "Firefly" books.
Whatever you call them, these are pretty good.
Quinn Jade is on a losing streak. He lost his wife on a job gone bad
and never recovered his equilibrium. In the meantime, his ship is barely
scraping by, the jobs are getting less and less lucrative, and his crew
one of whom loves him, is getting restive with the situation and Quinn's
non-recovery. Aware that he needs to move on, but unable to let go of
the past, he goes through the motions, but it doesn't help.
Desperate for work after another job gone sideways, Quinn meets an equally
desperate lawyer in a seedy bar. She has money, and needs someone gotten
out of port sub-rosa and quickly. With the political situation having
gotten suddenly dicey with the death of the old Emperor (which is not
supposed to happen in the first place), Quinn is desperate, but not *that*
desperate, until he is.
He takes the work, and after several other unlikely happenstances, Quinn's
new passenger confronts him with a decision: Embrace life, reorganize the
ship as a "Centauri" (an old term for a Heinleinian group marriage) and
move forward, or see his entire crew off at the next port.
This series is an interesting attempt to play off the current "harem"
genre with classic SF tropes. In particular, a Centauri is not exactly
a harem as in theory it could have multiple males (though of course
this one doesn't) and the women fully regard each other as wives in addition
to their relation to their husband. It's also an interesting setting.
It turns out there's a big problem with FTL travel: It's impossible under
the laws of physics, so they have to use magical runestone gateways to
transition from system to system. Traditionally, magic is associated with
the Imperial family, which is what makes it so unlikely that the Emperor
would have died: They all have the "mend" ability. That means magic
was probably involved, and coincidentally parts of the Empire erased from
history and walled off from the core are starting to come back into play,
and by the way one of Quinn's wives is magical herself, with ties to
the Old Empire..
These are fun books. There's sex, of course, but also a good bit of humor,
daring escapes, capers, pirates, assassins, shopping and empire building.
What's not in Columbia anymore..
What's not in Columbia anymore..