Specfic mash-up, Tchaikovsky style…

Elder Race
by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Tchaikovsky, the writing machine. And you never know what comes next. This time it‘s a story told from two very different POVs in a sword-and-sorcery-setting, with a touch of SF and creepy (for me) horror elements. Slightly spoilerish review.

The fantasy is a post-colonial society that devolved and lost all technology and the SF part is the view of a technologically advanced observer, who ends up in the position of a sorcerer, because he can‘t stick to that Prime Directive and keeps getting involved..

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

– Arthur C. Clarke.

Very nicely illustrated in this novella! I really enjoyed the differences in understanding of the opposing characters or rather their misunderstandings. 

This entered horror territory about 70% into the story. And nobody tagged it as such, so I was pretty unprepared and it was creepy. Tchaikovsky gave me some very vivid imagery of „wrongness“. Reminds me of a recent horror discussion I had with some reading buddies, about what makes a tale horror for some and not for others. This here reminded me of something, maybe Dreamcatcher

On top of all that our observer/magician is on a journey of self-discovery, where he ultimately has to decide, where he belongs and in what capacity.

“How much worse to think yourself wise, and still be as ignorant as one who knew themselves a fool?“

From the novella

This dragon did not fly…

by Brynne Stephens,  (Anne McCaffrey),  Lela Dowling (Illustrator),  Cynthia Martin (Illustrator),  Fred Von Tobel (Illustrator) 

Rating: 1 out of 5.

This is a review of the book-to-comic adaptation of Anne McCaffrey’s first Dragonriders book, not about the book itself. The review of the actual book is here.

As a teenager I was a massive fan of the Dragonriders of Pern. I re-read the first trilogy last year and from today‘s view there are some issues with it, but the series will always be close to my heart. For completion‘s sake I got a copy of this graphic novel, published in 1993.

What did I think? For info, I read comics regularly.

The artwork is pretty bad. But in my experience many book-to-comic adaptations have pretty mediocre artwork. Besides of anatomically dodgy looking humans, lack of detail and poorly drawn backgrounds in general, characters change their look quite dramatically at one point. Presumably at the start of issue #2, which I can‘t tell, as there is no indication when one issue ends and the next one begins. The difference was so pronounced that I couldn‘t tell who was who and I struggled to tell characters apart till the end. 

Storytelling: I doubt that someone who hasn‘t read the novels can make much sense of the plot. If I hadn‘t re-read Dragonflight recently, I would probably have scratched my head. There simply is no decent storytelling, explaining the world or who everybody is and the plot is full of holes.

My recommendation? Don‘t bother! 
For newcomers to the series: Read the book instead.
For fans: If you are a completionist, go for it. But this didn‘t do anything for me, except annoy me.

(Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight #1-3)

Blast from the Past

In yesterday‘s review of Fated I mentioned other novels with a similar setting and feel. And because I haven‘t posted those review here before (well, ok, pretty sure I talked about Peter Grant plenty), I give you another Blast from the Past…

Hounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles, #1) — read and reviewed in 2013
by Kevin Hearne

I struggled a bit in the first third of the book. For an over 2000 years old druid this guy seems to be pretty silly and not very smart or wise. The talking dog is a tad annoying, too. It sometimes sounds very smart and at other times it’s pretty much like I would expect a dog to be. 
In the beginning you also get swamped with every supernatural being you can think of and you’re pummeled with a ton of complicated, celtic names. The werewolves could do with being fleshed out a bit more. And a tad of world building would not go amiss. Thor? Really?
I was prepared to be royally disappointed and give up. But I stuck with it and the action picked up eventually. The fight scenes are well written. The bad guys are pretty stupid, though. And the author is not as funny as he thinks he is, Maybe he is trying too hard. Or I am too old to be that easily amused. Take your pick. But I ended up reading pretty much two thirds of the book in one sitting and I enjoyed myself. Go figure. I might even get the next book of the series.

PS: I threw in the towel after book 7 of the series…

Rivers of London (Rivers of London, #1) — read and reviewed in 2012 and 2018
by Ben Aaronovitch

First re-read, July 2018:

My first re-read, six years later and having read and liked all the other available full-length novel. I liked it a lot better than the first time around, although it still felt a bit slow in the middle. I didn‘t remember much of the plot and it was interesting to see, how much this world has developed with the consecutive books.

I guess the perceived slowness was probably due to Aaronovitch spending time on world building and introducing various characters, which are relevant in later books. The plot suffered a bit for it. It was worth reading this again, though. And if this is your first read and you are maybe not totally sold yet, please give the next book a chance.

April 2012, original review:

Modern day London, a copper takes a witness statement, not realising that he is interviewing a ghost. He ends up working for the last wizard of England in a special police unit dealing with the supernatural.

I read the first 70 pages in one sitting. Fresh, witty, great plot, I laughed a lot and had fun. Murder, sleuthing, magic, talking to ghosts. And then those rivers started showing up and the story wandered off into the distance aimlessly. The plot lost its way and I lost interest. I kept putting the book down for days on end, to read something more interesting. Finally I forced myself to finish it with a fair bit of skimming.

What shame. I really wanted to like this book. There was too much going on that had nothing to do with the actual plot. I wish the author had just stuck to the murder mystery and concentrated on developing the three central characters of of Peter Grant, Inspector Nightingale and Lesley. Instead he sidetracked into the story of Mother Thames, her daughters and the Old Man. Which was a nice plot bunny by itself, but had nothing to do with the murder mystery. In the end it was boring and frustrating, because it was so scattered.

PS: Re-reading the first book spawned into a re-read of the entire series and this is currently one of my favourite UF novels written by a male author. Currently waiting for book #9, due to be published in April 2022! Instabuy / pre-ordered!

Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1) — read and reviewed in 2008
by Jim Butcher

Love the Endless Purse, I want one! What an excellent read. Liked it right from the start, Harry is a guy who likes his sarcasm and has a sense of humour. Harry Potter has grown up and moved to Chicago. Thoroughly enjoyable, good suspense story, well fleshed out characters, and the tension just keeps on rising.

PS: I threw in the towel after book #5. There was zero character development and Harry was just too immature for my taste.

Better the second time around…

Fated (Alex Verus, #1)
by Benedict Jacka

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Harry Dresden meets Peter Grant. Jacka probably wrote this because he is a massive Dresden fanboy!

“I’ve even heard of one guy in Chicago who advertises in the phone book under ‘Wizard’ though that’s probably an urban legend.“

He gives us some great characters, for example the air elemental Starbreeze…

“She’s ancient and timeless. I don’t know how old she is, but I think she might have been born at the time the world was made. She’s also dumb as a sack of rocks.“

In tone it‘s actually more Hounded by Kevin Hearne than Rivers of London (Rivers of London, #1) by Ben Aaronovitch. Well, maybe both. But it is set in London, which I always love to read about as a place setting. And it‘s the kind of humour I like. Tongue-in-cheek, not too silly. Roughly in the middle of this book the story starts to take a darker turn. Unexpected and pretty fun.

For me this is a re-read and I am actually raising my star rating from 3 to 4. I still have the issue that there is a little too much telling instead of showing, but for a first entry into the world of adult UF Jacka did a good job and this time around I will definitely pick up the next book in the series. I am especially looking forward to how Luna will develop.

Here is my slightly harsh sounding review from December 2012:

Nice setting, interesting plot, reminiscent of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. Likeable characters, especially Luna, Sonder and Starbreeze. Hopefully they will be part of the next books. I am not quite sure yet, if I will pick up the next book though. Although I liked Fated, it left me a little unsatisfied. Too many times you are simply told what happens, but you don’t get to see it happen. I would have liked a more graphic story telling. I doubt Jacka is lacking imagination and therefore leaves it to us to fill in the blanks. So what is the problem? Is he just lazy or does he maybe not want to scare us away with more violent scenes during the battles and so on? It made it a little harder for me to build an emotional connection with the characters, making the story feel a little sterile at times. Maybe Jacka just needs a little warming up to the world of adult Urban Fiction…

Pretty story about books, love and life…

The Whale Library
by Zidrou,  Judith Vanistendael (Illustrator) 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

We learn to tell stories 
for the same reason we learn to swim. 
To keep from drowning. 
So let me tell you the story 
of a good friend of mine: 
a whale like no other. 
Behind her smile was hidden 
the world’s largest undersea library…

From the back flap

If you know me, you know that I love all things underwater and ocean. Plus a friend reviewed this and mentioned watercolours. So this was a no-brainer. 

Pretty watercolours, a mature story about a whale who contains a large library, a postman delivering sea mail, his wife and a smattering of sailors, pirates, fish, sea turtles, octopi and more…

I loved the parts with our narrator, the postman, and his pregnant wife. Lovely and humorous. 

About the love of books and other things. Poetic, funny, mellow, tragic and sad. No, it‘s not a sad ending per se. I was smiling, while I was fighting some tears…

I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you!

The Wheel of Time and other adaptations

I am re-blogging someone else‘s post about the current WoT adaptation for TV, because I am lazy and the post sums it up very nicely. I have know of it for a while, but watched a trailer only yesterday. I was impressed that they cast Rosamund Pike as Moraine and I will definitely check this out.

I never made it past book 4 of the series, but maybe the adaptation will re-kindle my interest enough to give the book series another try.

Though the point of this is not to convince you to undertake the reading of this series, but to prepare you for Amazon’s adaptation of it into a …

The Wheel of Time for Non-Book Readers

There are some good movie and TV adaptation going around at the moment.

I recently watched Villeneuve‘s Dune in the cinema and liked it quite a bit. I won‘t go into any details, there are way too many spoilers too freely available on the internet already. Suffice to say, it is very well done, great photography, good actors in a much better age range than in the silly (but loved) 80s movie. Would you believe that after having read the novel at least four times, it only dawned on me now that Caladan is supposed to be Scotland? Aka Caledonia? *head desk*

Another one I just started: Foundation. My goodreads friends kept talking about it and I decided to finally make use of my free year of Apple TV+ (came with my new iPhone!). I watched the first episode last night. Not ideal on my iPad, so I just bought a USB-C-to-HDMI-cable to try and display it on my TV. Fingers crossed. Anyway, Foundation! Never read the books by Asimov, my reading history of the SF classics is severely lacking. Liked it! I adore Jared Harris and Lee Pace is nicely evil. Very diverse cast, great costumes and make-up, good CGI, etc. I will continue.

Not an book-to-screen adaptation, as far as I am aware, but as I was kicking about on Apple TV anyways, I checked it out: Infiltration with Sam Neill. I get a very strong War of the Worlds vibe. Glacially slow plot, I barely made it through the first episode. But I will definitely watch the 2nd episode, it will hopefully pick up some speed…

Whilst looking at all that, I decided to finally cancel my Disney+ subscription. I initially got it to watch WandaVision, which was a lot of fun. I then re-watched all Star Wars movies and filled in the gaps. I binged on a lot of documentaries. And I watched Loki. There is a lot of other Marvel stuff there, that I haven‘t seen yet. I love the Avenger movies, but I don‘t have the need to watch a gazillion spin-offs. This is just turning into a crazy money-making machine (or even more than it already was). So, I am done with Marvel for the time being, at least on the screen. Anyway, Disney+ raising the subscription price was the last drop, so to speak. I am not watching it enough to make it worthwhile paying the higher fee.

What are you watching?

Blast from the past

An old review from 2017:

Substrate Phantoms
by Jessica Reisman

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The space station Termagenti—hub of commerce, culture, and civilization—may be haunted. Dangerous power surges, inexplicable energy manifestations, and strange accidents plague the station.

From the blurb

I am not sure what to make of this book. I liked it, unexpectedly, as it was off to a slow start. It was poetic in parts. Interesting ideas. A fascinating first contact story. It made me feel sad for long stretches. Confused in the beginning. Slow build-up, slow paced, with a twist at the ending that I saw coming, but that worked well.

The beginning was a little difficult to get into. I had to come to grips with the unusual vocabulary and odd grammar. It was a good way to impress the otherness of the setting to me. Hard SciFi, I guess. I liked Termagenti station, but even more so the setting down on Ash, with it’s landscapes, memorable characters and the amazement of the station-born characters at encountering nature.

I liked the idea of the other characters taking up residence inside of Jhinsei. I wish the author had played around with that more. Maybe the book had felt more solid for me, if the author had explored that more deeply. But even so, lots to think about. I am sure this book is going to stay with me for some time.

World building with a lot of potential. I think I would like to pick up a sequel, to find out where the story takes the central characters.

I received this free e-copy from the publisher/author via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review, thank you!

A relic goes on a trip

by Alan Dean Foster

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Ruslan is the sole survivor of the human race. Aliens finally make contact, when it‘s seemingly too late for humanity. They save Ruslan and want to recreate what was lost. He strikes a deal with them—find the origin planet of his race, Earth, and he will assist them in their venture.

Very typically Alan Dean Foster, creating imaginative, non-humanoid aliens and having a human main character who finds himself in unusual circumstances on some strange planet.

Reading a third of the novel, I hadn‘t encountered anything new or different. Besides that the characters were pretty wooden and everything had a very old-fashioned feel. This could have been one of Foster‘s novels of the 80s, setting as well as tone. Nothing terribly exciting had happened up to that point. I skimmed through most of the middle of this novel and dove in again towards the end. It was mildly interesting, but I am glad I didn‘t invest more time to read this properly.

Humans driving themselves to extinction, Ruslan as the sole survivor, the idea of an alien race wanting to resurrect humans and to recreate human society—this reminded me of Dawn. Not a huge success with me either. But actually from the 80s and a lot more thought provoking than this novel from 2018.

Gothic 70s

by Richard Lange (Goodreads Author),  Marc Vietor (Narrator),  Wayne Carr (Narrator) 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A horror book with a different take on vampires. Of Mice and Men with vampires and a biker gang. Alternating POVs with a diverse cast and two different audiobook narrators. 

I breezed though this and really enjoyed it, not just because of the characters and the fast-paced plot—this would make a great movie—but also because of the entertaining and well done audiobook narration.

It‘s a dark, but not too grim. A little shocking at times. Quite a few heads fall, as is to be expected in vampire novels. Mainly plot driven with good action sequences and very tight writing, but various existentialist questions are mulled over as well by the main characters, without slowing down the pace. It all leads to a great ending and I would love to pick up the narratives of the surviving characters again. 

Excellent stuff, recommended!