The Compleat Bolo ★★★★ ½

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This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Compleat Bolo
Series: ———
Author: Keith Laumer
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 320
Format: Digital Scan

 

Synopsis:

A collection of short stories and whatever you call a 50page story, not really a short story but not a novella either. Anyway, stories about the evolution of the tanks known as Bolos. From their mechanical beginnings to their self awareness to their “we’re smarter than humas so lets help them out”ness.

Bolos are loyal, brave, determined, nigh unstoppable and better representatives of humanity than any human. In other words, they are great mechanical main characters without the Skynet vibe.

 

My Thoughts:

I really needed this read. After The Punch Escrow I needed something to remind me that not all humans are bastard baby killers. So of course, I read a book where tanks are the main characters.

The humans in these stories are props for the most part. While they figure more prominently in earlier stories, as the stories progress the Bolos take center stage more often than not. Honor and duty are big points in these stories and I actually teared up at one story about a bolo sacrificing itself to save the humans. Sometimes I’m so weak.

This is probably more of an actual 4star book, but when compared to Punch, it rockets up. Some of the problems might be insurmountable for some. While this book was published in 1990, the stories come from the 60’s through the 80’s. In places, it shows. Word plays making fun of a politician’s name [McCarthy anyone?], communications, the 40 people in the one town on one world all talking like Jeb Clampet. I read more “hick talk” in this short book than I have in a long time.

Having read this in the 90’s soon after it came out and then during college and then again in ’01, I can’t say that I’m exactly unbiased. I like this collection of stories. I’ve never been tempted to try the full length spin off Bolo novels by other authors though. This book I recommend. Those others, try them at your own risk.

★★★★ ½

bookstooge

 

  1. The Compleat Bolo [2001 Review]
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Line War (Polity: Agent Cormac #5) ★★★☆ ½

Linewar (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Line War
Series: Polity: Agent Cormac #5
Author: Neal Asher
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 580
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Erebus, the rogue AI that has been corrupted by Jain nodes, is on the path to destroying the solar system. With fake attacks and whatnot, he manages to clear the way to Earth itself. Standing in his way is the haiman who committed murder for a jain node and Ian Cormac.

Cormac has been running all over the Polity, ostensibly chasing down Erebus but in reality picking up clues that lead him to only one conclusion. ECS, the Head Honcho AI, colluded with Erebus right when Erebus first found jain nodes. Its justification was that humanity was stagnating,but with millions and possibly billions dead, Cormac puts the smack down on that particular AI and kills it. A submind takes over but with the spectre of Cormac haunting it should it ever decide to go so outside of bounds.

The Dragon Sphere takes Mika and allows her access to Jain AI, which in turn allows her to deal with the gabbleduck/Atheter AI, possibly.

 

My Thoughts:

Nothing from my original review from 2010 has changed. This was a particularly wordy story and there were a lot of details that just didn’t need to be there. It really bogged the story down. Instead of an adrenaline filled gorefest of robots and monsters I got an indepth tour of things I didn’t care one whit about. That’s why I knocked half a star off this time.

There is still a lot of action but sometimes it felt like it was really hidden away. Also, Cormac played a MUCH smaller part. The biggest thing he did was at the end when he killed ECS. I guess this just didn’t stand up to a re-read as well as some of the previous books. The ideas were really cool the first time around and covered up all the weak points. This time around, I was seeing the weakpoints.

I had forgotten that the Atheter memcrystal came into play so early in the Polity books. I just read a big part of it’s conclusion in the Polity: Transformation trilogy last year. That is one nice thing about re-reads, seeing various threads that you’d forgotten about being more deeply woven into the story.

I do wonder if we’ll ever see Agent Cormac again. He hasn’t shown up, that I’m aware of, in later Polity books. But if we don’t, I’m completely satisfied with how this 5 books sub-series ended.

★★★☆ ½

bookstooge

 

  1. Line War (2010 Review)
  2. Polity Agent (Book 4)
  3. Brass Man (Book 3)
  4. The Line of Polity (Book 2)
  5. Gridlinked (Book 1)
  6. Polity: Transformation Trilogy

 

Stonewielder (Malazan Empire #3) ★★★☆ ½

stonewielder (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Stonewielder
Series: Malazan Empire #3
Author: Ian Esslemont
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 638
Format: Digital Edition

 

 

Synopsis:

Emperor Mallick sends another army and navy to take over Korel, where all previous attempts have failed. Not only that, but the one time a Malazan army DID make it through, they cut off ties and setup their own little kingdom. Time for the Emperor to remind them that they’re still his subjects. Almost all green troops bolstered by a navy of Blue Moranth. Facing them are veterans and turncoats and a whole contingent of Black Moranth.

Kyle and Greymane, trying to live life as teachers at a dueling school, aren’t doing quite so well. Greymane gets drafted by the Emperor to lead the invasion. I’m still not sure how the Emperor convinced a former Crimson Guardsman to do that! Kyle’s along for the ride as an Adjunct.

Lord Hiam is protecting the Wall that borders the sea and Korel. He and his special guards fight year after year for The Lady, throwing back the annual attacks by the Stormriders, magical sea people. For years they have used unwilling prisoners as well. This year, unbeknownst to them, they have some captive Crimson Guard. Understaffed, the Wall in desperate need of repair and the Lady’s Favor apparently turning against her own Chosen, Hiam has only his faith to sustain him and with the revelations about the Lady at the end, even that will shatter.

The Cult of the Lady is trying to wipe out all other religions in Korel. The Lady thrives on blood sacrifice and it is by that power that she can hold back the power of the Stormriders. She also negates all magic associated with the Warrens, so Malazan magicians are almost useless. In response, all the poor people of the land unite under a mystical prophet who quickly dies and passes on his legacy to some Arena Champion who has vowed to never kill again.

Politics and religion each using the other to further their own agenda.

And some little side thing with Kiska, from Night of Knives, looking for Tayschrenn, who has been sucked into some sort of vortex’y thing’y.

 

My Thoughts:

I had waited to read the Malazan Empire novels until after I’d finished the Malazan Book of the Fallen. So when I was reading these and their lack of pages of banal philosophizing, which I got in spades in the last 3 Books of the Fallen, I was overjoyed. So much action, so much story actually moving forward.

This time around, I wasn’t quite as enthused. My main complaint is that there are just too many story lines going on. Not storylines that all come together in the end, but that are multibook. My other complaint was HOW the stories were broken up. Sometimes you’d get pages and pages and pages. Then would come a 2 paragraph insert. Then on over to a 3rd storyline, etc, etc. And as far as I could tell, there was no repetitive order to them to help you remember. It felt like a jumble all thrown together.

The action was pretty good. I liked that.

With all of that, I’m definitely going to be reading Esslemon’t latest, Dancer’s Lament, before I read anymore of the Malazan Empire novels. If I don’t like it, then I won’t feel guilty about stopping these as well.

★★★☆ ½

bookstooge

  1. Stonewielder (2011 Review)
  2. Return of the Crimson Guard (Book 2)
  3. Night of Knives (Book 1)

House of Chains (Malazan Book of the Fallen #4) ★★★★☆

houseofchains (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: House of Chains
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #4
Author: Steven Erikson
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 1044
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Plot Line One:

Karsa Orlong, a young Teblor, sets out on an adventure with 2 of his friends. They discover out in the wide world that the Teblor are enslaved and an insular people. Karsa vows to become the warleader his people needs, even if he has to fight each and every Teblor. Along the way he gets involved with Leoman of the Flails and becomes Shaik’s bodyguard. Read Deadhouse Gates to see how that turns out. At the same time, the Teblor gods reveal themselves to Karsa and he bursts the bonds holding his people enthralled. Karsa’s plotline ends with him becoming the Knight of the House of Chains and everyone who knows him saying that the Broken god will regret doing so.

Plot Line Two:

Adjunct Tavore sets out with a green army to subdue Shaik’s Rebellion, not knowing that Shaik is now her younger sister Felisin. The green army has a handful of seasoned warriors, one of which is Fiddler, who is now going by the name Strings. Shaik the goddess is trying to control some bit of magic and in the process control the desert Raraku. The desert rebels and lots of ghosts rise up and destroy Shaik’s army. Tavore’s army does a tiny bit of fighting, but more mop up than anything. Tavore kills Shaik in single combat, never realizing it was her sister Felisin.

Plot Line Three through Fifteen: (actually not kidding, really)

Tisten Liosan, white skinned bastards, are looking for their god Osric/Osserc/etc. They get they’re butts handed to them on several occasions and decide to go home.

Various Imass do various things, like chasing after renegades, fighting with Liosan’s and defending the true Shadow Throne.

Cutter and Apsalar take service with Cotillion and end up going their own separate ways because they love each other too much to hurt the other with the duties they have to perform.

Lots of other stuff that had no immediate import and might not have any at all. Impossible to tell.

 

My Thoughts:

I am at the point where I am disgusted at Erikson’s choice of storytelling mode. He is fragmenting his overall storyline just because he can. I can’t assign a real motive to this mode of telling, so I’m going to call him out for just being a jerkwad.

Each successive book that I go into this Malazan re-read it gets harder and harder to overlook how deliberately obfuscated Erikson makes his story. A good story will only go so far and he’s fast approaching that breaking point where I give up in disgust. When I was originally reading this back in ’10, it was at this book that I basically gave up trying to keep track of what was going on for a synopsis because the story fragmentation really started to spread here. I am no longer seeing this approach as a positive thing like I originally did.

This was an engaging story and that is the only thing going for it. Part of that was because the first 23% of the book dealt strictly with Karsa Orlong and getting him from when he was a wee young lad of 100 or so to where we met him in Deadhouse Gates. He’s not a particularly bright or likable fellow but at least I was able to follow one complete story narrative for a long period of time.

I was having a hard time giving a crap about some of the storylines because they were such small fragments of the overall book. How do they tie in? You mean I have to wait for 3 more books to find out? No thank you.

The philosophizing got a little ridiculous. Felisin the younger, an adopted waif by Felisin, is kidnapped by one Felisin’s major allies, a twisted wizard. He destroys her. Sexually, emotionally, psychology. And when she gets rescued and is secretly recovering, she waxes loquacious on the subject of how her mother needs the wizard and so her rescuer’s vengeance needs to be put on hold. And she is 14. I just about threw my kindle on the couch at that. Girls who are raped and tortured don’t calmly discuss why their attackers are justified or how the greater needs of a geographical area outweight their own personal needs.

My main issue now is when does the story no longer outweight the twin sins of soapbox preaching and story fragmentation? I am going to do my best to read the whole series, but will definitely be noting the point where the balance finally does tip.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

  1. House of Chains (2010 Review)
  2. Memories of Ice (Book 3)
  3. Deadhouse Gates (Book 2)
  4. Gardens of the Moon (Book 1)

Talking to Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles #4) ★★★★☆

talkingtodragons (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Talking to Dragons
Series: Enchanted Forest Chronicles #4
Author: Patricia Wrede
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 272
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Daystar discovers a wizard spying on his mom. His mom promptly melts the wizard, heads off into the Enchanted Forest and comes back with a sword. She hands the sword to Daystar and tells him to seek his fortune in the Enchanted Forest.

So, being a good son, Daystar does. He meets Shiara, a flame witch who can’t control her powers and a young dragon who is out proving just how grown up it actually is. All the while all of them are being chased by wizards for various reasons.

They have adventures, meet the dragons, rescue Daystar’s dad, have a battle with the wizards and then settle down to live happily ever after.

Sometimes it is good to find out you are the Prince of the Enchanted Forest.

 

My Thoughts:

What a cute book. I was wondering, near the beginning, WHY Cimorene wouldn’t tell Daystar anything, but that gets explained.

Daystar is very polite to everyone he meets and that nets him more than he loses over the course of the book. I also liked how the adults in the book are competent adults and not stupid idiots. Well, except for the wizards but since they are the badguys, that is expected.

The first time I read these Chronicles I read an omnibus edition with all 4 books together. I think that was a bit too much. The childish nature of the humor, while wonderful, would wear rather thin right in a row for an adult. So I think I enjoyed my reading of these more this time around. I was able to enjoy each story on its own without rushing through them all and getting overloaded on cuteness and middle grade humor.

These books just cement the idea in my mind that Wrede is another wonderful author who has talent and discretion and that I am lucky to have found her books. I am also thankful that she’s never gone into the PNR direction or love triangle, angsty YA direction. Because, she’s a real author.

★★★★☆

bookstooge

 

  1. Calling on Dragons (Book 3)
  2. Searching for Dragons (Book 2)
  3. Dealing with Dragons (Book 1)
  4. Enchanted Forest Chronicles Omnibus (2006 Review)

God Emperor of Dune (Dune Chronicles #4) ★★★★ ½

godemperor (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, Librarything & Tumblr by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: God Emperor of Dune
Series: Dune Chronicles #4
Author: Frank Herbert
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 436
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Dune is transformed. The worms are gone. The Spice is a dwindling product handed out each decade by the God Emperor from his private stores. Leto is now a pre-worm and 3500 years old. Mentats are outlawed and gone. The Fremen no longer really exist. The Tleilaxu grow Duncan Idahoes for Leto. Leto has taken control of Bene Geserit breeding program. The Ixians supply Leto with technology while experimenting on their own.

There is peace. The Great Houses are gone. Populations reside on their own planets and enjoy a level of living that has been unheard of before. Leto’s Fish Speakers, an all female army, provide whatever force is needed should a situation arise.

Leto is fermenting humanity. Trying to change it from the inside out. He sees the glimmer of this in Siona Atreides, who is currently leading the rebellion against him. She can fade from his pre-sight, which means that her descendants will free humanity from the curse of prescience and prophecy.

Of course, Leto has enemies. The Tleilaxu plot his overthrow with their face dancers. The Ixians are breeding a human who is the perfect fit for Leto, and who they will control. Siona co-opts the current Duncan and they are figuring out how to kill Leto.

Leto knows.

Leto also knows that when he dies, his body will release sand trout that will begin the desertification of Dune once again and bring back the worms and the spice in a couple of hundred years.

 

My Thoughts:

This version that I read had an introduction by Frank’s son, Brian. While I normally hold my nose at the travesty he and that son of a goat Anderson created with the Dune prequels, I did find this introduction extremely enlightening and helpful. It prepared me for the kind of book this would be.

This felt like a play, with Leto II being front and center and soloquizing for most of the book. A lot of action happens, a lot of information is told, but it is all off stage, as it were. Leto talks. A lot. With his Major Domo, Moneo Atriedes [Siona’s father], with The Duncan, with Siona, with the love of his life Hwi.

Hwi. Now there is pathos. To have someone built to love you and to have them built so as to attract you. It is redeemed from pablum by Hwi knowing all of this and still choosing Leto over her Ixian masters. She does love Leto, willingly and unwillingly.

I thoroughly enjoyed this read, yet again.

However. If someone were to read this book and call it boring, dialogue heavy or unenjoyable, I would not try to correct them. Leto constantly tries to push other characters into understanding by asking them questions instead of answering their questions. Leto does that a lot and it can be frustrating. There were a couple of times that I wanted to shake him and shout “Just answer his question, you gigantic jerk!”. This was an idea book but those ideas were not all nicely queued up like bowling pins in an alley. They were disguised, hidden, scattered. It was frustrating and I will not deny that. I don’t think it is a weakness of the book or the writing though. It was deliberate. Herbert wanted his readers to think and thinking can be hard work at times.

This was a re-read book, like all the other Dune Chronicles books I’m reading. My first recorded instance of reading it was only back in ’12. However, I know I read it in highschool and in Bibleschool at least 3 times. So this is my fifth time? The fact that I’m still frustrated with it and yet enjoying it so much says a lot about the quality of the writing.

 ★★★★ ½

bookstooge

 

  1. God Emperor of Dune (2012 Review)
  2. Children of Dune (Book 3)
  3. Dune Messiah (Book 2)
  4. Dune (Book 1)

The Book of Atrix Wolfe ★★★★ ½

atrix (Custom)

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Book of Atrix Wolfe
Series: ——
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 254
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Atrix Wolfe, a powerful mage, is drawn into a conflict between 2 Kingdoms. One fateful night he uses his magic to put an end to the conflict and things go horribly wrong. He conjures The Hunter, a living nightmare of pain, terror and death. One king dies, the other flees, broken completely.

Many years later, the 2nd son of the dead king, is attending the Wizards School. He is recalled home and takes a book with him. His elder brother, unable to have heirs, makes him the heir and wants him to settle down and begin stabilizing the royal line, ie, get married and start making babies. Prince Talus agrees but still wants to study the magic book he brought home, little realizing it is the Book of Atrix Wolfe and the words contained are twisted by Wolfe’s despair at what he had done all those years ago.

In his mucking about, Talus calls the attention of the Hunter again, gets kidnapped by the Queen of the Faeries and is the fulcrum upon which turns the fates of many. The Hunter’s nightmare must end, the Faerie Queen’s daughter returned, Atrix Wolfe atoning for his misdeeds and Talus saving his brother’s life.

Just like a fairytale, there is a satisfying ending, even if not a happy ending, for everyone’s storyline.

 

My Thoughts:

The Book of Atrix Wolfe was my first McKillip book. I read it back in ’05 and over the next 2 years gobbled up her back list of books. I had never come across an author who wrote like this and it blew my mind. I became a fan of hers with this book and it holds one of those special places in my mind.

So it was with trepidation that I began my re-read. Things change in 12 years. My “little cousin” was in first grade and a bossy little boy when I first read this. Now he’s 6’4” and graduated highschool. I am now married, bald [well, shaved. Receding hairline isn’t fun for anyone] and about 25lbs more muscular [hahaha]. Of course, most of the changes are inside and not always easy to see or for me to even know. * insert Zen aphorism about mirrors and the back of one’s head *

My concerns were well founded, unfortunately. The story was just as good, the writing even better. But I could not accept the lack of communication between the various characters. The Faerie Queen’s lover and her daughter have disappeared on the fateful night and she has been looking for them ever since. She knows that Atrix Wolfe is responsible, but instead of asking for his help, she kidnaps Talus, uses him as a go between and even then STILL doesn’t actually tell him what is wrong. Atrix Wolfe won’t tell anyone about the Hunter, even while it is active again. Talus won’t tell his brother about the Faerie Queen and just goes off and does his own thing.

It was all extremely fairy tale like, so that type of thing is expected. But it really bothered me this time around and I couldn’t get past it. I knocked off half a star for that. It didn’t help that I’d been dealing with a sore back, lack of work and issues at church. I didn’t have the patience or reserves to accept the foibles of fictional characters.

Other than that issue, this WAS just as good as before. McKillip is a master wordsmith and her use of the english language is enchanting. She doesn’t just use words and sentences “correctly”, she knows them and the rules well enough so that she can “weave” them. It is the difference between a paint by numbers picture of the Mona Lisa and the actual Mona Lisa.

★★★★ ½

bookstooge

 

  1. The Book of Atrix Wolfe (2005 Review)