The Complete Dreamsongs ★★☆☆½

completedreamsongs (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 Complete Dreamsongs
Author: George Martin
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 1146
Words: 494K

 

Synopsis:

Combining Dreamsongs I and Dreamsongs II into one omnibus, this collects the majority of Martin’s short stories from the beginning of his career to its publication date in either 2003 or 2006.

 

My Thoughts:

I really liked how Martin talked about the stage of his life when he wrote each story. It gave some background and made him a person. Even in his own words he comes across as an arrogant jackass and anyone who thinks he’s going to finish Game of Thrones had better look at his own self-proclaimed track record. With that out of the way….

This was some of the best writing I have read in a while. Martin has talent and he’s spent the time honing his skill and it shows. Based on the writing alone, this deserves 5 stars. If you like good story TELLING, then you need to read this.

However, WHAT he writes about is what took this right down to its current rating. Almost every story is sad, melancholic, depressing, horrific or down right twisted. While Sandkings is a fantastic horrorific short story, 1100 pages of that kind of things wears you down. These stories also gave me vivid bad dreams, to the point where I stopped reading this in the evenings.

I read this in small doses (I started in mid-April) and I cannot imagine the affect of trying to read this straight through. I would not recommend that to anyone, no matter how much they might enjoy Martin’s writing. While I plan on re-reading Sandkings every decade or so, I think that will be the limit of my Martin reading. I will assiduously avoid all his others writings.

★★☆☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Master Humphry’s Clock ★★★☆☆

masterhumphriesclock (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: Master Humphry’s Clock
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 158
Words: 46K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Master Humphrey’s Clock was a weekly periodical edited and written entirely by Charles Dickens and published from 4 April 1840 to 4 December 1841. It began with a frame story in which Master Humphrey tells about himself and his small circle of friends (which includes Mr. Pickwick), and their penchant for telling stories. Several short stories were included, followed by the novels The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge. It is generally thought that Dickens originally intended The Old Curiosity Shop as a short story like the others that had appeared in Master Humphrey’s Clock, but after a few chapters decided to extend it into a novel. Master Humphrey appears as the first-person narrator in the first three chapters of The Old Curiosity Shop but then disappears, stating, “And now that I have carried this history so far in my own character and introduced these personages to the reader, I shall for the convenience of the narrative detach myself from its further course, and leave those who have prominent and necessary parts in it to speak and act for themselves.”

Master Humphrey is a lonely man who lives in London. He keeps old manuscripts in an antique longcase clock by the chimney-corner. One day, he decides that he would start a little club, called Master Humphrey’s Clock, where the members would read out their manuscripts to the others. The members include Master Humphrey; a deaf gentleman, Jack Redburn; retired merchant Owen Miles; and Mr. Pickwick from The Pickwick Papers. A mirror club in the kitchen, Mr. Weller’s Watch, run by Mr. Weller, has members including Humphrey’s maid, the barber and Sam Weller.

Master Humphrey’s Clock appeared after The Old Curiosity Shop, to introduce Barnaby Rudge. After Barnaby Rudge, Master Humphrey is left by himself by the chimney corner in a train of thoughts. Here, the deaf gentleman continues the narration. Later, the deaf gentleman and his friends return to Humphrey’s house to find him dead. Humphrey has left money for the barber and the maid (no doubt by traces of love that they would be married). Redburn and the deaf gentleman look after the house and the club closes for good.

In the portion of Master Humphrey’s Clock which succeeds The Old Curiosity Shop, Master Humphrey reveals to his friends that he is the character referred to as the ‘single gentleman’ in that story.

 

My Thoughts:

Although it pains me, and in a sane world this wouldn’t be a negative, I could only give this short book 3 stars. Isn’t that just terrible?!?

It wasn’t really bad, mind you, just that the short stories mostly centered around the ghostly and/or supernatural that Dickens liked and that I don’t care for in my classic historical novels. The other downside was that everything with Pickwick felt extremely forced. Like Dickens was trying to emotionally manipulate his readers by introducing a beloved character from another book so they would love this current book. Then the whole “I’m from this other book” thing also felt forced.

I know that Dickens was a manipulator (he would have been at the forefront of the SJW movement today, for sure and lying through his teeth about any and all) but most of the time I like it in his stories. I like having my emotions pushed around. This time though, it felt very cheesy. More like he was clapping 2 coconuts together and telling me he was riding a horse while he obviously wasn’t.

Recommended for those who really like Dickens and are completionists. Not really recommended for the casual Dickens fan. (does such a mythical being even exist? I have my doubts!)

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

For Love of Distant Shores (Tales of the Apt #3) ★★★☆☆

forloveofdistantshores (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:
For Love of Distant Shores
Series: Tales of the Apt #3
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 364
Words: 118K

 

Synopsis:

Amazon and Me

For Love of Distant Shores features the exploits of scientist-cum-adventurer Doctor Ludweg Phinagler, as recorded by his (semi-)faithful assistant, Fosse.

A maverick academic, Phinagler is able to charm almost everyone he meets… except for his fellow academics at Collegium, with whom he is frequently at odds. In part to escape the resultant animosity and scandal, and in part to satisfy his own thirst for knowledge, Phinagler mounts a series of expeditions to the far-flung corners of the world (regions which the author always knew were there but which the main narrative of the novels never allowed him to fully explore). In the process, he confronts ancient mysteries and deadly dangers that the majority of kinden would scarcely believe exist.

In the first story, Phinagler and Fosse explore an underwater lake and barely escape slavery and vivisection.

In the second story they head to the Desert of Nem to find lost treasure and find a mad Slug Magician instead.

The third story has them hiking into one of the great forests to track down the Kinden who built a mysterious tower. Not only do they find the kinden, they find 8 wasps who seem to have immortality through being reborn using the aforementioned Kinden as hosts.

The final story has them crossing the Great Sea and discovering a new land where the people don’t talk their language, appear to have no kinden and can apparently change shape. The story ends with Phinagler vowing to come back and Fosse retiring so she can have a polygamous relationship with 2 of the men she met.

 

My Thoughts:

Sadly, each of those Tales of the Apt books has been slowly going downhill for me. With the final story ending up with a menage a trois arrangement, I was very disappointed.

I liked the format of 4 novellas (they’re not really short stories) making up the book. Very pulp. Definitely riffing on the 1900’s Adventure Stories. Yet still fun.

Character wise, I wouldn’t have minded if the main characters had died each time and been replaced. Phinagler was an egotistical jackass and Fosse was a gambling lowlife. I have to admit, there were times I was really hoping they’d die. I really didn’t like them.

The stories themselves were great. I like a good Adventure Story and these were definitely that. Well, I didn’t like the final story, but that is because I knew it tied into his Echoes of the Fall series and I really didn’t care for that series. The other 3 though, they were cool.

There is one more book of short stories in this series and I believe it is by different authors, so we’ll see how it goes.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Target Rich Environment, Vol. 2 (TRE #2) ★★★★½

tre2 (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: Target Rich Environment, Vol. 2
Series: TRE #2
Author: Larry Correia
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SFF
Pages: 450
Words: 122K

 

Synopsis:

From Amazon

“Tokyo Raider” pits giant robots against very big monsters in the Grimnoir Universe. “The Testimony of the Traitor Ratul,” set in the Saga of the Forgotten Warrior series, lets a man who has been called a fanatical rebel, despicable murderer, and heretical traitor tell his side of the story. And “Reckoning Day” gives an insider view into the day-to-day life of some of the most popular characters from the Monster Hunter International series.

Plus, stories set in the world of both Aliens and Predator; an Agent Franks /Joe Ledger mash- up cowritten by best-selling author Jonathan Maberry; a V-Wars story; a story set in Michael Z. Williamson’s Freehold series—and more.

Finally, Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent, is back in “A Murder of Manatees,” appearing in print for the first time!

Me

Tokyo Raider

Testimony of the Traitor Ratul

Shooter Ready

Three Sparks

Reckoning Day

Weaponized Hell

Son of Fire, Son of Thunder

Episode 22

Absence of Light

Psych Eval

Musings of a Hermit

Instruments of War

Murder of Manatees

My Thoughts:

Just like the previous volume, this was loads of fun! Definitely a contender for Best Book of the Year.

My two complaints first, hence the docking of a ½star. One of the novellas, Instruments of War, is set in some other franchise fiction universe and went on just a bit too long for my taste. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t to my taste. Secondly, the Tom Stranger novella wasn’t quite as funny as the first one. So those are really my only “complaints”.

I was really glad to FINALLY read Tokyo Raider. It has been audio only for years and I am not going to pay $10 for a novella on audio, or join Audible and use one of my promo credits for a novella. No one had even bothered to transcribe it and release it into the wild either. So I was pleased as punch to get to it. It wasn’t the greatest story, but I’ll take anything Grimnoir at the moment.

Three Sparks was a Predator versus Samurai story. After the abomination of a movie that was AVP, it was great to get a Predator story that was good.

Reckoning Day was a fun little MHI story about the orcs and how Shelly the female gunslinger is introduced. I’d never heard of her so I’m wondering if she is in some of the non-book stuff or in the new book, Guardian which is a collab between Correia and Sarah Hoyt.

Finally, I also enjoyed Weaponized Hell, a story about Agent Franks from MHI and some guy named Joe Ledger from another author. It was good enough that I’m adding the first couple of Joe Ledger books to my tbr to see if I like them (in a year or 3 of course). A short story that can lead me into another author’s series? I count that as good story telling!

★★★★½

bookstooge (Custom)

A Time for Grief (Tales of the Apt #2) ★★★☆½

atimeforgrief (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: A Time for Grief
Series: Tales of the Apt #2
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 350
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A collection of short stories about the Apt world that ranged between the opening chapters of The Empire in Black in Gold all the way to after the Seal of the Worm.

Many minor characters from the series are given more prominent roles and several characters from the first book in this series of Tales of the Apt make a return.

 

My Thoughts:

I did not enjoy this as much as the previous book. It felt like Tchaikovsky was simply letting all the story telling out that he wasn’t able to fit into the Shadows series. Characters and situations that were important to him as the author were allowed out on the page, whereas I the reader couldn’t have cared less about them all.

That doesn’t mean the stories weren’t interesting or were poorly written, but they simply didn’t grab my attention the same the previous collection did. I think part of it was just how depressing it all was, even the authors little afterwards about the history of each story. More of these stories ended happy than not but even still Tchaikovsky just seemed to revel in writing, in the afterwards, about how depressing everything in the story is. He doesn’t seem like a depressed man, but just someone who likes to tell depressing stories.

I think this is typified in the story about a fly boy. He and his parents are workers in the city of Helleron and they can barely afford to even live in the poor section of town. Then the street they live on changes hands to another gang and said gang raises the rates, hence forcing everyone to move. The fly boy tries to hire someone to fight a battle with whoever the gang chooses but being so poor, no one will even give him the time of day. Until he runs across Tisaman, who wants to die. So Tisaman takes up his cause and kills the fighter the other gang hired and so the street goes back to the original gang. The kicker? The fighter the other gang hired was a man who lived in the same building as the fly boy and who the fly boy looked up to as a hero. Every story has some depressing angle like that.

It isn’t nihilism, but it is more subtle and insidious and it wore me down. There are 2 more books in the series and I’m really hoping they trend more towards the action of the first than the mentally depressing of the second.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Very Good, Jeeves (Jeeves Omnibus #3.3) ★★★★☆

verygoodjeeves (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: Very Good, Jeeves
Series: Jeeves Omnibus #3.3
Author: P.G. Wodehouse
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Humor
Pages: 273
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

Another collection of short stories about Bertie Wooster and his fish-fed super-brainy man-servant, Jeeves.

Whether it is potential marital status change for Bertie (who seems to be afraid of said status), or a friend being forced to eat nothing but vegetables because of his wife’s friend, or an Aunt forcing Bertie to something he doesn’t want to (like pay off a waitress who Bertie’s Uncle George wants to marry), Bertie is always in a maelstrom of chaos. Thankfully, with Jeeves guiding the good ship Wooster, the apparently inevitable crash upon the rocks never happens and it is smooth sailing, until the next adventure.

 

My Thoughts:

The only complaint I have about short story collections is that it is wicked hard to synopsize each and every one. So as I’ve written before, and I’m sure you may have noticed, I simply don’t. Of course, I also have to complain about these omnibus editions, yet again. This book was the 3rd book published by Wodehouse and yet it is the 9th book in these collections. It also has no relationship in time to the previous book or two. What phracking idiot curated these anyway? I’d like to make them walk the plank, after I’ve tied them to the mast and given them a taste of the cat’o’nine tails!

Staying on the nautical theme, this was a boatload of fun. Captain Wodehouse excels in navigating the reader through a funny story that has a beginning, a middle and an end all within 10-40 pages. For the most part, Wodehouse’s humor tickles my fancy so even if the particulars of a story doesn’t really interest me, the humorous shenanigans do and that keeps me reading. I experienced no doldrums while on this pleasure cruise and what’s more, none of the offerings gave me food poisoning or led me to being sick.

Good times!

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard ★★☆☆☆ DNF@55%

completestoriesofjgballard (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 Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard
Series: ———-
Author: Jerry Ballard
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 1199/DNF@55%
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A massive collection of short stories by the author Jerry Ballard. Mainly from the 60’s and 70’s, Ballard’s stories one and all revolved around broken characters; broken mentally, broken physically, broken emotionally, broken psychologically, broken in any way you can imagine. The world is dystopian, hope has been removed and the inexorable pessimistic fate for humanity cannot be thwarted.

 

My Thoughts:

Ballard was a qualified writer, ie, he knew his craft and did it well. However, his style and subject matter destroyed any positives for me in that aspect. In the over 600 pages I read I would have expected SOME variety in the stories but nope, uniform brokenness was what Ballard thought and what he wrote. By the time I’d decided to DNF this, I wasn’t even depressed, I was simply bored. I imagine I felt like what an art connoisseur would have felt like if Edvard Munch had only painted Scream style paintings.

At the 25% mark I was raging inside. The brokenness of the characters really had gotten to me and I was sick that Ballard could write such people over and over and over. Every man was a coward in one way or another, every woman a harpy or drone. Then like I said earlier, I just got bored. You can only read the same type of character and story so many times before it stops having an impact.

Originally, this book was published in 2 separate volumes and honestly, I think that was the correct choice. This 1 volume was just too big. Maybe if you wanted to slowly read a story here and there every day or week and you could set this down whenever you wanted, you’d not get bored. I still would have gotten bored though and there was no way I was going to spend a prolonged time period with this author’s outlook. One week of reading it every day, approximately 100 pages a day (anywhere from 4-10 stories), was enough.

Ballard also hasn’t aged well. The wonders of psychology would solve all the problems, but of course with Ballard that was misused so it would create all the problems. In one story psychologists had been outlawed by a right-wing world order and the main character had gone to jail for trying to help someone in an underground psychology session. I don’t see Ballard becoming an enduring author. To the dustbins of history with him I say!

Finally, I couldn’t help but compare this massive collection to the volumes of short stories by Asimov that I read back in ’16. That was also a 2 volume collection, Volume One and Volume Two and together they about equaled the same number of pages as this. Their tone however, was much more positive and upbeat, which allowed the more negative stories in that collection to be more of a savory contrast, like sweet and sour chicken. Ballard was just sour chicken. That is only yummy if you’re a sick, sick individual.

★★☆☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Spoils of War (Tales of the Apt #1) ★★★★☆

spoilsofwar (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: Spoils of War
Series: Tales of the Apt #1
Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 278
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A collection of 8 (I believe, I didn’t keep track) short stories taking place in the world of the Shadows of the Apt. However, these stories all take place before the first book, Empire in Black and Gold begins. Definitely meant for fans who have already read the entire decalogy and want more.

 

My Thoughts:

I am a fan of collections of short stories by a single author. You get lots of ideas and little bits and bobs without having to commit a huge amount of time. This book was under 300 pages, so each story was something I could sit down with and read in a sitting and not feel like I had started something that I needed a week to commit to. It was perfect for lunch breaks and an hour or whatever in the evening.

The stories themselves I enjoyed but none of them really stood out to me. However, that is how I usually am with collections like this so it isn’t a slur on the book, but a reflection on me. While I do review every book I read, I have never felt like I needed to review every story in a collection like this. I don’t like writing THAT much 🙂

Tchaikovsky also gave a little note after each story with an anecdote of how it came to be or how a character tied into the Shadows series. It was enjoyable but also made me realize that even side characters who I’d completely forgotten about played a big part in the author’s mind when he was writing. Good for him, I guess?

Most of the stories dealt with the 12 Year War between the Empire and the entity ruled by the dragonfly, the Commonweal perhaps? I can’t remember. Thoroughly enjoyable but I’m not sure I’d recommend this for someone who hasn’t read the Shadows series first. A lot is assumed here in terms of understanding the Kinden. That kind of thing is explained in the Shadows series so it’s not a stumbling block coming into this, but if you were just starting out with this, I can see it being very confusing.

Final verdict is that I enjoyed the bejabs out of this and highly recommend it for anyone who has read and enjoyed the main Shadows series.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Galactic North (Revelation Space #6) ★★★★½

galacticnorth (Custom).jpgThis 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: Galactic North
Series: Revelation Space #6
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 356
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

A collection of 8 short stories and novellas set in Reynolds Revelation Space universe. Many of them focus on the Conjoiners and we get several stories that provide history about several of the Conjoiner characters we’ve read about in previous books.

There is also a story about the Green Light that is mentioned in an earlier book and while we don’t see how humanity overcomes that, we do see how it gets started.

One of the stories gives a tip ‘o the hat to the novella Diamond Dogs. That story was much closer to a horror story and it meshed with the tone of Diamond Dogs perfectly.

 

My Thoughts:

Man, another winner of a book. I thoroughly enjoyed this. I’d already read one or two of these stories in Reynold’s Best Of… Collection but they were just as good upon a re-read.

I did enjoy the variation in length of story from novella down to a short story. It helped with the flow of the book and never made me feel like I was slogging. I also liked finding out the history and future of several characters we have already met in previous books. Reading this was a nice “rounding out” experience.

By this time, if one has read this far into Reynold’s Revelation Space universe, nothing here is going to deter one from continuing. Not even referencing one’s self in the third person. That being said, I think there is only one more book for me to read and then I’ll have to go track down his other works and figure out what order to read them.

★★★★½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Ghostmaker (Warhammer 40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #2) ★★★☆½

ghostmaker (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: Ghostmaker
Series: Warhammer 40K: Gaunt’s Ghosts #2
Author: Dan Abnett
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 416
Format: Digital Edition

 

Synopsis:

The Imperials are on the world of Mothraxx trying to prevent the forces of Chaos from taking it. On the morning of the final assault Gaunt walks among his troops and talks to various ones. Each time he talks with a trooper we get a story flashback from that soldier about a previous battle. We get 5-10 of these and then move on to the battle.

Mothraxx was home to a Lord of Nature (I don’t know the proper term in WH40K vernacular) and there is a gateway to a Homeworld that Chaos wants to invade. Humanity has been drawn there by the will of the Nature Lord even while thinking they’re doing it for themselves. A huge battle ensues, the Nature Lord gives his life to hold off the Chaos Forces and one of the Psykers, an Inquisitor goes to the Homeworld to close the gate.

Humanity destroys the forces of Chaos and everyone is less sad.

 

My Thoughts:

Having a bunch of short stories to fill in past battles worked really well. Considering how many troopers die, getting some backstory before they die feels more satisfying. At the same time, you don’t get invested enough in somebody that you’re emotionally scarred when they get their head ripped off by some Chaos warrior or their guts torn out and eaten or something like that.

The psyker who gave her life was introduced with just a hint of possible romance for Gaunt, so I knew she had to disappear. Can’t have attachments in this universe! Outside of Gaunt, his cabin boy and some of the ranking officers, anybody is liable to be killed off. I’ve adjusted my thinking for these books so it doesn’t bother me.

What does bother me though, still, is the very nature of this universe. If Chaos is bad, and the Inquisitors hunt down any human with psychic powers, using psychic powers, how does that work? And the Emperor. I’m going to have problems with him just existing, so get used to me complaining about him. He is as Chaos’y as Chaos so why does Humanity worship him? Grrr, I just don’t understand.

As Ground Pounder SF goes though, this is pretty enjoyable. Gaunt’s Ghosts are scouts and fighters so no spaceship to spaceship battles. I’m all for that!

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)