4 star review

Review – The Book of the Unnamed Midwife

Book of the Unamed Midwife

Philip K. Dick Award Winner for Distinguished Science Fiction

When she fell asleep, the world was doomed. When she awoke, it was dead.

In the wake of a fever that decimated the earth’s population—killing women and children and making childbirth deadly for the mother and infant—the midwife must pick her way through the bones of the world she once knew to find her place in this dangerous new one. Gone are the pillars of civilization. All that remains is power—and the strong who possess it.

A few women like her survived, though they are scarce. Even fewer are safe from the clans of men, who, driven by fear, seek to control those remaining. To preserve her freedom, she dons men’s clothing, goes by false names, and avoids as many people as possible. But as the world continues to grapple with its terrible circumstances, she’ll discover a role greater than chasing a pale imitation of independence.

After all, if humanity is to be reborn, someone must be its guide.

This was a hard review for me to write. I did read it a while back, at the start of my slump when a change seemed as good as a rest (and I enjoyed it), but then I struggled to find what to say about it. It’s the end of the world as we know it, and no one feels fine. The titular heroine of the story, the unamed, gets sick in a world going mad and wakes up at the literal end of the world. Women are mostly dead, dying, or enslaved. Babies aren’t being born. And men are grabbing all the power. Into this world the unnamed goes forth hidden as a man.
The tale is mostly told in epistolary form, and it actually mostly worked for me. The book starts 100 years in the future with scribes recopying the unnamed’s diaries. And with that introduction we are jolted into this world. It is dark, gritty, sad, and much of the time horrifying. Realistic is probably the right word. Don’t expect a happy ending, or romance. Don’t expect reunited lovers. This isn’t this book.
What it is, is a “smart” book that delves deeply into gender role, survival, and the slide into superstition when science is lost. And I was on the edge of my seat for the majority of the book, but there is really no one to root for and you already know no one is getting their happy ending. So if you are looking for something a little out of the ordinary as a palate cleanser, then this is worth a look. Now, I understand there are other books in the series, but this one I think ends in the perfect way, so there is no sense that you actually need to read the sequel if you don’t want to, and I probably won’t.
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere, #1)

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2.5 star review

Review – The Hangman’s Daughter by Gavin G. Smith

hangmans-daughter

Four hundred years in the future, the most dangerous criminals are kept in suspended animation aboard prison ships and “rehabilitated” in a shared virtual reality environment. But Miska Storrow, a thief and hacker with a background in black ops, has stolen one of these ships, the Hangman’s Daughter, and made it her own. Controlled by explosive collars and trained in virtual reality by the electronic ghost of a dead marine sergeant, the thieves, gangsters, murderers, and worse are transformed into Miska’s own private indentured army: the Bastard Legion. Are the mercenaries just for fun and profit, or does Miska have a hidden purpose connected to her covert past?

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

They say a change is as good as a rest, and this sounded interesting and just enough out of my usual milieu to be just what I needed. And I am so sorry to say, mostly it didn’t work for me.

It should have. Strong militaristic heroine with a grudge and a plan? A high degree of moral relativity with a somewhat amoral heroine? Fighting and gratuitous violence? All things that SHOULD have made it my catnip.

Unfortunately the author stalled on a couple of key points. I don’t mind a crazy heroine, in fact I adore them. But this one whiplashed from on target-large and in charge, to crazed manic pixie sex bot who randomly exclaims “Pretty!”. It was pointless. I don’t know what the author was thinking. Was it an attempt to humanize her or make her more feminine? To appeal to a particular fan base? To capture romance readers or sci-fi dude bros? I just don’t get it, and it didn’t appeal. And worse than not appealing, it detracted from the story.

And the story itself was good, or at least it should have been. We have a woman out for revenge. We have battles to fight, plots to plot. All of space is the canvas and the scope is potentially enormous. And the fighting and plotting were good, it is where this author shines. But instead of sticking to that, or putting in hints of sexual attraction, the author beat us over the head with something that was completely irrelevant to the story. It broke into the meat of the story making it a slog to get through, I almost gave up at the 60% mark it drug the story down so much.

As relatively well as the author manages the action parts of the story and came up with a compelling premise, characterization is obviously a struggle yet. It isn’t just the main heroine though. From the start the way the sub characters were thrown at us, the just failed to initially flesh. It was just more noticeable with Miska, which is probably a combination of the fact we spend the entire story in her head…and because I am female.

In any event, there is some good material to work with, and I hope the author gets some help with characterization because I think tightening that up would probably tighten up the story line as well. And I am just masochistic enough that should another book in the series come out, I’ll read it.

The Hangman's Daughter: The Bastard Legion: Book 1
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3 star review

Review – The Life Engineered by J.F. Dubeau

Life Engineered.jpg

JF Dubeau’s debut novel, The Life Engineered, begins in the year 3594, where humanity is little more than a memory a legend of the distant past destined to reappear. Capeks, a race of artificial creatures originally created by humans, have inherited the galaxy and formed a utopian civilization built on the shared goal of tirelessly working to prepare for their makers return.

One moment a cop dying in the line of duty in Boston, the next reborn as a Capek, Dagir must find her place in this intricate society. That vaguely remembered death was but the last of hundreds of simulated lives, distilling her current personality. A robot built for rescue and repair, she finds her abilities tested immediately after her awakening when the large, sentient facility that created her is destroyed, marking the only instance of murder the peaceful Capeks have ever known. For the first time in their history, conflicting philosophies clash, setting off a violent civil war that could lay waste to the stars themselves.

Dagir sets off on a quest to find the killers, and finds much more than she sought. As the layers of the Capeks past peel away to reveal their early origins, centuries-old truths come to light. And the resulting revelations may tear humanity s children apart and destroy all remnants of humankind.

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

It has been a very strange year. I guess by now it is obvious that my reviewing rate has significantly slowed. Not much help for it, but for those I am late getting to I sincerely apologize.

I requested this months ago on a science fiction kick because the premise sounded interesting. Kind of iRobot meets AI. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out so well as those did for me.

For dealing entirely with artificial intelligence entities, the author does a credible job of tugging on the readers emotions, though one could wish the theme wasn’t “Kill the mothers”. But the rest of the narrative was disjointed and engaging on only the most superficial level, as were most of the characters excepting the main protagonist.

It is metaphor and analogy with significant religious overtones attempting to span a large-scale, and in my opinion it doesn’t quite succeed, being clumsy and heavy-handed where a certain level of elegance seems called for. And while I decry the killing mothers theme, this does seem to beg for the writer to kill his darlings. This isn’t a very long book but often it seemed to take twice as long for him to have his say as was actually needed, but without the luscious turns of phrase as other authors who have made similar (in my opinion) missteps.

Where the book succeeds is in the sweeping battles, logic exercises, and the action. And those parts I could absolutely have read more of. And I do want to know more about what has happened Skinfaxi, Belanos, and Koalamos and the Dormitory.  And I definitely want to know what else Adelaide might have had up her sleeve and how her mission shook out.

And Dubeau did a hell of a job snagging my attention with the teaser for the sequel.

But do I recommend this book? Tough to say. I won’t be rereading it unless too much time elapses between now and the sequel. But, I am almost absolutely sure I will read the sequel. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but that wasn’t entirely a bad thing. My rec is up in the air with this one read, at your own risk.

The Life Engineered

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4 star review

Review – Night Shift by Charlaine Harris

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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels—“the Mark Twain of things that live under your bed”*—comes a new novel of Midnight, Texas, the town where some secrets will never see the light of day…

At Midnight’s local pawnshop, weapons are flying off the shelves—only to be used in sudden and dramatic suicides right at the main crossroads in town.

Who better to figure out why blood is being spilled than the vampire Lemuel, who, while translating mysterious texts, discovers what makes Midnight the town it is. There’s a reason why witches and werewolves, killers and psychics, have been drawn to this place.

And now they must come together to stop the bloodshed in the heart of Midnight. For if all hell breaks loose—which just might happen—it will put the secretive town on the map, where no one wants it to be…

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

So this is the third (and final? I’d heard it was a trilogy but it feels like there could be more books) book in Harris’ Midnight series, which is a spin-off/tie in to most of her other series. You can check out reviews for Midnight Crossroad and Day Shift to find out more about the Easter Eggs. Beware spoilers, either for previous books or for this one. You have been warned.

In any event, strange doing were shaping up in the last installment, and they’ve only gotten stranger since. We meander through the lives and thoughts of the most central residents of Midnight. And there are some pretty exciting paranormal elements.

Olivia and Fiji get to be friends. Bobo finally opens his danged eyes. And Manfred gets the shock of his life. And Fiji finds her power. We get a nice chunk of Lemuel’s , Chuy and Joe’s back stories too. All the other characters also have significant and meaningful roles in the story and I am back to liking Quinn a little better too. There is a ton of relationship stuff, romantic and otherwise in this story. And those parts were really good.

So was the main mystery story arc. It came a little out of left field, but it was really quite interesting. And other plot threads tied in nicely too. All in all, this was a much better book, both in terms of plotting and in terms of entertainment, than the last one. Plus, this one had a real ending as well. It is definitely my favorite book in the series, and after a somewhat rocky beginning, I have to say, I’d be pleased to see more of Midnight.

Night Shift (Midnight, Texas, #3)

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4.5 star review

Review – Linesman by S. K. Dunstall

Linesman

This book was a recommended read from Ilona Andrews, whose opinion I trust, and the blurb somehow reminded me of Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax, when it comes to space piloting, which I found fascinating. I read the first chapter excerpt and couldn’t wait to get it, so it actually jumped the line over several things that should have been first. I was also pretty pleased that it breaks my cycle of eyes in science fiction (while those have overall been successful for me-it would be tedious if that was only how I found science fiction books), and that it was a male protagonist with no reported romance interest, like The Martian, which was a highly successful read for me. So my goal for this was as an entertaining palate cleanser.

And I have to say, if nothing else, the politics were rather fascinating. Which is a funny thing to say, and sounds like damning with faint praise, but truly, the politics were fascinating. And it was an excellent contrast or background for an affable, self effacing man who thinks more of the work than the politics, and whom you can’t help but like. He’s out of sync in more ways than one, but a likable underdog for the reader to get behind,

This is definitively science fiction, but I think it would be accessible to even non-science fiction readers, because the science isn’t heavy (though there are sentient ships which is always a cool feature), plus there is plenty of action and adventure, and interesting character studies. I truly liked most of the characters, i wanted to see them prevail, I wanted the ships to be heard, it is a story where there is always someone to root for. And while the linesmen aren’t the pilots, it was very satsifying for the technicians to be the heroes of the story, not the more glory filled professions.

Like I said, I really enjoyed this story and I couldn’t be happier that it looks like a sequel is in the works, since this is a world I’d like to spend more time in and see how future developments unfold.

Linesman

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