Saturday, July 30, 2016

Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers, by Alyssa Wong

October 2015

Jen searches carefully for the right dates on Tindr; dates who will provide what she really needs. Jen is a kind of vampire; she feeds on bad thoughts.

And one night she hits the jackpot.

As this is a short story, it's tough to say anything more without spoiling the whole thing, but Wong builds setting, situation, and character with exquisite perfection.

I also reviewed her The Fisher Queen, last year.

Highly recommended.

This story and others I received as part of the 2016 Hugo Awards voters' packet.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Philosopher Kings (Thessaly #2), by Jo Walton (author), Noah Michael Levine (narrator)

Audible Studios, July 2016 (original publication June 2015)

Thirty years have passed since the founding of the Just City. The first period of its history ended with the Last Debate, when Athena turned Socrates into a fly and then left. The community split, and there are now four more cities in addition to the original, or "remnant" city. Apollo/Pythias has several grown or nearly-grown children, mostly sons but also a daughter, Arete, with his partner and votary Simmea, originally an Egyptian farmer's daughter.

The book opens with a tragedy, Simmea's death in one of the art raids that have become common in the years since the division. Apollo wants revenge, and goes after it in a seemingly rational, organized way. Those closest to him, including daughter Arete and some of his sons, know he's unhinged with grief. He leads an expedition, using the colony's ship, Excellence, to explore the region and seek "the lost city," the group that left with the other ship, the Goodness, and has never returned to the island.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Invisible Republic (Vol. 1), by Gabriel Hardman (author), Corinna Sara Bechko (author)

Image Comics, August 2015

The revolutionary regime that ruled a colonized moon for forty years has fallen, and there's general political and economic collapse and chaos. An offworld reporter is tracking down a story, when he stumbles on the journal of Maia Reveron, long-forgotten cousin of the deposed dictator. And what she has to say casts a very dark light on the man. The story proceeds to flip back and forth between Maia Reveron's story, and reporter Croger Babb's story.

The art is dark, dark enough that at times it's a bit hard to make out. I didn't find any of the characters at all easy to like. In the end, I didn't care what happened to any of them.

Not recommended.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Divine, by Boaz Lavie (writer), Asaf Hanuka (artist), Tomer Hanuka (artist)

First Second, ISBN 9781596436749, July 2015

Mark's an ex-soldier, living his quiet life as an explosives consultant. He's got a wife, and a baby on the way, though, and a promotion he was counting on has been downsized out of existence.

He takes a short-term assignment "consulting" on explosives for the CIA in a little Southeast Asian country called Qualnom.

It's just two weeks. And although there's a war there, he's assured it's "a joke," too minor to matter.

But of course, he's going there to blow something up.

The acquaintance who connected him with the job shows him a tattoo he has on his arm, of a dragon, that he says he really saw the last time he was in Qualnom.

They're nearly done, and waiting on their pickup, when Mark sees a small boy, hurt, and way too close to the thing they're going to blow up, from the helicopter, when they're in the air.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Sandman: Overture (The Sandman #0), by Neil Gaiman (writer), J.H. Williams III (artist), Dave Steward (colorist), Todd Klein (letterer)

Vertigo, ISBN 9781401248963, November 2015

Sandman is the graphic novel series that made Neil Gaiman famous. Twenty-five years after Sandman first appeared, Gaiman returns to it with Sandman's origin story.

The art is beautiful. The story starts off confusing for me, but comes together beautifully. The characters are developed in a fine and convincing way.

I hesitate to say more about this. It seems to me to be important to discover the story as Gaiman and his co-creators unfold it for us. So this is a very short review.

Highly recommended. Read it!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Penric and the Shaman (Penric and Desdemona #2), by Lois McMaster Bujold

Spectrum Literary Agency, June 2016

It's four years after the events of Penric's Demon, and Penric is fully trained and invested as a divine; he's now Learned Penric. And of course, a sorcerer. He's serving at the court of the Princess-Archdivine. He is continuing his mostly scholarly work, as he and Desdemona become better acquainted and better at working together, when a Locator of the Father's Order arrives seeking assistance. He's been assigned to seek and bring back to Easthome a shaman accused of murder.

A killer shaman is dangerous; he can't pursue one without a sorcerer and at least a small armed troop. Unfortunately, Oswyl has had a difference of opinion with the sorcerer and troop originally assigned to assist him. They've gone off in pursuit in a direction he thinks unlikely on the evidence, and he's asking the Princess-Archdivine to supply the sorcerer and troop he needs.

She does, and the sorcerer, of course, is Penric.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Asymmetrical Warfare, by S.R. Algernon

Nature, March 2015

This is, in its own way, an amusing little gem of a story.

Earth is being invaded by aliens, and the narrative voice is the commanding officer of the invading aliens. It turns out the invasion is a mistake; they thought they were invading a world of stellate--starfish-like--beings like themselves, who when conquered will be wonderful additions to their expanding empire. This error arose from the Earth spaceships having star-like emblems on them, suggesting the invaders may have strong preconceptions about where intelligence can be found.

The entire cascade of consequences plays out on one three-column page in Nature.

Our narrator is so earnest and well-intentioned, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Read it!

I received this story as part of the 2016 Hugo Awards voters' packet.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Of Sorrow & Such, by Angela Slattery (author)

Macmillan Audio, October 2015

Patience Gideon is living quietly in a village in the English countryside. She has to live quietly; she's a witch. Her neighbors are, many of them at least, happy to avail themselves of her healing skills, but she knows too well this is always precarious. If she makes an enemy or catches the attention of the wrong churchman, she could burn.

(Let me pause here for a complaint. Everything suggests that this is post-Reformation England, not anywhere on the continent. In England, they didn't burn witches; they hanged them. Everyone sticks with burning in witch hunt stories, though, because it's more satisfyingly extreme and barbaric. Who needs facts?)

The Builders, by Daniel Polansky, ISBN 9780765384003, November 2015

I don't dislike talking animal stories. I'm quite fond of many of them. This one isn't being added to that list. I've enjoyed "band of rogues" stories, too. Again, not this one.

A mouse going by the title of "The Captain" is gathering his old gang together after five years. As he collects his comrades in crime, including a rat, a stoat, an owl an opossum, a badger, a mole...oh, who cares. There's no reason to care about any of thee character. They do have a goal, though, and that is overthrowing the toad who is current Lord of the Gardens and the skunk who is his Chancellor (and the real ruler, as well as their real enemy), and seize power themselves, the name of the toad's older brother.

We read endlessly of how unprincipled and lacking in loyalty even to each other the captain's gang is. The skunk and his supporters aren't any better, but we spend less time with them, so there's that advantage.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Distant Hours, by Kate Morton (author), Caroline Lee (narrator)

Bolinda Publishing, ISBN 9781742149974, October 2010

Edie Burchill loves her mother but  has a somewhat distant relationship with her. They're too different. She's pursued her own life, and is now assistant chair at the tiny publishing house where she works.

It's so tiny that she and her boss are the only employees, now that the boss's partner and co-founder has died, but they have a well-earned reputation for producing quality books.

What Edie doesn't know is that her mother is more like her than she imagines, and there's a secret in her past that will mean more to Edie than she can imagine.