redbyrd_sgfic (redbyrd_sgfic) wrote,

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So Many Books....

Thanks mainly to the time spend in airports and on planes this month, I've piled up a bunch of reviews. Cut to save browser real estate.

Dragon's Eye by James A. Hetley

I bought this for the Maine seacoast setting, and was pleasantly surprised. Despite being a short book with too many characters and too many plotlines, the story was relatively coherent and well told. It has something of the feel of an RPG adventure or a comic more than a serious fantasy in that it was fast-paced without being deeply engaging. Fans of Mercedes Lackey's urban fantasies would probably enjoy it. Unlike the Duncan (which aimed high and failed), this was not terribly ambitious, but succeeded in what it set out to do.

Past Imperative * Present Tense *Future Imperfect by Dave Duncan

This trilogy was frustrating in that it wasn't bad- in fact it was quite entertaining. But it could have been so much better. There were several times when Duncan worked up to a climactic scene, and then cut away to have an observer recount the story to someone else after the fact, including the climax of the trilogy. There were numerous interesting ethical and philosophical questions raised. Any of these would have made a strong, compelling thematic arc. All were abandoned unexplored. Numerous interesting secondary characters were introduced, appeared as viewpoint characters for awhile, and then disappeared. Some appeared in the first and third books but not the second. Perhaps with fewer characters it would have worked better. I can't even tell what it was that Duncan was attempting here, but I don't think he succeeded.

Primary Storm by Brenden DuBois

This is the sixth entry in DuBois' series of Lewis Cole mysteries. I must confess that the reason I started with these is that they are set in the area where I grew up. This latest adventure showcases the every-four-years insanity that is the NH primary season. While this shows DuBois' increasing skill at the craft of writing, I still feel these have room for improvement. The love interest was fairly flat, the book could have made better use of the primary background, and the villains were both unconvincing and not terribly clever.

A perennial complaint about the series as a whole- DuBois has a tin ear for place names. He's chosen to rename the cities and towns closest to his fictional detective's home, but the names are poorly chosen. Most of the real cities in the area are named after British cities and towns, but DuBois' made-up names do not ring true.

The Secret Life of Dust by Hannah Holmes

J summed this one up as, "I may never breathe again." He has a point. This started with cosmic dust and the birth of stars, progressed through the study of dust (we have a national curator of dust?!) and continued through sandstorms and volcanic eruptions before finishing with pollution, allergies and our personal relationships with the stuff. I found this well organized, well-written and interesting.

Final Diagnosis by James White

For fans of the long-running Sector General series, this is worthy entry to the series. Full of weird aliens, intriguing alien medicine, and funny bits, the plot moves briskly along. I found the eventual resolution of the medical mystery was a bit obvious and the wrap up of the ending a bit deus ex machina-like, but it has the same enduring appeal as the others in this series - the idea of beings of many species meeting- with problems, misunderstandings and a fair measure of humor- to advance the common goal of saving lives.

Legacies by Alison Sinclair

I read this because J threw it against the wall about a quarter of the way in, but suggested he'd like to hear my opinion. And it was...interesting.

This story had an ambitious premise, but after laying out sweeping tragedy on a planetary scale, the author populates her worlds with characters who are in turns confused, petty and unstable. The style is indirect and obscure, the smallest details of the plot are approached with circumlocutions more worthy of a major reveal. It took most of the book to actually lay out the conflict, and the last quarter to resolve it- but it hardly seemed worth the effort once we got there. Further, the story was structured with alternating chapters of present and past events. However the back-story turned out to be completely irrelevant to the resolution of the present plot. It appears to have been included principally to double the length of the book and secondarily to let the author use all the background material she created.

This reminded me somewhat of the Cynthia Felice story I read last month, Eclipses, in that it read more like a novel with an SF setting than a piece of genre fiction. The differences were that the characters were less believable and less entertaining, and the style substantially more prolix.

Regeneration by Julie Czerneda

Wrapping up a major trilogy in a satisfactory way is frequently a challenging task. I'm happy to say that Julie Czerneda largely succeeded. The final entry in her Species Imperative trilogy delivered more amusing aliens with weird and yet plausible biology, more plot twists and developments and the eventual resolution to the story.

The actual climax didn't deliver quite the punch I had hoped for, but overall, this was an entertaining and readable series. I don't recommend either book two or three as a standalone, but if you enjoyed the first two, the third will not disappoint.
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