Tag Archives: Book Review

Javelin Rain, by Myke Cole

JavelinRainJavelin Rain is the sequel to Myke Cole’s Gemini Cell, and if you thought the first book was riveting, you’ll likely find Javelin Rain to have even more rivets, and maybe some arc welding. “Gripping” is a word that gets used a lot. Javelin Rain was definitely that.

Myke’s Shadow Ops series is shelved as Urban Fantasy, which is the bookshelf genre that bookstores use to tell people that the book features our world, except with magic in it. Bookshelf genres only really tell you what group of readers the booksellers are trying to aim the book at, and Javelin Rain could be very accurately aimed at fans of thrillers, horror stories, and science fiction—not to mention aficionados of military fiction, and anybody who likes to see a moral quandary laid bare on the page.

If you like any two of those things, you’ll enjoy Javelin Rain. If you like some of those things, and hate some of the others, Javelin Rain may force you into that uncomfortable place where you have to reconsider your tastes before growing a bit as a reader.

Myke’s debut novel, Control Point was described by Peter Brett as “Blackhawk Down meets The X-Men.” The best mash-up logic I can come up with for Javelin Rain is “Steven King and Brandon Sanderson perform necromancy on Tom Clancy.”

 

The Shootout Solution: Genrenauts, Episode 1

Every so often I read a book and wish I could have thought of the stuff this author thought up. It’s a little painful, and it’s made even worse when I know the author personally, and find them intimidatingly intelligent. I am forced to come to grips with the fact that this idea was not just lying around for the first comer. It was secured deep in a cave full of puzzles, and monsters, and death that only an author-hero could courageously and successfully face, and the cave itself is hidden so well I don’t even know how to find it.

GenrenautsBook1With Genrenauts, author Michael R. Underwood (perhaps best known for Geekomancy,  Celebromancy, and Hexomancy) has created a setting in which he can spin stories that mess very engagingly with genre, setting, trope, and tale. The first of these stories is The Shootout Solution: Genrenauts, Episode 1. It’s a fast, fun read, priced to move with the electronic edition currently at $2.99.

The concept runs as follows: our world is part of a multiverse in which the stories we tell congeal into planes or dimensions that operate according to trope-laden rule sets. These areas can reflect back on us. A missing happily-ever-after can mean disaster in our world.

As a creator I understand that the stories we tell say a lot about who we are. Commentary on these stories is a deconstruction of our culture, our beliefs, and even our minds. I have this sinking feeling that the Genrenauts series, with its raucous meta-commentary upon the stories of pop culture, is going to say important things that I might not be clever enough to catch the first time around because I’m too busy enjoying the books.

And it’s pretty easy to get lost in enjoying the story. Here’s The Shootout Solution in four words: “spaceships, cowboys, and comediennes.”

Obligatory Disclaimer: At the bar at ConFusion two weeks ago Michael offered me the first Genrenauts book for free. I turned him down because it’s easier for me to not lose a book on my nightstand if I buy it myself and put it in my Kindle app. Also, $2.99.

Non-obligatory plug: The next book in the Genrenauts series, The Absconded Ambassador, is available for pre-order. It drops on February 23rd. I’m in.

Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, by Lawrence M. Schoen

Finally, you get to read Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, by Lawrence Schoen.

BarskTheElephantsGraveyardI got to read it early this year, and I loved it. I wanted to tell you about it, but I was told in no uncertain terms that I needed to wait, because you would not be able to have it until the very endmost days of the year, and we would all be happier (you, me, Lawrence, and the publisher) if I held off.

This is science fiction that gets the aliens right. With no human POV characters, our only eyes into the story are alien ones, and Lawrence does this so well I felt like I was a wrinkled, hairless historian with a prehensile snout and oversized ears.

I say “aliens,” but that term will get quibbled over. Barsk is a wet, cloudy world settled by the Fant, creatures who, as the full title of the story suggests, bear a non-coincidental resemblance to Earth’s elephants. The setting is, technically, an anthropomorphic one, but saying “oh, it’s an anthro story” does the book an enormous disservice. Barsk is to anthropomorphic, “furry” fiction as Heinlein’s Starship Troopers is to Lucas’s stormtroopers.

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The story is part detective story, part adventure, and part “idea” story whose central conceits do a delightful job of blurring that line between sufficiently advanced technology and magic. It hits familiar notes in ways that tell me “this is like other books I love,” and then delivers new notes in ways that remind me why I like reading stuff that is actually new.

I’ve raved over Lawrence’s “Amazing Conroy” stories before. As delightful as those were, Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard is better, and for all the right reasons.

 

 

Gemini Cell by Myke Cole

Myke Cole burst into my reading queue when I met him at Lunacon in 2012. I devoured his debut novel, then waited patiently for the follow-ups, which I consumed with aplomb.

GeminiCellGemini Cell is Myke’s fourth foray into the 21st century’s “Great Reawakening,” a setting in which magic has come back into our world, and the military’s best and brightest have blended it with modern warfare to create squads, platoons, companies, and entire battalions of trained, disciplined, and sorcerous soldiers. Which is good, because their enemies are every bit as well equipped. It’s a compelling setting, but this time around we’re seeing it differently.

In Gemini Cell we get to see the beginning of it all. Our protagonist is a SEAL at the top of his game, but it’s a completely non-magical game, and he has no idea that his current operation will cross paths with a magical supply line.

The story is a powerful one, and to my eye it takes some oft-maligned tropes of military adventure fiction and shows us how those things are supposed to be done, especially the “prequel” trope. That might technically be what Gemini Cell is, but it stands quite well on its own, inviting an immediate sequel or two while leaving plenty of room for the extant Shadow Ops series.

Gemini Cell releases on Tuesday, January 27th, 2015.