Categories
Review

Calamity

I may or may not have stayed up a bit late so I could finish this book in one day. It’s the wrap-up to a series I’ve really enjoyed, and it was a good wrap-up, at that.
So, the Reckoners series is set in a world that has superhumans – they call them Epics. There’s a subgroup of those, High Epics, who’re the real superpowers – some people have, like, “can speak any made-up language” as their superpower. High Epics have things like “can turn anything he touches to steel, can fly, and is borderline immortal.”1
Of course, this is a world where the phrase “power corrupts” is just about a law of physics. The more of their power an Epic uses, the more they lose touch with humanity, becoming arrogant and cruel. There are no superheroes here – it’s just a new age of feudalism, where the lords are not just politically but physically orders of magnitude more powerful than the normal people.
It’s the sort of setting that I wish I could’ve thought of – it captures my interest in a way that very few other books (or media in general) can.2 I love this idea of superpowered beings having their weaknesses drive them to evil, and of the regular people trying to fight back against it. I dunno, I’ve just got weird interests.
Like I said, I really enjoy these books – I’ve got all of them.
Now, in this one, things aren’t going so well for the Reckoners – in the first one, they managed to take down Steelheart, the despotic ruler of Newcago. In the second, they went to Babilar3 to fight the ruler of that down. In the process, they lost their leader – a High Epic himself, he’d managed to stay on the side of the angels by not using his powers. Regalia, the ruler of Babilar, forced his hand, though, and in using his powers to save the city he rather doomed himself.
In the third book, the Reckoners are up against their former leader – with all his knowledge of them and their tactics, and a suite of powers that makes him one of the most powerful High Epics out there.
Oh, and that’s without mentioning that David, the protagonist, has his sights set on killing Calamity, the Epic in low Earth orbit that burns like a misplaced star and is the source of the powers and evil that shattered the world.
No pressure.

That’s about all I’m going to say for now – I enjoy the series a lot, and I think everyone should read it. If you haven’t read any of them, obviously start with the first. If you’ve read the others, I’d say go pick up the third now.4


  1. Technically speaking, I think the actual distinction of ‘High Epic’ means ‘borderline immortal’ for whatever reason – super-fast healing, indestructibility, able to dodge any attack, whatever. 
  2. The only other contenders I can think of are Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the DC Animated Universes, and Scott Meyer’s Magic 2.0 series. 
  3. The sunken remains of what used to be New York City – an Epic held up the towers with magical trees, basically, and it turned into one of the best places on the planet to live, actually. 
  4. And this is where I have to quietly admit that I just bought this book the day that I read through it – I know, I know, I’m supposed to not be buying more books while I work through the ones I’ve got, but I just got my payout from the Apple antitrust case and how was I supposed to resist, I got a Kindle gift card? C’mon. 
Categories
Review

Under a Colder Sun

I’m normally a huge fan of fantasy novels set in the far future, the whole “sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” thing, but this one was so depressing. It’s a corrupt world, a dark one – like the Fallout series, but worse, because in those at least there’s some people trying to make it better.
Here, there’s just petty little kingdoms fighting one another, and the creeping darkness outside the world trying to get in and ruin things.
I had such high hopes for this one, as well – the main characters are a grumpy immortal and a lesbian cop.1 And instead it’s just a stupid “save the princess” plot where everything goes wrong.
But then, once you’ve gotten to the point this world has, I think that was about all that could happen – the ball is rolling down the hill so fast it’d take something rather drastic to change that. And while there’s some ‘deus ex machina’ type intervention from the gods, the gods of this world are also awful – rather than offerings of food or whatever, they want “a fresh kill” or “your blood, drawn by another.” Seriously, at a certain point you should probably recognize that your deity sucks.
I dunno, man, this was just a bummer of a book. If you want to read it, though, feel free.2


  1. Which makes me want to write the weirdest buddy-cop movie ever, now that I’ve typed it. 
  2. Okay the fact that on Amazon this is subtitled “A Grim Dark Fantasy Adventure” is a pretty good sign that it’s gonna be depressing as hell
Categories
Review

Hold-Time Violations

This was written by one of the authors from the issue of Lightspeed that I read recently, and I saw that they’d written something for Tor.com, so of course I had to go find it and read it.1
That said, it was a short story so it’s getting a pretty short review. It’s an interesting concept – you’ve got a loop of universes, each of which contains the next one down, and is contained by the one above. Because it’s all in 11-dimensional space or whatever, the bottom-most universe contains the topmost one, and you get a nice self-contained loop. As it turns out, the way that the universes contain one another is the ‘skunkworks’ – a mass of pipes, ferrying data from place to place, generating the universe it contains. Physics within those skunkworks are rather different, allowing people to do interesting work to tweak the pipes and keep everything working right.
The main character, Ellie, was raised by her mother to be one of those repair workers, and though she’s still new at it she’s already being regarded as one of the best, it would seem.
From that context, it’s a story about family, in a way- you see a couple references to her sister, Chris, who never actually makes an appearance except for temporarily hijacking someone else’s body.2 Mostly it’s about Ellie’s relationship with her mother.
It’s kinda sad, I must say. But, based on the way everyone is described, I think it’s roughly the best-case scenario.
So, trying to avoid any further spoilers here, go have a read, it’s free.


  1. It wound up jumping in line in my reading list by dint of being in Pocket, rather than on my Kindle. 
  2. Texting would just be too easy, y’know? 
Categories
Review

Lightspeed Magazine: Queers Destroy Science Fiction

Oh man, I am excited about this one. I’ve been wanting to get it since they first announced they were accepting submissions for it, but it wasn’t until the Humble LGBTQ Bundle that I had an excuse to do it.
Now, as this is a big ol’ anthology, I’m going to split it up into a series of mini-reviews, which, unlike how I’ve done anthology reviews in the past, I’ll be writing after reading each story. Without further ado:

Original Short Fiction

There’s rather a lot of short stories in this one, so I’m going to break the organization up the same way the magazine itself does.

勢孤取和 (Influence Isolated, Make Peace)

I’ll admit to Googling the author of this one and the four english words so that I could copy and paste in the other characters above.
I did enjoy that I share a name with one of the characters. That’s about all we’ve got in common, though:

Gray was too hard, too buff, and too tall all at once to truly look human. However, no human ever noticed. Blond haired with intense blue eyes and an irrepressible smile, he and his lightly pink, freckled skin invoked the heartland, middle America, and the Things That Made Us Great. Granted, this would be some sort of middle America where everyone changed the tires on their pick-up trucks by lifting them to chest height with one hand while loosening lug nuts with the other. He’d always been the squad’s candidate for Cyborg Poster Boy.

Anyhow, it’s a short story, and a sweet one at that. Basically, exactly what I wanted from this anthology, so props to the editors for putting it first.
It’s set in the aftermath of some big war – I’d assume against China, but it’s hard to say – where the primary weapons the US used were, apparently, some seriously advanced cyborgs. Who, as a result of the peace treaty, are to be decommissioned – maybe. It’s a whole bit thing, and figuring that out is the core plot point of the story. Or rather, the setting against which it’s built – the core plot point, I’d say, is more of a short, sweet little love story. A good start.

Emergency Repair

Let’s be honest, we all know that the most likely apocalypse at this point is going to be a superintelligence coming out of the Bay Area.1

The work isn’t its own reward, not to me. I wanted the world to see what I could do. I wanted to be the next Einstein, the next Marie Curie. I never thought I’d end up being Oppenheimer instead.

This one is distinctly less happy than the last one, if the quote didn’t tip you off. Less happy sweet, but still sweet.2 And hopeful, in a way. You get the feeling that this could be a movie, if the author wanted it to be- it’d work well as a large-scale cinematic, though this would only be one scene of many.

Trickier With Each Translation

I’m going to leave this one short: time travel is weird, and the time traveller in this one is a creepy, slightly rapacious dude. Grade-A misuse of superpowers, there.

The Astrakhan, the Homburg, and the Red Red Coal

“When bad Americans die, they go to America.”

Personally, I don’t feel like steampunk fits precisely into the category of science fiction, but evidently Lightspeed‘s editors do, as that’s what this is. Sort of a cross between Jamestown and… well, I don’t know what, really.
All I’ve got left to say is that I found this one funnier than I should’ve, mostly because a key plot point boiled down to “the waiter has slept with all but two of the people in the room.”

The Tip of the Tongue

Okay, the love story in this one is cute but oh god is the setting a nightmare. There’s a couple references in there that made me check the date to make sure it wasn’t a riff on Trump’s presidential campaign, but the part that was really scary was the forced illiteracy. The government of this world apparently decided that being able to read was too much power for people.3 So, with some worryingly inaccurate nanotechnology, they erased the ability read from almost their entire population. And ugh, that’s just a nightmare to me. agh.

How to Remember to Forget to Remember the Old War

I’m unclear on where in the timeline this falls. It could easily be right now, and the characters just happen to be extraterrestrials who were shipped off to Northern California for some reason after a war, or it’s a thousand years in the future and the Bay Area is just resolutely remaining the Bay Area. Hard to say.

Plant Children

What Ah Meng loved most, even more than urban myths and fried garlic, was telling Qiyan to bear children. This was Ah Meng’s hobby. At least it kept her busy, Qiyan’s mother said whenever Qiyan got fed up – as if being busy were enough to keep this ancient relic alive to the point of vampirism.

File this one under “okay, maybe I read too much superhero stuff” because I was really expecting a small apocalypse to happen and everyone to be running around trying to fight a bunch of overly-devoted plants.
Instead it was just a sweet little family story. So happy.

Nothing is Pixels Here

The setting for this one is a bit strange – I’m unclear on how the economics of the VR in this world work. Apparently it’s cheaper to keep people’s bodies in medical sedation and let their minds run around separately, doing work on contract? Rather confusing.
But the characters are nice, and a bit sad, but it’s still sweet.

Madeleine

Oh, this was fun. Modern-day setting, with just a hint of science fiction in the results of an experimental Alzheimer’s drug. The main character has to deal with a rather unhelpful psychologist, and it kinda made me think of Sense8,4 what Nomi had to deal with early in the first season.5 Not quite the same, as the protagonist in this one is a cisgender female, but still. Similar disbelief in what she’s going through.

Two By Two

I’m just… not a fan of apocalyptic stories, folks. The universe is already a terrible place,6 so I don’t really see why people feel the need to add to that. And this one had an added bonus of “the friggin’ South turned back into the CSA,” although, to be fair, they did very lightly pretend it wasn’t about being the Confederacy, they’re the Christian States of America. Sigh.

Die, Sophie, Die

“Like what? This ate my life. And for what?” I looked up at her, trying and failing to keep the hopelessness out of my voice. “It was a snarky article about sexism in a video game. That’s it. I’m not an activist, I’m not like Anita or any of them, I just . . . I just wanted to poke fun at these dudes and get my damn check. That’s all. I don’t even know why this blew up so bad. And I hate that nobody cares anymore. It’s just become normal for this to happen.” I sighed. “I should have known better.”

Like I said. The universe is a terrible place, because this is completely realistic.

“You’re crazy,” the guy said.
“Maybe!” I said. “I mean, after being harassed and stalked and sent pictures of my own dead, mutilated body every day for weeks? Because I wrote an article about sexism in a game? Yeah! I’m probably crazy! I’m fine with that.”

Despite the amount of hatred present in this story, it was surprisingly sweet, and happy. Kindness amidst the hatred.

Original Flash Fiction

These are a good bit shorter, so they get shorter reviews.

Melioration

Another one of those “surprise brain surgery” type things, only in this one it’s removing specific words. Which is horribly creepy.

Rubbing is Racing

Advanced technology doesn’t mean advanced tactics; the alien superpowers of this story apparently think it’s worth it to write off an entire civilization to kill some sort of bacteria or something that grows deep in the oceans of the planet. Rather rude, if you ask me.

Helping Hand

Think Gravity but even more alone, and with a quicker ending.

The Lamb Chops

Is… is that one of the Lizard-People?

Mama

I’m still laughing at “Trojan Whores”

Bucket List Found in the Locker of Maddie Price, Age 13, Written Two Weeks Before the Great Uplifting of All Mankind

Man that is one smart 13-year-old.

Deep/Dark Space

I… kinda want this one to be made into an animated horror movie.

A Brief History of Whaling with Remarks Upon Ancient Practices

In names there is found whimsy and poetry enough to betray the human heart.

I really liked this one. My favorite, so far, of the flash fiction section, and anything after it is going to have to work hard to surpass it.

Nothing Goes to Waste

Impostor syndrome?

In the Dawns Between Hours

Folks, history is important.

Increasing Police Visibility

Get it? The joke is that the TSA doesn’t work.

Letter From an Artist to a Thousand Future Versions of Her Wife

Y’know, I feel like there were ways to test out the ansible technology before thousands of people got left without a lifeline because it failed. Just a thought.

Reprint Fiction

Some slightly longer stories, this time.

Black Holes

Across the Atlantic Ocean and underground, Jean-Michel Gregory was speaking to Dr. Benedicta Goeppert about the end of the universe. She felt very strongly about the nature of existence being cyclical, that all matter would eventually return to the state that stimulated the beginning of the universe as we know it – long after humans were extinct and our sun was dead, expanding space would shrink until it was conducive to a big bang and everything that ever was would be again in its earliest, most basic form.

This one was sad, but I’m glad it included that little blurb there, because that’s the sort of thing I think about a lot. It’s what I hope for- because otherwise, it means that the universe will come to an end and that will be it. I hate that idea.

Red Run

This one was pretty sad. Depression is a rough thing.7

CyberFruit Swamp

Y’know, this one probably should’ve been tagged as NSFW, editors.

The Sound of His Wings

I am so confused, folks. But… I think I liked it? Huh.

O Happy Day!

This was… absolutely not what I needed to pick myself up from the terrible mood the news out of Orlando has me in. Agh.

Excerpt: Skin Folk

In this guy’s defense, I also find humans weird and strange. Seriously, biology is weird.

Author Spotlights

Definitely some interesting stuff to read in here, but nothing that I’m going to break down like I have been the stories above.

Nonfiction

A nice little artist’s gallery to start off. I might have to go get the PDF, instead of just the AZW, so I can see some of it in color.
That said, I’m going to stop this review here: It’s more than 2,000 words long, and I never have as much fun writing about nonfiction as I do fiction.8
Even through the bad mood I’m in, though, I can recognize how much I enjoyed this one. You can pick it up on Amazon.


  1. Okay, no, technically I think first place goes to global warming and second place goes to “Cold War defense system triggers itself due to lack of maintenance and we all nuke ourselves to death,” but THIRD place goes to the AI. 
  2. And now I’ve got “Piano Man” stuck in my head. “It’s sad and it’s sweet and I knew it complete…” 
  3. This after they’d already banned art in all its forms, so really just a matter of time once things get that bad. 
  4. Which I haven’t finished, actually, so no spoilers. 
  5. Is the second season out? I’m bad at following TV shows. 
  6. Citation 
  7. The whole “sad mood” was really compounded by the fact that, right before I started reading this one, I got an email from TIME’s Breaking News department saying that 50 people had died and 53 were injured in a mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando. So, yeah, the world remains an awful place. 
  8. Plus, I’ve spent too long reading the news today, so I’ve got a headache and a deep hatred for mankind, so I shouldn’t really be doing much writing anyways. 
Categories
Review

The Alchemist

A quick read, but one that I enjoyed.1 And found oddly familiar, to the point that, in spite of my Kindle’s insistence that I’ve never read it, I think I must have, at some point. Quite a while ago, though, because it was at the very end of the list, sorted by ‘recently read/added,’ and it feels less like deja vu than it does just a hint of familiarity.
That said, it’s a lovely little story. It’s a world of magic, but magic with a price:2 every casting of a spell feeds the bramble, a poisonous plant that grows at an unnatural rate. Things haven’t gone well for the world: the ancient kingdoms cast magic without thinking of the fallout3 and fell to the bramble. The protagonist is a man already broken: his wife died, his wealth faded, and his daughter is sick with an unsurvivable illness. Largely because of his choice to fight the bramble rather than continue making expensive trinkets for the rich.
But then, at the very lowest point, as his daughter is about to die, he discovers something: a way to kill the bramble.
And for that moment, you think things are going to go well for him, but he’s not a rich man, and he can’t afford to mass-produce his invention. So he goes to the Mayor. And politics happen.
I won’t say much more than that – a short story gets a short review. But I’ll say that I liked it a lot more than the last book I reviewed. So, without further ado, go give it a read, it’s pretty cheap on Amazon.


  1. I’m going to put in a note here to say that this isn’t the first result that comes up when you search for “The Alchemist,” it’s the one by Paolo Bacigalupi. Entertainingly, the first result is by a different Paolo. 
  2. Which actually might be why this seems familiar – Anatopsis is another great book about the price of magic. I read that book in middle school, forgot the title, and then spent years trawling through the local library trying to find it again. I knew exactly where it should’ve been – in the old building. But in the time between my first reading of it and when I wanted to read it again, the library moved into the nice new building.
    I think I eventually managed to find it with a very strange google search – something like “book talking dog red cover female main character’s name starts with a.” One of those “how in god’s name did Google figure out what I meant?” sort of searches. 
  3. cough-global-warming-cough 
Categories
Review

The Secret Garden

“Of course there must be lots of Magic in the world,” he said wisely one day, “but people don’t know what it’s like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen.”

I’ve had this book on my Kindle for a long time. I think it was one of the first ones on there, to be honest – I grabbed it off of Project Gutenberg, I believe, back when I first got my Kindle.1 I’ve just never gotten around to reading it.
This past Sunday, I’d just finished reading through the Queers Destroy Science Fiction issue of Lightspeed Magazine.2 Now, if you don’t know, Lightspeed is a periodical collection of science fiction stories, usually fairly short. The review, when it goes up, is pretty substantial – I wrote a short review of each of those short stories. Which meant that, every few minutes or so, I was putting down my Kindle and doing a bit of typing on my laptop.
It was during one of those times that I got a Breaking News email from Time. “50 people killed in Orlando nightclub shooting,” read the subject line. I opened the email, and it felt like a punch to the stomach. In the middle of Pride Month, while I was halfway through a collection of queer-focused science fiction in the larger process of reading through everything I’d picked up in the Pride Month Humble Bundle, I read this:

At least 50 people were killed and another 53 wounded after a gunman opened fire in an Orlando gay nightclub early Sunday morning, officials said. The death count makes the attack the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The rest of the day, I kept reading. I couldn’t think of anything else to do.3 Lightspeed was a mix of sad and happy stories; the happy ones felt like throwing teacups of water on a blazing inferno, the sad like being pulled further underwater. My “writing” breaks got longer and longer as I took time to check on the news, Twitter, Facebook – anywhere that I could find out more about what had happened. I kept hoping something would change for the better, but it wouldn’t.4 The tragedy had already happened; all that was left was cleaning up afterwards.
It was heartbreaking. It still is – I’m being thankful I took the time to learn to touch-type, because if I had to do the whole ‘hunt-and-peck’ thing, writing this would take me ages. It’s hard to hunt for a specific key when your eyes are full of tears.
At the end of the day, I started flipping through my Kindle, trying to find something new to read. The last couple of books from the Humble Bundle had lost their allure, as had the stack of science fiction. I wanted something different than what I’d spent the day doing. Clearly, the queer-focused science fiction hadn’t worked to take my mind off the tragedy.
Sitting at the very end of the list, just above the dictionary folder5 was The Secret Garden. It’s certainly different, I thought. And it is: a book written more than 100 years ago probably couldn’t be more diametrically opposite a bunch of queer science fiction if it tried.
And while I’m not normally one for believing in fate or god or any such higher power, this is the kind of thing that if someone had conspired to write it into the way things should be, that would be some beautiful predestination. This book was exactly what I needed right now.
Because, sure, the dated phrasing is a bit strange at times,6 and the painstakingly-written-out accents are rather hard to read at first. But beyond that, the story is something pure and innocent.
The first almost-half of the book isn’t that way; it’s the story of a terrible little girl, the result of the sort of horrible parenting where you can call it “terrible parenting” even after the tragic death of her parents.7 She’s always gotten what she wanted, and she’s used to getting it from servants who wouldn’t dare talk back to her. She is, basically, the worst-case scenario for a ten-year-old. After the death of her parents – something that barely affects her, as she rarely if ever saw them – she’s sent from India8 to Yorkshire, in the ‘care’ of her uncle.9
Once there, though, she begins to explore. She’s told of a ‘forbidden garden,’ hidden away from the world after her uncle’s beloved wife was injured there, eventually leading to her death. Being the little brat that she is, she goes to find it.
And there, the Magic starts to happen.
Throughout the book, you see her become a better person – so slowly that she’s not aware of it, and the reader only notices because the narrator makes the occasional effort to point it out.
And it’s not just her – a few other characters are introduced, and her growth as a person helps to kick-start the same process for several others.
Now, I’ll insert a warning here: spoilers ahead. Normally I refuse to write about anything past, oh, the halfway point of the book or so. If you want to go read this from a fresh standpoint, you can pick it up for free on Amazon or free at Project Gutenberg.
Again: spoilers ahead. If you don’t want to know how it ends, stop reading.
All clear?
Alright, I’ll go on.
As I got to the end of the book, I was starting to get suspicious – nothing can be this happy, this perfect and pure, can it? Everything is going too well. Good things just don’t happen.
But sometimes they do.
Sometimes you get the perfect happy ending, where everything goes just right. Nobody has to die, and everyone can be happy and healthy and alive.
And I think that’s the sort of thing we need to remember, in the wake of a tragedy like Orlando. Even if it sometimes seems like nothing good ever happens, that nothing gold can stay, that’s just not true. There are so many good people in the world. So many good things.
It’s important to keep that in mind. So if you, like me, need something good and pure and happy to remind you of that, then I absolutely recommend this book. Like I said above, you can pick it up for free on Amazon or Project Gutenberg.
Go do something joyful. Remember that there’s good in the world.


  1. When I got my first Kindle, in fact. It’s been sitting in my “list of things to read” for a long time. 
  2. The review of that one will be posted in a couple weeks; I’m bumping this one ahead of schedule for reasons I’ll get into in a bit. 
  3. It’s the first time this summer that I’ve felt truly homesick – I’m 2,000 miles from home, and while most of the time I’ve been fine, this is the sort of situation where you want to be surrounded by loved ones. 
  4. The worst of it, which I feel a morbid need to share, is a Facebook post that made the rounds (in screenshot form), originally posted by someone named Andy Carvin:
    > RE: the Orlando shooting, CNN just described something I’ve never thought of – as investigators are inside the nightclub, where many of the bodies are still where they fell, they have to tune out the nightmarish sound of all of the deceased phones’ ringing constantly as loved ones try to reach them. #shudder 
  5. It lives at the end of the list; hard-coded. 
  6. My original ‘social media post’ title for this was “The Secret Garden,” or, “you know there are objectives other than ‘queer,’ right?”, but once I’d gotten into the swing of writing it didn’t seem quite right. 
  7. Normally dying in a sad way can erase some of that blame, but “you, servant-woman, make sure I never see this child” is a whole new level of awful parenting. 
  8. As John Oliver called it, ‘the country formerly known as “Great Britain’s spice rack.”’ 
  9. He makes two appearances throughout the book; I’m forced to assume that part of being wealthy in Britain is having the portion of your brain that knows how to deal with children be forcibly removed. 
Categories
Review

“What Remains of Heroes”

I wish I could’ve liked this book more. The world building was fascinating – it’s that sort of “big things happened a long time ago” feeling that I really enjoy, and there’s a lot of ‘lost ancient knowledge’ sort of stuff added in for flavor.
Basically, this is the Chosen Kingdom of the Gods, the site of the Final Battle of the Gods. Clearly, it’s been prosperous, and is widely regarded as the Place to Be. And yet, that Final Battle was something like 2,000 years ago; a lot can change over that amount of time. Mostly what changed was that people are terrible, and greed is a thing. The King banished the servants of the good God, something like a thousand years past, and it’s basically been a downhill slide since then.
My problem with this book, then, is how much of that downhill slide it is: there isn’t a full plotline to it. It’s an entire book of ‘rising action,’ with no actual arrival point or anything. About 3/4 of the way through, I looked at how much of the book was left, and how many different plotlines were going on, and realized that it was either going to have a really unsatisfying ending, or it was going to fob it all off on the next book. Which would then fob it off on the next one, and the next one from there.1
I dunno, folks. I’ve been watching a lot of TV lately,2 and this book feels less like a complete story than a single episode. But it wasn’t done right: with a TV show, you generally get a story arc complete within the episode, and then portions of the larger one that carries the show through the season or several seasons. The book just didn’t have that- there’s no sense of completion. The closest to closure you get is “oh, turns out the people who you thought were going to be the Final Boss are also working for someone else!” It’s just… irritating, overall.
So, I can’t really say I recommend this one. Which is weird – most of my book reviews tend to be very positive things, and I don’t like being this negative. But sometimes it’s the only way to be accurate. Blah.


  1. Based on the title of the series, “A Requiem for Heroes,” there’s probably going to wind up being something like nine books? That’s based on the number of movements of Duruflé’s requiem, which might not be entirely accurate. But still. 
  2. A research program is mentally exhausting in a way that even an above-maximum credit load isn’t. Netflix has suddenly become a much more valuable proposition to me than it was during the school year. 
Categories
Review

Humble Book Bundle: LGBTQ

It’s pride month! How exciting. As a result, the latest Humble Bundle is the LGBTQ Book Bundle. If you don’t know about Humble Bundle, let me tell you, they’re wonderful- supporting indie creators, of both games and books, and a good chunk of the profits from their pay-what-you-want sales go to charities.1
A lot of the books are comics, so I’m trying to do a bit of a speed run through some of them so I can have this post up while the Book Bundle is still running. Part of this will result in the fact that I won’t actually be putting all the reviews in this post – three are full-length-novel type books, which will each get their own post. I’m also leaving out the more, ahem, adult-oriented books.2 And, as I usually do, the ones that I don’t finish reading for whatever reason.3
Before I go into the reviews, though, I’ll drop a couple of links. First, the It Gets Better project, which was one of the first Really Good Things to come out of YouTube, if you ask me. Secondly, one that I personally think is even more important, the Trevor Project, a national suicide hotline for queer and questioning youth.4 Being queer isn’t easy, even in 2016, and making sure that resources like these are available to queer and questioning youth is hugely important.
All that said, have some (short) comic reviews!

Kevin Keller: Welcome to Riverdale

Archie Comics! I haven’t read these since I was a kid. My sister and I used to pester our parents to buy the little comic booklets for us from the “impulse buy” section at the grocery store checkout.
I’d kinda forgotten what they’re like – short, sweet little high-school vignettes. The first couple were that sort of sweet innocent thing that I expect, but there was one closer to the end that kinda caught me off-guard. It’s summer vacation, and the Private School Jerks5 are taking over Riverdale’s beach. Yadda yadda, arguing back and forth, with the end result that they’re going to have a surfing competition to see who gets control of the beach.6 Which, fine, total Archie type of thing. Except one of the Private School Jerks, it turns out, is a homophobic asshole, to the point that he’s trying to sabotage Kevin in the competition in a way that can lead to serious injury. Which, yeah, I get that you’re a rich kid and can afford lawyers to make your problems go away, but a hate crime is hard to erase. Attempted murder, even more so.
And yeah, they sorta dealt with it, with the kid’s friends abandoning him7 and Kevin’s dad threatening him. But it felt like it was laughed off a bit too easily – like there’s no acknowledgment of the fact that not everyone is as irascible as Kevin.
So… I dunno how I feel about this one being the first one of these comics that I finished. I’ll take it, I guess, because the first couple of stories were nice, sweet little things. So, yeah, I suppose I’d recommend reading it.

Starve: Volume 1

Okay, this one was interesting. The main character’s a gay man, but one who didn’t come out until his daughter was about ten years old. His wife didn’t take it well, and did a very competent job of turning herself into the villain of the story.
The story starts off with Cruickshank living a very hardcore bohemian life somewhere in Asia. The world’s a bit different, it seems – global warming, much to the shock of the Republican Party, turned out to be real! Parts of New York City are underwater, the bluefin tuna is sitting on the edge of extinction, and the wealthy/poor divide has gotten so large it seems to be on the edge of war.
And then Cruickshank gets picked up by a man in a helicopter, sent by the Network. Despite their apparent implosion in a stock market crash, that Network survived, and they’ve decided to call in what’s left of his contract. Which all sounds very ominous, right up until you find out he was the Gordon Ramsay of his world, the world’s top celebrity chef.
In the time he was gone, though, the show has changed, become a good bit more vicious. One of his former enemies is at the top of the show, his wife8 has had him declared legally dead and taken all his assets, and the show itself has become a spectacle; instead of celebrating cooking, it’s an artifact of the class divide, highlighting the disparity between rich and poor in a way that Cruickshank finds disgusting.
And yes, the storyline of the show is interesting – it’s shown like a real cooking show, with little out-of-character type recipe cards that look exactly like something you’d see on the Food Network or something, phrased in such a way that you can hear the voiceover from the chef in your mind. But what’s of far more interest is the way this shattered family works: Cruickshank himself, vaguely trying to put things back together. His daughter, excited and hopeful about her dad’s return. And his wife, hating everything he did to her, to the point that she wants him destroyed. It’s sad, and sweet in places, and I’m definitely looking forward to Volume 2.

The Infinite Loop

Oh, boy. This one.
First, a warning: there’s a bit of nudity, and a middlingly-graphic sex scene.9
But beyond that, the worst this one is going to do to you is confuse you a bit. Because, y’know, time travel is rough like that.
But of the three reviews I’m going to do in this post,10 I’d say that this graphic novel is the one that you should read foremost out of the others. It’s the sort of Literary Thing that normally I’d hate, but it’s wrapped up in a heck of a lot of the sort of things I love11 so I’m kinda letting it get away with it.
Here’s the premise: Teddy, the main character, is a time traveler. She’s part of a group of them, actually – a government organization, of a sort, that uses their time travel to fix the anomalies created by irresponsible use of time travel. Or, as it turns out, anomalies created by people actively trying to mess with the time stream. And boy oh boy, is she good at it – the best, actually. Right up until one of the anomalies is a young woman – because, up until now, they’ve been either inanimate objects or, at worst, animals.12 Teddy, of course, refuses to “erase” her – a barely-euphemistic term that the cleanup crews use for wiping someone out of existence.
At which point things start to get weirder and weirder. Because, yes, there’s a bit of a reason that the anomalies get pulled out of time – but not nearly as much of one as they’ve made it out to be. More of the damage is caused by the cleanup folk insisting that all anomalies have to be erased than the anomalies themselves would’ve done.
It’s weird and complicated and I suspect the only people who can truly follow the plot are in no small part insane. It’s sad and sweet and happy and angry. It’s science fiction being an allegory in a way that’s a little bit too in-your-face at times, but it’s something that needs to be said.
And yes, the titular infinite loop is something that the characters talk about a lot. It’s also, arguably, the entire plot of the book. And it’s also something bigger: the infinite loop of hatred, played out over human history. Because it used to be that love was banned between Homo Erectus and Homo Sapiens.13 It used to be that love was banned between noblewomen and peasant men. It used to be that love was banned between white women and black men. I can’t quite yet say that “it used to be that love was banned between men and men and women and women.” But we’re working on it.

That’s all for the day, folks. And remember: it gets better. And there’s always someone out there to talk to.


  1. Fittingly, the LGBTQ book bundle is going to the It Gets Better project
  2. I’m not sure what I was expecting when I opened the PDF called “Smut Peddler.” I really should’ve been expecting it to be graphic, but I wasn’t. Whoops. 
  3. Sometimes things lose my interest out of sheer boredom, but what’s actually a lot more common is that stuff is too depressing for me to finish. By now, you might’ve noticed that I’ve got quite a trend of superhero and fantasy books – I like my escapism. The real world kinda sucks. 
  4. Their national hotline is pretty easy to remember: 866-4U-TREVOR. Which I can remember by going “what is the SADDEST POSSIBLE THING they could’ve made their phone number?” 
  5. I can’t remember their names, and I’m far too lazy to go look any of them up. 
  6. Never mind the fact that Kevin, distinctly siding with the Riverdale folk, is the lifeguard and thus totally has the power to kick the others out for being jerks. (I know my lifeguarding, okay?) 
  7. One of them coming out in the process, which is… maybe not the best way to come out to your social circle? 
  8. They never got a divorce, evidently. 
  9. I describe it as such because “Smut Peddler” is also in this Humble Bundle, and that’s a whole new level of graphic sex scene compared to what’s in The Infinite Loop
  10. And yes, I’ll be stopping after this one – I want to get this posted soon, and I haven’t the time to read all of the comics and still get it out before the Humble Bundle ends. 
  11. Including a villain who’s basically just Amanda Waller with beliefs that’re pushed from “straddling the line” to “over the line” in terms of how objectionable they are. Have I mentioned before how much I love Amanda Waller as a character? Because I love Amanda Waller as a character. 
  12. Tyrannosauri Rex are still technically considered “animals.”
    And yes, I do know the correct pluralization of ‘tyrannosaurus’ off the top of my head. 
  13. Admittedly not an example I’d think of, but this one is actually mentioned (almost verbatim) in the book, so I’ll include it here. 
Categories
Review

The Indomitable Ten

Okay you all know by now that I am obsessed with superhero media. It’s, like, my Thing. So when I saw that there was an anthology of superhero1 novellas out? I jumped right on that.
So, as I usually do for anthologies and other collections, I’m going to break it up into a series of short reviews.

My Big, Fat, Accidental Superheroine Wedding

Autocorrect doesn’t approve of ‘superheroine’ but it does approve of ‘superhero.’ Sexist.
Anyhow, this one was a little weird – it was very much focused on a specific subculture, one that I know next to nothing about. In that, it was a bit hard to relate to, but I think that’s okay- like, oh no, however shall I deal with media that doesn’t revolve around me, a white male? So yeah, I’m fine with that part. The actual superhero content of it was a bit odd, though- the main character is basically a deity, after she and her fiancé both wound up in an accident in the Large Hadron Collider that left them able to control their bodies at what appears to be an atomic level. And they’re on the run from the government. Which makes for an interesting story, overall, but I dunno, something about this one just didn’t click for me. Oh well, it was still interesting, and the ending scene was a really good one.

The World, My Enemy

This was a delight to read. It had hints of some of the non-Discworld Terry Pratchett stuff, in the way it looked at the world, and oh man did I love it.2 The main character is an Austrian super-genius, trying to be a super-villain, and… kinda sucking at it. He’s a very millennial type of villain – tons of support from his parents, a lot of potential, and just… not using it at all. And the other characters that make up the setting, from the Nemesis figure to whatever-the-girl-is3 to the cowardly boss- they’re all wonderful, executed delightfully well. It’s a silly little story and I absolutely love it.

Summer of Lob

This is actually the reason I bought this book- I adore Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents… series of books, and I saw through his twitter that this book featured a novella set in the same universe. And it was everything I wanted – a short, sweet story, following Bull in his younger days. As a bonus, it gave the background for one of the characters I wanted to know more about, and introduced a few more who I’d also like to see more of. Basically, this alone made the book worth buying to me, and the rest was a nice bonus.

Weeper of Blood

I’m assuming this was part of a series, because there’s way too much setting for it to be a standalone short story. To the point that I’m still unclear on some of the stuff – things about the various characters were hinted at well enough that I’ve got an idea, but the world itself is a mystery – is it an alternate timeline, or set in the future, or what? It was really hard to tell, and I’d like to read more to find out.
The story itself was pretty good- a little sad, definitely, but a nice ‘redemption’ arc present as well, so I did like that. I definitely want to see more of this world, get a bit more of the background, though, because I have so many questions.

Seven Seconds

File this one under “have to read more.” Like, I actually just took a break from writing this so I could go google the author and find out if he’s written more.4
There was absolutely everything I want in a superhero story: an interesting main character, and a look at what people with superpowers do if they’re not being superheroes. Plus a superhero team that went insane and became villains, some high tech gadgetry being used, and a wonderful concept of superpowers that give the story its title. Another one in the category of “I would recommend buying this book on the merits of this story alone.”

Friend or Foe

Oh my god I am so confused. I really can’t tell from reading it if this one is part of a series or not- like, the amount of questions I was left with afterwards makes me want it to be, but it was written in such a way that it could believably be a standalone that was supposed to leave the reader with questions. If that was the goal, boy did it ever work. The whole thing basically takes place in the aftermath of a Final Showdown sort of fight, with only allusions to what actually took place there. The way it switched back and forth between two characters was pretty interesting – clearly, one of them was the villain, but not in a very strong way. It was more of a… misunderstood genius, kind of thing, though with a touch of willing sociopathy, so I dunno. It was interesting but a bit aggravating at times.

Night Stalker: A Tale from the Tome of Bill

I wish I could say I liked this one, because the story was kinda interesting, but I didn’t. It felt like it was written by the kind of person who tries to defend the whole “Spider-Woman butt in the air” pose: that’s to say, delighting in that gamer-nerd stereotype, “I live in my parents basement playing WoW all day” sort of humor. The main character spends a while complaining about being “friendzoned.” Blah.

Goon #3

This made me think of Code 8, a cool little short film. They’re the same sort of setting, to the degree that I could pretty reasonably believe one inspired the other. Basically, a world where something like the Superhuman Registration Act of Marvel’s Civil War5 passed, and now the superhuman folks are living with the aftermath. Yeah, there’s some superheroes, and they’re distinctly following a legal process created around that idea: but there’s also regular people who got ground under the wheels of bureaucracy. The main character spent a couple years in prison after “robbery with a deadly weapon.” Which, yeah, a reasonably jail sentence- except for the fact that the robbery was him holding his hand in his pocket so it looked like he was holding a gun. The ‘deadly weapon’ was the fact that he’s got super-strength. The fact that he never mentioned that to the person he was robbing apparently never came up in the trial, or didn’t bother the people sentencing him at all.
Which is a wonderful touch, because there’s people like that in the real world, people who get ground down by the way the system works. And I love that sort of sad realism in superhero content.6

The Incident on Orion

This one was somewhat reminiscent of Invincible, a fun little comic that I read a while back. Basically, it’s the ‘superman’ type hero, except Krypton hasn’t exploded. Instead, Krypton has, as was bound to happen with a society of supermen, become the seat of a sprawling galactic empire.
In this one, as with Invincible, it’s a bit of a vicious one – survival of the fittest was heartily adopted by that empire, and you wind up with people fighting for their right to live in the empire. And once they’ve earned that, they set out to annihilate everyone that stands in the way of that empire, even if ‘standing in the way’ is defined as ‘within 10 light years of somewhere we might want to be one day.’ Basically, gleeful genocide.
There’s a lot of Roman Empire present in this, both in naming and in the way the mythology interacts with the characters. It was really interesting to read, a sort of sad and hopeful tale. I think I’d like to read more.

Sinergy: Immortal Sin

Strange and interesting. The superpowers are a lot lighter a touch here, they still distinctly present. What was more interesting was the backdrop: there’s an Order, it’s apparently been around for a couple thousand years, and it’s somehow affiliated with the catholic church, or christianity as a whole? I’m still a bit unclear. But it was a cool mythology, definitely, and I want to see more of it, because I do love that ‘ancient order’ kind of stuff.
The story itself was… really sad, actually. I think a single character had a ‘happy’ ending, and that was “woke up with no memory of any of this happening, twenty minutes outside of Prague, with nothing but their passport and a plane ticket,” so… not a super happy ending, at that. Still, interesting.

And there we go, that’s the book reviewed. I quite liked it, and would absolutely recommend it. Go read it.


  1. Well, superhero and supervillain. Super-being? 
  2. If you ever see “Lost Terry Pratchett novel found; it’s about superheroes” in the news, find a way to tell me gently because I might have an aneurism from how excited I’d be about that. 
  3. Certainly not a love interest- somewhere between ‘best friend’ and ‘motivational speaker,’ I suppose? 
  4. He has, and I’m going to read it sometime soon, I hope. 
  5. The comic book version, not the movie version, which I still haven’t seen, so if you try to tell me spoilers I will have you executed
  6. It’s so much better than the ‘realism’ of movies these days, where they think that making everything dark and gritty makes it more ‘realistic’ somehow. Y’all have entirely missed the point, Hollywood. 
Categories
Review

Short Stories About Tiny Tasks

I have no idea how this wound up on my Kindle. I’m just gonna assume it’s because it was free?
Anyhow, it was a bit of a weird read. It’s from what I mentally refer to as the “deep archives” of my Kindle- stuff that I downloaded a long time ago in a burst of “oh my god I’ve got nothing to read” and then forgot about. The weird bit is how clearly dated it is – it felt more dated than books I’ve got from 200 years ago do.
Technology is hard to write about, because it gets obsolete so fast. And when you’re writing for a blog,1 you’re writing for now, not later, so a lot of the historical context of what you’re talking about can be ignored. But if you make a ‘book’ out of those posts, without editing anything to add that context back in… well, a lot is missing.
So, yeah- a short review for a short book. It was an interesting look at the brief ‘crowdsourcing’ thing, but I think we’re pretty well along into the downward trend of that one, now that AI is good enough. Yay, future.


  1. Context: the book is composed of a bunch of blog posts from the Microtasks blog. I think that’s the name of the blog, at least. 
Categories
Review

A Soul for Trouble

This book just didn’t quite know what genre it wanted to be. It was almost a romance novel, but the fantasy setting and storyline was a bit too well-developed for that. But it’s also not quite a fantasy novel, because there was a good bit more romance than you get from that. But hey, pushing the boundaries of genres is what makes things fun, so I’m not really complaining.1
So, down to the normal business of my book reviews: trying to explain the plot without actually spoiling anything important. The titular character, Trouble (her real name is Arden, but as literally everyone in the book will tell you, ‘Trouble’ is more accurate) is a Main Character. Not precisely the term she’d use for herself, but she’s a blonde-haired blue-eyed orphan girl living in a town of brown-haired brown-eyed Generic Background Characters. Then a crazy old guy shows up, followed by a Tall Dark and Handsome stranger. With a pet wolf. Trouble establishes herself as a Strong Independent Woman as well as a Nice Person, and gives the crazy old dude some food, since he’s just stumbled into the inn where she works and all. Part of a brief conversation later, he’s killed, and his dying breath is the titular Soul.
At which point I’ll turn down my sarcasm a bit, because it actually got interesting after that. The Soul isn’t the old guy’s soul – it’s the incorporeal Loku, a character best described as “I’m aware that Loki is in the public domain, but Disney owns Marvel now so I don’t want to risk a lawsuit.”2 He’s the local god of chaos, and about a “we refer to them as the Ancients” ago, he tried to end the world. The mages of the neighboring country3 worked with the rest of the gods to stop that, with the end result that Loku’s body was destroyed and his soul became an immortal people-possessing… green cloud? Dev, the Tall Dark and Handsome guy – actually an elf, we find out – from earlier was supposed to be protecting Crazy Old Guy, and is the capital-P Protector. Or is it Guardian? Whichever.
Of course, all this explaining doesn’t happen for a while – what actually happens after Old Guy gets a cursed dagger to the back is a rather cinematic fight scene – Trouble collapses, Dev grabs her, and then suddenly there’s zombies everywhere. At which point Dev, being entirely reasonable, burns the building down4 and runs the hell away. Because, y’know, fighting a necromancer is hard enough when you’re not carrying a collapsed pretty girl.
From there, it’s a fun little romp across this fantasy kingdom, spending more time on the character relationships than it does on the fighting. Which was kinda cool, actually – like I said, blending genres can be a good thing. I mean, yes, the amount of unresolved sexual tension in the book is ridiculous, and there’s a few scenes where I was like “either write the sex scene you clearly want to write or gracefully allude to it having already happened, this is getting ridiculous.” But language-wise there’s nothing that would shock, like, the average high-schooler.5
So yeah, pretty good book! As of my writing this, I think it’s free on Amazon, so go for it.


  1. Well, I’m complaining a little bit, but if I ever stop complaining you can reasonably assume that I’ve died. 
  2. Hey, I said I’d turn the sarcasm down a bit, not that I’d turn it off. 
  3. The one that isn’t stupid and weird about magic. 
  4. Technically, I think the wolf did it – he’s a Fire Wolf, with the ability to… burst into flames. And the super-imaginative name of “Cinder.” Dev, you are a 300-year-old elfin mage-knight. How are you still so unimaginative. 
  5. Don’t show any of it to a middle-schooler, though, if only because the sound of their scandalized giggling will make you want to punch something. 
Categories
Review

The Vampire of Northanger

I almost didn’t wind up reviewing this one. Which, as per my weird set of rules about writing reviews, is a way of saying I almost didn’t wind up finishing this book.
I’d actually started writing a sort of review in my head, because Bryce Anderson is an author that I quite like – he wrote The Improbable Rise of Singularity Girl, a book which I loved, and we’re actually mutual followers on Twitter. So, at about 10% of the way through the book,1 when I was almost to the point of giving up on it, I was quite sad. “I wanted to like this book,” the post explaining my failure to read it would’ve begun.2 At that point, I had nothing really wrong with the book – it just wasn’t the sort of thing I enjoy reading. I was kept there by two things, foremost of which was the introduction to the book. Again, normally I don’t read introductions, but as I started to skim past it a few things caught my eye, and I read a random paragraph of the introduction, realized it wasn’t the sort of introduction I’m normally wary of, and went back to read the whole thing. It’s a hilarious piece of work: the ‘description of the writer’ bit makes mention of the fact that the introduction was written by someone who is paid “a handsome living” by the endowment of a chair at school that no longer exists. “As a public service, he can often be found on the current grounds of the former school, laying traps for feral students and attempting to educate whomever is ensnared. He assures us the process is entirely humane.”
The second thing keeping me there was, again, loyalty to a writer who I know to have proved themselves admirably in the past.

Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to write that “I have failed at reading this book” post, because the book picked up quite well from there – it was a bit of a long, slow start, but then, I enjoy everything Diana Wynne Jones has written, and her books have a plot diagram that looks like a wide sawtooth: a long, slow build to a beautiful crescendo, which takes place ten pages from the end of a 400-page book.
The Vampire of Northanger had a rather similar structure, I could say, and did the same sort of thing once past that initial 10% “I can barely go on” mark: I found myself unable to put down this book which I’d been barely able to hold up before. The exact turning point, I can demark quite easily: the introduction of Emily. He’s a lovely character, a dog made into a bit of an incompetent hellhound, and it was at this point that I realized the book wasn’t going to be just a Jane Austen novel with the backdrop slightly changed.3
And from there, the book was off. I’ve a phrase stuck in my head, which was planted there when a friend asked what I was reading, then set upon looking for reviews: “a delightful, violent romp through supernatural England.” That’s pretty accurate, if I do say so myself, and I wish I’d thought of it first, but alas.
(Here, I’ll point out how visibly my writing style has been impacted by spending so much time reading a book in the more Victorian style; the voice in my head is speaking with a rather snooty Oxford accent at the moment, and I can hear it sniff with disdain every time I try to use a modern colloquialism. Hopefully this fades soon.)

So, my final opinion on the book: a slow start, which I’ll ask the reader to power through, after which you discover a lovely adventure novel, with a good bit of mockery coming from the narrator, mostly directed at the kind-to-the-point-of-naïve4 protagonist. The other characters are delightful, once they get into the stride of the story, and perhaps my favorite bit of the whole thing was in the very end of the book when the protagonist finally figured out the blindingly obvious secret and basically sat down and said “well, I’m dumb.”
Seriously, it was quite a good book. Go have a read.


  1. Thank you Kindle, for telling me precisely how much of a book I’ve read 
  2. Like I said, normally I don’t acknowledge books that failed to hold my interest long enough for me to read them, but I felt I at least owed that much to Mr. Anderson. 
  3. To my readers who enjoy the writings of Jane Austen: I don’t mean to insult her, I’ve just come to terms with the fact that the style of her writings are not the sort of thing I enjoy. There are, I’m sure, a good amount of people who would love to read “a Jane Austen novel with the backdrop slightly changed.” This is not quite the book for you. 
  4. Yes, I’m aware that ‘naive’ and ‘naïve’ are just alternate spellings for the same word: nonetheless, I think the second looks better, and I just enjoy having excuses to type an umlaut, okay
Categories
Review

The Iron Wyrm Affair

For some reason, AutoCorrect thinks that I’m somehow managing to mistype ‘warm’ as ‘wyrm’ and I’m rather curious about what kind of keyboard my laptop thinks I’m using.
Anyhow, this book was delightful. I’ll admit to a good bit of suspicion at the beginning, because it opened like it was going to be the most blatant Sherlock Holmes rip-off in the history of time. Fortunately, I was disabused of that notion very quickly: Archibald Clare, though still very much a Sherlock Holmes figure, is just one of a number of people with similarly logical minds. In this version of Britain, such genii1 are common enough that they have a classification – mentath – and a registration system by which they are recommended for various jobs. Interesting, I thought.
And then it got better, because Emma Bannon, as it turns out, is Prime: the highest level of sorcerer in the land, and a delightful character at that. Throughout the entire I book, I cannot think of a single moment where I was urging her to do something different than what she did. Which, with me being the reader, means she can come across as a bit brutal on occasion. But hey, she gets the job done.
The two stand at the beginnings of a grand mystery. Before the book began, Bannon had begun investigating the deaths of several registered mentaths; as Clare is unregistered, she doesn’t tell him (at first) that he’s the last unregistered mentath in London.2 Every other unregistered mentath has been rather brutally murdered. Whoops!
The plot was intriguing, and toeing the line of ‘too complex’ – I could follow most of the time, though I’ll admit to having been a bit lost amidst all the local politics once or twice. Still, it all came clear enough in the end, in a series of scenes that would make for a beautiful cinematic.
What I really loved, though, was twofold:
First, the relationship between Bannon and Clare. It’s distinctly not Sherlock/Watson in flavor – Clare is obviously the Sherlock figure here, but Bannon neatly sidesteps being Watson by dint of being the Big Dog of the two: she’s the one ordering Clare around, serving both as protector and master, in a way. And the entire matter of heteronormative bull was also neatly sidestepped: Clare, a being who prides himself on sheer logic, doesn’t seem to bother with attraction to people, and Bannon has her own romance going on outside of the pair. Do you know how happy it makes me to see a book feature a male-and-female-duo as lead and not have them wind up making out? So happy.
Secondly, the world building in this book was phenomenal. To the point where I was starting to wonder if I’d missed something and this was, like, the nineteenth book in the series. It’s an alternate history, and a rather unique one – there are mentions of an Age of Flame, when dragons ruled; hints of Arthurian legend having actually happened; Britain is named for Britannia, a fascinating immortal ruler-spirit that uses the acting Queen as a Vessel; and plenty of old magics being used to do interesting things. There was a ludicrous amount of effort put into the world building of this whole thing, and it made it amazing. I feel safe assuming that the author has a notebook3 full of history and rules of magic and whatnot somewhere; but though it exists, very little is shared with us. “Show, don’t tell” must’ve been carved into the desk on which she wrote- the ‘end notes’ consist of a one-page excerpt from Clare’s briefly-mentioned monograph on observation4 and a short list denoting the levels of magic users, with a couple brief footnotes that make it seem like something taken from a textbook rather than the explain-it-all appendix to a novel. And yet it works: while I certainly started off confused, by the end I felt pretty comfortable with what the layout of the world, the rules and all that, were. Sure, there’s numerous mysteries left over, but it doesn’t feel like the book is taunting me, it feels like I’m a slightly-more-informed-than-average citizen of the world, knowing just enough to realize that there’s a world of mysteries still out there.
And I love that sort of thing, it has very thoroughly captured my interest. Though I’m trying to avoid buying any new books at the moment, as I’ve got a ten-page list of backlog to work my way through,5 I just might have to pick up the next one in the series right now. You’ll see soon enough if I managed to control myself.

So, that’s my review: glowing with praise, absolutely in love. Go get the book.


  1. Why yes I did just use the correct pluralization of ‘genius,’ thank you for noticing. 
  2. Or rather, Londinium – one of the interesting things throughout is the slightly-different names of things. I’ve got some Thoughts on the matter, which I’ll go into later. 
  3. Or ten. 
  4. Yes, he’s Sherlock Holmes, we get it. 
  5. Plus some rereading I want to do, because I’m like that. 
Categories
Review

Halo: Nightfall

I’m gonna be honest with y’all, I didn’t finish this one. Not something I normally do with Halo media, but I’m bad at movie-watching to start with,1 and this one had lots of creepy worms. I quite enjoyed the setup, and figured out after a bit2 that this is Spartan Locke’s backstory, which was kinda cool. Having it be live-action, and still featuring a couple Sangheili? I quite liked, and I think the visual effects were handled well.
That was actually one of the weirder things about this, for me – I had no idea this was a thing until a couple days ago, and it seemed like a rather big-budget sort of thing for Microsoft to not have advertised at all. Then again, I don’t think Google’s ad algorithms are smart enough to link what I post on here with my viewing habits elsewhere, so probably they have no idea that I’m a big ol’ Halo nerd, and that’s why I never get Halo ads on YouTube.3
So I liked the first half of the movie or so, but then the worms showed up. Conceptually, and in writing, I enjoy the Lekgolo species, I like the idea that the massive Hunters are actually weird hive-mind things. It’s just so cool. But seeing the worms on their own? Eurgh. They’re creepy.4
The real reason I even bothered to write up this review – usually I don’t bother, for stuff I don’t finish, which is why you never really see me posting hugely negative reviews – is because of a single little joke I wanted to work in here. It’s the explanation of why I think worms are creepy, in fact.
It’s because I know that, one day, worms are gonna be one of the big contributors to the decomposition of my body. And for some reason, they all look like they want to get that started ahead of schedule.

Does that count as a joke? It’s hard to type out the tone of voice I’m going for in my head, and I think that’s more ‘morbid’ than ‘funny.’ Oh well, so is half of my sense of humor.
So… if you’re not freaked out by worms like I am, go watch the movie! It’s pretty good, well-made and all that. If you have an existential horror of worms, then… really don’t watch this movie. Your choice.


  1. I need a minimum of, like, 1.25 things to be doing at any given time, and a movie counts as, like, .125 or something. I dunno, trying to make math out of ‘movies can’t hold my attention well’ is hard. 
  2. Also contributing to my lack of attention: I watched this while ‘working,’ and even when there’s no customers, a pool is loud
  3. Except when Halo 4 came out, but I’m pretty sure that at that point Microsoft had bought every ad slot on the site, so that doesn’t really mean much of anything. 
  4. I think all worms are creepy, to be honest. It’s the one downside to when it rains – all the worms are out on the sidewalks and stuff. 
Categories
Review

Halo: Shadow of Intent

Good lord, I thought I was done with all the Halo books but then I found another one I hadn’t read yet.1 So I’ve got at least one more of these things to write.2
This was another of the interwar-period books, following some ex-Covenant folk. On one side, a Prelate, roughly the Covenant equivalent of a Spartan.3 On the other, the Half-Jaw, an old warrior who sided with the Arbiter in the mess of post-Covenant Sangheili politics. Seeing the mess that was Sangheilios, the Arbiter sent the Half-Jaw and his ship, the sole remaining assault-carrier in the Sangehili navy. If you’re in the middle of a morass of a civil war, you don’t want the under-staffed, under-defended Big Gun being right nearby and easily accessible to anyone who might want the power to glass half the planet.
The book felt deceptively short, to be honest – I was going to describe a bit more of the plot, but I realized that was easily halfway through it already, which is going a bit beyond my ‘no spoilers’ rule I try to abide by. More of a novella than a novel, I suppose.
That said, they managed to get some good character development in – the Prelate has a tragic backstory going on, explored through a couple (nightmarish) dream sequences, which gets worse over time. Rather sad, really, but I suppose that’s what happens in war. The Half-Jaw, on the other hand, is an old warrior, nicknamed for the injuries he received in the Covenant civil war, and wants nothing more than to be able to rest. Not really an option when you’ve got a Prelate trying to kill you, though. Poor guy.
There’s a bit of a Forerunner artifact involved, because of course there is, but it doesn’t really get explored very well – the part of me that always wants to know about Forerunner tech and history was quite annoyed about the lack of explanation on what exactly it was, but oh well. I’ll live.
Now, if I’m remembering properly, this being such a short book also meant it was pretty cheap, so go ahead and give it a read.


  1. It was already on my Kindle and everything. My roommate is making fun of me for having “the least unhealthy addiction ever.” 
  2. I say “at least” because at this point I might go back and reread the ones I’ve got as actual paperbacks and do re-read-reviews of them or something. It’s all an excuse to read more Halo books, I’ve gotta be honest. 
  3. Prelates are, apparently, retro-genetically modified San’Shyuum, so closer in relation to Spartan-IVs than anything else, I suppose? They’re also, notably, some of the only members of the Prophet race to be able to walk under their own power, and are actually impressively good fighters.