Tag Archive: book review


And, in a turn of events I’m sure no one saw coming, I am late posting my postponed review. Who would have thought, right? I’d have had it if not for that sleeping curse. But it’s here now, much to everyone’s delight. Thanks to the awesome folks at Tor, here’s The People’s Police. Enjoy!

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When Officer Martin Luther Martin was ordered to serve his own eviction notice he didn’t expect to wind up the face for the following police strike against the loan lizards trying to foreclose on everyone. When bordello owner J. B. Lafitte called the strike on being self serving, only helping the police, he didn’t expect them to agree. When MaryLou Boudreau first woke up from dancing with a full hat and no memory of how it wound up that way she never expected to wind up as Mama Legba, television personality and horse to the Loa. No one expected Papa Legba himself to address Luke on tv or the question he would ask. “What do you offer?”

This one might get a little weird, there may also be a few spoilers so heads up. Norman Spinrad’s The People’s Police is a bit of an odd duck as far as fantasy or urban fantasy novels go. It’s well written in many respects, but I’d have a hard time calling it a fun read. It’s got definite fantasy elements, but is also almost cynical in its approach to politics and the way we’re governed. It’s got a really political thesis, but then avoids a lot of what makes that thesis political, becoming sort of a preaching to the choir deal. It’s actually a little hard to come up with much of an opinion on it because of all that, I’m really not used to that.

So, start from the beginning, does the story live up to its blurb? Yes and no. The actual blurb for the book doesn’t really say much, so it’s hard for the book to not fall into it. At the same time the book lacks a certain degree of coherency for much of its run which, in addition to making it feel like it could have been trimmed a good deal, also leads to it feeling very scattered in places. Several characters could have been worked in much better, but instead weren’t introduced until the last probably fifth of the novel. The same can be said for certain events not having enough lead up and so winding up feeling misplaced.

We also get some weirdness with the language of the book both in that Spinrad occasionally chooses to write in characters’ accents, something I’m not a fan of, and that multiple characters will more or less verbatim use really specific wording. That bit is very like being beaten over the head with propaganda, like video game levels of it that you’re supposed to know what it is so you don’t take it seriously, which doesn’t fit because it’s part of the book’s main idea. It feels clumsy or like Spinrad doesn’t trust his audience to get it.

Here’s the kicker, none of that singly or grouped together runs a serious risk of killing a book for me, at least not usually. He’s also got some stuff that’s usually near guaranteed to get me invested. There’s good character work, any number of scenes are strongly written and play well to the reader’s senses, and the weird cynical optimism often works in the book’s favor. It doesn’t set though. We get a lot of back story in the first half of the book, but a lot of its told rather than shown. The supernatural aspect is interesting and the in book discussion had potential, though I feel like maybe Spinrad could have used something other than the Loa or done more to actively show his work. I know next to nothing about Voodoo, so I could easily be missing the mark entirely on that one, but still. Even the character work falls flat in places with a later character’s focus on his religion making him feel very cardboard where he, if introduced earlier, could have been much more dynamic.

I’m sitting at the point where I can easily see people getting really into The People’s Police and any number of other people reading two chapters and reselling it. Its writing is technically pretty good but lacks flavor, for lack of a better word, and has enough little things that I’m just neutral on the whole thing. So that said, The People’s Police gets a three out of five.

I am spazzing about finals not at all yet.  That’s going to change in the next couple of days, but at the moment I’m fairly chill about it.  I’m looking at trying to finish my Christmas shopping tomorrow afternoon and then seeing if I can find some wrapping paper that isn’t the daily newspaper and duct tape.  I’m still stuck at about a third of the way through with the Thor scarf in all it’s ridiculously wide glory, but that just means I’ll have a project for next term too. Help me, I think I have been infected with optimism.  It’s fatal and I do not want to succumb to it.  On to the review!

Audrey Callahan is determined to escape her former life as a grifter in the Edge and live a nice, normal, legal life in the Broken.  At least until her father comes to her for one last heist with a pay off she can’t afford to pass up.  Kaldar Mar is an agent of the Mirror, a lady’s man, a scalawag, and a gambler.  His latest assignment has him searching for a powerful artifact stolen from an impenetrable fortress in an enemy country full of terrifying monsters.   Not that any of that is a problem.  No, Kaldar’s problem is Audrey, the stubborn redhead who broke into the nearly impenetrable fortress and stole the powerful artifact.  He’s going to need her to survive, but can he let her go once the mission ends?

Before Fate’s Edge I’d never read an Ilona Andrews novel.  I’d looked at their Kate Daniels novels, but any time I could find the first one I’d be too broke or too busy to get it.  That’s something I’m going to have to rectify.  Fate’s Edge made me laugh far more than I’d expected.  Audrey and Kaldar’s constant attempts at figuring out each other’s angle were just cute.   Audrey’s issues with her family were fairly well written and touched on enough to be believable without getting annoying.  Kaldar manages to strike a balance between serious business government agent and freewheeling gambler that makes him both charming and rather frightening.  The character interactions are top notch with a blend of serious moments and humorous back and forths that serve to humanize the characters.  The world is fantastic, all three of them in fact, the Edge and the Weird are every bit as thought out as the scenes in the Broken.  The only characters who weren’t terribly interesting were the villains, and that’s forgivable in the grand scheme of things.

One of my only issues with Fate’s Edge was that I’d have liked to have seen more regarding the differences in the way that Kaldar thinks of his family as compared to the way Audrey thinks of hers.  My other thing goes back to the villains; they came across as being evil for its own sake as opposed to the heroes who were out for family and country.  It would be nice to see them get more development in future books.

By the end of the book I definitely wanted to read the rest of Ilona Andrew’s bibliography and I’d definitely had a blast reading this one.  I’m giving this a four out of five because of the thing with the bad guys and some nitpicky things about characters thinking in circles, but I’m also definitely going to pick up the next in the series when it comes out.

Holy cow it’s been a while since I posted a review.  Can’t promise that this won’t happen again soon, finals start next Tuesday and will be devouring my time, energy, and possibly will to live.  Since you guys have been so good as to put up with me though, I’ve finally got that one review written.  More should be coming between now and the heat death of the sun, so stick around!

Clay Cove lives with the memory of the day he was viciously attacked and left for dead.  He remembers nearly bleeding out and the helpless feeling of jumping at shadows afterward.  Clay knows that no matter how dependable the rest of his gang, the Locals, are he can’t count on them to be there every time something goes down.  Violence is increasing as the Hakers and the Shawns push into the Locals’ turf.  Old friends are becoming suspect, family is under attack, and the only thing Clay can count on is that it can always get worse.

It Can Always Get Worse by Shandy L. Kurth is very much like one of those books that my high school made us read in 9th grade English.  It’s trying to say something but falling flat on all sides.   It’s not about the gang violence, though that takes up most of the plot, and it isn’t character driven enough to be about making it in a violent world with the family you choose.  It isn’t about trying to find something better, though that gets lip service.  The Locals stay stubbornly in their turf while getting pounded on all sides by enemies that seem to only want to watch the world burn.

It Can Always Get Worse is the safe for work version of a gang story written from the other side of the camera.  This is the kind of thing you walk away from a well meaning college program about how we are failing today’s youth and then write while feeling bad about being a middle class college kid.  It’s white washed up one side and down the other, I can’t remember any characters who aren’t Caucasian.  It’s got the emotional impact of wet cement, and it really loses what could have been some good moments because of that.   These characters don’t talk like real people much less kids from the bad part of town, no they talk like the kids from the suburbs who’re trying to be deep but just falling into broken prose.  My biggest non-writing problem with this is how very outside looking in it is, that other side of the camera thing, there is no visceral feeling that anyone could die at any moment.  It feels like a high school play version of The Outsiders put to paper again.

That said, there were some moments that could have been really good if more had been done with them.  Kurth really needs to work on amping up the emotion of a scene rather than navel gazing about how terrible the world it or describing her characters.  She could also probably do with a better editor or a more critical publisher.  I wouldn’t read her next book or the one after it, but if she made it to a fourth book or got published by one of the big name publishers I’d take another look.  In and of itself, It Can Always Get Worse earns a two out of five and some grousing over how bland it was.

Hotwire

This is so late I cannot even.  Getting ready for the up-coming term has been kicking my butt so hard I’m amazed that I can still sit down.  The good news is that I’ve got a couple of books ready to review soon and I’ll be getting to do another giveaway later this month along with a guest post by the book’s author, the bad news is that I’ll still have to take the time to pack and unpack everything and get back into classes mode.  Things should be back to something like normal within the next few weeks.

On a peaceful night in western Nebraska a group of teenagers looking to film themselves getting high are attacked by a mysterious creature.  The attack leaves them apparently electrocuted with only mysterious scorch marks as evidence.  Maggie O’Dell has to make sense of differing accounts of the evening and her witnesses being killed off one by one.  Meanwhile in Washington, D.C. Benjamin Platt is called in on an outbreak of an unknown contagion at an elementary school.  What connection is there between the two cases?

Alex Kava does a really excellent job of balancing analytical science based story telling with jabs of high octane action and high emotion.  Hotwire, while a little slow at the start, builds on itself with connections between O’Dell and Platt’s cases resulting in a read that barrels towards its conclusion at a break neck pace.  We also get character development for Racine whose first name is Julia apparently, I’d forgotten that.  One of the really interesting things in Hotwire is seeing the differences in how characters view each other, this is shown especially well in Platt and Racine’s interactions throughout the book.

I’ve only got one problem with Hotwire and unfortunately it’s a big one.  The story telling is excellent, as good as anything Kava’s done before, but the plot leaves way too many dangling threads.  Characters who turn out to be really important to the plot don’t get the characterization to carry their importance and bits of dead end plot happened that could have easily been cut out without hurting the story in the least.  It didn’t hurt the story while I was reading it, but it did lead to a ton of fridge logic and a feeling that this was a bit less streamlined than some of Kava’s earlier books.

I’m giving Hotwire a solid four out of five.  This one’s worth re-reading later.