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Tuesday, 22 December 2015

December Reviews at the Nameless Zine

I write book reviews for The Nameless Zine, an online zine run by the Western Science Fiction Association (WesternSFA), a non-profit fandom group based here in Arizona.

As the Nameless Zine follows a graphical indexing system, I also maintain my own text index of what I've written at my own website. You can find it here at the Reviews at the Nameless Zine page.

Reviews at the Nameless Zine post monthly on the 15th of each month and December's batch are now online. I reviewed five books this month:

The Devious Dr Jekyll


I adored The Diabolical Miss Hyde, which is surely my favourite novel of the year. This first sequel isn't quite up to the same standards but that's mostly because it's a sequel. It's still a glorious romp through an alternate Victorian London in the wild company of Dr Eliza Jekyll and her wicked half, Miss Lizzie Hyde.

Dr Jekyll's new case is a series of grisly murders committed by the Pentacle Killer, which trawls in some more gothic Victorian literature into its scope. However, there's so much more going on than just a mystery that it's often not the key focus. Viola Carr created a monster with this series and it really wants to run loose. Not every character gets the time they want to play and some of their stories will have to wait until book three.

For more, visit my review at the Nameless Zine, which I'm happy to say is the featured review for December. I also reviewed the first book at the Nameless Zine: The Diabolical Miss Hyde.

The Machine Awakes


In the future, mankind expands across the galaxy until it meets the Spiders, a race of AI driven world-devastating machines. The ensuing war isn't the focus of this novel but is the background to it. During the war, mankind is led by the Fleet, in turn led by the Fleet Admiral. Our story ties to the assassination of not one but two Fleet Admirals in as many days.

I'm not quite sure what The Machine Awakes wants to be. It's a decent futuristic mystery, in which an agent called Von Kodiak investigates these murders. However it gradually shifts away to become a technological thriller focused on the Fleet psi-Marine who sits at its centre. Eventually it decides that it wants to be a space opera instead and that's the weakest angle because it's better at being small than being big.

Adam Christopher did draw me into this novel and I want to read each of the stories he tried to write. I just want to read them in separate volumes rather than just this one.

For more, visit my review at the Nameless Zine.

Mystic


I devoured the 315 page Mystic in under four hours because it's as easy a read as I've found in years. This is mostly for two reasons. One is that it's a rather conventional fantasy novel that doesn't ever try to do anything particularly original. The other is that, even given that flaw, author Jason Denzel really makes us care about his leading lady and the world which she inhabits.

It's a relatively simple novel of magic. Pomella AnDone is a commoner who gets caught up in a grand adventure, being selected to compete for the role of Mystic, one who uses the Myst, or the magic in this world. She's the underdog because no commoner has ever been selected for such competition and that pisses a lot of people off. Cue heroes and villains and all the rest.

I don't believe this is YA fiction, but I'd highly recommend it to young readers who haven't explored fantasy yet. The more you know about the genre, the less memorable this will become.

For more, visit my review at the Nameless Zine.

Deadlands: Ghostwalkers

The first of three novels revolving around the Deadlands RPG, this is a thoroughly enjoyable weird west tale that sets a high standard for Jeff Mariotte and Seanan McGuire to live up to in the remaining two.

It's a simple story in an imaginative framework. Grey Torrance, a soldier literally running from the ghosts of his past, finds himself in what's left of California after the Great Quake of 1868, teaming with an Oglala Sioux called Looks Away to fight a land baron, Aleksander Deray, and the dark forces he commands, to save the people of a town called Paradise Falls.

It's an old school pulp romp that betrays its influences on its sleeve, but has an ungodly amount of fun with them. It's weird and it's western and it's well worth your time.

For more, visit my review at the Nameless Zine.

The Land of Terror


The adventures of Doc Savage were originally published monthly in the Doc Savage pulp magazine and I'm reviewing them in order, one per month. This is the second, after The Man of Bronze, and it's not remotely up to the standards it set.

On the positive side, there's a rollicking adventure set in a wild variety of locations, like a pirate ship turned museum, a submarine and a former volcano full of prehistoric creatures. There's also a bunch of cool tech, like the Smoke of Eternity, an acid which melts everything, including human bodies.

On the negative side, Doc is outrageously talented here, more like Superman, whom he heavily influenced, than a pulp action hero. He's supposed to be the best of us, but here he's beyond that. He's also dark here, much darker than I remember him, as he kills a bunch of people in his quest for justice. That's too dark for this sort of inspiring hero.

For more, visit my review at the Nameless Zine. I also reviewed the first book at the Nameless Zine: The Man of Bronze.

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