Friday, June 26, 2015

The Fold

The FoldThe Fold by Peter Clines
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When DARPA scientists create a wormhole device in the California desert, why is New England schoolteacher Mike Erikson tapped to investigate the installation? Because Mike Erikson has an eidetic memory and is one of the smartest people on the planet! Can Mike find out what's really going on at the installation despite the secretive scientists?

I got this from Netgalley.

On paper, this book sounded right up my alley. What's not to like about Sherlock monkeying about with some kind of wormhole device? Still, I have a mountain of unread books lying around the Dan Cave. However, after having a few fellow reviewers gush over this, I had to take a closer look. Fortunately, it was still up on Netgalley and I was happy to take the plunge.

The Albequerque Door, named after a Bugs Bunny episode, folds space to transport people and objects between two gates in an instant. Or does it? Mike feels a sense of wrongness when he arrives and things get wronger by the moment. I had a pretty good idea what was happening but it was still a delightful ride getting there.

The ride started slow, like pretty much every time I have to ride somewhere with my parents these days. However, Mike Erikson was interesting enough to keep me hooked until the really crazy stuff started happening. I rarely say this about science fiction and fantasy books but I dearly hope this is the first book in a series starring Mike. He's that damned fascinating.

Anyway, I loved the way things unFolded and the truth behind the door was very cool. When will scientists learn that squamous horrors lurk in pretty much every undiscovered reality? The ended was pretty damned sweet and while it wrapped things up, things were open-ended enough for a string of sequels.

That's about all I have to say. If you like Sherlock, parallel universes, and things of that nature, you won't want to miss The Fold. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Library at Mount Char

The Library at Mount CharThe Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Father goes missing, the Librarians he trained try to solve his murder while his legacy hangs in the balance. But what happened to him and who is responsible? More importantly, what will happen to His Library?

I got this from Netgalley.

I'm not completely sure how I felt about this book. Hell, for most of the book, I wasn't sure who was supposed to be the main character. However, I did enjoy it. Here's how it all went down.

Father, aka Adam Black, aka various other aliases, scooped up twelve orphans and spent three decades training them to be Librarians, the wielders of the knowledge he accumulated in his sixty-thousand year dominion over Earth. When he goes missing and the Librarians are barred from the Library, things go to hell quite quickly.

Each of the twelve orphans has a catalog. Carolyn, whose catalog is languages, is the main character, although supporting characters Erwin and Steve get a lot of screen time. As the story unfolds, the backstory of the Librarians is revealed.

The writing was pretty good and there was a surprising amount of humor. I thought the scheme the mastermind pulled off was very well done.

As I write this review, it occurs to me that this is one of those books that I like the ideas way more than the execution. The magic system reminds me of The Magicians a bit and I love the idea of a nigh-immortal wizard training twelve orphans. However, I didn't really care about any of the characters other than Steve and the lions. I thought the story meandered all over the place and could have been more focused. It's also one of the few books where I wanted a lot more worldbuilding.

All things considered, the Library at Mount Char was a pretty engaging read. I guess my only problem was that it wasn't the book I was expecting. Three out of five stars.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Skinner

SkinnerSkinner by David Bernstein
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Six friends run off the road in a blizzard in the middle of nowhere. Will they survive long enough to reach civilization with a supernatural menace wanting them dead?

I got this from Netgalley.

Fine literature is all well and good but sometimes you just want some gory good fun. Skinner is just such fun.

Skinner reads like an homage to B-movies, horror movies in particular. Bickering 20-somethings in a remote setting, beset by supernatural forces? What's not to like?

While I had a feeling how the book was going to end, there were a few twists that caught me napping. Bernstein did a good job juxtaposing climbing suspense with brutal violence.

Skinner is not The Old Man and the Sea but it's not meant to be. It's an entertaining way to spend a couple hours. Three out of five stars.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Harvest

The Harvest (The Heartland Trilogy Book 3)The Harvest by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Cael awakens, he finds that a year has passed and the world has plunged deeper into chaos. Can he reconnect with his friends and end the reign of the Empyreans once and for all?

I got this from Netgalley.

Chuck Wendig brings his Heartland trilogy to a close. There's not a lot I can say without giving away plot points, although if you're reading reviews for the third book in a trilogy, you deserve what you get. I will say that Wendig's not afraid to kill off characters but does so with purposes other than shock value, unlike certain authors I will not name with the initials GRRM.

In my experience, third books in trilogies are usually the big confrontation and the cleanup afterwords. Wendig bucks the trend and crams quite a few surprise twists. I didn't see any of them coming and loved the secret weapon. I also like that Wendig didn't take the predictable route in the epilogue.

While I gave the book a three, it's no fault of the book. I enjoyed it but my enjoyment was hampered by my aging brain's inability to remember the nuts and bolts of the previous book. The Harvest was a lot of fun and head and shoulders above most YA fluff. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Time Salvager

Time SalvagerTime Salvager by Wesley Chu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When chronman James Griffin-Mars breaks the first Time Law, he becomes the target of the very agency he's worked with for years. Can he flee across time to escape them and help the woman he loves save the Earth?

I got this from NetGalley.

I was reading an interview with Wesley Chu around the time his second Tao book came out and he mentioned Time Salvager. What's not to like about people from the far future plundering dead timelines for supplies in order to save the Earth?

Things get Timey-wimey pretty quickly in Time Salvager: Time ripples, time lag, preserving the chronostream. I like the way the Chu-man handles time travel. Much like the Tao books, Time Salvager is a thriller wrapped in a nice sci-fi wrapper.

James Griffin-Mars is a complicated lead. Honestly, he's pretty unlikeable at first. On the other hand, I get the feeling that a lot of people would be that way if they were largely above the law and had crazily powerful weaponry at their fingertips. His foil, Levin, is nearly as complicated, a rigid, duty-bound man bent on bringing James in at all costs. Complicating things is Elise, the woman James brought back with him from his last authorized jump, a woman with the knowledge to save the future from the Earth-plague.

There were enough unanswered questions for me to not mind that this is likely the first book in a series. I look forward to more adventures involving the chronmen. Wesley Chu is one smooth Wookie. Four out of five stars.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Specimen 313

Specimen 313Specimen 313 by Jeff Strand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A flesh-eating plant named Max gets a new neighbor, Specimen 313, aka Jenny. What are these strange feelings Max starts experiencing?

Jeff Strand is one of my favorite self-published authors so I was sure Specimen 313 would be an enjoyable experience. For once, I was right.

Specimen 313 is a love story of sorts, set in a lab of experimental plants. That's pretty much all I should divulge since the story is only 17 pages. Strand hits his usual high notes in the humor and gore departments, delivering a bloody and somewhat touching tale.

This freebie is well worth a read. Four out of five stars.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Steel Valentine

Steel ValentineSteel Valentine by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When you're having an affair with a madman's wife, make sure you don't get caught...

This was a short, brutal tale by Joe R. Lansdale. Getting chained to a maddened Doberman doesn't sound like much fun to me. If you have any fear of getting attacked by dogs, this is not the story for you. However, it's pretty powerful and you won't soon forget it.

Four out of five stars.

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