Monday, October 31, 2016

Book Review: Warriors 1 edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

Warriors 1Warriors 1 by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Warriors 1 brings together short stories from across all genres by authors whose only criteria were to write about a warrior. This is the one of three paperback volumes of the whole anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois in which Martin is joined in contributing by Joe Haldeman, Steven Saylor, Tad Williams, Cecelia Holland, and Robert Silverberg.

Save for the opening story, this volume is packed with great writing and stories. Of the five stories that are truly outstanding two are historical fiction, one is science fiction, and two are fantasy. Not all the stories are full of action as seen in Robert Silverberg’s “Defenders of the Frontier” is more a psychological study but still a well written and compelling narrative. Only two of the stories featured in this volume are connected in some way to established universes by their authors, Joe Haldeman’s Forever War universe and Martin’s own world of A Song of Ice and Fire. But while Martin’s “The Mystery Knight” is compelling story with action and intrigue, Haldeman’s “Forever Bound” just doesn’t seem to really connect to a first time reader of his work. I would be remiss if I forgot to praise the excellent historical fiction stories by Steven Saylor and Cecelia Holland that featured Romans, Carthaginians, and Vikings.

While the opening story doesn’t seem to connect well, the rest of the stories in this volume more than make up for it. These tales of warriors whether based in our own history or worlds far off in space or in a fantastical realm are excellent reads. The same is true for action, political intrigue, and psychological struggles. I really loved this collection of short stories and highly recommend it to those interested in get or reading this volume.

Individual Story Ratings
Forever Bound by Joe Haldeman (3/5)
The Eagle and the Rabbit by Steven Saylor (5/5)
And Ministers of Grace by Tad Williams (4/5)
The King of Norway by Cecelia Holland (5/5)
Defenders of the Frontier by Robert Silverberg (4.5/5)
The Mystery Knight by George R.R. Martin (5/5)


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Review: The Mystery Knight by George R.R. Martin

The Mystery Knight by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Political intrigue and mystery are the essence of the third Dunk and Egg novella, “The Mystery Knight”. George R.R. Martin exposes the reader to the historical reality of the reign of King Aerys I as Ser Duncan ‘Dunk’ the Tall and his squire (Prince) Aegon “Egg” Targaryen stumble into a wedding and tournament full of supports of the Blackfyres and mysterious individuals.

The story begins soon after the events of The Sworn Sword, Dunk and Egg stumble upon various lords and hedge knights headed to the wedding of Lord Ambrose Butterwell to a daughter of Lord Frey of the Crossing. Not wanting to pass up a good meal, Dunk decides to go to the wedding and later to enter the tourney under a mystery knight moniker. However, Dunk isn’t the only one under a moniker as is the case with Ser John the Fiddler while another knight, Ser Glendon Ball, claims the name of a famous Blackfyre supporter. However, behind all this pomp and mysterious characters is a fantastical plot to take advantage of the hatred to the Hand of the King Lord Bloodraven and put a Blackfyre on the throne.

The Mystery Knight is the first of the novellas in which magical elements seen in the main books series are seen as well as two characters, one very well-known and the other just recently introduced. From the outset, this novella is very well paced and the growing mystery around the entire wedding of Lord Butterwell only increases the tension that Dunk and Egg find themselves. In the history of Westeros, Ser Duncan the Tall and the future Aegon V Targaryen are two of the most well known figures of recent memory and with the events of The Mystery Knight they leave their second big impact on the political landscape.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Review: Defenders of the Frontier by Robert Silverberg

Defenders of the Frontier by Robert Silverberg
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

A fortification protecting a mountain pass in the midst of a desert between two war nations is only manned by eleven men including Surveyor. Once a force of 10,000 when occupying the fort two decades before, the eleven men have over the past few years have killed “the enemy” in ones or two but now their Seeker can’t detect them. Now they begin thinking about if the war is still going on, if they should stay or leave the fort, and if they leave will they be able to function back home. Or is the fort now home?

Friday, October 28, 2016

Review: The King of Norway by Cecelia Holland

The King of Norway by Cecelia Holland
My rating: 5 out of 5

The titular character is an Conn Corbannson, a hirdman to King Sweyn of Denmark, who is upset with his Danish leader because he won’t attack England. Sweyn however wants to teach Haakon the Jarl—the real King of Norway—a lesson and has asked for help from the Jomsvikings to help. During the welcome feast, Conn gets too drunk and swears to become ‘King of Norway’. It’s a vow Conn continually regrets, especially when he comes face-to-face with Haakon.

Review: And Ministers of Grace by Tad Williams

And Ministers of Grace by Tad Williams
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Assassin Lamentation Kane attempts to “do the will of God” by killing the leader of the ultra-secular planetary coalition whom he has been trained since childhood to hate by his ultra-religious government. However, Kane fails and is captured then is experimented on to learn about the cybernetic technology he has been enhanced with only for him to escape not only physical captivity but the cybernetic implant of the secular government as well. Yet once free and his mind clear, Kane realizes he has to think on his own.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Review: The Eagle and the Rabbit by Steven Saylor

The Eagle and the Rabbit by Steven Saylor
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

After the destruction of Carthage, Saylor’s “The Eagle and The Rabbit” follows a fugitive Carthaginian Hanso who is just captured along others of his tribe by Roman slavers. He finds himself favored by the group’s leader Fabius as “the eagle” while another in their group Lino becomes “the rabbit” to be the plaything amongst the Romans. Fabius kicks Lino out of the camp and sends Hanso out to capture or kill him in return for his own freedom, but it doesn’t seem so simple to Hanso.

Review: Forever Bound by Joe Haldeman

Forever Bound by Joe Haldeman
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Setting in Haldeman’s own The Forever War universe, “Forever Bound” follows Julian Class who is drafted into a Remote Infantry unit in which soldiers are cybernetically linked to both robots and everyone in his squad to fight against enemies of the United States. Most of the story revolves around Julian and his fellow squad member Carolyn having an intense relationship thanks to their cybernetic link until Carolyn suddenly dies because of the effects of the implants have on her brain causing Class to go into a severe depression that can only be alleviated during his 10 days on duty every month when he and the rest of his squad are linked as a collective whole.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Book Review: The Truth by Terry Pratchett

The Truth (Discworld, #25)The Truth by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The city of Ankh-Morpork is a vast multicultural and multispecies metropolis with a strong economy and police force, so what happens when Discworld’s biggest city gets a newspaper? The twenty-fifth installment of Terry Pratchett’s fantasy-humor series, The Truth once more finds the flat world taking another step into an Industrial Revolution while a conspiracy looks led Ankh-Morpork into the future by looking back.

William de Worde, scion of one of Ankh-Morpork’s oldest families, is a scribe making his way in life by writing a newsletter for foreign consumption between regular scribe duties. Then suddenly William’s life gets changed forever when he runs into dwarves looking to make gold out of lead, well in fairness he actually gets run over by a moveable type printing press. Within a day, William finds himself running a newspaper and while still figuring out how it all happened, Lord Vetinari appears to have committed serious crimes that could result in a change of city leadership. But as the staff of the Ankh-Morpork Times looks into the political controversy, they find themselves being looked over by the Watch, two new criminals in town, and a sinister cabal (is there any other kind).

Unlike Moving Pictures, the previous “Industrial” story, The Truth doesn’t need the crutch of clich├ęs to bring a laugh while also having a fantastic plot and numerous new characters that keep the book a great read. While focusing on new characters, several members of the City Watch come into the plot and interact with the main character but don’t take the focus on the primary protagonists and the major antagonists. Also Pratchett fills this book with a nice little mystery and the always entertaining Gaspode and his band of human beggars.

For the second straight book, Pratchett invests in plot that he builds jokes around and not the other way around. As a result, The Truth is a wonderful read for both longtime fans and first time readers.


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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Book Review: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

The Count of Monte CristoThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This classic story of wrongful imprisonment, hidden treasure, and revenge is truly a masterpiece. Alexandre Dumas’ famous novel The Count of Monte Cristo has seen life not only in print but in film and television, but one cannot appreciate the novel unless you read it in its entire unabridged length.

Edmond Dantes is wrongfully accused of a crime and thrown in prison without trial to be forgotten, after overcoming both mental and physical anguish and befriending a fellow prisoner, and finally he is able to escape. Thanks to his friendship Dantes knows where a potential hidden treasure is located and finds it to be real, and using it begins finding out why he was thrown into prison and chart is path to revenge through fortune and hidden identities. Yet what this quick synopsis omits is the numerous and fascinating major and secondary characters that Dantes interacts throughout the narrative.

Originally published in serial form, Dumas was paid for how much he wrote and one would think that The Count of Monte Cristo might be riddled with meandering subplots that never go anywhere and/or have nothing to do with the central plot. But Dumas instead wove a tapestry of beauty with every word he wrote; instead of making meandering plots he described scenes and events in rich detail that it brings the story even more alive in the reader’s imagination.

If pressed to find anything negative to say about this book, the easiest answer would be cultural references that are almost 170 years old. The only other negative was the completely different societal norms that were in Parisian society in the 1840s compared today’s. However both of these ‘negatives’ can easily be put down to a piece of fiction that was contemporary when it was written but now can be seen as historical fiction with the passage to time.

The Count of Monte Cristo needs to be read in all its unabridged glory to fully appreciate why it is a masterpiece and classic. Dumas’ literary tapestry is a delight to behold once finished with the last page and makes the reader think about when they’ll have time to reread it in the future.


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