Hunchback, by Randall Wright

At the moment, sales the only thing I know about Randall Wright is that he has published at least one book. For all I know, recuperation he could be the pen-name of a group of bored housewives . . . not that there’s anything wrong with that. From the Macmillan website, ascariasis though, he appears to be just one man who lives in Utah. Barnes & Noble has informed me that he’s written three books for young readers; the other two are called A Hundred Days from Home and The Silver Penny. He apparently does not live in a castle, and longs for a silver penny of his own. In any case, he’s one of the rare authors these days without a personal website.

Hunchback tells the tale of one Hodge, who is about thirteen years old and possessed of the spinal deformity generally referred to as a ‘hunchback.’ (As astute readers may have already guessed.) He lives in a general pseudo-English medieval world, where he is the son of the (deceased) fletcher and does general labor around the castle (of Lord Selden). One day, a letter arrives — the royal prince (heir) is coming to visit! The whole castle is abuzz, but when the prince gets there, he seems confined to his own rooms. However, Hodge goes to serve him, and the prince speaks with him. Nothing seems to be wrong; what’s happening, and why is the prince virtually a prisoner? Continue reading Hunchback, by Randall Wright

Under the Jolly Roger (Jacky Faber Chronicles, book 3), by L. A. Meyer

Finally, price months later, I got around to reading the third book in this series. I reviewed the first two here and here, and apparently I can’t decide on a title for the series. (My draft of this has it called “The Adventures of Jacky Faber.”) In any case, L. A. Meyer is American, male, and possessed of a stint in the Navy, which undoubtedly provided him with at least a little of his knowledge of seafaring. He also has an M.F.A. in painting, and had lived for a while on a houseboat. Jacky Faber was inspired by a lot of what-ifs posed about the main characters of a couple of British songs from the nineteenth century.

Since the summary of this book is nearly impossible without revealing various plot elements of the previous volumes, I shall hide it behind the cut. Continue reading Under the Jolly Roger (Jacky Faber Chronicles, book 3), by L. A. Meyer

Worlds of Weber: Ms. Midshipwoman Harrington and Other Stories, by David Weber

Ellen Klages wrote a short story called “In the House of Seven Librarians” in the Firebirds Rising anthology, obesity edited by Sharyn November. I very much enjoyed this story, sanitary but I’m pretty bad at remembering to follow up by looking for books by authors I like in anthologies. However, illness the clearance rack in used bookstores is my friend. I paid fifty cents for this one, but I might even pay full price for the sequel. Anyway, Ms. Klages was born in Ohio (my turf!) but currently lives in San Francisco. She collects old toys and writes short stories; she’s also still working on the sequel, which might come out this year.

Dewey (I won’t even tell you what it’s short for) Kerrigan’s grandmother has just been put into a nursing home; her mother left a long time ago, so she is to go live with her father. She travels quite a distance on train to go live with him; he lives and works in Los Alamos, a town that doesn’t exist. It’s 1943, and Dewey’s father (along with a lot of other people) is working on the atomic bomb, although the kids don’t know that. She doesn’t make friends with the girls very quickly; they’re awfully catty, especially since Dewey has one leg that’s shorter than the other, and is interested in mechanical engineering and math. There’s another girl who’s sort of a misfit as well — Suze. When Dewey’s father has to leave for a couple weeks to go to Washington, D.C., Dewey stays with Suze’s family. Suze doesn’t like her, because she’s weird, but will they eventually get along? And, uh, what’s the ‘gadget’ they’re working on?

Dewey’s ten when the book starts; however, when she relocates to Los Alamos, they put her in algebra with the eighth-graders. This, of course, doesn’t help her social integration much. Although it bothers her a little, though, she has such a rich life outside of school and enjoys being at Los Alamos so much that it seems a small price to pay. Finally, she has many smart people around her and she can ask them questions. Finally, she meets female scientists, and isn’t (at least by the adults) ostracized or patronized for being interested in the sciences. She invents several different devices over the course of the book, including a radio-alarm clock and a couple of little robot-things. In many ways, she’s happier living in the strange, isolated world of Los Alamos than she ever was before.

As much as I loved Dewey as a character (and I found her delightfully nerdy), there were other characters I enjoyed as well. Suze’s mother, Mrs. (Terry) Gordon, is a scientist (a chemist) there, and I love that the main adult female that we see is one who is a full partner in the world of Los Alamos. She’s not support staff (although I will never, ever make fun of support staff, since they do all the work) and she’s an excellent mentor/role model for Dewey, as well as a great mother for Suze. Dewey’s father is a bright point of brilliance, as well; he does everything he can to encourage her. And honestly, how can one possibly hate a children’s book with Richard Feynman as a character?

Readers will most likely already know that the adults in the book are working on the Manhattan Project. Well, I say that mostly because it mentions “Manhattan Project” in the front-jacket matter; I have no real idea what ten-year-olds know about atomic bombs. Due to the fact that I did know that Feynman and Oppenheimer worked on the atomic bomb, as well as knowing that Los Alamos was where they did it, and various other clues, a good deal of the suspense of the book was elided. I didn’t think it ruined the book at all; I think it would be awfully frustrating to read it without knowing about the end of World War II. In any case, younger readers might have a good deal to research and to discuss with others. 5/5 stars.
Review by <a href=”http://www.livejournal.com/users/dragonpaws”>DP</a>

Probably best-known for his hard-scifi series starring Honor Harrington, visit this
David Weber is a classic science fiction writer of the old school. His stories investigate the ways in which humans are changed by the technology they invent and the new experiences, medicine
decisions and possibilities opened to them by the discovery of interstellar travel, artificial intelligence, time travel or non-human forms of life. <em>Worlds of Weber</em> is a new Subterranean Press collection of 9 previously-published short stories and novellas. The collection is a kind of appetizer sampler, representing not a particular culinary idea but the style of an entire restaurant. Weber fans may find this collection an ideal gateway drug for creating new fans, as almost every story included is only the first of a series or the germinating seed for a larger novel. It will be released in October of this year. <!–more–>

A triumvirate of stories (“A Beautiful Friendship,” “Miles to Go,” and “The Traitor”) focus on the partnership of man and the other, a partnership made possible by the forces of technology. In “Miles to Go” and “The Traitor,” Weber focuses on artificially intelligent, sentient war machines, built to protect planets and fight battles at speeds the human brain could not fathom. But with sentience comes emotions; as the machines bond with their human allies, they become capable of greater courage, and greater sacrifice, than either machine or creator had imagined. “A Beautiful Friendship” also explores the ability of emotion to inspire a bond as it tells the story of first contact between humans and treecats, a sentient, tree-dwelling alien species discovered in the Harrington universe.

“In the Navy,” “Sir George and the Dragon,” and “Sword Brother” exemplify Weber’s belief in the resourcefulness of human beings and the goodness of human culture, particularly male human beings and Western culture. “In the Navy” sees a small American town transported in time and place to Medieval Germany, while “Sir George and the Dragon,” an offshoot of David Drake’s universe in “Ranks of Bronze” and “Foreign Legions,” shows us the life of a group of medieval English soldiers captured by aliens on their way to France. In “Sword Brother,” Weber goes topical, as magic summons a burned-out military man (and his LAV-25) from Iraq to fight in a magical battle between Good and Evil. In all of these situations, the transported people eventually triumph through their adaptability, reinforcing or rediscovering their strongly-held values. “In the Navy” is a traditional paean to men who are too tough, too hard, too driven to fit in well in modern society; in the harshness of Weber’s medieval setting, these “manly” men flourish while others founder. “Sir George and the Dragon” is a story any good Anglophile will enjoy, as the stout English bowmen outsmart their morally crude, though technologically advanced, alien captor. And in “Sword Brother,” our hero joins with the forces of good, fights evil (in the form of icky bug-like creatures, deadly-but-hot women, and slimy-looking men) and comes to a realization about his moral purpose in Iraq.

“The Captain from Kirkbean” may be the most interesting story in the mix, because it is the least sfnal. The story includes both of Weber’s main themes: the resourcefulness of man’s spirit and the role of technology in shaping human experience, but it plays out these themes in a straight-up, O’Brien-esque Napoleonic sea-battle. There is science (since the story takes place entirely on a warship and the action hinges partially on the capabilities of the English and French ships), and it is certainly fiction, but in this case the unknown that is discovered is the unknown of the sea and the people who fight on her. The story and treatment are familiar, but placing the tale in an otherwise clearly sfnal anthology raises the question of what, exactly, we mean when we say “science fiction.”

Of the other stories, there is less to say. “Ms. Midshipwoman Harrington” introduces us to Honor Harrington at the beginning of her service and in all her glory; it’s a typical coming-of-age story as the plucky Harrington triumphs over harassment, discrimination, prejudice, and space-borne attackers on her first military cruise. “A Certain Talent” is a rogue’s tale and the tale of a rogue; one gets the feeling it was included in this anthology simply because it had no better fit anywhere else. Overall, the stories in this anthology are like the science-fiction equivalent of comfort food; familiar and safe, with no sharp corners or surprising tastes to cause discomfort or inspire questioning. In the <em>Worlds of Weber</em>, humanity has been good and will continue to be good, as long as men are brave and the bad guys are obvious.
Review by DP

Probably best-known for his hard-scifi series starring Honor Harrington, treatment
David Weber is a classic science fiction writer of the old school. His stories investigate the ways in which humans are changed by the technology they invent and the new experiences, thumb
decisions and possibilities opened to them by the discovery of interstellar travel, artificial intelligence, time travel or non-human forms of life. Worlds of Weber is a new Subterranean Press collection of 9 previously-published short stories and novellas. The collection is a kind of appetizer sampler, representing not a particular culinary idea but the style of an entire restaurant. Weber fans may find this collection an ideal gateway drug for creating new fans, as almost every story included is only the first of a series or the germinating seed for a larger novel. It will be released in October of this year. Continue reading Worlds of Weber: Ms. Midshipwoman Harrington and Other Stories, by David Weber

The Green Glass Sea, by Ellen Klages

Ellen Klages wrote a short story called “In the House of Seven Librarians” in the Firebirds Rising anthology, website edited by Sharyn November. I very much enjoyed this story, prosthesis but I’m pretty bad at remembering to follow up by looking for books by authors I like in anthologies. However, medicine the clearance rack in used bookstores is my friend. I paid fifty cents for this one, but I might even pay full price for the sequel. Anyway, Ms. Klages was born in Ohio (my turf!) but currently lives in San Francisco. She collects old toys and writes short stories; she’s also still working on the sequel, which might come out this year.

Dewey (I won’t even tell you what it’s short for) Kerrigan’s grandmother has just been put into a nursing home; her mother left a long time ago, so she is to go live with her father. She travels quite a distance on train to go live with him; he lives and works in Los Alamos, a town that doesn’t exist. It’s 1943, and Dewey’s father (along with a lot of other people) is working on the atomic bomb, although the kids don’t know that. She doesn’t make friends with the girls very quickly; they’re awfully catty, especially since Dewey has one leg that’s shorter than the other, and is interested in mechanical engineering and math. There’s another girl who’s sort of a misfit as well — Suze. When Dewey’s father has to leave for a couple weeks to go to Washington, D.C., Dewey stays with Suze’s family. Suze doesn’t like her, because she’s weird, but will they eventually get along? And, uh, what’s the ‘gadget’ they’re working on? Continue reading The Green Glass Sea, by Ellen Klages

Raising the Griffin, by Melissa Wyatt

I will buy nearly anything for fifty cents, medstore book-wise. Well, stuff that’s not entirely true; I probably still won’t pick up vast swaths of the non-fiction world, or anything by Danielle Steele. However, the fact that I merely paid fifty cents for this book doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth a lot more. Melissa Wyatt is apparently from York, Pennsylvania; she has never lived more than seven miles from her birthplace. I’ve been to York, although I didn’t have any peppermint patties there. She was born one day after Jane Austen’s birthday (in 1963); her second novel, Funny How Things Change, is coming out next year from FSG.

Alex is a normal sixteen-year-old boy in an English boarding school, cutting class to go to the pub and all. Except for the fact that his father would be the heir to the Rovanian throne, if Rovania had a king anymore. Which, in a surprising 80% positive vote, happens: the Rovanians decide to reinstate the monarchy. Unfortunately, this doesn’t quite make Alex (Alexei) as elated as it does his parents; for one thing, they spring it on him via the Count Stefan deBatz, whom Alexei finds thoroughly unpleasant. Second, and more importantly, he feels like he doesn’t have any choice in the matter; he will spend the rest of his life as a public figure, first as crown prince and then as king. Will he be able to work through this? Continue reading Raising the Griffin, by Melissa Wyatt

Bloodring (Thorn St. Croix, Book 1), by Faith Hunter

I knew very little about Faith Hunter when I started this book, approved except the fact that her name sounded like one of her characters. (What? She writes post-Apocalyptic fantasy, and her name is Faith Hunter. Legit, I think.) However, her website has informed me that she was born in the bayou and prefers fishing to cooking. She refers to her husband as the Renaissance Man, and apparently there’s even a role-playing game based on her world. Ms. Hunter is also a good friend (writing buddy?) of Kim Harrison, of Dead Witch Walking fame. There are two sequels to this novel.

Thorn St. Croix is a lapidary and jeweler in a post-Apocalyptic world. There are roughly four classes of beings: seraphs (or seraphim, depending on how formal you’re being), who came to the earth a hundred and some-odd years ago and started the Apocalypse; humans, who were pretty much wiped out by the plagues and whatnot; demons/spawn, who feed on human blood and live underground; and mages or neomages, who are (with the exception of Thorn) all licensed, registered, and hidden away in Enclaves where they are called upon occasionally. Thorn herself is a neomage, but she is a refugee from the Enclaves. She’ll die if she stays there. Anyway, Thorn’s very recently ex-husband is kidnapped, and of course she’s a suspect. Can she keep her secret hidden and still help them figure out what’s going on? Continue reading Bloodring (Thorn St. Croix, Book 1), by Faith Hunter

Twice a Prince (Sasharia En Garde!, book 2), by Sherwood Smith

A month or so ago, ed I reviewed the first half of this duology, information pills and was awfully mad for not having the second half right away. Well, yesterday it was released (today, as I’m writing this), and of course I purchased it (here) and read it right away. I got it in HTML format, which is generally my preferred e-book format; for those who dislike e-books, it should be out in paperback form in a year or so. (You can see why I got the e-book.) I probably don’t need to introduce Sherwood Smith, based on the number of her books that I’ve previously reviewed, but in any case, she’s a SoCal fantasy author whose works range from middle-grade readers (the Wren books) to adult (the Inda books).

This volume follows immediately on the heels of the previous one, and the same storylines dominate. Sasha’s mother was born on Earth, in the 20th century, but she went through the World Gate to live on Sartorias-deles (a pre-industrial world with magic) and marry a prince; they had Sasha, and then civil unrest started. Sasha’s father disappeared, and Sasha and her mother went to hide on Earth. At the beginning of the previous volume, they go back to Sartorias-deles (specifically a country called Khanerenth) unwillingly; from there they are thrown back into the mess of politics and have to try to unravel what’s going on. Continue reading Twice a Prince (Sasharia En Garde!, book 2), by Sherwood Smith

Corydon and the Island of Monsters, by Tobias Druitt

[Sherwood Smith’s Twice a Prince is released today. Hopefully review tomorrow!]

Apparently Tobias Druitt is the pseudonym of Diane Purkiss and Michael Dowling; they’re mother and son. She’s an Oxford tutor (professor-type); he’s thirteen (probably fifteen by now) and supposedly a Child Genius. They have published a trilogy (of the which this is the first book) and are working on a next book that involves Tarot cards. This volume was released in 2005; the following volumes came out in 2006 and 2007. Diane Purkiss apparently enjoys baking bread, clinic and Michael Dowling’s favorite colors are dark red and black, here because they’re macabre.

Corydon is, so he thinks, a normal shepherd boy, but he has one goat leg, and his city threw him out as a scapegoat because of this. He gets captured by pirates shortly after that — pirates who are putting together a freak show full of monsters. There end up being about ten monsters on the island, including Medusa, the sphinx, and Lady Nagaina (who has five heads). Eventually Corydon helps them escape, but the leader of the pirates finds Perseus and convinces him that there’s a good reason to go kill all the monsters. Thus begins a war. At the same time, Corydon is trying to figure out who he is, since he’d never really considered it very much before then. Why does he have a goat-leg, and why do so many people feel that he’s the prophesied one? Continue reading Corydon and the Island of Monsters, by Tobias Druitt

Yarrow, by Charles de Lint

Charles de Lint is one of my favorite authors; I own at least one copy of nearly everything he’s written. (Between Ben and me we have three copies of Moonheart, try but that’s a different story.) He’s written at least a little bit in nearly every speculative-fiction genre, but his vast favorite is urban or mythic fantasy. (See my reviews of his works here. Yes, there are a couple extraneous reviews in there, but scroll down a bit.) Most of his recent urban fantasies are set in Newford, his fictional North American city, but several of his early volumes were set in Ottawa and Toronto: real Canadian cities. The following volume was one of his early mythic/urban fantasties, and it’s set in Ottawa.

Cat Midhir is a best-selling fantasy writer; she lives an extreme of the writer’s life, though. She has very few friends and rarely leaves her apartments. However, her fantasy works are incredible and have gotten her a very large fan base. Her great secret, though, is that her inspiration comes from dreams: very vivid dreams that she feels as if she experiences firsthand. However, recently these dreams have stopped, and she finds herself with a case of writer’s block; she simply cannot write without the dreams. Why has she stopped having these dreams? And why is she getting dark dreams, dreams that contain a shadowy dark stalker? Continue reading Yarrow, by Charles de Lint

Ubik: the Screenplay, by Philip K. Dick

I had never read anything by Philip K. Dick prior to this work, look and it isn’t even actually a novel. In any case, Mr. Dick was a major force in the science fiction field prior to his death in 1982; several of his novels have been made into major motion pictures. These include Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, and Total Recall, as well as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which most of us know as Blade Runner. Apparently a lot of his stuff is strange, and one reason for that was his experiences with drugs and his fascination with metaphysics and the paranormal. Above all, though, he was a storyteller; he won several awards for his writing, including the Hugo Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. This screenplay was first published twenty years ago; Subterranean Press will be releasing a new edition in August of this year.

This screenplay was based on his 1969 novel of the same title. It concerns a man named Joe Chip, who is employed by a man named Glen Runciter. Runciter’s corporation uses people with peculiar psionic talents that mostly block the invasive talents as a security system for big companies. For example, the people from Runciter’s company can block telepaths from stealing company secrets. Joe works the machines to make sure that the employees of the company are actually accomplishing something. However, something awful happens, and there’s an explosion. Glen Runciter dies, and then Joe’s world starts falling apart — literally. The cigarettes are all stale; the cream is rancid and moldy; parts are falling off of things. Then the objects start regressing — cars turn into older versions; televisions turn into radios. What on earth is going on? And what is this Ubik product? Continue reading Ubik: the Screenplay, by Philip K. Dick