Guest Review: C. L. Wilson’s Tairen Soul series

(Review by DP.)

COULD THIS BE YOU?

Did you read the Twilight series, cardiologist even though the lack of plot and the terrible writing made you secretly hate yourself and weep in the night?

Are you now pining, even BURNING, for more gorgeous aloof rich heroes with funny-colored eyes to sweep you away to magical lands where you will discover your special destiny and incredible beauty, but you don’t know where to turn because Midnight Sun has been delayed indefinitely?

Would you like to recover at least SOME of your self-respect?

Then RUN, don’t WALK, to find C.L. Wilson’s Tairen Soul series.

Four books about the incredible, magical, soul-bonded love between a rich, powerful, sexy fairy king with glowing purple eyes who can turn into a gigantic flying cat and his too-thin, too-red-haired ordinary girl soulmate who turns out to have the power to RESTORE SOULS, heal wounds and generally to be the most Unique and Special Elf/Person in the Universe.

Together, they fight crime argue a lot about whether she’ll be able to love him enough to keep him from going insane, whether she deserves his magnificent love, whether her family will let her go, who loves who more, whether she’ll make a good queen of Fairyland and other riveting topics.

BUT WAIT, there’s MORE!

UNLIKE the Twilight series, these books come pre-loaded with two-dimensional characters (one more than Twilight!), a standard set of fantasy plots and subplots involving evil wizards and politicking, and actual attempts at world-building!

PLUS, for a limited time only, the writing is actually OKAY and doesn’t make you want to GOUGE YOUR EYES OUT every other page.

Are you INTERESTED? YOU SHOULD BE!!!!

C.L. Wilson’s Tairen Soul series: The (sort of) thinking person’s Twilight. READ IT NOW!

Brown papers to obscure the lurid cover graphics not included. Offer void where better fantasy books are available. Self-awareness, complexity and realism sold separately.

Critical Praise:

**Four star review** “It’s crack, but at least it’s good crack.” – DP, Grad Student Escapism Weekly

“… It blows my mind!” -Mike, Testosterone Review (no stars)

Touchstone, by Laurie King

Cayla Kluver is a teenager; she completed this novel, thumb as well as high school, sildenafil at fifteen years of age. She intends to take this year off to finish the second half of the duology and to promote both works, and then she will go to college to study creative writing. Like most writers, she’s been writing as long as she can remember. She acknowledges the great amounts of help she got with this novel not only from her mother, who shares copyright and edited the work, but her English teacher, who helped her with a draft of this book for a large part of a semester. Ms. Kluver says that she was inspired by playing an epic fantasy video game, and wishing that it went the way she wanted it to go, rather than the authors. Subsequently, Forsooth Publishing was born, to promote Cayla’s work.

Alera is the Crown Princess of Hytanica; whoever she marries will become King and ruler of Hytanica, so therefore she has little choice in her mate. Steldor, her father’s favorite, inspires great loathing in Alera, and she will do nearly anything to avoid him. The rival for her affections is, of all things, a Hytanican boy named Narian who was kidnapped by a nearby country called Cokyria very soon after his birth; he returned to them at sixteen years of age and is an enigma to all involved. Why did Cokyria kidnap forty-nine baby boys that year, and only keep one of them (alive)? What are Cokyria’s plans for Hytanica, and why was he allowed to return? Most of all, is there any way that Alera can avoid marrying the arrogant Steldor?

I have only read one other book by an author this young, to my knowledge (In the Forests of the Night by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, which, incidentally, I hated, but I mean to read some of her more recent works before I write her off completely), and I must say that I am very impressed by Ms. Kluver’s ability to sustain a plot over a 440-page book. Her grasp of pacing was fairly good, and she displays some real talent with description. Overall, I could have stood a little less description of people’s clothing, but the book is aimed at a demographic that doesn’t (apparently) include me. Girls who are maybe only a few years out of the Disney Princesses age group will eat the descriptions up and be clamoring for more.

Ms. Kluver created a good deal of characters in her story, and a couple of them even stood out as having interesting depths. Princess Alera, perhaps not so much — while I liked her, she didn’t have very many defining character traits. Steldor, on the other hand, had conflicting enough actions and behavior that I even found him significantly more interesting than Narian. While he was cast as the ‘bad guy’ in the book, when it came down to it, he really did want Princess Alera to be happy, and I seemed to get the impression that he really had no idea how to go about doing that other than trying to impress her with his military prowess. I understood that Alera didn’t like him because she thought he was arrogant, but I didn’t actually see enough of his arrogance in any sort of hurtful way that would fuel her burning dislike of him. I actually thought he had a lot of promise.

Overall, this is definitely a great achievement for Ms. Kluver; I do generally think that the actual mechanics of her writing would be improved by a quick read-through of Stephen King’s On Writing (especially the section on tagging), but her grasp of grammar, sentence structure, and vocabulary are significantly above average for any fifteen-year-old I’ve known. (I would produce a piece of writing from when I was fifteen, but fortunately I burned it all.) The most frustrating thing about the book is perhaps that I only have the first volume of it. I do not know when exactly in 2009 Allegiance, the second volume, will be published, but I would be interested in reading it to complete the story.
Review by DP

Laurie R. King is best known for her two long-running mystery series, symptoms
one set in the England in the Roaring Twenties and starring Mary Russell as Sherlock Holmes’ feminist wife and the other set in modern-day San Francisco and focusing on lesbian detective Kay Martinelli. In addition, King writes the occasional stand-alone novel—most recently, Touchstone. Common to all of King’s writing are vividly written and painstakingly researched portraits of place and time. While her series focus on more conventional mystery plots, the majority of King’s standalone novels are psychological meditations on obsession, integrity and the cost of the human search for truth.

In Touchstone, King returns to England in the 1920’s, this time in the midst of the economic and political disruption that preceded the General Strike of 1926. Harris Stuyvesant, an American federal agent, has traveled to England on the tail of an anarchist bomber responsible for crippling his brother and killing his fiancée. In order to gain access to his potential bomber, Stuyvesant is led to Bennett Grey, also called Touchstone. After being nearly killed by a shell in World War II, Grey has developed an intense sensitivity to the cues and details of his environment, making him a human lie detector. Grey’s former lover, Lady Laura Hurleigh, is currently involved with Stuyvesant’s suspected bomber, and Stuyvesant uses Grey to infiltrate the high-class anarchist’s social circle. Unfortunately, a sinister operative named Aldous Carstairs is trying to coerce Grey into his service, while simultaneously plotting a Machiavellian overthrow of the British government. Continue reading Touchstone, by Laurie King

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 Story of Ping, by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese

Using deft allegory, pill the authors have provided an insightful and intuitive explanation of one of Unix’s most venerable networking utilities. Even more stunning is that they were clearly working with a very early beta of the program, abortion as their book first appeared in 1933, pharm years (decades!) before the operating system and network infrastructure were finalized.

The book describes networking in terms even a child could understand, choosing to anthropomorphize the underlying packet structure. The ping packet is described as a duck, who, with other packets (more ducks), spends a certain period of time on the host machine (the wise-eyed boat). At the same time each day (I suspect this is scheduled under cron), the little packets (ducks) exit the host (boat) by way of a bridge (a bridge). From the bridge, the packets travel onto the internet (here embodied by the Yangtze River).

The title character — er, packet, is called Ping. Ping meanders around the river before being received by another host (another boat). He spends a brief time on the other boat, but eventually returns to his original host machine (the wise-eyed boat) somewhat the worse for wear. Continue reading The Story of Ping, by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese