Reading Winter/Spring/Summer '98

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Rating system

***** Excellent and not just by airport standards
****  Very good. usually something fresh unique or quirky about these books
***+ 1/2 A good book.  Well written and I enjoyed it.  I would call this my Dick Francis rating.  The plot may be formulaic but it's always a page turner    
*** Read the whole thing.  This is often a some what generous rating.  If I get through the flight I'm  happy.
** + 1/2 A book with this rating means that I did read the whole thing but there is some significant flaw   in  the book.  That means it's ok to pick it up in the airport under emergency circumstances   but  not  to buy in a bookstore.  
**  Skimmed it for the few good parts I could find. Definitely only purchase under true emergency situations (as defined by there being nothing else on the shelf  you haven't read)
* Hurled the book across the room and wrote nasty comments at the amazon.com review site. A pure waste of money (buy magazines instead)

 

September 1998

nanoflwr.jpg (2900 bytes) The Nano Flower by Peter Hamilton ****
Synopsis:
At first no one noticed when the flower was delivered to Julia Evans, owner of Event Horizon, but this flower has genes millions of years in advance of terrestrial DNA. Where did the plant come from? Greg Mandel, telepathic investigator, must find out--before the Nano flower blooms

Classic science fiction with aliens, a post apocalypse future and cyber implants in the brain. It's a great airport book.  It's almost 600 pages long and while every word isn't riveting it held my interest. 

beggarsride.jpg (2546 bytes) Beggars Ride by Nancy Kress **
Synopsis : The final installment of the Beggar's Trilogy chronicles the decline of the genetically altered Sleepless, a new breed of super intelligent humans, and the radical effect they have had on civilization in the twenty-first century
beggars&chooser.jpg (2862 bytes) Beggars and Choosers by Nancy Kress ***
Synopsis
A futuristic U.S.A. has been radically altered by scientific advances.
Racked by the horrors of irresponsible gene research--threatened by technology gone
wild--the world is on the verge of collapse. Can it be saved? And for whom?

I wish the other two books held up to the standard the first book set but unfortunately the go from mediocre to don't waste your time.

 

beggarsinspain.jpg (2730 bytes) Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress *****
Synopsis:  What if people no longer needed to sleep? Leisha Camden belongs to a new generation of genetically enhanced children: she's tall, slim, intelligent, beautiful--and she doesn't sleep. A classic "if this goes on" work.  The original short story won a nebula award

This book is a new edition to my top 10 science fiction books ever written.  I can't believe I missed it the first time around.  There's so much here I barely know where to start.  Great science fiction is always based on taking humans and extrapolating our nature against changing circumstances. 

kingdom for sale.jpg (3976 bytes) Magic Kingdom for Sale - Sold! by Terry Brooks ***
Synopsis:
After Ben Holiday purchased Landover, he discovered the magic kingdom had some problems. The Barons refused to recognize a king and the peasants were without hope. To make matters worse, Ben learned that he had to duel to the death with the Iron Mask, the terrible lord of the demons--a duel which no human could hope to win....

This really belongs classified as a young adult book.  It's well written, the story is cute but it's essentially fluff.   If you haven't learned the moral lessons the book is laying out by the time your 20 something then there's something wrong.  I was also frustrated by the short length of the book.  He's got another 3 or 4 in the series and I think it would have been more enjoyable for me at least to have at least two of the books combined.  The book rates a airport 3 but probably a fantasy 2 1/2,

 

sistertorain.jpg (3429 bytes) Sister to the Rain by Melisa Michaels ****
Synopsis:
the second book in the Lavine fantasy mysteries, is a astounding
who-done-it that makes supernatural creatures seem absolutely real. The story line is fun, but the characters steal the show. From the acerbically sarcastic Rosie to the prejudicial Finandiel, readers feel like elves are genuine and living in California.

This is an utterly delightful book. Innovative plot and characters.  Exactly what my 4 star rating is reserved for.

 

August 1998

incborn.jpg (2146 bytes) In Conquest Born by C.S. Friedman *****
Synopsis: They were the ultimate enemies, two super-races fighting an endless campaign over a long forgotten cause. And now the final phase of their war is approaching, where they will use every power of the mind and body to claim the vengeance of total conquest.

I first read In Conquest Born 10 years ago and have since bought and given away more copies then I can count. It's impossible to summarize the plot and Ms. Friedman's writing style changes tense, viewpoint and format so often it can almost be confusing but this book is an authentic classic. I just finished rereading it and it's lost nothing over the years. If your tired of trite sameness and want something to sink your teeth into I can't recommend anything else more highly

July 1998

Death Dream by Ben Bova ***
Synopsis: Helping ensure that a new virtual reality theme park opens on schedule, Dan Santorini is horrified when the line between fantasy and reality becomes razor-thin, subjecting him and his family to a terrifying trap. It's the ultimate adult playground. Cyber World will use the latest technology in computer produced virtual reality to provide thrills and chills beyond any ever experienced at a theme park. Here children of all ages will live out their wildest fantasies: fly jet fighters in combat, take part in a gunfight in the OK Corral, play in the World Series, or take a walk on the moon or a trip inside the human body

A somewhat uneven book but it translates well onto tape.  The story seemed partially rooted back in the 50's though why I got that impression I can't really say.  It has the usual host of human emotion; infidelity, child abuse, graft, greed and corruption.  It seemed  plodding at times and I kept finding myself wanting something more creative and zippier action.  Also Bova leaves a lot of things hanging at the end; the inquisitor, the investors, etc.  I was in desperation withdrawal when I bought the tapes and they filled the bill.  I probably would have skimmed the book and put it down in about 4 hours.

June 1998

exiles.jpg (2131 bytes) Exiles' Children by Angus Wells ** + 1/2
Synopsis: 
When the peace of Morrhyn's people is violated by two young men battling for one woman's affection, clan fights clan, an unearthly army descends to wreck havoc, and only a suspected thief with a talent for True Dreaming, residing a world away, holds the key to the land's salvation.

Strange book.  I kept putting it down and then picking it back up.  It takes as it's roots a strange mixing of 17th C English and  18th & 19th C American Indian history.  While this is a valid form of science fiction the interweaving of the two story lines was somewhat disconcerting.   (the two story lines don't converge until the second book). 

 

enemyreborn.jpg (2436 bytes) An Enemy Reborn (Realms of Chaos/Michael A. Stackpole) by Michael A. Stackpole,
William F. Wu
**
Synopsis: 
Len Fong is a 20th C shoe salesman how is magically transported to the world of Chaos that Stackpole built in his first novel.  It seems Len is the partial re-incarnation of a once great magician. 

A book that really shouldn't have been published. Stackpole tried to rewrite a story Wu had written and have it logically follow his earlier novel.  I didn't hurl it across the room so I couldn't give it a * but it's not really worth reading.

May 1998

dragonseye.gif (14099 bytes) The Master Harper of Pern by Anne McCaffrey Published by Brilliance Audio ***
Synopsis
:  McCaffrey's latest rummage through the archives of planet Pern (Dragonseye, 1997, etc.) has unearthed Robinton, the Masterharper of Pern, and the circumstances surrounding the advent
of weyrleader F'lar and Lessa, the first woman Dragonrider. It's a time when no Thread has
fallen for centuries (it's due in 50 years or so), and five of the six weyrs stand inexplicably
empty of Dragons and Riders.

Much better than Dragonseye.  Only problem is some of it is well traveled ground and some of it doesn't tie to earlier novels but that's nit-picking.  I enjoyed it.  Again the narrator is Dick Hill and he does his usual superb job.

 

April 1998

towersofsunset.gif (5941 bytes) The Towers of  the Sunset by L.E. Modesett . ***
Synopsis:
  A ``prequel'' to The Magic of Recluse (1991), this sometimes engaging, more often frustrating novel details the founding of the island-kingdom of Recluse. Young Creslin, kept ignorant of his powers in both magic and sword craft, grows unsatisfied with his lot as a male in matriarchal Westwind. Unwillingly betrothed to the ``sub-Tyrant'' of a neighboring nation, Creslin flees eastward,

Started this on the way home from Toronto and finished on the way down to Dallas..  I HATE present tense.  The book wasn't bad but the choice of tense I find distances me from the characters and I was delighted to see that other reviewers had the same problem.  There are flashes of real writing and a real story here struggling to escape.  I gave it a 3 rating rather than a 2 1/2   but it was nip and tuck.

March 1998

assquest.jpg (3824 bytes) The Farseer : Assassin's Quest by Robin Hobb **
The red ship raids that dominated the first two books are practically forgotten in this book. Instead the plot focuses on the machinations of Regal.  He is the traitorous half brother of the King Verity, and he'll lie, cheat and steal to gain the throne.   There are also stone dragons and too much time spent walking.

What a disappointment. Quoting one of the reviewers at amazon.com " What started out as an enjoyable fantasy novel in the first book degenerated into plodding, dull and convoluted book inn the third novel. The author side tracks the story for no purpose and at points she only seems to be able to get the story moving by having the characters betrayed (by the second or third time I was saying "not again" to the novel" I'm reminded of my reaction to the first three Dune novels.   The first is of course on my list of the top 10 science fiction novels ever written.  The second was a book I thought he'd rushed to press to meet a deadline and not worthy of standing on it's own and the third (Children of Dune) simply had an error.. he wrote the wrong story because he must have stopped taking his antidepressant medication.   Ms Hobb clearly has been bitten by the same bug.  At the end of the novel I was left wondering what I was doing reading such a depressing book about a character who wasn't worthy of being called a hero.

royal assassin.jpg (2874 bytes) Royal Assassin by Robin Hobbs **1/2
Synopsis   After barely surviving his first mission, young Fitz returns to the chaotic royal court to find King Shrewd on his deathbed, his only ally off on a deadly quest, and the throne up for grabs, but when the Red Ship Raiders obliterate the Six Duchies, the kingdom's fortunes and Fitz's fate are at stake.

I love long books but if Ms Hobb had cut 100 maybe 150 pages this book would have gotten a three rating.  The problem was it was rattling on in some areas I simply got bored enough to skip large junks.  Again her book is original enough to be interested, the Red Raiders are appropriately horrific villains, it's just that it went on too long and seemed to be a little more down beat then I thought was necessary.

assassines.jpg (3979 bytes) Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb ***
Synopsis :As Fitz, an outcast and the bastard son of Prince Chivalry, grows to manhood, a legacy of magical skill and other mysterious talents propels him into the role of protector of the kingdom, if his initial perilous mission does not destroy him first.   This may not be the indispensable fantasy debut of the year, but it will find readers if offered to them

For a first novel this was very good.   Ms Hobb seemed to have found her voice (a real problem with first books is being too reminiscent of what ever influenced them) and the characters and plot were just quirky enough to keep it from being just one more boy in a castle story.  I especially enjoyed her creation of the wit as being an empathetic link with animals

 

SS.jpg (2322 bytes) LE Modessit's Soprano Sorceress
Synopsis:
Blond, middle-aged soprano Anna Marshall finds herself whirled away from everyday Ames, Iowa, to another world in which the country of Defalk is threatened with invasion by evil Dark Monks from neighboring Ebra. In this world, however, music is magic, and, instructed by the sorcerer Brill and his sponsor, Lord Barjim, Anna discovers that she has enormous powers--if she can learn to harness them.

Modessit is a workman like craftsman.   His stories never enter the realm that the master's of science fiction can create but in a world increasing dominated by mediocre writing he's a pleasure to read.  The Soprano Sorceress is somewhat hackneyed but I enjoyed it none the less and am anxiously awaiting the sequel when it comes in paperback

 

Kingsdragon.jpg (3177 bytes) King's Dragon by Kate Elliot  *** + 1/2
Synopsis:
  In an alternate Europe where bloody conflicts rage and sorcery holds sway, a young man seeking the destiny promised him by the Lady of Battles and a young woman gifted with a power that can alter the course of history are swept up in a world-shaking conflict for the survival of humanity.

A rather strange book.  It verged on a four rating but just couldn't quite get there though it's hard for me to say why.   I am definitely planning on reading the next book in the series.

 

dofb.gif (7522 bytes) Anne Bishop's Daughter of the Blood. ****
Synopsis:
The Dark Kingdom is preparing itself for the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy--the arrival of a new Queen, a Witch who will wield more power than even the High Lord of Hell himself. But this new ruler is young, and very susceptible to influence and corruption; whoever controls her controls the Darkness.

Fresh voice, interesting plot.  I must be getting jaded in my old age;  I didn't find this book particularly dark, which is a common comment in the reviews.  Dark is anything by Harlen Ellison.   Any way I'm anxiously awaiting the rest of the series.  If Ms. Bishop can keep it up she's found a loyal fan

 

February 1998

templewind.gif (4640 bytes) Temple of the Winds by Terry Goodkind - Published by Brilliance Audio ****
Synopsis: The story first begun in Wizard's First Rule continues. The dangerous, fanatical Imperial Order
unleashes a deadly plague. To find a cure, Richard Cypher and his beloved Kahlan Amnell must seek out the legendary Temple of the Winds. But the path of the Seeker of Truth is never an easy one--the Temple was banished into oblivion over 3,000 years ago. If he can reach the Temple at all, there is no guarantee he'll ever return. .

This is book four in Goodkind's the Sword of Truth series.  It's 10 tapes and it made the trip from Tewksbury to Danbury Conn. almost bearable.   Unfortunately you can't start in the middle of the series.  Get the first three (Wizard's First Rule, the Stone of Tears, and The Blood of the Fold) and be prepared for a good read.  If you're a Robert Jordon fan (the Wheel of Time) you'll recognize that the first two books of this series are completely and totally plagiarized.  In fact there were times when I had trouble keeping track of the few differences that exist.   While I find this reprehensible and question why the publisher didn't make him rewrite something, anything to make it more original, Mr. Goodkind tells a better story, with better pacing than Jordon and by Temple of the Winds the Sword of Truth series has become completely his own.

The recording was very good and while it's difficult to do as many voices as Dick Hill (the narrator) does and not become somewhat contrived (Irish accents appear for no reason, as well as south-side Chicago) I still enjoyed every moment.

 

156100734x_m.gif (7210 bytes) Dragonseye by Anne McCaffrey Published by Brilliance Audio **
Filling in the cracks of Pern's history, McCaffrey narrates the events before the second Threadfall. There is little suspense and no deep conflict; this is an anecdotally pleasant story, straightforwardly told, of likable characters responsibly doing their duties. It will please McCaffrey's many devotees, but others will stumble over the odd mixture of medieval "proper Bloodlines" and miraculous personal computers functioning for 200 years.

Probably one of her weakest books.   Parts of the story take life and parts are so stilted that I wanted to scream.   Probably mandatory if you want all of the history of Pern otherwise not strong enough to bother with.  If you need to add the book to your Pern collection buy it in paperback but skip the tape. Dick Hill is the narrator on this book but even he can't salvage the weakness in the story.

 

The rest of David Eddings Belgariad series

 

recluse.gif (6740 bytes) The Magic of Recluse by L.E. Modesitt
Synopsis:
Thrown off the Island of Recluse for failing to fit in, Lerris stumbles through life on the mainland.  One thing leads to another and slowly but surely he finds that he's a wizard.  But...  there are different kinds of wizards, white (chaos) wizards, black wizards (order) and something called a gray wizard. Lerris quickly realizes he isn't a chaos wizard but what is he really and where does he belong???

 

January 1998

belgarath.jpg (2751 bytes) Belgarth the Sorcerer by David and Leigh Eddings *** + 1/2
Synopsis:  Best-selling authors David and Leigh Eddings welcome readers back to the time before The Belgariad and The Malloreon series as they chronicle the fateful conflict between two opposed Destinies. When the world was young, Gods still walked among their mortal children. But the Dark God Torak split the world asunder, and it fell to the God Aldur to set Destiny aright--with the aid of his disciples, chief among them Belgarath.

If you're not familiar with the earlier series I'm not sure how much sense this will make but it made the trip to Pittsburgh & New York go by much more quickly.  The only reason it didn't get a four is that it's cheating.  He essentially rewrote all the early novels into one summary novel. But since I hadn't read all the books most of it was new to me.

 

0886777356_m.gif (3273 bytes) The Stone Prince by Fiona Patton **
Synopsis: As the eternally rebellious Heathlands plot a bold new campaign of war, Crown Prince Demnor must not only overcome traitors within the court and the ever-growing rebel forces, but he must also master the birthright power which could well prove his doom.

This was for my trip to California and it wasn't a good choice.  I found the book overwhelmed in forced creativity, political correctness and author intrusion.  At best her character's bored me and at worst they offended me. Ms. Patton appears to be a competent enough writer but her tale is clearly intended for a different audience other than me.  Read the Left Hand of Darkness instead.

 

Fall 1997