Science Fiction
by Author
A-G

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)

 

jerlayne.jpg (13709 bytes) Jerlayne by Lynn Abbey ****
Synopsis:
Jerlayne's mother had warned her not to marry the handsome elf, but Jerlayne refused to listen. Now a century after the wedding, Jerlayne's marriage is in shambles and none of their children have matured into elves like their parents. Jerlayne wants answers--she wants to know why her mother was so opposed to her marriage, and in finding those answers, these two elven women will confront an issue that will rock both realms down to their very foundation.

It was good to read Lynn Abbey again.   Jerlayne didn't have the punch of her earlier works but it was still good and the plot was enough different from every other elf story I've read to keep me interested.   Still if you can find Black Flame I strongly recommend hunting it down and giving it a read.

Quest for the Fallen Start by Piers Anthony **1/2
Synopsis: Beneath the twin suns of Ellistar and Deneob, the Realm of Infinitera is menaced by the Dark One and his minions, the Illcreatures. And in these strange times has come a thing never seen before: a star which has tumbled from the sky, holding a power of evil even more dangerous than the Dark One himself.  Now, to save the Realm, the High Bishop charges a lonely group of travelers with a crucial task: carrying the mightiest weapon ever known, the Thunderwood Staff, to safety in the Holy City of Norivika.

This book has a story behind it.  James Richey wrote the entire first draft and then enlisted Piers Anthony's help in getting the novel to a publishable state. I'm not sure they succeeded. I simply gave up, put the novel down somewhere in the middle and found I had no real interest in picking it up again.   

Dime Store Magic by Kelley Armstrong

Industrial Magic

 

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong

 

Stolen by Kelley Armstrong

 

.Haunted

Broken

 

 

The Veiled Web by Catherine Asaro **1/2
Synopsis:
Ballerina Lucia del Mar has two great passions: dance and the World Wide Web Lucia's two passions collide when a White House performance and reception leads to an encounter with handsome Moroccan businessman Rashid al-Jazari, creator of a brilliant technology that has set the Internet rumor mill afire. As she is drawn deeper into Rashid's life and work, cut off from the outside world, she finds herself becoming more attracted to him. But is her seclusion within Rashid's well-guarded Moroccan home intended to ensure her safety...or her silence?

Where do I begin to describe how bad this book was.  The science fiction was trite, poorly researched and generally silly.  The romance aspects of the book represent the worst the genre has to offer; a forced marriage, to a hero who in some ways is little better than a stalker, a very immature heroine, I could go on but why bother.  Ms. Asaro did do her research on Islam which I appreciated but that fact alone wasn't enough to justify a book that I feel has no place in either genre. 

Minion by L.A. Banks

 

I left it in the hotel room in Trinada, C0.  It wasn’t worth finishing and it wasn’t worth bringing home in the suitcase.  I really don’t know why I thought it was so bad.  It lacked any freshness – I felt as if the author has watched one too many Buffy shows and decided she could retell the story and get away with it as long as she was dark.  Also the writing was a tad amateurish.  As a note – it turns out that everyone has seen the comparison to Buffy so it isn’t just me.  Read the early anita Blake books – they’re much better.

 

 

A Million Open Doors by John Barnes **** 1/2
Synopsis:
As instantaneous interstellar travel grows in popularity, Giraut, a swordsman, troubador, and lover, finds himself an ambassador to a different human world. A Million Open Doors becomes a coming-of-age tale as Giraut adapts to a culture radically different from his own. Caledony society is colorless, repressed, money-driven; it emphasizes religion and hard work. Bewildered by the discouragement of art or pleasure, Giraut opens a college to teach Occitanian culture to interested Caledonians and ultimately finds himself at the center of a revolution

It wasn't perfect but it was terrific.  I never thought I would read a book that took economics and made it an entertaining backdrop for a novel.  Reading the reviews at Amazon.com I'm struck by the fact that the reviewers are both "les Enfants" and somewhat undereducated (which is probably an outgrowth of the first criticism).  Science fiction started out as speculative fiction.  A story built on the premise "If this goes on..".  What would happen if travel time between worlds went to zip and all markets were free markets?  My feeling is that some of these reviewers don't concern themselves with issues like NAFTA, and are more interested in the protests against the world trade organization (the Seattle riots) as they reflect issues of saving the rain forest, rather than as issues of trade and varying labor rates.  Barnes takes on a real issue and makes it light, intelligent and funny.  On second thought maybe he deserves a full 5 stars for writing one of the first pieces of real sci-fi I've read in years.   

alphacenturi.jpg (2190 bytes) Alpha Centauri by William Barton, Michael Capobianco *
The year is 2239 and the overburdened Earth groans beneath the weight of 200 billion people.  The last salvation of humanity is traveling with the crew of the starship Mother Night, on a colonizing mission to Alpha Centauri. But a terrorist plague has infiltrated the ship, planting the seeds of failure and extinction in every man and woman on board.


I bought this in the airport hoping to have something to read on a trip to New Orleans. Crediting the authors with writing a disturbing but failed vision of the future is simply too generous. I assume they sat down and said well let's see, sex always sells and if a little is good a lot is better, also it should be as kinky as possible. Since this is science fiction we need aliens and wouldn't it be brilliant if the aliens had 4 sexes and if they were also vampiric by nature because (don't you know) vampires are always related to sex. Now to finish the book we only need to craft a shell of a story around the sex scenes, and if it's confusing and far-fetched, well it won't matter because our readers are only going to be interested in the sex scenes.

Other reviewers at Amazon found something interesting in their technology but quite frankly I couldn't slog through the book thoroughly enough to care.  Finally as if all of the above weren't enough, I gave it to John to read (he's always a more generous reader than I am) and he found it just as impenetrable and poorly written as I did.

Hammered by Elizabeth Bear ****
synopsis: Jennie is a veteran of too many of the minor skirmishes that Canada has taken to getting involved in. Now, retired from the corp she lives life at the margins, in constant pain from the cyber additions the military added to her body.
 

Good cyberpunk.  The book is a good adventure story with interesting characters.  Enjoyed it at lot

Scaredown by Elizabeth Bear ****

Jennie’s cyber enhancements qualify her to be the pilot of a new space ship based on alien technology.  The world hovers at the edge of a holocaust and Jennie and her AI counterpart do the best they can to keep the worst from happening
 

Very decent second novel

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 Harlan 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

heirtotheshadows.jpg (14287 bytes) Heir to the Shadows : Book 2 of the Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop ****
In Heir to the Shadows, Jaenelle's vampiric, adoptive father, Saetan, and her foster-family of
demons shelter her. To restore her memory and emotional balance, they move to Kaeleer, where Jaenelle befriends the kindred--animals with magical and communicative powers--and gathers a circle of young Queens. She also heals Lucivar, Daemon's half-brother, who offers a brother's love and a warrior's fealty.

This is a wonderful book.  If it's suppose to be dark or bordering on S&M as some Amazon readers implied I think they had the wrong book.  So a character's a vampire; vampire's can be good loving fathers can't they? Saetan's and Jaenelle's relationship is what made the book for me.  Her romance with Daemon can happily wait for the third novel.  On the subject of compassionate, interesting vampire go read The Madness season by C.S. Friedman.  It's the best "Vampire" novel I've ever read.

 

silverwolf.jpg (10996 bytes) Silver Wolf by Alice Borchardt *** 1/2
Into decadent Rome of the Dark Ages comes Regeane, an enigmatic young woman distantly related to Charlemagne. But the blood she has inherited from her murdered father makes her   more than a child of royalty. Regeane is a shape shifter--woman and wolf. Betrothed to a lord she has never seen, Regeane is surrounded by enemies and must fight to live with dignity as the proud creature she is: civilized and savage, partaking of both, yet infinitely more than either . . .

I don't care that she's Ann Rice's sister.  I enjoyed this book and if book two is as good as book one I might reconsider and up the rating to a 4 star.  The parts with Regeane are quite good.   Some of the other sub plots in the book might stretch incredulity a little but hey isn't the art of fiction convincing the reader to suspend disbelief?

 

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.

Traitor's Sun by Marion Zimmer Bradley *** 1/2
Synopsis
: A continuuation of Exiles Song,  Marguerida Alton, is now married to the heir to the throne, and raising her three children in the Comyn Castle. The increasingly totalitarian Terran Federation, however, has been pressing Darkover to become a full member of the Federation, and when a Federation civil war severs communication with the central government, the corrupt, ambitious regional HQ Station Chief, Lyle Belfontaine, plots to grab Darkover by force.

There seems to be a general trend of writing long books centered around normal life with adventure more of a backdrop then the heart of the plot.  There's nothing gripping in this book, but it makes a pleasant Sunday afternoon visit with old friends (I've read all 15 of the Darkover novels).  There seems to be some possibility that Adrienne Martel-Barnes might have been an unacknowledged co-author due to MZB's illness but I admit I didn't notice a drastic style change anywhere in the novel.  If you're not a long term reader of MZB don't bother with this book.  If your you've read them all then this one is one step above filler but 1,000 times better than the piece of (expletive deleted) that Terry Goodkind tried to pawn off on his reading public for book number 5 (Soul of the Fire) 

 

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,

 

pigsdon'tfly.gif (5407 bytes) Pigs Don't Fly  by Mary Brown ****1/2
Synopsis: Pigs Don't Fly tells the story of a most unlikely heroine and her equally unlikely band of fellow adventurers--a blaspheming dog, broken-down horse, crippled pigeon, half-dead tortoise and flying pig. All Summer wanted was to settle down and get married. . . and the amnesiac, blind knight was the handsomest man she had ever seen .  

I bought this to get me through another long plane flight.  It was just intended as emergency backup since it's a short book and looked kind-of-dumb, but airport standards are flexible.  I couldn't have been more wrong, the book is fresh, imaginative and absolutely charming, without being in the least cute or syrupy sweet.  In fact, the thing that most struck me about this book is that things don't end up quite the way you'd expect.  There's a hidden hard edge of reality buried beneath unicorns and dragons and talking dogs that you won't quickly forget.

 

dragonneeg.jpg (14465 bytes) Dragonne's Eg by Mary Brown ****
Synopsis:
A poor Victorian School teacher is left a wonderful house in her uncle's will if she will only under take a special journey.  To return a Dragon's egg to China on a journey that can take her no more than a year.  On her way she's assisted by a kylin, a London street urchin and a magical cat.

Not quite as complex a story as Ms. Brown's Pig's Don't Fly but a delight none the less.

 

  Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold  *****
Synopsis:

Absolutely wonderful.  Of course it would never have won the Hugo if anyone else had tried to write it but it's being able to read a story where an intelligent middle aged woman is the heroine and to have it be a great yarn of a tale was a pleasure beyond words.

chldrnofmind.jpg (2484 bytes) Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card ** 1/2
Synopsis:
With this conclusion to his famous "Ender's Saga, " Card returns to the story of Ender Wiggin, hero of the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, and Xenocide. Now his adopted world, Lusitania, is theatened by the same planet-destroying weapon that he himself used so many years before. Only Jane, the computer intelligence that has evolved with him over
3,000 years can save the three sentient races of Lusitania.

It's not Speaker for the Dead and I for one was perfectly content with ending Ender Wiggin's saga with that book.  COTM is of course well written and Card's interest in philosophy and religion always makes a book appealing to me in it's own right, but still this book lacks energy (after all Ender Wiggin is falling apart because he lack energy to continue his life) and while not exactly disappointing, simply fails to be one of Card's best books.

Banewreaker by Jacqueline Carey

I simply couldn’t make it through this book.  I love her Phèdre books but this one just left me cold. 

Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
Synopsis:
Phèdre is an anguisette, chosen victim of Kushiel, angel of chastisement, called to receive pleasure in the form of pain. Anafiel Delaunay recognizes the whole of  Phèdre's value and purchases her indenture, and sets about training her as a singular and special courtesan -- and also as a spy, to serve his enigmatic quest for knowledge within the glittering tangle of court politics.  His death at the hands of enemies sets her life on a path she never foresaw.

While the main character is wired a little strangely (she gets sexual pleasure from pain) the fact never dominates the book.  I was on a trip to Boston when I first picked up the book and had no idea what a pearl of great price I held in my hand.  My cousin almost started to complain that I was anti-social because it was next to impossible to pry me away from the book until I finished it.  The complexity of the world building as well as the depth of the characterizations enthralled me.

 

Definitely a second book but still good none the less.  The plot seemed to be lacking a little of the edge that attracted me to the first book

 

 

I simply couldn’t make my way through the whole thing without skimming.  It made the second book look better by comparison. 

 

mainline.gif (4211 bytes) Mainline by Deborah Christian ****
Synopsis:
Bystanders, beware. Reva the assassin always gets her man, and anyone caught in the crossfire won't live to tell about it. Reva has the unique ability to see different lines of causality spread out before her. When she chooses any one of them, the other possibilities fade into nothingness and the new reality becomes her Mainline.

I think this just sneaks a four rating based on the originality of her story.  The heroine is an assassin who avoids ever being got by changing time lines (i.e. moving to a parallel world.  The problem happens when she meets some people that she doesn't want to abandon.  I'm anxiously awaiting book two to see where the story is really going.

 

kar kalim.jpg (12350 bytes) Kar Kalim  by Deborah Christian **
Synopsis:  Inya is a powerful sorceress and the land of Drakmil's self-appointed guardian. But she is not prepared when a ruthless wizard and his elite guard of fierce dog-men break through a dimensional gate of her tower. Taken prisoner and stripped of her magical abilities, Inya must still strive to subvert the sorcerer's lust for power, or die knowing she created this cruel monster now known as Kar Kalim.

I simply didn't like this book.   It's well written and has flashes of a story I might have liked but basically it's flat and dead and reminds me more of a medieval morality play than a good fantasy.  The mystery to me is how the woman who wrote mainline could have written this. 

Drum Warning by Jo Clayton ***
Synopsis:
An tale of two worlds irrevocably linked--and eternally at war. Iomard and Glandair, two worlds which exist in separate universes, are connected by magical forces beyond the control of even the strongest sorcerer. As they more closer together, conditions on both worlds become increasingly chaotic, and the wizards on both planets plot to make the most of the upcoming confluence.

Why isn't this better?  She had so much to work with in this book.  It needed a richer more intricate telling than she chose to write.  This book suffers from the inverse of the criticism I laid against Melanie Rawn in her two books.  Her children are only marginally interesting and simply aren't well enough developed to strongly carry the story.  Of course as I've said before I find Clayton an uneven writer.

Moongather by Jo Clayton ****
Serroi had been an outcast, a misborn of the windrunners.  Her olive skin and special talents have marked her as a woman of destiny in the times to come, even though she most often felt like a pawn on the chessboard of Ser Noris, her mentor, her enemy and the mastermind behind the game.

Found this at the used book store; read the first eight pages and then it sat on the shelf for 2 months before I threw it into the suitcase as a spare emergency book.  When I started it this time around I found couldn't put it down.  Completely unique characters, an interesting world and good writing.  I run hot and cold on Jo Clayton but this one is a solid 4.

 

Einstein's bridge.jpg (2337 bytes) Einstein's Bridge  by John Cramer  ***
Synopsis:  In a newborn 21st century, the genius minds at the Super conducting Super Collider (SSC) project in Texas have inadvertently discovered tunnels through space-time that connect our planet with hitherto unimagined alternate universes.  But at what cost? For an ancient, hostile, life-annihilating entity has now locked into a faint, persisting signal emanating from a distant and uncommonly fertile feeding ground called Earth.

This book is a bit of a mix.  Some of the early writing is horrible beyond belief.  In fact I'm going to copy out certain sections for my writing web site and use them as examples of what not to do.   On the other hand just when I was ready to hurl it across the room it got better.   The ending is silly but since the book is one of the special $3.99 paperbacks I felt the value proposition was excellent.

 

bholdereye.jpg (3505 bytes) Beholder's Eye by Julie E. Czerneda *** 1/2
Synopsis: They are the last survivors of their race, beings who live on and communicate through energy, who are capable of assuming the shape of any other species. When their youngest member is assigned to a world considered safe to explore, she is captured by the natives. To escape, she must violate the most important rule of her kind, and reveal the existence of her species to a fellow prisoner--a human being.

Good book but doesn't quite take the leap up another 1/2 point and I can't put my finger on why.

cuircuit of heaven.jpg (2144 bytes) Circuit of Heaven by Dennis Danvers ****
Synopsis: Justine Ingham is newly arrived in the "bin," a virtual environment. But things aren't going too smoothly, since she's  dreaming someone else's dreams and remembering someone else's memories. Things get more confusing when she meets a young man named Nemo. The two fall instantly in love, but their relationship seems doomed from the start, because Nemo would rather die than live in the bin

Classic Science Fiction and deservedly worthy of praise.  Strangely enough it reminds me of some of the early Heinlein.   The writing style isn't the same but the characterizations harkens back to a time when character's had values and ethics and struggled to live an honorable life in a confusing world.

 Undead and Unwed by Mary Janice Davidson****
Synopsis:

The Imelda Marcos of vampires.  I absolutely loved this book.  I probably would never have actually bought it since most satire fails miserably but this has all the laughs and all the freshness of the original Stephanie Plum stories.  Not to be missed (even if you don’t like vampire stories)

 

   Undead and Unemployed by Mary Janice Davidson***
Synopsis:

Not quite as fresh as the first one but still readable and fun.

Stealing the Elf King's Roses by Diane Duane ***

Synopsis: A team of attorneys dedicated to the service of lady justice take on the task of solving an Alfen murder in an alternate Los Angles.

I've probably had this on my shelf since it was published in 2002 and I never got around to reading it.  I'd start it, get about 10 pages in and then put it back.  This time I spent almost two weeks working on it but I got to the end.  I have mixed feelings.  I like the world building in the book a lot.  I think the basic plot is great but something makes it a slog.  Additionally the ending is flat.  As to the heroine and her relationship issues, Good heavens this woman is an idiot. 

 

somplace to be flying.jpg (2490 bytes) Someplace to be Flying by Charles de Lint *****
Synopsis:
The animal people walk among us. Native Americans call them the First People, but they have never left, and they claim they city for their own. Not only have Hank and Lily (our hero and heroine) stumbled onto a secret, they've stumbled into a war. And in this battle for the city's soul, nothing is quite as it appears.

Fantastic!  Absolutely fresh, different and a page turner.  I've hadn't read any of Charles de Lint before this book and I simply didn't know what I was missing.

dreamsunderfoot.jpg (13556 bytes) Dreams Underfoot  by Charles de Lint ****
Synopsis:
There are still fairy tales that can be told about life in cities where the bogie man lives under boardwalks and Magical birds that live in Uncle Dobbin's Pet shop.  The sons and daughters of the shidhe are still with us they just live in tenement housing and in upscale suburbs rather than forests and fairie mounds.. 

I was so impressed with Someplace to be Flying that when I found this in the used book store I had to pick it up.  Normally I don't care for short stories but these are terrific.  It's a weaving of place and time, characters who's lives touch one another. 

lordofislands.jpg (3149 bytes) Lord of the Isles by David Drake ** 1/2
Synopsis:
Mysteriously transported one thousand years into the future after a cataclysm destroys the empire of the Isles, a woman sorcerer finds herself in a small town, far from the centers of power, where she and a small group of individuals become the focus of a new struggle for dominance

This book didn't really holding my interest.  The characters didn't quite captivate me so it was easy to put it down and pick up another book.  The plot seems strong with the exception that I had the feeling his pacing was off.  I obviously haven't read the second book but my thought is that the story simply ran away with Drake and that the book suffers as a result of pacing more so than anything else.   The book consists of three separate story lines, Sharina's adventures with Pele, Garric and Cashel's journey with Liane and friends and Ilna's wicked weaving.  What bothered me about this approach is that the subplots don't weave together.  Thinking about it, the book would have been much stronger if each separate plot line contributed something to the over all story rather than simply recounting how the characters spent their time.  (Note:  I've since listened to the next two novels of this series on tape and loved them!!!)

Queen of Demons by David Drake ***         Michael Page (Narrator)
Synopsis: The second epic volume in the grand saga begun in "Lord of the Isles". As Garric, Sharina, Cashel, and Tenoctris move toward their confrontation with contending forces of evil, the cosmic forces of magic are reaching a millennial peak

This may be a case where the recording actually makes the book better.  I struggled through the first book but much of what irritated me there didn't bother me when I listened to the tape.  Drake writes one chapter per character.  Once I understood that I simply accepted and enjoyed the book.  Page's narration was very good.  Some of the reviews at Amazon have objected to the fact that there isn't any physical romance in the book.  

 

Servant of the Dragon   by David Drake * ***  Michael Page (Narrator)
Synopsis: In the third book in Drake's Lord of the Isles series, young King Garric seeks to raise a new army and fleet to make his title more than an empty honorific. Armies and fleets must be paid for, which means raising taxes. Meanwhile, Cashel goes questing for a magic talisman, and Sarina, while sending him off, accidentally goes traveling herself; both encounter strange nonhuman and stranger human entities before journeys' ends. Sharp-tongued Ilna sails to marry off a princess, survives a mutiny, defeats magical menaces, and meets Chalkas the pirate, one of the saga's more engaging and original characters.

I read the first book in the series and gave it a marginal thumbs up. I listened to the second book and enjoyed it. I listened to the Servant of the Dragon and was transported into the land of the Isles. The story lacks some action and the ending really is nothing more than Drake tying up all his plot strings at once (too quickly and at odds with the pace of the rest of the novel). Given Drakes writing style it might be fair to say that Servant of the Dragon is little more than small vignettes strung together, but that would sound more critical than I intend. I found myself transported beyond the traffic and the grind of the commute as I listed to the book and I was terribly disappointed when it was over. I also have to add that the development of Ilna and her relationship with Chalkas was excellently done.

 

runelords.jpg (14967 bytes) Rune Lords by David Drake **
Synopsis:
Young Prince Gabon Val Orden of Mystarria is traveling in disguise on a journey to ask for the hand of the lovely Princess Iome of Sylvarresta when he and his warrior bodyguard spot a pair of assassins who have set their sights on the princess's father. The pair races to warn the king of the impending danger and realizes that more than the royal family is at risk--the very fate of the Earth is in jeopardy.

Looks like this is one of those books you either love or you want to hurl across the room.  Since airplanes are so crowded I refrained but only out of consideration to my fellow passengers.  I read most of the book skimming as I went along.  Every once and a while there'd be a spark of interest and then he'd beat the story back down to a flat boring recitation.  His concept of endowments (abilities taken from other people) left me cold.  Any use of them would be immoral in any reasonable society so the hero and heroine become characters I simply couldn't care about.  If this was the only thing I'd read by Drake I wouldn't be back for more.  The Lord of the Isle books are significantly better.

 

polgara.jpg (2893 bytes) Polgara the Sorceress by David and Leigh Eddings ****
Synopsis: 
Her mind guided by a mother she will not see again for centuries, Polgara beings life in the Vale, growing up in her uncle's Beldin's tower and in the prehistoric Tree that is the heart of that magical place. There she first learns the reaches of her powers and assumes the bird shapes that will serve her on her far-flung travels.

If you've read the series ( Belgariad and Malloreon   ) you might ask why on earth you'd want to read another rehash of the same story.  Because it's like having a wonderful chat abut old times with a good friend would be my answer

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.

 

Jaran by Kate Elliott ***
Synopsis:
The brilliant first novel of an author destined to become an important new voice in science fiction. A young woman comes of age in an alien world where she is both a player and a pawn in an interstellar game of intrigue and politics, in which the ultimate prize may be freedom for humankind--or extinction

The Book starts out ok and then gets lost in the wasteland of bad romances.  It seems so strange that I would be critical of this considering I write romances myself, but I don't have brain dead heroines who are just waiting to give their lives over to some hunk of male flesh.  Snarl, Snarl.  If you want to read great science fiction romances go prowl the used book stores until you can track down any of the science fiction that Ann Maxwell has written (she writes her romances under the pen name Elizabeth Lowell).  Now that woman can tell a love story that simply jumps off the page (Fire Dancer, Time Shadow Riders).

 

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.

princeofdogs.jpg (14464 bytes) Prince of Dogs by Kate Elliott *** 1/2
Synopsis:
Prince of Dogs returns readers to the war-torn kingdoms of Wendar and Varre, and to the intertwined destinies of: Alain, raised in humble surroundings but now the Court's heir; Laith, who struggles to unravel the secrets of her past while evading the traps set for her by those seeking the treasure she hides; Sanglat, believed dead by those who could save him, but actually a prisoner in the city of Gent; and Fifth Brother, who now builds an army to do his father's - or his own - bidding in a world at war!

The first book was a little rocky.   The second book was much better and while it wasn't so riveting that I couldn't put it down (I read it over two plane flights) I enjoyed this book and have high hopes for her third.

 

City of Diamond by Jane Emerson ****
Synopsis: Six centuries ago, the alien Curosa imparted the wisdom of their dying race to Adrian Sawyer and gifted him with three massive intergalactic ships to spread the Curosa Truth across the starways. But now two ships, City of Diamond and City of Opal, have lost their original purpose and struggle for political dominance and the Sawyer Crown.  young Adrian Mercati, knows the hiding place of the Crown, but spies are at work, and a desperate race to find the Crown begins. Yet what neither side can see is that finding it may prove their downfall

This book is great but it's part one of a series and as yet there is no sign of book two.  The author's vision is fresh and different.

 

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 you're tired of trite sameness and want something to sink your teeth into I can't recommend anything else more highly
 

blacksunrising.jpg (2871 bytes) Black Sun Rising ****
A true mix of science fiction and fantasy.  What happens when a star ship finally lands on a world where the fae can make all of their fantasies become reality.  When your most horrible nightmare can appear before your very eyes simply because you feared it might?  A thousand years after the landing Erna is faced with a new power turning the fae to their own purposes

All right so I think CS Friedman is one of the best writers around.   I'll even follow her through a novel that starts with a man brutally torturing his wife and children to death (though this scene haunted me through the whole book).  This book had two horrible plot flaws that I easily overlooked because I was carried away by the richness of the story.  Flaw number 1) Why would a man who was the greatest visionary and religious leader his world had ever known, turn to the dark side simply because some people disagreed with him?  Why would preservation of his own life be so important that he would willing sacrifice his soul?   I don't know and Friedman simply doesn't give us a clue.  Maybe we'll get the answer when we see why Anakan Skywalker chose to become Darth Vadar smiley.gif (93 bytes)Flaw number 2) why would Damien hie off to the hinterlands in the insane hope of getting Ciani's memories back for her? It simply doesn't make sense, especially when he's on a mission from his own prelate.   With both of these dutifully pointed out in the final analysis neither of them kept me from being caught up in her story and finding myself riveted to the page.

alien_shore copy.gif (8763 bytes) This Alien Shore by C. S. Friedman ****
Synopsis: Welcome to the universe of Jamisia a young girl from Earth with multiple personalities, who may hold the key to breaking a guild's monopoly on interstellar travel, and a computer security
expert hired by the Guild to find the cure for and creator of a dangerous computer virus which
threatens the Guild's pilots.

Not a perfect book and yes the ending's just a tad week but who cares?   I simply couldn't put it down.  Of course I've been a fan since I first read In Conquest Born back in 1988. 

 

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.

 

The Soul of Fire   by Terry Goodkind *   Buck Schirner (Narrator)
Synopsis: The D'Haran Empire faces new challenges: the mysterious ``chimes'' possess a magical power that can steal souls; and war with the powerful Imperial Order may be unavoidable. Richard will discover that the chimes are themselves slaves of an undead being who has created for himself an impenetrable otherworldly fortress. Meanwhile, intrigues at the sovereign's court in Anderith and feuds between Anders and Hakens among its population threaten to give the imperials a clear road forward, without any assistance from the Chimes.

Skip this book, or borrow it from a friend.  My advice would be just ignore the fact that this book was ever written. If you need something to do between book 4 and book 6 pick it up in the used book store or borrow it from one of your friends who wasn't warned in time. There is maybe 50 pages of new material in the whole book (and that may be an over statement). Also the writing is absolutely horrible. At least 100 pages of text should have been edited out of the manuscript before it was published because it's completely and totally redundant. How many times can Richard think to himself how important it is that he's the seeker of truth?

Listening to it on tape in some ways is even worse than reading it. The narrator was at a loss with what to do with such dramatically boring material and his rendition of the dialogue is every bit as flat as it deserves

 

Prophecy by Sharon Green ***
Synopsis: The Chosen Five-wielders of elemental magic-have defeated their betrayers and are returning to the city behind a legion of their followers. Tamrissa, fierce lady of Fire; Rion, noble lord of Air; Vallant, brave captain of Water; Lorand, clever master of Earth; and Jovvi, passionate sorceress of Spirit have so far successfully met the challenges set by those who would prevent the Five from their rightful throne. But the struggle isn't over yet.

Another book by a very good writer that should have been better but was barely mediocre, and I hung in their for all 5.  The book moves along and it will get you through an airplane flight without any trouble but the ending is unsatisfactory.  She builds toward the fact that someone or something was really influencing the rightful 5 finding their place as the ruling blending and then leaves the resolution hanging.  

 

armiesofdaylight.jpg (2423 bytes) The Armies of Daylight by Barbara Hambly ****
With the wizards of Quo gone, the inhabitants of Renweth leap at any possible plan.   Send a rag tag army of hedge witches and wannabe wizards into the eldritch underground caverns of the Dark.  Or invite Alketch, an ancient enemy of the Realm, in Darwath in the hope that if they defeat the Dark they won't just consume the remains of the ravaged Darwath themselves.
wallsofair.jpg (2982 bytes) The Walls of Air by Barbara Hambly ****
Leaving the remaining refugees in the Keep of Renweth the wizard Ingold Inglorion and his apprentice Rudy Solis (a displaced biker from Earth) journey to gain help from the Hidden City of Quo, to which all other wizards had been summoned. The future is bleak if the wizards can't help drive back the dark.
timeofthedark.jpg (2830 bytes) The Time of the Dark (The Darwath Trilogy Series) by Barbara Hambly ****
Gil keeps having dreams.  The only problem is that her dreams seem to be real.   One evening, she finds the wizard she'd seen in her "imagination" sitting at her kitchen table and the next thing she knows she's catapulted into a world of bitter cold and horrifying death lurking in every shadow.

I reread these book every three to four years and despite wishing that she had spent just a little bit more time developing her characters I enjoy them every time I read them.  Strangely enough I think what first caught my interest was the thought of using the dark as a villain.  As children we all know there are monsters under our beds or monsters that hide in the dark and Hambly makes them terrifyingly real to our adult minds.  The second element that appealed to me about these books is that nothing's black and white.  Not even the Dark.  We don't debate our right to use cattle as food but we certainly think it's our right to object strenuously if some other race of beings decided that we would do nicely as their food source.  Gil, girl scholar, cold of heart and fast of wrist (she wields a mean blade), is probably the character that caused me the most trouble.  I shared Hambly's vision of her as an adult but I couldn't really fathom how she turned out the way she did.   Rich social climbing parents didn't seem to be a real answer.  I also loved Inglorion; stained tattered robes, sleeps in the supply room and is the master wizard and master bladesman of the known universe.  If you've read any of the real Merlin stories you'll quickly see that she's conjured the true archetypal image of the magician.

If you start the series just make life easy for yourself and buy at least the first three (there two more) because it's really one continuous story and they're so short you can read all they in the length of time you spend with a bigger novel.

motherofwinter.jpg (2467 bytes) Mother of Winter by Barbara Hambly. *** 1/2
Synopsis: After more than a decade, this novel continues the acclaimed series, The Darwath Trilogy. Five years after the Dark Ones were vanquished, the world starts growing colder--and spawning hideous creatures that resist magic. Can mankind survive? Can ex-Californians Gil and Rudy help the wizard Ingold stave off the endless cold? 


I loved the first three novels so how could I not like this one? Also Icefalcon's Quest is out in hardbound. I can hardly wait.