Science Fiction
by Author
R-Z

Exiles by Melanie Rawn *** 1/2
Synopsis:
  The isolated world of Lenfell seemed the perfect refuge for the Mageborn--a people persecuted for their magic powers. But the greater the magic, the greater the peril--and Lenfell was soon devastated by a war between rival Mage factions. Now, long after the war, three Mageborn sisters will find themselves on opposing sides in this world-shattering conflict.

I bought this book in hard cover two or three years ago, skimmed it and wondered where on earth the wonderful author of the Dragon books had disappeared to?  Out of desperation I started it again on a trip to London and this time I was hooked.  If the characters capture your attention then you can follow her somewhat complex plotting and narrative.

The Mage Born Traitor by Melanie Rawn ***
Synopsis:
 The Mage Guardians have survived the war--barely. Now Mage Captal Cailet and her sister Sarra are struggling to rebuild their society--politically, economically, and magically. Yet though defeated, their ancient enemies, the Malerissi, have not been destroyed, and under the leadership of Cailet's and Sarra's sister Glenin, these masters of a darker magic are once again weaving a web with which to entangle the entire world. And even as Cailet's dreams of a restored Mage Hall become a reality, Glenin prepares to strike at the very heart of both her sisters' power.

There simply isn't enough action in this story.  I've notice a trend among good writers to spend an large amount of time describing every thing their characters are doing that might pertain to the story (shades of Robert Jordon).  This book isn't bad but it isn't as good as the first largely because it takes a long time to get to a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion.  I think I would have picked up the pace and jammed book three into book two.  I also found myself a little uncomfortable with her feminist society.  As an intellectual undertaking I was willing to explore, but how many men really let their wives beat them senseless?  At times I found her plot device a distraction (men with coifs, instead of woman).  Also if anybody figures out who Collan's real parents were suppose to be let me know, I reread that part three times and still didn't catch the hints if there really were any.

 

windfrmfrsky.gif (8956 bytes) Wind From a Foreign Sky by Katya Reimann. ****
Synopsis: Gaultry enjoyed the simple, pastoral life of a hedge witch, where her most daunting task was to travel to the nearby village to purchase supplies. But her peaceful life is shattered when it becomes entangled in an ancient prophecy--a prophecy which names her and her headstrong twin sister, Mervion, as their nation's salvation--or its destruction.

I found this in the airport in Atlanta. I wasn't expecting much and was delighted to find I thoroughly enjoyed it and am anxiously awaiting book two in the series.

sworddancer.jpg (2863 bytes) Sword Dancer by Jennifer Roberson *****
Synopsis:

When I first read this book in 1987 I was completely blown away.  The book sang to me then and it hasn't lost anything in the last 12 years. The problem with writing in first person is that if the reader doesn't relate with the character they might find themselves at an unconscious level struggling with living in another's skin for the length of the book.  Sandtiger and I fit hand in glove and I was quite happy to be traipsing through the Punja with Del and the Stud for company.    I was somewhat shocked when I read what Roberson says of her own story. Her comments are limited to the statement that the subtext is about sexism and about how a MCP gets his consciousness raised.  If I thought the story was limited to that, I'd give it a thumbs down in a heart beat, but the book is so much more, that any whiffs of strident feminism simply float by with nary a ruffle. 

swordsinger.jpg (2792 bytes) Sword Singer by Jennifer Roberson *****
Synopsis: Tiger and Del, having found Del's brother in SWORD DANCER, now move north to confront the demons, both literal and figurative, that haunt Del's past. They return to Staal-Ysta, where Del must do penance for slaying her teacher and reconcile herself to past decisions.

Very often second novels don't carry their own weight.  Not so this book.  Roberson continues to write from SandTigers perspective but this story is Dell's and it is riveting in it's unfolding.   I read this when it was originally published and then again in April.  It had lost nothing in the intervening nine or 10 years.

swordmaker.jpg (2847 bytes) Sword Maker by Jennifer Roberson ****
Synopsis: He was a champion of sword magic sworn to track the hounds of hoolies. Yet before Tiger waited perils far deadlier than any hounds--the Dragon's Lair.

Tiger and Del struggle ever onward dealing with the pain of betrayal, lost hopes and duty that can not be turned aside.   Hey I'm a sucker for these two characters.  If they want to go around chasing demons I'm happy to come along for the ride.

swordbreaker.jpg (3126 bytes) Sword Breaker by Jennifer Roberson ***1/2
Synopsis:
When a bloodthirsty, driven northern girl met easy going, happy-go-lucky southern boy it was a match made in hell. Little did they know that their relationship had what it takes to go the distance. With a sword carrying the spirit of the evil Sorcerer Chosa De.  Del and Tiger head back to the South in Search of the equally Legendary Shaka Ord. 

The problem with demons is that sometimes once you find them they want to stay found.  In fact they want to stay found in your flesh.  Tiger has his hands full in this one and while it's not her strongest book it was still a good read.

 

swordborn.jpg (3093 bytes) Sword Born by Jennifer Roberson ***
Synopsis:
The Dynamic Duo, Tiger & Del are back and in trouble as usual.   Now they are going in search of Tiger's heritage, which turns out to be a double-edged sword. On one hand there's his possible cold-hearted relatives, which he's not sure he wants. And on the other there's magic, which he considers a fate worse than death.

To a Tiger and Del fan any chance to visit with them is welcome.  With that said I'm forced to agree with the comments at Amazon that not enough happens in this book to keep it in the same class as the other four.   The action only kicks in in the latter part of the book and ends on a somewhat down note.   If Roberson wasn't clearly promising all of us another book I think her devoted following would have considered hanging her in effigy. 

 

Factoring Humanity by Robert Sawyer ***
Synopsis: the plot revolves around Heather, a psychology professor struggling to decipher extraterrestrial messages, and her estranged husband, Kyle, on the brink of the biggest computer science breakthrough of all time. What makes Factoring Humanity work is that Sawyer deals with vast ideas such as alien contact, quantum mechanics, and the human overmind, but does so to a deeply personal effect.

This book is classic Robert Sawyer.  It has his quirky way of looking at things which certainly isn't the conventional high tech, sci-fi view.  I struggled a little with all the old TV shows mentioned in the book.  Sawyer talks about shows that were on when I was young (back in the dark ages) and I really couldn't believe that a character in the future would know those shoes well enough to have them be the center of his life.  The incest plot in the book was somewhat disturbing but that was the effect Sawyer was trying for.  I also felt that Sawyer didn't have a real grasp on the collective unconsciousness and could only barely go along with his descriptions of it as a plot device (someone on Amazon.com alleged that the little data nodes of memories existed solely to allow the hero to clear himself of the incest charges.  The soul wave is an interesting element of the story that gets almost lost in the shuffle.  In the final analysis its a good used bookstore read but somewhat disappointing at new bookstore prices.

 

frameshift.jpg (2505 bytes) Frameshift by Robert Sawyer *** 1/2
Synopsis: In working through the intricate but unrelenting plot, the reader will encounter
Holocaust victims and avengers, a dedicated geneticist with an incurable genetic disease, an
unrepentant Nazi hiding out as an actuary, page after page of bold scientific extrapolation, the cloning of Neanderthal DNA, dueling helicopters, mind reading and murder, not necessarily in that order

Interesting book.  Good enough to get me to put Sawyer on my reading list, but something was vaguely off which kept it from getting a 4 star rating.  What I really like about the novel was the exploration of genetics, accidental mutations and where society might be heading. It really was a classic science fiction.

 

 

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.

 

Talion Relevant by Michael Stackpole ***
Synopsis:  After Nolan ra Sinjaria's native land was conquered by a brutal king and his family murdered, he sought revenge by joining a breed of feared warrior-judges called the Talions. But when the usurping king and his troops are imperiled, Nolan, to his horror, is assigned to protect them. Now, he must make a choice between duty and honor that will call into question everything he stands for.

Not quite the conventional boy with sword novel.  

 

snow crash.jpg (2779 bytes) Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson ****
Synopsis:
In reality, Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo's Cosa Nostra Inc., but it the Metaverse he's a warrior prince. Plunging headlong into the enigma of a new computer virus that's striking down hackers everywhere, he races along the neon-lit streets on a search-and destroy mission for the shadowy virtual villain threatening to bring about infocalypse.

This book has 169 reviews at Amazon.com and it still rates 4 1/2 stars.  I had trouble getting started and then wow!   It was fresh, fun and actually had some substance in it's explorations of Sumerian myth and its undercurrents of neurolinguistic programming (see Babylon 17 for an earlier incarnation of this plot line).  The plot did fall apart at the end but the experience getting there was satisfying enough that I really didn't care.

 

 

dragonsofautumn.jpg (3004 bytes) Dragons of Autumn Twilight  by Margaret Weis, Tracy Hickman ***
Synopsis: Creatures of legend, the dragons have returned to Krynn. Now, the darkness of war threatens to engulf the land. Then hope appears -- a blue crystal staff in the hands of a beautiful barbarian woman. The promise of this hope forces a group of long-time friends into the unlikely roles of heroes

Life is starting to get overwhelmingly desperate.  A quick trip to the book store before leaving for PMI left me at the mercy of the teenager working the sci-fi section at B.Dalton.  The only Sci-fi readers I know more voracious than I am are teenage males, so when he recommended this series I acquiesced graciously, (after all he could be on to something).  Well the truth is that back when Maggie and Tracy wrote this they couldn't really write worth a tinkers damn.  Now they have 137 five star reviews in Amazon, so clearly I'm in the minority but their sentence structure didn't flow, their characterization was often weak (though I loved the Gully dwarves) , and their ending (a true "and then a miracle happened") should have had them drummed out of the writers guild.  With all that said I grudgingly give them 3 stars at this point because I will read the second novel.   They'll drop like a stone to the 2&1/2 this book deserved if the second book isn't better.

 

huntersoath.jpg (3118 bytes) Hunter's Oath by Michelle West ****
Synopsis:
Once a year the Sacred Hunt must be called, in which the Hunter God's prey would be one of the Lords or his huntbrother. This was the Hunter's Oath, sworn to by each Lord and his huntbrother. It was the Oath taken by Gilliam of Elseth and the orphan boy Stephen--and the fulfillment of their Oath would prove the kind of destiny from which legends were made

Good adventure, good plot.  Not the equal to the rest of her books but you have to start somewhere.  The relationship of Hunt Brothers is fascinating and I only wish she'd made this book a little longer and developed it more.

huntersdeath.jpg (2950 bytes) Hunter's Death by Michelle West ****
Synopsis:
  Now, at the risk of breaking their Oath, Hunter Gilliam and his huntbrother Stephen must journey to the ancient city once ruled by the Lord of Hell himself--a being who again seeks to impose his reign over the mortal lands. This novel continues the brilliant fantasy saga begun in Hunter's Oath.

Ms. West's second novel in this series is a riveting adventure story but what got my attention and left a lasting impression on me when I first read the book was the character of Jewel and The Terraffan and structure of the ten houses.  Too much of what I read is a retread of a story I've read in a thousand other places.  Not so with these characters.

brokencrown.jpg (2784 bytes) The Broken Crown (Sun Sword, No 1)  by Michelle West ****
Synopsis:
  The Dominion has kept an uneasy peace within its border since that long-ago time when the clan Leonne was gifted with the magic of the Sun Sword and was raised up to reign over the five noble clans. But now treachery strikes at the very heart of the Dominion as two never meant to rule seek to seize the crown by slaughtering all of clan Leonne blood.

This book is a radical shift from her first two books.  The story moves into the Southern Dominion and while there are continuing characters, this is the one book of hers that can be read out of sequence.   The focus of this story is on the lives of powerful women in a society where they are little better than slaves or toys.  What's appealing about the story is that it never becomes a feminist diatribe.  All too often authors make the mistake of ascribing our contemporary sensibilities onto characters in a different society.  The women in this book understand their world and they plot and scheme to achieve their goals without overturning the system.

uncrownedking.jpg (11601 bytes) The Uncrowned King (The Sun Sword , No 2)  by Michelle West ****
Synopsis:
   The uneasy peace within the Dominion's borders was shattered when treacherous forces seized the crown by slaughtering all members of the ruling Clan Leonne. Now, in a neighboring empire, the sole surviving heir to the throne, a young man never destined to rule, must prove his worthiness to claim the crown, even as his family's murderers and their sinister demonic allies plot his doom.

I bought this book months ago and it sat on the shelf.  When I picked it up again this month, I found after about 20 pages that too much of it wasn't making sense so I went back and reread the first book in the Sun Sword series.  I'm unsure exactly why these books are marketed as two independent series.  To get the most out of this book you really need to have read all three of her previous novels, which is a joy and not a sentence.  There is just so much in these books and her characters are unique unto themselves.  The only reason this book is a 4 star and not 5 is that after having read some of the books twice I still feel I should go back with a pen and paper and draw out some of her subplots to make sure I've got everything.

 

shinningcourt.jpg (2879 bytes) The Shining Court (book 3) by Michelle West *****
Synopsis:
Jewel, of House Terafin, has been having visions which are about to send her into enemy territory with only her domicis Avander to watch her back. Behind her she leaves a House on the brink of a bloody dynastic war, before her lies the Dominion, home to the clans which are the sworn enemies of all who dwell in the Empire. But far more deadly than the clans are those with whom they have formed an unholy alliance--the demons of the Shining court!

This series, in my humble opinion is the best fantasy being written today.   Though calling it fantasy hardly does it justice.  Ms. West has crafted a world every bit the equal to Frank Herbert's Dune.  If you're new to the series start with the Broken Crown or the Hunter's Oath. 

 


The Sea of Sorrows (book 4) by Michelle West *****
Synopsis:
The ancient Powers have awakened and new allegiances are forged. As the rightful ruler of the Dominion seeks to overthrow the man who killed his entire family, the Voyani embark upon the Sea of Sorrows to find the lost Cities of Man-a journey that seems certain to lead to a deadly confrontation with the Lord of Night.
 

 

 

The Riven Shield (book 5) of The Sun Sword
Jewel of House Terafin and her domicis Avander along with Kallandas, the assassin, are working with the Voyani to escape the the Sea of Sorrows and find Valedan and his armies. Valedan kai di'Leonne has made a shaky alliance with the Northern armies of the Essalieyan Empire, his people's ancestral enemies. Together they hope to defeat to Kialli demons and their human allies who are preparing to attack the Northern armies. Its result will either see the peace restored or all of the furies and the Lord of Darkness released upon the world.

 

 

The Sun Sword (book 6) by Michelle West *****
Synopsis: N
ow, at last the Sun Sword has been delivered into the hands of its rightful owner, and the armies of the Dominion and the Empire are about to rendezvous for their final battle. But no one can know how the Lord of Night's daughter Kiriel will change both the nature and the course of the war. And no one can foresee whether mortals or the demon Kialli will prove the final victors.

The conclusion of the six book series.  The book starts out with Jewel and Avandar and then puff the this plot line just ends.  Valedan kai di'Leonne leads the army of the north to recapture his rightful place in the south.  I loved the book but actually felt that it was the most choppy of all her books.  It was difficult to remember the sequence of some of the events and the names of characters got confusing but this is a petty criticism of a wonderful series.  So as long as there really is a book about Jewel coming I am content.

 

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). 

 

bellwether.jpg (2590 bytes) BellWether by Connie Willis **** 1/2
Sandra Foster works for HiTek studying fads from hula-hoops to miniature golf. She's looking for a fad catalyst, that one person or thing behind the start of Something New, be it books on angels or new hairstyles. Trouble is, funding is in short supply at HiTek, and everyone is going after the Niebnitz Grant, a hefty, anonymous cash award that's given out to promising research.

There are lots of books that use chaos theory as a backdrop (I think in the hopes of attracting readers) Ms. Willis uses it as the central core of her novel and it's not only wonderfully entertaining its actually well researched and an interesting approach to the subject

 

promisedland.jpg (11314 bytes) Promised land by Connie Willis and Cynthia Felice  **1/2
Synopsis:
It has been 15 years since Delanna Milleflores set foot on Keramos. Now her mother has died, and she has returned only to settle and sell her estate. But Keramos has some surprising laws. To sell her farm, Delanna must first live on it for one year. And along with her land comes one Tarlton Tanner, heir to the adjoining farm. A man who, at the moment of her mother's death, became Delanna's husband.

I have always been favorably impressed the writing of both Ms. Willis and Ms. Felice so I bought this book in delightful anticipation of an excellent read. To say I was disappointed is putting in mildly. The plot was trite, the characters were cardboard and that's only judging it as a light romance novel. I know it's possible to write what is, IMHO, a good science fiction romance. Anne McCaffrey did it in Restoree and Ann Maxwell did it in Timeshadow Rider and Fire Dancer.

I've been accused of lacking the sense of humor necessary to appreciate this type of book so I’ll simply say that I personally didn’t feel the book represented the style I expected from either author and being the curmudgeon that I am I was disappointed

 

donnerjack.jpg (2441 bytes) Donnerjack by Roger Zelazny and Jane Lindskold ****
Synopsis:
There are two realities; the real world, Verité, and the virtual world, Virtù. When Donnerjack--one of the architects of Virtù--loses his lover Ayradyss, he makes a pact with Death to return her from the dead. In return, Death demands their first-born child, who will be the first baby born from a Verité/Virtù union, and a force to be reckoned with in both worlds.

An interesting book.  Not quite the one-two punch that I usually find in his best short stories (A Rose for Ecclesiastics or the Engine at Heart Spring Well) but a good read none the less.  The culmination of the scene where Donnerjack Sr. stages a major confrontation with the Lord of the Deep Fields is typically Zelazny in tone.  The Book ends with enough left open to have supported a possible sequel but now that Zelazney is no longer with us I'm not sure that Jane Lindskold could support the book on her own.