Books Read in August, 2019
July, 2019 Locus
Noumenon by Marina J. Lostetter
Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Superboy starring the Legion of Super-Heroes Vol 1 #208 - 215 (Comics) (r)
Sorcerers of Ur-Turuk Roleplaying Game by Graham Bottley (RPG) (r)
July/August, 2019 Reader’s Digest
Of Sand and Malice Made by Bradley P. Beaulieu
Stealing Light by Gary Gibson
Karate Kid Vol 1 #1 (Comics) (r)
Space Unicorn Blues by T.J. Berry
And that was my reading for August, 2019. This was a pretty decent month of reading all things considered an given the sheer size of some of the novels I read, with a good number of comics thrown in for good measure. It was actually an average month of reading for me, and most of the books this month were pretty enjoyable, though only three stood out for the most part. Anyway, the books that I enjoyed the most were...
Noumenon by Marina J. Lostetter - I have to admit that I was not familiar with the author in any way, shape or form when I picked up the book, but the concept was fascinating. Noumenon is one of the best Big Dumb Object novels I've read in some time. The author merges quite a few classic tropes in this debut novel, but it is so much more than just a nostalgia trip for lovers of old school science fiction. The plot concerns the discovery of a star that exhibits some very strange behavior and a generation ship made of scientists sent to investigate it. I'm a sucker for generation ship sagas, but this one is different. The successive generations on this ship are made up of exact genetic clones of the original crew, and also, the FTL drive used to propel the ship has a time dilation effect that causes a few hundred years to go by on the ship, while thousands pass on earth – meaning they have no idea what will happen to Earth society and culture over the course of the journey, and when contact with Earth inexplicably ends they can only guess at what will be there, and whether they will be accepted, when they finally return. From Clarke to Haldeman to Poul Anderson and even to authors such as Neal Stephenson, there are nods in almost every direction for science fiction fans to enjoy. Make no mistake, Noumenon is no pastiche; it has a grand scope as the authors mentioned above have, but... Rather than follow one long plot or choose a single clone line as the book’s “protagonist,” Noumenon is structured as a series of vignettes that continually jump forward in time to different characters at different points over the course the journey - the one there and the return trip - all tied together by the thoughts and experiences of the AI tasked with overseeing the mission. The mysterious star they are travelling to and then investigating is the MacGuffin, but the journey itself is the point of the novel. It's a sociological experiment that goes right as often as it goes wrong, in some instances terrifyingly so. The scope of the overall Noumenon mission is terrific and the author got it *so* right, but it's the intimacy with which she depicts the smaller, human moments amid the grander events is where the novel excels. An outstanding novel that deserves, nay needs, to be read. Recommended!!
Of Sand and Malice Made by Bradley P. Beaulieu - One of the things I adore about the author's first book in The Shattered Sands series so far is the mythology and texture that folklore plays in the books. Serving as a prequel of sorts to Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, the first book in that series, Of Sand and Malice Made is a thoroughly entertaining story that adds another layer to the world created by the author. Consisting of three interlinked tales, this is a book that goes beyond mere setting and culture to put a true Arabian Nights spin on epic fantasy. While that fact doesn't surprise me, for it seems rather fitting that our heroine, Çeda's, first chapter should have such a familiar, classic sort of feel to it. These aren't quite fables or folk tales, but all the elements are there, right from supernatural deities to charms and curses. Free of the pacing issues and narrative flashbacks that were something of a challenge in Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, this is a story that all but races along as it gets the heart racing. What really excited me about it is that there is a feeling of genuine risk involved, which is hard to pull off in a prequel where you already know the fates of the main character. This is a perfect little novella, entirely suitable as an introduction for new readers, yet completely rewarding for fans of the series. It has all of the humour, the wonder, and the excitement you'd expect of the author, with the addition of an entirely chilling new villain. Highly recommended.
Space Unicorn Blues by T.J. Berry - I mean, come on! Look at the title of the book...how could I not read this? Let me first say that you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than in the cast of Space Unicorn Blues by T.J. Berry. This book takes place in a science fiction universe where humans encountered aliens, and they were actually the creatures out of fantasy and a few other, more sf-nal species. With that out of the way, this book features a motley cast consisting of a magical half unicorn/half human, three humans, and a team of spaceship dwelling dwarves. Oh, and the human pilot wants to kill the unicorn. For reasons I'll not spoil here. While the characters of this book certainly stand out, the plot also takes unpredictable turns as it careens down seemingly the simplest of plots: get from point A to point B. Yes, I kid you not. The creatures of human myth, such as unicorns, really have been aliens attempting to contact humanity. However, the humans have discovered that the aliens have special powers: most importantly that unicorn horn can power faster-than-light spaceships. Let's just say that in this highly creative book, fantasy crashes into science fiction and creates chaotic magic and wonder. Surprisingly enough, it all knits together pretty smoothly. Unicorns can heal nearly any wound and their horns (once shaved off) can be thrown into engines and used as fuel aboard stoneships. (Don't ask, just read the book.) Other mythological creatures have super-powers, too. Dryads control nature, faeries can fly, dwarves are master mechanics, and the Greys (you know, those aliens you see in most alien movies) act as all powerful administrators. The main protagonist, Gary Cobalt, just wants to live in peace, but a totalitarian intergalactic human government has strict rules about unicorns and other mythological creatures’ rights. Gary as mentioned is half-unicorn/half-human (his mom got pregnant by magic) so he has a horn and hooves, but everything else looks human. He finishes up his ten-year prison sentence for murder, and immediately goes on the run from government officials who want to exploit his horn by teaming up with murderous thugs Jenny Perata and Cowboy Jim who framed him in the first place. The weirdness in this story piles up, and sometimes gets to be a bit too much. Some folks will find the novel (concepts) to be off-putting, but this is space opera on the true fantaxy level and there's some very strange delights to be found here. I recommend it.
Overall, I managed to read 5 novels, 1 RPG and RPG product, 2 magazines, 9 comics, and 0 graphic novels in August. This brings the year total in 2019 to a set of numbers that look like this: 57 books, 10 RPGs and RPG products, 14 magazines, 127 comics, and 3 graphic novels.
Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. :)