OK, so I’ve fallen a bit behind in my SF/F Book Club book reviews. I’m going to catch up with all the ones that have been accumulating in one fell swoop, with just 2-3 paragraphs each. Here we go!
Black Sun, by Rebecca Roanhorse
Synopsis: An evil god will be summoned in a few days to swallow the sun, and our protagonsts are the ones that need to summon it!
Mini-Book Club Review: What a freakin’ great premise, right? Fantasy novels often have a great evil god that’ll devour the world being summoned, and our heroes have to prevent it. It’s rarely asked why the people destroying the world are doing that… it’s usually just So The Book Can Happen. So the idea of exploring the villians to find out why a real person would do something like this is pretty damn intruiging.
Unfortunately, much of the book is taken up by a priestess POV character that is being set up to be the protagonist of this series, and she’s by far the least interesting charecter in the book. I groaned every time I saw a chapter was starting with her. Basically everyone in my book club agreed that she sucked, and the pirate queen character was fucking badass and we shoulda got a lot more of her instead.
Also unfortunately, the novel didn’t actually take the premise to heart. It wasn’t a novel exploring the motivations of the villians, insomuch as it was a prologue for a series. As a prologue, it should have only been a few chapters long. It was drawn out into full novel length because Everything Has To Be A Series if you want to make money in this industry, and that means a lot of words for padding for most projects, because not everything makes for a good series. We all suffer as a result.
And lastly, this book has the misfortune of only being a few years behind The Fifth Season, which was the best book exploring why someone would want to literaly Destroy The World that’s been written in decades (and maybe ever). The Fifth Season doesn’t just make you understand why someone would destroy the world, it makes you want to destroy it too, and you cheer on the Bringer of Destruction. Black Sun pales in comparison. It could have been a good read if it wasn’t trying to be a series, and/or focussed on it’s strengths. Alas: Not Recommended
Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir
Synopsis: Basically The Martian Part 2: Even Farther From Home.
Mini-Book Club Review: Honestly, there’s not much for me to say here. Did you like The Martian? Then you get more of The Martian! But not in the bad way, where you feel like you’re just reading the same stuff. It’s technically a different charecter, he’s stranded around a distant sun and cannot contact Earth, and he needs to do science to save the human race instead of to get off Mars. But he’s got the same personality, encounters puzzling engineering and science challenges that alternately endanger either his life or the continued existence of humanity, and he resolves conflict by sciencing the shit out of things. It’s absolutely delightful. If you liked The Martian, you’ll like this. I loved The Martian, so Strongly Recommended!
Sandman Slim, by Richard Kadrey
Synopsis: Take The Dresden Files, but replace Harry with Eric Draven from The Crow.
Mini-Book Club Review: This could be a standard “dude returns from Hell for revenge” story, which I always enjoy, because The Crow is one of the best movies of the 90s. But Kadrey decided that he was tired of struggling, and it was time for him to write a popular series so he could start making some decent money from writing. The thing is, Kadrey is a long-established writer with many great individual works. He knows what he’s doing. So when he cashes in, it’s done pretty well. The revenge story is altered enough to support a long-running series. A cornicopia of fun and quirky supporting characters are introduced, as well as colorful recurring villians. Plus, Lucifer!
So, if you want to read a darker, more violent, noir-inspired revenge-bent Dresden Files series, this is for you. However, it’s way too commercial for my taste. I see everything being set up, some of it a little bit TOO obviously (“I’ll find a way to avenge my master!!!!” a demon boy yells at our protag near the end, at which point the protag just lets him go instead of kicking him into a turbine or something.) I see how the biting edges are taken off all the characters (antiheroes and villains alike) to make them more palatable to middle-america and Readers of Almost All Ages. I hear it’s done well, and I’m not surprised. I’m just not interested. Not Recommended
Harrow the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir
Synopsis: Harrow tries to cope with Gideon’s death while serving God in what turns out to be a den of betrayal, deciet, jealousy, and backstabbing. And yes, it’s still super goth.
Mini-Book Club Review: Did you love Gideon the Ninth as much as I did? Then you’ll really like this! You probably won’t love it, because it’s not Gideon the Ninth, and honestly not quite as good. But it’s still atmospheric as fuck. Insanely cool. And so, so gloomy and goth. Also, there’s a whole “psychodrama going on inside Harrow’s head” section which I didn’t realize wasn’t actually inside Harrow’s head, it was a literal purgatory area that can have major effects on the real world, including attacking gods and/or interplanatary monstrosities! I don’t know if that’s a spoiler, but it was very much NOT well communicated, and I would have liked the book a lot better if it had been communicated better from the start that this really is real and does matter outside of “does Harrow go crazy or not?”. So, there’s that.
But even given that SNAFU, this is the sequel to Gideon the Ninth!! How are you NOT going to read it? It’s still really good, and I can’t wait for the next one!! Strongly Recommended
Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch
Synopsis: A bunch of lame bullshit
Mini-Book Club Review: I don’t even want to waste the time to rag on this. The world is nonsensical and contradictory. The plot is weak as hell. And there are no real charecters in here, there are just cardboard cutouts of people that do stuff to go to the next scene no matter how incoherent it is. Crouch isn’t an writer, he’s just someone crapping words onto a page and assuming his audience is too braindead to notice that he doesn’t care about anything he’s doing. Strongly Not Recommended
Yay, so glad this is back. Thanks for the recommendations. Though I would have enjoyed an expanded section with your thoughts on Andy Weir’s new book.