Saturday, February 22, 2020

2019 Nebula Award Finalists Announced

Serendipity Strikes!

As followers of my blog will have noticed, I only completed my review of Marque of Caine by Charles E. Gannon last week. And guess what? Marque of Caine has been nominated for the Nebulas!

. . . (A little bit of a trend where this series is concerned, as Charles Gannon’s books are extremely popular and always end up doing rather well). And this year’s awards are no exception.

Well done to Charles Gannon, especially, along with all the other nominees.

And tooting my own horn for a moment . . .
You will see from the list that I’ve read quite a few of those who have been nominated, highlighting what fine taste I have when it comes to my own personal library.

In a nutshell, that should prompt YOU to keep tuning in, as you’ll always find my latest reviews of the finest speculative fiction right here . . .

Thursday, February 20, 2020

My Thoughts On. . .

(Nebula Finalist)

Marque of Caine
Set two years after Caine Riordan was relieved of his command – for doing the right thing – our longsuffering protagonist finally receives the message he’s been waiting for: a summons to visit the Dornaani on their home world.
It seems Caine’s hopes of discovering the current location and welfare of his long-lost love, Elena Corcoran, (mother to his seventeen year old son, Connor), has taken a positive step forward at last.
However, there’s no silver lining to the clouds waiting on the horizon. As Caine discovers, time may have passed, but his principles and loyalty ensure he remains a political radioactive hot potato. Bureaucratically instigated obstacles ensure he remains stymied by a frustrating conveyor belt of one step forward, and two steps back red tape. It’s not until Caine takes matters into his own hands that he makes progress . . . if being impeded at every turn and led down countless dead ends can be construed as progress.
And why might this be the case?
The Dornaani culture is crumbling. They may come from a super-sophisticated civilization where technology is so advanced that it makes what human’s possess seem like a primitive sticks & stones society, but they’ve lost the will to create anything new. A malady that has grown steadily more insidious with each passing century. Instead of reaching out to explore and extend their understanding of the universe, the Dornaani are now more content to evade the pressures of real life and immerse themselves within VR sims where their every whim is catered to. Yes, their existence is slowly festering from within.
The thing is, both the planting of the seeds and subsequent cultivation of this spreading rot appears deliberate. Does that mean stagnation is a prelude to something more sinister? And how does that tie in to Caine and Elena?
We find out, in an epically complex tale, where plots within plots weave a textured web of prejudice, racial avarice and duplicity. Little wonder, then, that Caine ends up despairing. Will he ever actually make it home?

Saturday, February 1, 2020

My Rave Review Of. . .

Gideon the Ninth
Born into servitude in the dreariest, most dismal of the great necromantic houses; raised by a coven of wizened old nuns possessing all the warmth of a frozen graves; surrounded by decrepit, unfeeling retainers; harangued by countless skeletons (Don’t forget the skeletons!); and shunned by just about everyone she knows, Gideon Nav hates her life.
The only thing going in her favor is the fact that she’s an accomplished swordswoman. Not that anybody cares. So, she risks everything by launching the latest in a string of daring escape attempts with the aim of running away and joining the military.
Of course, things don’t go as planned, and she is foiled at the last second by her greatest rival, Harrowhark Nonagesimus, the Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House, and bone witch extraordinaire, who demands Gideon stay and do the Ninth House one last service – a service that will guarantee Gideon the freedom to pursue her dreams.
The catch? (Because you know, there’s just gotta be one)
A call has been issued by none other than the Emperor – Necrolord Prime and King of the Nine Renewals – for new postulants willing to submit themselves for the position of Lyctor, (all-powerful immortal servants of the everlasting resurrection), to help him fight against the empire’s greatest foes.
Okay . . . but what’s the actual catch?
Well, no necromancer can ascend to lyctorhood without their cavalier – a sword-wielding champion – by their side. For the trials require them to act as one, brain and brawn together, to stand a chance of succeeding. And the Ninth’s cavalier is not only unwilling to accept the challenge, he’s next to useless anyway. Thus Harrowhark’s ultimatum. If Gideon is willing to serve as her sword-hand throughout the trials, she’ll be released from servitude forevermore, with full honors.
You KNOW there’s still a catch, don’t you?
And it’s rather delicious . . . (Don’t worry – NO SPOILERS).
Gideon and Harrowhark end up on a decaying world in a mazelike facility run by ancient wardens. Once there, they are required to complete a baffling series of complex, mind-bending, life-threatening tests, while fending off the murderous shenanigans of the representatives of the other houses. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Gideon also has to contend with her hate/hate relationship with Harrowhark, one based on manipulation and betrayal which has come to blows in the past.
Oh the joy of skeletons in the closet making things more complicated.
And they do – because those skeletons I mentioned are everywhere, and neither woman can hope to survive unless they trust one another enough to cooperate fully.
Do they?
You’ll find out, it what I can honestly say is one of the most subtly appealing stories I’ve read in a long time. That it’s moody, macabre and gothic goes without saying. You only have to get a look at the cover to receive a hint of what’s coming. But it’s what’s inside those dark uncomfortable pages that will haunt you. For it whispers in your ear, enticing you; it spellbinds you to accept the unbalanced and the bizarre as normal; it keeps you on a knife-edge and at a distance, so that when the hooks do eventually sink in, you’ll willingly let yourself be drawn to the other side and immersed in a miscreation of woe.
It’s a grim world the author, Tamsyn Muir has painted. As psychologically draining as it is harsh; as unforgiving as it is hostile. But gritty humor and incisor-sharp dialogue help the narrative along at a bone-jarring pace. And therein lies its balance and appeal.
And the weird thing is, it’s not until the end – during the emotionally charged, action packed, blood & guts climax – that the full power of this story truly hits you.
Wow! I loved it. A movie in the making if ever there was one.