Saturday, October 31, 2015

One Sentence Reviews: October

I started Actually Writing again, so my free time is limited--both for reading books and for reviewing them. Which is a shame, because I have read some great books this month! Please consider everything rated 3 stars and higher to have my recommendation, and pick yourself up a copy while I work on proper writeups.

Except for Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente. Wait for the review on that one. It's not a book to be approached casually.

October 2015

  • The Coyote Trilogy by Allen Steele (2002, sci-fi)
    • Political dissidents steal the first interstellar colonization ship, so that the next human-inhabited planet will be settled by lovers of freedom. -- It might have been good, if the author hadn't recoiled from any scenes of actual tension or resolution. 2.5/5 stars. (Full review here!)
  • Gifts by Ursula K. LeGuin (2004, YA fantasy)
    • Border chieftain fighting to protect his village with magical talent blinds his own son to limit his destructive capacity. - A smaller and warmer story than I expected, focusing on the dynamics of inheritance and disability rather than on magic and adventure. 3.5/5 stars.
  • A Week To Be Wicked by Tessa Dare (2012, historical romance)
    • Unorthodox spinster recruits local rake to ruin her reputation, thereby sparing her sisters, in exchange for the prize money she plans to win at a paleontology symposium; kissing ensues. - Hilariously convoluted shenanigans still turned into a charming, silly story. 4/5 stars.
  • A Lady By Midnight by Tessa Dare (2012, historical romance)
    • Birthmarked servant girl is eagerly adopted by potential noble relations; local grouchy ex-soldier suspects foul play; kissing ensues. - Apparently only every other romance I read is worth the giggles. 1/5 stars.
  • Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear (2015, steampunk)
    • House of prostitutes band together to protect their own from a cruel politician and a serial killer. - The character development never deepens past first impressions, but it's a great adventure and a fresh flavor in steampunk. 3.5/5 stars.
  • Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente (2011, historical fairy tale)
    • Traditional Russian folklore becomes even more bleak seen through the lens of Soviet culture and the siege of Leningrad. - One of the most masterfully executed novels I have ever had the good fortune to read; also the cruelest, and not for reading lightly. 5/5 stars.
  • Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch (2007, fantasy)
    • (Sequel to The Lies of Locke Lamora) After two years setting up an elaborate heist, con men are blackmailed into political schemes involving pretend piracy and real chaos. - The sequel is as fun and white-knuckle intense as the first, doubling up on the danger and the heartache (and the number of female characters!) 4.5/5 stars.
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (2002, contemporary)
    • Teenager murdered by a neighbor watches from her unsatisfying heaven while her friends and family struggle to come to terms with her death. - The sort of book that blows the mind of people who don't read very much and are amazed to find a story more interesting than their high school reading assignments, which is not to say it isn't interesting. Just not very impactful. 3/5 stars.
(Thanks for sticking around for another year of Book Grumps!)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Series Review: "Coyote" by Allen Steele

With Earth in political and ecological ruin, the discovery of a new habitable planet means a second chance. On Coyote, humanity can start over--or retread the same bloodstained paths it always has.

The United Republic of America has spared no expense--and no few lives--to develop the first interstellar colony ship. But a group of dissident intellectuals is determined that the Coyote colony will not be under the thumb of the corrupt regime.

The conspiracy to steal the URSS Alabama goes all the way to the top. On the eve of launch, Captain Lee smuggles rebel would-be colonists aboard. It is an all-or-nothing chance. Whether or not the new planet can support human civilization, they will learn the hard way--with no hope of return to Earth.


The Coyote Trilogy by Allen Steele (2002)
2.5 out of 5 stars 

Complexity of Writing: 3/5
Quality of Writing: 3/5
Strength of Characterization: 2/5
Logic of Plot Development: 2/5
Evocation of Setting: 3/5
Effectiveness of Pacing: 2/5
Resolution of Conflict: 2/5
Emotional Engagement: 1/5
Mental Engagement: 2/5
Memorability: 2/5
Bechdel Test: pass
Diverse Cast: pass
Content Warning: character deaths, ambient misogyny, ambient racism
Overall Response: The author fails to really grip his topic, and skims over plot and characters.


More Thoughts: I'm hard up for good science fiction. Sci-fi westerns? Even better. When I read a delightful short story of Allen Steele's in the anthology Year's Best SF 9, entitled "The Madwoman of Shuttlefield," I raced to get my hands on the full series that inspired it. 

As it happens, the Coyote series makes for good plane reading, but I wouldn't go out of my way to read it again.