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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

Recently read: "All You Need is Kill" by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

All You Need Is Kill

Another Haikasoru book, and one that I liked a lot (not quite as much as Usurper of the Sun or The Next Continent).  James Nicoll has been reviewing the Haikasoru books, and gives a good run down of this one here.

We have Keiji Kiriya, a Japanese solider fighting against the "Mimics", aliens which are invading Earth (they appear to be part of a "terraforming" process for the eventual intelligent aliens).  Even with power armor (called Jackets here) humans are having trouble holding their own.

Keiji dies in his first combat experience...and then wakes up the day before the battle.  He learns that he is in some sort of time loop, returning after each combat death to the same moment the day before.  He can alter events within the loop, but always returns upon his death.

In each iteration, he notices Rita Vrataski (the "Full Metal Bitch") who is a legendary American solider.  He then finds out that Rita is aware of the loops, and knows how to break the cycle.

This is a short book, so there's not a lot of depth in the other characters, though the author does give you background on Rita.  Keiji is falling in love with Rita (and she with him) but there will be a price to be paid for causing the loop to end.

This is a fast moving, well written book, and I hope it gets some traction here in the US.  I will say that based upon the cover art, it's not a book that I would have normally picked up, though it does help that it has a cover blurb from John Scalzi.

Recently read: "The Dogs of Rome" by Conor Fitzgerald

The Dogs of Rome

The first novel by Fitzgerald, and the first of what is meant to be a series about police chief commissioner Alec Blume, an American expatriate living in Rome.

Blume, a teenager when his art historians parents were murdered during a bank robbery, has grown up to be a loner, but also a sharp police officer.  When an animal rights activist, who's wife is also a prominent politician, is killed, Blume must deal with interference from his superiors as he zeros in on his suspect.  The victim had ties to the mob (his mistress being the daughter of the local mob chief) and was instrumental in in exposing a dog fighting ring.

I enjoyed the book, though it was hard to get a handle on Blume.  He's written as such an outsider, there seems to be no "hook" into his character.  I also had to try and understand the Roman police bureaucracy, which was unfamiliar to me, and the sense that casual corruption is an excepted thing (perhaps not that different from modern American police mysteries).

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Recently read: "Hogdoggin'" by Anthony Neil Smith


The second "Billy Lafitte" novel, after Yellow Medicine (which I reviewed here) and the third book by Smith that I've read (the last was Choke on Your Lies, reviewed here).

Our "hero" Lafitte, after the collapse of his career as a deputy in Yellow Medicine (Minnesota), is the right hand man/enforcer of "Steel God", the giant leader of a motorcycle gang in North Dakota, who's leadership is starting to be questioned as his health declines.  FBI Agent Rome, banished to New Orleans for his hot dog actions going after Lafitte, has hatched a plan to lure Lafitte back to the Gulf Coast by focusing on his ex wife.

Lafitte tells Steel God that he has to go, and heads south on his turquoise-blue chopper.  Bad things happen along the way, and Rome, with his fellow agents, are coming to meet him.

If possible, this book is even darker than Yellow Medicine.  Smith takes his characters deeper into violence, with nearly everyone making bad decisions.

Recently read: "In the Shadow of Ares" by Thomas James & Carl Carlsson

In the Shadow of Ares (Amber's Mars)

This is a self published Kindle book (one of the authors, James, is a Lockheed Martin engineer).  After a prolog in 2029, showing the disappearance of the Ares III mission, the book is set on 2051, as colonization of Mars has started.  Amber Jacobsen is 14, and a minor celebrity as "the first kid on Mars".  She would just like to be able to live on Earth and be a normal teenager.

After her family's homestead is destroyed by an accident, her mother finds a job at the independent settlement near Noctis Labyrinthus.  Anxious to show her worth, Amber tries to be of use, but most of the colonists see her as a distraction, even a burden.  As a way to prove her use to the colony (and Mars) she vows to find out what happened to the Ares III mission. 

There's a lot of politics here, as the colonists are continually at odds with the Mars Development Authority (MDA) (the book is written with a heavy dose of free market economics) and Amber's investigations give the MDA a reason to try and take over the colony. 

There's a mystery, with hints of some sort of conspiracy, and danger to Amber (in an almost "Nancy Drew" sort of way) which I found reasonably enjoyable.  I did feel that some of the villains weren't well drawn (that is, their motives seem to come out of left field) and the MDA is almost a strawman opponent for the authors economic arguments (and that with me agreeing with the core of their libertarianism).  The science is pretty good overall, and they've given some thought to how the settlements would be set up. 

Overall, a retty good read, though I did have some problems with the formatting on my Kindle.