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7/10
Review: Magicians Impossible by Brad Abraham
Reviews / September 12, 2017

Magicians Impossible is a fun and exciting adventure that introduces magic to our world. I think this book should do well with readers that are fans of The Magicians by Lev Grossman. It features an older protagonist than a typical coming into powers or magic school book, and with just one or two exceptions, he has been a loner for most of his life. After the death of his estranged father, Jason’s world turns upside down and he finds himself part of something quite unexpected. I liked Jason’s character. He definitely has some flaws and has managed to create very few personal connections in his life, particularly for someone that seems likable. He is resentful of his absentee father (who just died), and through some flashbacks, we can see some of his disappointments as a child. He grew up believing magic was just simple slight of hand as opposed to actual magic. After the death of his father, he learns there is such a thing as real magic as well as about the communities that are a part of that previously invisible and unknown part of the world. The Invisible Hand is a training institute that turns those found to…

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6/10
Review: Hannah Green and her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence by Michael Marshall Smith
Reviews / September 4, 2017

Hannah’s world is turned upside down when her parents split up. But when the Devil wakens from a long nap to discover someone is stealing the evil deeds of humanity, Hannah and her family will be central to putting this right. For various shades of right. He is the Devil, after all. I’ve been a big fan of Michael Marshall Smith for years, and his books are few and far enough between that a new one is always a celebration (yes, there are Michael Marshall books between times, but they’re not usually quite the same). I like his narrative tone of voice, and his way of twisting aspects of the real world; I like his ability to provoke melancholy and capture heartache. So Hannah Green and her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence had a burden of expectation to live up to – and sets its stall out from the start as being somewhat different to the rest of MMS’s body of (long-form) work. The prologue is mischievous and knowing, breaking the fourth wall and playing with expectations (if anything, it reminds me of the voice-over at the start of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). And for the first time, we get a heroine – and…

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8/10
Review: Soul of the World by David Mealing
Reviews / August 14, 2017

Soul of the World is a good debut that sets the stage for an epic, world spanning series featuring magic, fantastical creatures and beasts. Three very different perspectives are used to give us the world view, which features a new and old world, and while there are different names, it feels much like England, France and the Americas. Aruk’Jar gives insights into the wilds and tribal life and customs. There is a strong tradition of gender roles here and even the magic is split according to “women’s magic”. But we do see strong females here, women can hold on to that magic as a power for themselves. Aruk’Jar has a very “do the right thing” type of personality and is driven to his best for the benefit of his tribe. Erris shows the reader what life is like on the battlefield and an understanding of the war that is going on. She is in command of a military campaign and is doing a stellar job (I love women who excel in military positions). I really like Erris, she is a strong leader and soldier. She also has magic to aid her, and uses that to her advantage in keeping her…

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8/10
Review: Raid by K. S. Merbeth
Reviews / August 8, 2017

In Raid, Merbeth takes us back to the wastes where we can see all the violence and messiness that comes with it. If you haven’t read Bite, I can sum it up as a post-apocalyptic type, mad max type of world. With cannibals (or sharks as they are called in the books). It can be an isolating world, and the perspective of Clementine really highlights this. She hunts raiders, who destroy and endanger towns, but it also actually feeds her isolation. People may be happy for her work killing raiders, but her ability to do so is alarming. Clementine is not exactly a person anyone would like to be the “girl next door”. She came in to violence at a very young age, and discovered she had quite a knack for it. While it earned respect and admiration of her fellow townsfolk, once on her own, she never could find quite where she fit in. She takes to violence and killing almost too easily, her ability to take another’s life can be quite disarming to normal folk, but it is also how she survives and how she knows to make her world at least a little bit better (by taking…

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8/10
Review: Tomorrow’s Kin by Nancy Kress
Reviews / July 31, 2017

I’m always up for a good tale of alien first contact, and Tomorrow’s Kin definitely fit the bill. Expanding upon the author’s Nebula Award-winning novella Yesterday’s Kin, this book is told in multiple sections, first chronicling the arrival of the extra-terrestrials before exploring the far-reaching repercussions in the latter parts of the novel. It is New York City, sometime in the near future. Humanity now knows for certain they are not alone in universe. When the “Debnebs” first arrived, people were scared—understandably. But as time passed and the aliens proved themselves to be peaceful, life on Earth returned to relative normalcy. The visitors even had their Embassy ship parked on a platform in the middle of New York Harbor, even though pretty much everything about them still remains a great mystery. At first, they would only speak to the United Nations, claiming that their physiologies were too different to withstand Earth’s atmosphere and thus they must stay on their ship. No one has any idea what they look like, or what they want. But suddenly, two months later, they are finally ready to talk. For Dr. Marianne Jenner, the invitation to the Debneb Embassy comes as one of the biggest surprises…

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8/10
Review: The Waking Land by Callie Bates
Reviews / July 17, 2017

The Waking Land is a gorgeous new fantasy novel from debut author Callie Bates, and it was on my wishlist long before I had the opportunity to read it. There are just certain types of stories, while not entirely groundbreaking or new to the genre, that are just irresistible to me, and this is one of them. The book encompasses a lot of the elements I love, including a courageous heroine, an evocative magic system tied to the living earth, and a complex world built upon the political alliances and animosities between various kingdoms. Things get off to a rather intense start, with the prologue opening on the scene of an interrupted dinner party. Our protagonist Elanna Valtai, five years old at this point, watches as her nurse is murdered in front of her eyes. Meanwhile, King Antoine and the rest of his royal guards are storming the house downstairs, putting an end to her father’s rebellion. To ensure no more attempted uprisings, Elanna’s parents are banished back to their ancestral home of Caeris, while Elanna herself is seized as a hostage, to be raised in the king’s household in Eren. Fourteen years pass. For all that she is an…

Raven Stratagem - Yoon Ha Lee (space ships in battle)
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9/10
Review: Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee
Reviews / July 13, 2017

Kel Cheris, half-possessed by the ghost of notorious General Shuos Jedao, survived an assassination attempt that wiped out her entire fleet. Or did she? Physical appearances aside, it appears to be Jedao who usurps command aboard the Hierarchy of Feasts. Formation instinct compels the Kel to follow Jedao – but will he really defend the Hexarchate from the Hafn? Or will he betray them to their deaths? Ninefox Gambit was one of my favourite books last year, although not all reviewers shared my enthusiasm for its unapologetically oblique world-building and its obsession with the ethics of war. In Raven Stratagem, the core dilemma is much the same – can the ghost of the mass-murdering general be trusted? – but this time we see the action strictly through outside eyes. Enter General Kel Khiruev, tormented by her enforced loyalties to both the Hexarchate and – unwillingly – to Jedao as her superior officer. Haunted by childhood memories of her mother executing her father for heresy, it’s only Kel formation instinct that suppresses her doubts about the Hexarchate. When Jedao arrives, she can’t resist the urge to obey him even knowing Kel Command wants him dead. By contrast, Lieutenant Colonel Kel Brezan has weak…

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9/10
Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
Reviews / July 10, 2017

Before even starting to review Borne just let me ask you to take a look at the cover I’ve chosen.  It’s strangely hypnotic isn’t it, you want to look at it, to make sense of it, just turn it around slightly or turn it upside down even. I suppose there’s something in us all that makes us want to find the sense of something, figure out the puzzle and give it a name we understand.  Frankly, I couldn’t make sense of the image on the cover and having read the book I’m still not entirely sure what is being depicted, but, in spite of that, I love the cover, it drew me in and held my attention and more than that is a great representation for this book because I don’t think there is any one fixed image – for me, the point is the image could be anything that your mind comes up with whilst reading this. I was compelled by this read.  I was partly scared to pick it up because I always make the assumption that I’m not going to fully grasp what’s actually going on, but, as I was reading I began to appreciate that it…

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9/10
Review: Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory
Reviews / June 26, 2017

What do you get when you mix clairvoyance and psychokinesis with Cold War secret agents, the Chicago mob, shady con artists, and a dysfunctional family undergoing a crisis of zany proportions? You get Spoonbenders, a wildly original, humorous, and unexpectedly heartwarming tale of paranormal drama. This book had everything in it—and I do mean EVERYTHING—but I’ve seen Daryl Gregory pull off some pretty amazing things with an even stranger mishmash of ideas, so I never doubted for a second that he would be able to pull this off. Spoonbenders introduces us to the Telemachus family, whose members made brief waves in the 70s by dazzling late-night talk show audiences with their amazing psychic abilities. At the head of this act is Teddy Telemachus, who ironically is the only one with no real power of his own, though he does make up for it by being a smooth and charismatic master swindler. The true talent was his wife Maureen, who is said to be the most powerful psychic in the world. And in their individual ways, each of their children inherited a bit of their mother’s gifts: Irene is a human lie detector, able to fox out the smallest insincerities or…

Shattered Minds - Laura Lam (an eye with a graphic treatment suggestive of shards of glass streaming out of it)
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8/10
Review: Shattered Minds by Laura Lam
Reviews / June 19, 2017

Carina Kearney is a rising star at Sudice Inc, a gifted neuroprogrammer on a highly sensitive research project to record the lived experience: senses, feelings, memories. She’s also a cold-blooded killer. Scared of her urges, Carina flees her job and embraces Zeal addiction instead, drowning herself in drug-induced sprees of virtual murder. But her mentor Roz has ambitions far beyond brain recording, and Carina is key to her success. How can Carina escape her in a near-future California where any brain can be hacked? And can she ever escape herself? Shattered Minds is a companion novel to last year’s excellent False Hearts, set once again in Laura Lam’s Pacifica – a crime-free, poverty-free near-future California shaped by ubiquitous surveillance and bleeding edge technology. You can make Shattered Minds your point of entry to this universe if you wish: it stands alone – although spoilers in passing for the outcome of the first novel mean you’re better to read them in order. And you really should read False Hearts, because it’s excellent. So is Shattered Minds. That said: Shattered Minds requires a thick skin. Hearts beats with emotions from the first page, circling tightly around the bond between its twin protagonists, their love a…