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Book Probe: Bitter Greens, Zombies And Calculus, Stitching Snow
Reviewed by Joe Crowe, @revolutionsf, © 2014

Format: Book
By:   Various artists
Genre:   Various artists
Review Date:   October 07, 2014

You need new books. You need them now. Here are some good ones. Buy often! (Links are in the titles.)

Trader: Man With No Face by R.K. Mann

"Ridiculous. This is the 35th century, not the dark ages."

Space opera is fun. That's why I dug this. It has alien races, spaceships that have names, and a dude with no face. Was that obvious from the book's title?

It's a space adventure with romance, derring-do and fighting. All the characters seem lived-in and familiar, even though this is the first book. That's a tremendous success for a writer to achieve.

I could go either way with having tons of alien races and terms. There is no glossary here. Inundating a story with alien names and races is difficult, but a glossary makes it too easy. I would flip to the glossary all the time, which takes me away from the story. With no glossary, you have to really stay focused on the story. That's a good thing.

Give this one a shot. You can never have too many stories with aliens and spaceships.

Severance by Chris Bucholz

“Throughout the course of human history, peeing on your boss’s living room floor has always been regarded as a pretty bad move.”

Spaceships carrying the future of humanity are not usually this fun.

The book isn’t completely a comedy, but it is funny, and it approaches a topic that is never handled in that way. Early in the book, grown men fight while dressed as babies, and that’s not the silliest thing that happens. This serves as a warning to future space farers: Be sure we have something to do when we wake up from cryogenic sleep.

Severance is more of a workplace comedy/drama than a sci-fi story. The story is different from the stoic, over-serious ways most stories approach post-apocalypse survival society. It’s a positive, fun experience. For that alone, it deserves a look.

Red Ice by Susie Cornfield

He has not gone for good. He has gone for evil. The story starts with God and Mother Nature arguing about mankind, and it gets better from there. It’s the third book in a series, but it’s readable on its own. I say that because I read it on its own without the previous two. Now I am going back for them, because they must be something like this.

It’s about teens trying to save mankind from adults who are total douchebags and the devil, who throws kinks into the whole program, as devils ware prone to do. Like any good villain, he’s hilarious.

The book is huge, 770 pages, and it’s crammed with ideas about philosophy, religion and science. Mostly, however, it’s a clever action-adventure story, filled with memorable characters and outlandish storylines. Then when the story ends, the book concludes with short stories about the fates of all the characters. Boom! Sequel averted.

The Copernicus Legacy by Tony Abbott

"Make no movements. Give us relic and dagger."

"Seriously? He's clarifying his threats? Who does that?"

Four adventuring kids chase after a magic artifact to save their kidnapped mom from a villain.

I’ve seen this kind of thing before. But I get it. It’s just fun.

Each kid has a distinct personality. One’s a bookworm. One’s a tech genius. One’s the leader. It’s almost like they’re ninja turtles. Each mystery and puzzle is intricate. All that is wrapped up in a crazy globe-traveling adventure. More in this series are in the works. All it needs is a cartoon-style theme song. Get to work on that, people!

Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis

”Tell the guards I’m going to visit the drones and I’ll break anyone who tries to stop me.”

I like alternative versions of classic stories. You can call them homages. Tributes. Ripoffs, if you’re not feeling well today. This one does that to Snow White. Homages of Snow White have been done often, but this is one of the good ones.. It puts two things together that I know a lot about: Snow White and sci-fi, and together they get a stew going.

The setting is alien planets, and Snow White is Essie. As the story starts, she lives on on an ice world with robot miners. Guess how many there are.

That’s right! Seven! They’re precious. One of them is Dimwit. Another is Cusser. I can’t stay mad at them.

Essie is a five-star hero, far tougher than her counterpart, the movie Snow White. That bar is pretty low, considering Snow in the movie gladly accepted fruit from strange women. The space action revs up as the book progresses, and eventually it’s a breakneck-paced action story with betrayal, fighting and good fun of that sort.

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

I laughed and went on my way. He was afraid of me, the coward. He should be.”

Kate Forsyth whipped together the Rapunzel fairy tale as it was originally published in 1634, a retelling in 1698 and the true story of the life of Rapunzel’s original writer, Charlotte-Rose de la Force. It’s not historical fiction, it’s an adventure with magic, courtly intrigue and a female hero. It’s a showcase for how that kind of character is done.

By that I mean, she owns her own struggles and she rebels against them.

You must hear the story of Rapunzel’s writer. She’s incredible. I had no idea. Research is good. This book is a testament to the things you can find when you look.

The Last Hero by Nathaniel Danes

This book is military space action, but its emotional core is the key to its success. The hero has a daughter, which I highly recommend to anybody.

The strong emotional content is the foundation of a healthy construct of explosions and fighting. Can a book do both well? Sure. Here it is. I could have used more commas, and more proofreading. I can’t un-see such things. It’s a curse. But hey, your mileage may vary.

The fighting is boldly written, with the cathartic thrill of good guys beating up bad guys.

As for the stuff with the dad and his daughter, this book struck me right in the feelings. I also highly recommend that.

Silverblind by Tina Connolly

”How could you not find a basilisk, when supposedly they’re as big as a trolley car?”

Fey are hot stuff in the fantasy genre, so it’s tough to dig through the bad fey stories to get to the good fey stories. If all you want to read is fey stories, good or bad, you can do that. But given the option, I would choose “good.” Tina Connolly’s Silverblind is a good one. It takes place after a war between humans and fey, and come on. Who goes to war with the fey? There are tons of other magic creatures to fight with. Uncool.

This is the third part of a series, but it’s really a new story in the same setting as the previous two. In this one, a half-breed lady disguises herself as a boy to get a researcher job, because in this world, not only do they go to war with fey, they also are sexist a-holes.

Silverblind talks through gender issues while its characters deal with wyverns. And it has a young wyvern named Woglet who is just the cutest and it makes me squee, and I am not ashamed.

Orbs II: Straneded by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Much like on the 80s TV show V, aliens invade and take our water. Unlike on V, there’s no easy shootin’ or fightin’ way to beat them.

Secret biospheres are the humans’ last outpost, and thus begins a solid action-adventure alien-fightin’ story. It includes alien bad guys, sci-fi weapons, a bold gambit, a climactic battle. All good things, along with an ending that easily makes me think of a triumphant 80s movie theme. But I knew I’d like the story early on: Only a few pages in, this exceptional line appears:

He’d escaped into a sewage line, covered in hog manure and his friends’ blood.

If I wasn’t already reading the book, that would make me read this book.

Zombies and Calculus by Colin Adams

”Both you and the zombie travel around your respective circles in the same amount of time. You travel the circumference of your circle, which is 2pi multiplied by R, where R is the radius of your circle.

Colin Adams has put together a crazy idea: Increase understanding of calculus via the zombie apocalypse. His book is not an introduction to calculus. You need working knowledge. I had very little of that. I knew that calculus made my brain dissolve in twelfth grade, and I’ve tried desperately to stay away from it since. Thanks to this book, I understand it more now. Adams really applies the math in a way that keeps my brain relatively intact.

The story is fun and good if you’re not in it for the calculus. But when you aim to expand the mathematical portions of your mind, this book will take care of you.

After finishing Zombies and Calculus, I still am not sure which one I fear most.

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