Book Review – Seed by Ania Ahlborn

Seed by Ania Ahlborn

Seed by Ania Ahlborn

The blurb terrorises:

With nothing but the clothes on his back—and something horrific snapping at his heels—Jack Winter fled his rural Georgia home when he was still just a boy. Watching the world he knew vanish in a trucker’s rearview mirror, he thought he was leaving an unspeakable nightmare behind forever. But years later, the bright new future he’s built suddenly turns pitch black, as something fiendishly familiar looms dead ahead.

When Jack, his wife Aimee, and their two small children survive a violent car crash, it seems like a miracle. But Jack knows what he saw on the road that night, and it wasn’t divine intervention. The profound evil from his past won’t let them die…at least not quickly. It’s back, and it’s hungry; ready to make Jack pay for running, to work its malignant magic on his angelic youngest daughter, and to whisper a chilling promise: I’ve always been here, and I’ll never leave.

The blurb isn’t lying, but I still somehow ended up with a wrong impression of what this book was going to be like.

I’m not sure what I expected, but this is a horror novel.  I do not like horror.

It’s a book about a father watching something horrible happen to his children, and I’m a father who does not want to watch something horrible happen to his children.  It took me an unusually long time to read this book because I don’t want things like that in my head.

The book is set in The South (specifically Georgia and Louisiana).  If there was one thing that could have raised my estimation of the book, it would have been that it was true to the setting.  I’m hardly an expert, but I do live in Georgia and it didn’t really feel like it took place in The South to me.  The biggest contribution of the setting seemed to be that the house the characters lived in was isolated, but that could be true of rural anywhere.

Finally, there are a bunch of unanswered questions and inconsistencies, which is just annoying.

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Book Review – Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

The blurb charms:

This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative—like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it—but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly. So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book:

Pictures
Words
Stories about things that happened to me
Stories about things that happened to other people because of me
Eight billion dollars*
Stories about dogs
The secret to eternal happiness*

*These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!

This is one of the few books in the last few years that I’ve chosen to get in paper rather than eBook form.  Since the book contains a lot of illustrations, I thought I would be losing out by reading it on a black & white Kindle screen.

The book is part blog, part cartoon, part biography and part essay, so it really doesn’t have a plot per se.  Most of it is extremely funny and parts of it are painfully honest.  The section on depression should be required reading for anyone who knows a person with depression.

The art is quirky and supports the tone of the book.  Most of it is pretty amateurish, like most (non artist) people would draw.  Interestingly while the people are barely people-shaped the dogs are quite accurately portrayed, which may say something about the author’s view on the world.

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Book Review – The Obsidian Heart by Mark T. Barnes

The Obsidian Heart by Mark T. Barnes

The Obsidian Heart by Mark T. Barnes

The blurb says:

An uneasy peace has settled over the Shrīanese Empire, and for Indris and Mari, a life together just might be possible. But while the fighting may be over, the struggle between the two great Houses vying to rule has just begun, and caught between them are Indris and Mari—warriors of the highest caliber…and members of the opposing families. With the court moved to a new city, the old machinations of Mari’s father, Corajidin, are still churning as he maneuvers to shape the future Empire. For Mari and Indris, though, it could be the past that’s their undoing, as lost lovers and forgotten flames reappear as if by dark magic. And dark magic it could be, for a dangerous alliance with witches could not only grant Corajidn control of Shrīan, but once again plunge the nation back into war—especially after a sorcerous battle destroys much of the city…and forces Indris and Mari to part ways.

This book is pretty similar to the first one in the series, with the same positives and negatives – it’s an interesting world and story, but there are a lot of characters to keep track of.  The same as the first book you kind of have to surf above all the things you don’t understand rather than stopping to make sure you know exactly who everyone in every scene is.

When I heard about Amazon X-Ray, I had thought it would be useful for books like this – this book could really benefit from a “who is this guy again?” button.  Unfortunately (at least in this case) all X-Ray does is show you what other pages the character’s name appears on, which isn’t any use.

There were a bunch of errors in this book.  Interestingly, usually when a book has this many errors it’s because the eBook version has been created by scanning in a printed manuscript, but in this case the errors seemed more like dictation/transcription errors rather than OCR errors.

The reason I liked this book less than the first one in the series was that it didn’t wrap things up as well as the first book did – it opened a lot of doors that won’t be closed until the next book (assuming it’s a trilogy).

Book Review – The Palace Job by Patrick Weekes

The Palace Job by Patrick Weekes

The Palace Job by Patrick Weekes

The blurb says:

Loch is seeking revenge.

It would help if she wasn’t in jail.

The plan: to steal a priceless elven manuscript that once belonged to her family, but now is in the hands of the most powerful man in the Republic. To do so Loch—former soldier, former prisoner, current fugitive—must assemble a crack team of magical misfits that includes a cynical illusionist, a shapeshifting unicorn, a repentant death priestess, a talking magical warhammer, and a lad with seemingly no skills to help her break into the floating fortress of Heaven’s Spire and the vault that holds her family’s treasure—all while eluding the unrelenting pursuit of Justicar Pyvic, whose only mission is to see the law upheld.

What could possibly go wrong?

The book was really fun and charming, but there were some pretty major problems:  At times the character names and fantasy languages were so strange that I had to stop reading to try and decipher how I was supposed to pronounce something – it was pretty jarring.  There was also some clumsiness in the writing – occasionally it wasn’t clear what happened, for example after a paragraph of “he” interacting with ‘him” I had a hard time keeping track of who “he” was.

Although the author is a white man, he has obviously put a lot of effort into redressing some of the issues with gender and race in fantasy (i.e. a lot of characters are women, black or both).  I can only applaud this, as it’s a step toward things changing for the better.

In spite of its flaws I really enjoyed this book.  I look forward to more from this author.

Book Review – Angel Station by Walter Jon Williams

Angel Station by Walter Jon Williams

Angel Station by Walter Jon Williams

The blurb says:

They’re outlaws now. Created to serve a function grown obsolete, haunted by the holographic ghost of their father, Ubu and Maria have lived their entire lives skating along the edge of extinction. Now they and their ship Runaway are in flight both from the law and from a predatory clan of competitors. They’re going to come back rich, or not at all.

But what they find in the depths of space isn’t wealth, but a secret so startling that Ubu and Maria will need every last reserve of guile, cunning, and intelligence just to survive …

What I didn’t realize when I bought this was that it was written in 1989 – a fact that would have been patently obvious if the book still had its original cover:

Angel Station by Walter Jon Williams (1989 cover)

Angel Station by Walter Jon Williams (1989 cover)

A consequence of the age of the book is that it doesn’t read like a contemporary book (duh).  The usual problem with older sci-fi books is that the “future” gets dated pretty quickly – nowadays nobody would accept radiation giving someone strange powers, we’d expect it to give them cancer.  That isn’t really a problem in this case, the only specific problem that I can point to is that the aliens aren’t really alien enough.  Although the author’s put a lot of work into making the aliens think differently – and that’s good – they’re still a bit too familiar (bipeds who breathe air).

My other problem with the book is that it has a flat arc – it doesn’t really build up to a climax, things just happen and then it’s over.  There’s no moral to the story and the main characters don’t learn anything – if anything they repeat the mistakes of their predecessors, but even that isn’t set up like a moral.  Perhaps that’s another problem with the age of the book – maybe I expect more depth from books nowadays, or at least an exciting plot arc.