inverarity: (inverarity)
A first contact novel, starring a linguist, that does not suck.


47North, 2013, 350 pages

When Earth is rocked by evidence that extraterrestrials may have seeded human DNA throughout the universe, a one-way expedition into deep space is mounted to uncover the truth. What linguist Meg Dupris and her crewmates aboard the Earth ship Damocles discover on Didet - a planet bathed in the near-eternal daylight of seven suns - is a humanoid race with a different language, a different look, and a surprisingly similar society. But here, it's the "Earthers" who are the extraterrestrial invaders, and it's up to Meg - a woman haunted by tragedy and obsessed with the power of communication - to find the key to establishing trust between the natives and the newcomers. In Loul Pell, a young Dideto male thrust into the forefront of the historic event, Meg finds an unexpected kindred spirit, and undertakes an extraordinary journey of discovery, friendship, and life-altering knowledge. Told from both sides of a monumental encounter, Damocles is a compelling novel about man's first contact with an extraterrestrial race.

Apparently comic book geeks and conspiracy theory journalists are universal. )

Verdict: A thoughtful, intelligent sci-fi novel that explores linguistics and alien cultures in a realistic way. Damocles is not a particularly exciting book, but it's a fine work of genuine speculative fiction. 7/10.

My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
NASA discovered an alien spaceship in the asteroid belt in the 1960s. Fifty years later, they send a bunch of idiots to investigate it.


Self-Published, 2014, 283 pages

NASA discovered the alien ship lurking in the asteroid belt in the 1960s. They kept the Target under intense surveillance for decades, letting the public believe they were exploring the solar system, while they worked feverishly to refine the technology needed to reach it.

The ship itself remained silent, drifting.

Dr. Jane Holloway is content documenting nearly-extinct languages and had never contemplated becoming an astronaut. But when NASA recruits her to join a team of military scientists for an expedition to the Target, it's an adventure she can't refuse.

The ship isn't vacant, as they presumed.

A disembodied voice rumbles inside Jane's head, "You are home."

Jane fights the growing doubts of her colleagues as she attempts to decipher what the alien wants from her. As the derelict ship devolves into chaos and the crew gets cut off from their escape route, Jane must decide if she can trust the alien's help to survive.

A linguist exploring a Big Dumb Object should have been awesome. Instead: consternated, probing purrs. )

Verdict: An awesome premise, horribly executed. Fluency showed signs of being one of those self-published gems, but the cover is about the best thing going for it. If you like fanfic-quality writing and research that consists of watching hours of Stargate, maybe you will like it. 3/10.

My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
It's Midway, Aubrey-Maturin, and Battlestar Galactica put together.


Roc, 2008, 400 pages

Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy, along with the men and women of the USS Walker, have chosen sides in a war not of their making. They have allied with the Lemurians - a mammalian race whose peaceful existence is under attack from the warlike, reptilian Grik.

The Lemurians are vastly outnumbered and ignorant of warfare, and even the guns and technology of Walker cannot turn the tide of battle. Luckily, they are not alone. Reddy finally finds Mahan, the other destroyer that passed through the rift. Together, the two American ships will teach the Lemurians to fight and stand against the bloodthirsty Grik - or so they think.

For there is another vessel that does not belong on these strange seas - the massive Japanese battle cruiser Amagi, the very ship that Walker was fleeing from when the rift took them. Like Mahan, it followed them through. And now Amagi is in the hands of the Grik.

The second book is even better, though it looks like it's going to be a long haul. )

Verdict: Better than the first book, Crusade made me a fan of this series. I know it's already become one of those series that goes on and on, so I hope it doesn't disappoint me in future volumes. Nothing more than a well-researched naval adventure/war story, I still enjoyed the heck out of this book. 9/10.

Also by Taylor Anderson: My review of Into the Storm.

My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
An anti-Heinleinian military SF novel for SF fans who don't actually like the military or Heinlein.

Old Man's War

Tor, 2005, 320 pages

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army. The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce—and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding. Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets. John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine—and what he will become is far stranger.

Go to strange new planets, meet interesting, exotic aliens, and kill them. (SPOILERS) )

Verdict: A good book, not a great book, I'd have liked Old Man's War more if it was more of what it was, a sci-fi adventure starring a clever Earth dude from Ohio, and less of what it was trying to be, a sci-fi war story in the tradition of Starship Troopers. Scalzi's writing is much of a piece, and there is definitely good story here, so despite being quite annoyed with significant parts of it, I'll probably read the rest of the series. 7/10.

Also by John Scalzi: My reviews of The Android's Dream, The God Engines, Agent to the Stars, Fuzzy Nation, and Redshirts.

My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
The terraforming and settling of Mars in an alternate history.

The Empress of Mars

Tor, 2007, 304 pages

When the British Arean Company founded its Martian colony, it welcomed any settlers it could get. Outcasts, misfits, and dreamers emigrated in droves to undertake the grueling task of terraforming the cold red planet - only to be abandoned when the BAC discovered it couldn't turn a profit on Mars.

This is the story of Mary Griffith, a determined woman with three daughters, who opened the only place to buy a beer on the Tharsis Bulge. It's also the story of Manco Inca, whose attempt to terraform Mars brought a new goddess vividly to life; of Stanford Crosley, con man extraordinaire; of Ottorino Vespucci, space cowboy and romantic hero; of the Clan Morrigan; of the denizens of the Martian Motel, and of the machinations of another company entirely - all of whom contribute to the downfall of the BAC and the founding of a new world. But Mary and her struggles and triumphs are at the center of it all, in her bar, the Empress of Mars.

Based on the Hugo-nominated novella of the same name, this is a rollicking novel of action, planetary romance, and high adventure.

A worthy heir to Burroughs, Bova, Bradbury, and Robinson. )

Verdict: There are lots of books about colonizing Mars: The Empress of Mars is one of the better ones I've read. Be aware that this is an alternate history novel, though it's never explicitly stated, but it's fun and could easily be the launch point for a series of its own. 8/10.

My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
A brilliantly funny stand-alone sequel that will appeal to all serious book-lovers.

Amy Falls Down

Thomas Dunne Books, 2013, 336 pages

Amy Gallup is an aging novelist and writing instructor living in Escondido, California, with her dog, Alphonse. Since recent unsettling events, she has made some progress. While she still has writer's block, she doesn't suffer from it. She's still a hermit, but she has allowed some of her class members into her life. She is no longer numb, angry, and sardonic: she is merely numb and bemused, which is as close to happy as she plans to get. Amy is calm.

So, when on New Year's morning she shuffles out to her backyard garden to plant a Norfolk pine, she is wholly unprepared for what happens next. Amy falls down. A simple accident, as a result of which something happens, and then something else, and then a number of different things, all as unpredictable as an eight-ball break. At first the changes are small, but as these small events carom off one another, Amy's life changes in ways that range from ridiculous to frightening to profound. This most reluctant of adventurers is dragged and propelled by train, plane, and automobile through an outlandish series of antic media events on her way to becoming - to her horror - a kind of celebrity. And along the way, as the numbness begins to wear off, she comes up against something she has avoided all her life: her future, that "sleeping monster, not to be poked."

Amy Falls Down explores, through the experience of one character, the role that accident plays in all our lives. "You turn a corner and beasts break into arias, gunfire erupts, waking a hundred families, starting a hundred different conversations. You crack your head open and three thousand miles away a stranger with Asperger's jump-starts your career." We are all like Amy. We are all wholly unprepared for what happens next. Also, there is a basset hound.

If you are a 'Bookish' person, you will love this book. )

Verdict: I am convinced Jincy Willett is a quiet and underappreciated genius, and Amy Falls Down, while no more exciting plot-wise than its title indicates, is a true "literary" novel in the sense of being intelligently, unabashedly well-written — but meant to entertain, not to win awards and get praise from all the right people. 10/10.

Also by Jincy Willett: My review of The Writing Class.

My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
The Minotaur works as a line cook in a North Carolina steakhouse.

The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break

Picador, 2000, 313 pages

Five thousand years out of the Labyrinth, the Minotaur finds himself in the American South, living in a trailer park and working as a line cook at a steakhouse. No longer a devourer of human flesh, the Minotaur is a socially inept, lonely creature with very human needs. But over a two-week period, as his life dissolves into chaos, this broken and alienated immortal awakens to the possibility for happiness and to the capacity for love.

Southern litfic by way of Ovid. )

Verdict: Very literary, and not even as strange as it sounds, once you get past the premise. The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break is well-written, with deeply human characters (even/especially the monster), but a rather plodding plot if you're hoping for more in the way of story. 8/10.

My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
An iron-thewed barbarian trucker and a half-naked half-elf navigate the Rules of a fantasy world.

The River of Dancing Gods

Del Rey Fantasy, 1984, 263 pages

Joe and Marge, minutes away from death, are rescued and brought from Earth to the magical world of Husaquahr by the wizard Throckmorton P. Ruddygore to battle the forces of Hell itself!

Jack Chalker is like a slightly less adolescent Piers Anthony. )

Verdict: This book is a product of and a commentary on its time, the 80s boom in extruded epic fantasy product. Jack Chalker is always an entertaining author — he's written two of my favorite SF series: Well World and the Quintara Marathon. But this series was not his best work. The River of Dancing Gods is a fun, light read that takes a self-aware poke at its genre, but much of it felt like Chalker was just kind of filling space by telling us what happened between the scenes he really wanted to write. 6/10.

My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
Nine short stories from a new horror master: gritty, grotty, grimdark, with words like bloody knives.

The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All

Night Shade Books, 2013, 280 pages

Over the course of two award-winning collections and a critically acclaimed novel, The Croning, Laird Barron has arisen as one of the strongest and most original literary voices in modern horror and the dark fantastic. Melding supernatural horror with hardboiled noir, espionage, and a scientific backbone, Barron's stories have garnered critical acclaim and have been reprinted in numerous year's best anthologies and nominated for multiple awards, including the Crawford, International Horror Guild, Shirley Jackson, Theodore Sturgeon, and World Fantasy awards.

Barron returns with his third collection, The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All. Collecting interlinking tales of sublime cosmic horror, including "Blackwood's Baby", "The Carrion Gods in Their Heaven", and "The Men from Porlock", The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All delivers enough spine-chilling horror to satisfy even the most jaded reader.

Not H.P. Lovecraft. Not Stephen King. )

Verdict: Not every story in The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All was 5 stars, but I wouldn't rate any of them below 4. Laird Barron has hit my list of "authors to read more of soon." I'm highly recommending this book, though I am scoring it not quite a 10 because I haven't read his other books yet and am not sure yet that this is his best. If you like your horror dark and two-fisted, like a less prissy, less squeamish Lovecraft, or a contemporary Ambrose Bierce, check this Barron guy out. 9/10.

My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (Orion)

At some point the near future, a "blight" is destroying all crops on Earth. The human race is facing slow extinction. A former astronaut-turned-farmer stumbles upon a secret NASA project to send explorers to other planets, thanks to a wormhole to another galaxy discovered near the orbit of Saturn. They believe they have received messages from an advanced alien race steering them towards this wormhole. So he is corralled into piloting the ship that will chose humanity's new home.

Oh. My. God.

This movie is an actual Science Fiction movie.

I wouldn't quite call it "hard SF" - I'm sure physicists more educated than I were probably wincing at the math and the relativity and the wormholes, and I definitely spotted some dubious science concerning the black holes, travel times between planets, a lot of hand-waved technology, and some suspensions of disbelief in the plot.

Nonetheless, this is probably the best true science fiction (as opposed to science fantasy) movie I have ever seen.

There is social commentary, like the bright-eyed teacher insisting that the moon landings were a hoax, and the (quite legitimate) debate over spending enormous resources for an extra-solar mission when people are starving at home. There is touching family drama and heroism and sacrifice. There are some awfully cool alien landscapes, and friendly AIs who do not go all HAL 1000 on the crew.

It's like The Black Hole minus the Disney silliness. It's like Contact but not boring. It's like 2001: A Space Odyssey but not boring. It's like Gravity without relying on George Clooney. It's all the best parts of those movies wrapped into one.

5 stars, see it in theaters, boo and hiss when it fails to win an Oscar.
inverarity: (inverarity)
Supervillains save the world in a novel that almost achieves comic book scale.

Burn Baby Burn

Self-Published, 2011, 212 pages

Sundancer is a militant radical who channels the heat and light of the sun, capable of melting steel and vaporizing anyone who stands in her way. Pit Geek is seemingly immortal, able to survive any injury, but haunted by fragmented memories. Together, these supervillains launch a crime spree bold enough to threaten the world's economy.

To stop them, the government authorizes a new band of superheroes known as the Covenant to hunt down the menaces. Sundancer and Pit must learn to rely on one another as never before if they're to escape the heroes that hound them. When they finally run out of places to hide, can mankind survive the conflagration when Sundancer unleashes the full force of her solar powers?

Robots and Monkeys make everything better. )

Verdict: Burn Baby Burn is a stand-alone sequel that's better than the first book, and highly recommended for all superhero fans. While the writing remains a bit flat at times, and characterization is sometimes narrated rather than displayed, James Maxey has mastered the superhero genre, and is able to deliver a book that has all the best aspects of both novel and comic book. Aliens, robots, monkeys, and apocalyptic showdowns, and somehow it doesn't fall over into silliness. 8/10.

Also by James Maxey: My review of Nobody Gets the Girl.

My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
Harry Dresden vs. a taxonomy of werewolves.

Fool Moon

Roc, 2000, 401 pages

Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is Chicago's only openly practicing wizard. He is also dead broke. His vast knowledge and magical skills are unfortunately matched by his talent for making powerful enemies and alienating friends. With little more than his integrity left, he accepts an offer of work from Lt. Karin Murphy of Chicago's Special Investigations Unit. He wants to redeem himself in Murphy's eyes and make enough money to quiet his rumbling stomach.

Soon he finds himself pinned between trigger-happy FBI agents, shape-shifiting motorcycle gang members, a threatened mobster boss, and an heir to an ancient curse along with his primal fiance. Throw in environmental activists and a pair of young werewolves in love and you have something of Fool Moon.

The second book is neither better than nor worse than the first. )

Verdict: The Harry Dresden series is basically paranormal romance for guys. Fool Moon, the second book in the series, adds only a little bit to Dresden's world, and rehashes a lot of the plot devices and characterization from the first book. It's entertaining but nothing special; I have yet to understand why this series is so massively popular. 6/10.

Also by Jim Butcher: My review of Storm Front.

My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
A Heinleinian woman hooks up with a space highwayman, leads a rebellion, looks great in heels.

Darkship Thieves

Baen, 2010, 384 pages

Athena Hera Sinistra never wanted to go to space. Never wanted see the eerie glow of the Powerpods. Never wanted to visit Circum Terra. Never had any interest in finding out the truth about the DarkShips. You always get what you don't ask for. Which must have been why she woke up in the dark of shipnight, within the greater night of space in her father's space cruiser, knowing that there was a stranger in her room. In a short time, after taking out the stranger--who turned out to be one of her father's bodyguards up to no good, she was hurtling away from the ship in a lifeboat to get help. But what she got instead would be the adventure of a lifetime - if she managed to survive.

Heinleinian fanfiction, which is not necessarily a bad thing. )

Verdict: Darkship Thieves is a nice light romantic space opera with a character who very much wants to be in a Heinlein novel. This book isn't quite that, but it's a passable facsimile. 7/10.

My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
An early satirical "Big House" novel about 18th century Ireland.

Castle Rackrent

Originally published in 1800, approximately 45,000 words. Available for free on Project Gutenberg.

For the information of the IGNORANT English reader, a few notes have been subjoined by the editor, and he had it once in contemplation to translate the language of Thady into plain English; but Thady's idiom is incapable of translation, and, besides, the authenticity of his story would have been more exposed to doubt if it were not told in his own characteristic manner. Several years ago he related to the editor the history of the Rackrent family, and it was with some difficulty that he was persuaded to have it committed to writing; however, his feelings for 'THE HONOUR OF THE FAMILY,' as he expressed himself, prevailed over his habitual laziness, and he at length completed the narrative which is now laid before the public.

An Hibernian tale taken from facts, and from the manners of the Irish Squires, before the year 1782. )

Verdict: An early historical novel with touches of wry humor, and significant for its view of Anglo-Irish relations, Castle Rackrent is not particularly interesting outside this context; for plotting and characters one would do better with one of Edgeworth's contemporaries. Another one of those books that has earned its place on the 1001 Books list more for its historical place than its literary qualities. 5/10.

I read this book for the [ profile] books1001 challenge.

My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
Maxim Gorky's pioneering (boring) novel of (boring) "Socialist Realism" about a (boring) mother of the Russian revolution.


Originally published in 1906, 324 pages. Available for free on Project Gutenberg.

Maxim Gorky, pseudonym of Alexei Maksimovich Peshkov, Soviet novelist, playwright and essayist, was a founder of social realism. Although known principally as a writer, he was closely associated with the tumultuous revolutionary period of his own country. The Mother, one of his best-known works, is the story of the radicalization of an uneducated woman that was later taken as a model for the Socialist Realist novel, and his autobiographical masterpiece.

The road to hell is paved with well-intentioned revolutions. )

Verdict: Is this a book you must read before you die? I'd say as a sample of a particular period of history and the literature it produced, it has its value. This isn't a post-revolutionary Soviet novel, so it's a vivid if biased view into the time in which it was written. But as a work of literature, I would not inflict this on anyone who isn't perversely fascinated with the Bolshevik revolution. 3/10.

I read this book as part of the [ profile] books1001 challenge.

My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (Alexandra Quick)
No, really, I am still writing. Okay, I'm still not hitting my targets (good thing I didn't attempt NaNoWriMo), but I managed to get about 2000 words written today.

Since I am now up to 157K, and I haven't done one of these in a while, here's a wordle, as of Chapter 31.

AQATWA worldle 157k

The story is still spaghetti and continuity is a mess and I am probably trying to cram two books worth of plot into one. But it's going to get done. Or I'll die. One of those two things will happen. /GRRM
inverarity: (lasercat)
This time we pulled Flying Buffalo's Berserker off the shelf.

I know for a fact I never played this before, because the cardboard counters were still uncut.

berserker boardgame

This game, designed by Michael Stackpole and Rick Loomis, is based on the classic novels by Fred Saberhagen about implacable planet-destroying robots waging a genocidal campaign across the galaxy, long after their creators were destroyed. The books predate the Star Trek episode Planet Killer, and while Saberhagen may not have originated this trope, he was certainly one of the first to popularize it.

Flying Buffalo also still runs the venerable play-by-mail game Starweb, in which one of the player options is the Berserker.

The board game is basically Ogre in space. One player plays the Berserker; the other plays Earth's defenders. The Berserker's objective is to reach Earth and destroy it; the defender's objective is to destroy the Berserker.

The Berserker has a number of robots with which to man guns, repair damage, and repel boarders. The defender gets a set number of points with which to build a fleet consisting of cruisers (able to slug it out with the Berserker, though they are much smaller and weaker), "c-plus" ships (which hurl long-range projectiles that "skip" across the map but do massive damage to the Berserker if they hit), and ram ships (which ram the Berserker and deliver space marines who board it and attempt to destroy it from the inside).

In the three games we played, using the recommended beginning fleet setup for the defenders each time, we found that it was almost impossible for the Berserker to win.

In the first game, my opponent played the Berserker, who adopted a "charge directly at Earth" strategy and was blown apart by my c-plus ships before even reaching the main body of my fleet.

In the second game, I played the Berserker. This time I tried outmaneuvering the defender's fleet, taking particular care to try to stay out of the line of fire of the c-plus ships. I was only partially successful, and I might have had a bare chance if not for a particularly awful string of bad die rolls. I did manage to get close enough to Earth to do a little damage before being destroyed, but even with better rolls, I don't think I could have won.

In the third game, my opponent played the Berserker again, and this time used the option to split off a Berserker cruiser to engage my fleet, while trying to copy my maneuvering strategy. A lucky shot from a c-plus gun took out the cruiser, and by the time the Berserker got close to my fleet, it had managed to destroy all my cruisers, but I then swarmed it with enough ram ships to obliterate it even before we started rolling for boarding combat.

Reading this account of the game, I really wonder how they ever managed to score a Berserker victory. We didn't even use the optional Earth industry rules.

Berserker was a bit of fun, but there is nothing novel about its mechanics and it seems extremely unbalanced to me, making it unlikely we'll try the campaign version.

Its rating on BoardGameGeek suggests my opinion is not unique. Nice to have if you are a Saberhagen fan (no doubt why I bought it way back when), but not really a winner.
inverarity: (inverarity)
The Time Traveler's Wife, if Henry was a serial killer.

The Shining Girls

Mulholland Books, 2012, 375 pages

"The future is not as loud as war, but it is relentless. It has a terrible fury all its own."

Harper Curtis is a killer who stepped out of the past. Kirby Mazrachi is the girl who was never meant to have a future.

Kirby is the last shining girl, one of the bright young women, burning with potential, whose lives Harper is destined to snuff out after he stumbles on a House in Depression-era Chicago that opens on to other times.

At the urging of the House, Harper inserts himself into the lives of the shining girls, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. He's the ultimate hunter, vanishing into another time after each murder, untraceable - until one of his victims survives.

Determined to bring her would-be killer to justice, Kirby joins the Chicago Sun-Times to work with the ex-homicide reporter, Dan Velasquez, who covered her case. Soon Kirby finds herself closing in on the impossible truth....

The Shining Girls is a masterful twist on the serial killer tale: a violent quantum leap featuring a memorable and appealing heroine in pursuit of a deadly criminal.

A time-traveling serial killer stalks the one who got away. )

Verdict: The Shining Girls successfully blends several genres under the guise of story about a time-traveling serial killer. Very human characters, a somewhat arbitrary plot as characters are largely pulled in the direction indicated by an inanimate MacGuffin, but an interesting, bloody, well-researched historical thriller. 8/10.

Also by Lauren Beukes: My review of Zoo City.

My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (inverarity)
I recently posted about the outing of 'Requires Only That You Hate' as up-and-coming Thai SF writer Benjanun Sriduangkaew.

In that entry, and in previous posts about RH/acrackedmoon/Winterfox/Pyrofennec/all-her-many-previous-handles, I was still somewhat sympathetic to her, in that I thought she was a jerk, but didn't deserve to be "outed" and made the target of an Internet auto-da-fé.

I had, in fact, participated on her blog, been cordial with her on LJ back when she was Winterfox, and allowed her to influence my opinion of many other writers and Internet personalities. We did not always agree, but I'd managed not to trigger her attack reflexes, and I can be lumped into the group of her enablers/defenders who dismissed a lot of her worst behavior as "performance rage."

SF author Laura J. Mixon (who also writes as M.J. Locke) has just posted a very extensive summary of the damage done by this individual. The post is long, and the comments are now in the hundreds, but they are illuminating too, and include a lot of testimonials by recognizable SF authors. There are links to posts from other authors and victims, many of which are also lengthy. I just spent quite a lot of time reading it all.

To put it briefly: "Requires Hate"/"Benjanun Sriduangkaew" (it's been reported from a couple of sources who claim knowledge that that name is certainly a pseudonym as well) has apparently been involved in a long, extensive campaign of deception, harassment, and covert attacks on other writers. Not just her public ranting, violent threats, and "trololol" tweets, but whispering campaigns to editors and publishers and con committees, targeting of enemies for exclusion and harassment, collection of extortion material, etc.

Her behavior, always cloaked in the language of "Social Justice," has been cynical, exploitative, and malicious.

I regret ever being even a peripheral part of her "support network." I didn't join in any of her pile-ons, I was never part of her inner circle, and she has nothing on me, but I did laugh at her cruel reviews and some of her snarky tweets. No, I still don't think that hyperbolically calling for an author to be skinned alive and set on fire should necessarily be treated as an actual physical threat, but in light of her pattern of abuse and vicious character assassination (much of which was apparently happening in back channels), I no longer think such violent rhetoric should be taken so lightly, either.

I used to be a lot more sympathetic to the cause of "Social Justice." I still am, in the abstract sense, in that I still think racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., are bad things and should be opposed. But RH, and her many supporters (some of whom are still standing by her and calling her the injured party) no longer have my sympathies, and I have become extremely cynical about SJ activists in general. (In fairness, RH is only a small part of that.) It's an environment that says insults and excoriating personal attacks are always okay as long as you're "punching up," that the merits of an argument can be determined by where the person making it sits on an "axis of privilege," that allowed a cynical, exploitative predator like RH to recruit so many useful idiots to her cause, some of whom (according to those linked reports) are now literally fearful of publicly breaking with her.

I wish no harm on whoever the person behind the persona may be. I'd like to believe some elements in the two apologies she posted (in two of her guises) are sincere. I have no idea what the professional future may be for the writer known as "Benjanun Sriduangkaew." But I will be far more mindful about my online interactions in the future. I will not endorse snark, flaming, or dismissive identity-based arguments.

Mostly unrelated to this particular issue, I am tempted to out myself just so I can wander the Internets as myself and not care about whether people know who I "really" am. I don't deliberately maintain multiple identities for purposes of deception - I just started writing fan fiction as "Inverarity" because it was a little embarrassing to be a middle-aged guy writing Harry Potter fan fiction, and I didn't want that to be the first thing that pops up if someone Googles my real name. But now Inverarity has become something of a secondary identity for me as well, and it's a little cumbersome to remember who I've interacted with under what pseudonym. And yeah, I have an Internet history going back years, and a few long-time... well, "enemies" might be too dramatic, but people with whom I have had run-ins, and who might find it amusing to splash some of the more intemperate things I've said in my younger days around.

I haven't said or done anything that would cause me great shame, certainly nothing that anyone could hold over me by threatening to "out" me. But I am coming around to believing that, while some people have good and valid reasons to maintain a cloak of pseudonymity, the best and most honest way to conduct yourself online is as your real self.
inverarity: (inverarity)
A low magic, epic fantasy, political potboiler - Game of Thrones without the gore and rape and incest.

The Dragon's Path

Orbit, 2011, 555 pages

All paths lead to war...

Marcus' hero days are behind him. He knows too well that even the smallest war still means somebody's death. When his men are impressed into a doomed army, staying out of a battle he wants no part of requires some unorthodox steps.

Cithrin is an orphan, ward of a banking house. Her job is to smuggle a nation's wealth across a war zone, hiding the gold from both sides. She knows the secret life of commerce like a second language, but the strategies of trade will not defend her from swords.

Geder, sole scion of a noble house, has more interest in philosophy than in swordplay. A poor excuse for a soldier, he is a pawn in these games. No one can predict what he will become.

Falling pebbles can start a landslide. A spat between the Free Cities and the Severed Throne is spiraling out of control. A new player rises from the depths of history, fanning the flames that will sweep the entire region onto The Dragon's Path-the path to war.

A banking whiz kid, a tragically brooding soldier, and a nerdy nobleman who is really, really going to make you regret giving him a wedgie. )

Verdict: Good, solid writing, engaging characters (some more than others, but every multiple-POV novel will produce some characters who are more interesting than others), and a plot that takes a while to build up, but when it does, takes off with a bang. The Dragon's Path is a slowly developing epic in which the author seems to be taking his time laying the groundwork, but if a relatively slow-paced 550-page first volume can make me want to read book two, it's doing something right. The only reason I'm not giving it a highly recommended tag is that it is clearly a derivative genre work that doesn't really do anything different per se — it's just really good at being what it is. 9/10.

Also by Daniel Abraham (writing as James S.A. Corey): My review of Leviathan Wakes.

My complete list of book reviews.


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