By the time Briddey pulled into the parking garage at Commspan, there were forty-two text messages on her phone.

“You were so busy discovering if you could, that you didn’t spend time wondering if you should”, to paraphrase a certain fictional character involved with dinosaurs. Another subtitle could have been ‘Communication, are you sure it should be endless?’

And all that while I was recommended this novel as good representation of the romance genre. Maybe I should have known better, this author wrote Doomsday Book.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t any romance (although it’s a spectacular slow burn), it just means it’s surrounded by the scientific element of getting an implant that will make you sensitive to the emotions and moods of your loved ones. Sounds like a bad idea, right?

It turns worse when some things happen that shouldn’t and some shouldn’t that should. Willis spends a lot of time on lore, which a bit too often leads to “I can’t tell you that right now!” cop outs. It’s the only frustrating thing about the novel, and the only thing that brings the tempo down.

Honestly, with certain elements going haywire, you could even use this book as an argument for taking internet- and social media use down a tad. The romance, and the lore, are bonuses.

Crosstalk, Connie Willis, Gollancz 2016


The Incorruptibles

We rode through fields burning like the plains of Hell – Fisk on the black, Banty on the roan bay, and me on Bess, the mule, leading a string of ponies.

The disappointing news: it’s part of a series. The good news: a darker fantasy without becoming overly gruesome, some tense world building without it being on the level of George R.R. Martin.

Two men need to lead a bunch of scouts, soldiers and other along a river boat full of important people. The boat is fueled by a jailed demon, the mountains are full of ancient, sardonic creatures and the family’s guest turns out to be the one reason for or against war with neighboring countries.

This is a gray, grimy fantasy, and – except for the reminiscing, oh-so-different story teller – pretty trope and cliché free. It’s up there in creations from Joe Abercrombie. There’s story and there’s world, neither of them are just very pretty.

The Incorruptibles, John Hornor Jacobs, Gollancz 2014

Pirates of the Relentless Desert

The night sky above the Relentless Desert gave birth to a new cloud.

The follow up on The Fledging of Az Gabrielson. It’s a year later and both sides have to get used to the other being around. Of course there are parties that disagree with how life has changed. Some of them have even turned to piracy because of it.

Was the first book more centered around the world of the Airborn, this time there is more world-building of the cities on earth. There is more variety in people’s characters (although a majority of the featured ones is still called ‘roughnecks’) and more cities besides Cassie’s hometown.

Az is trying to adjust to his new life as a part of authority, while Cassie is trying to keep her family and their business together. The previous mentioned pirates cock this up with angry attacks on the Groundborn. Other conspiracies and such make sure that there is little time for breathing and adjusting. Adventure is where it’s at.

Sometimes Pirates of the Relentless Desert works a little bit too hard to make sure that the reader won’t be bored, but the characters are charming and/or entertaining enough to not be bothered by it. A solid sequel.

Pirates of the Relentless Desert, Jay Amory, Gollancz 2007

Red Glove

I don’t know whether it’s day or night when the girl gets up to leave.

Red Glove is het tweede boek in de The Curse Workers serie. Het element dat mij de vorige keer zo positief verraste, is deze keer dus minder nieuw. Dat maakt Red Glove een fractie minder vermakelijk, naast het feit dat het aan de serie-ziekte lijdt: het plot van eerdere boek(en) wordt gekopieerd en met andere gegevens in-/aangevuld.

Maar het fijne van Red Glove is hoe ze magie in de samenleving plaatsen. Mensen met magie (‘workers’) zijn geen geluksvogels, maar paria’s die liever hun kunnen stil houden. Ze gebruiken hun magie door iemand aan te raken en kunnen dan iemand doden, gedachten vernietigen of wijzigen, iemand transformeren, dromen beïnvloeden enzovoorts. Daarom dragen ze handschoenen. Een groot deel workers zit in de georganiseerde misdaad, de rest lijdt onder dat imago.

Hoofdpersoon Cassel moet deze keer de moord van zijn broer oplossen, terwijl zowel de FBI als de mafia graag zijn loyaliteit willen. Daarnaast wil hij ook nog zijn moeder uit de problemen houden en proberen een normaal schoolleven te faken.

Eigenlijk wil ik dus vooral de serie aanraden voor de originele behandeling van magie. Dat het vermakelijke YA is, is alleen maar een plus.

Red Glove, Holly Black, Gollancz 2011

Red Seas under Red Skies

Locke Lamora stood on the pier in Tal Verrar with the hot wind of a burning ship at his back and the cold bite of a loaded crossbow’s bolt at his neck.

Back to Locke Lamora and his (unintentional) (mis-)adventures. This time ’round he’s in a new country and spends a lot of time on the ocean. Because Lamora becomes a pirate. Sort of. And it wasn’t his idea either.

Red Seas under Red Skies being a sequel means there is less joy and surprise over characters, plots and world building. Yet again Lamora (and his friends) aim high, but have to stumble through a lot of hoops before they get it (sort of). This time he lands in the middle of a tug-of-war between the rulers of the underworld and ‘upper’-world. And some pirate captains.

But even without the surprises, there is another bout of gorgeous (and lethal) world- and character building. One of the things I liked best is that the women have numerous functions in high places without them being femmes fatale or butch masculine creatures. Equal opportunities don’t happen all that often in fantasy. Again, the tempo is high, a lot happens and -in comparison with the first book- there are more story lines.

And just like with the prequel, I breezed through it, thoroughly enjoying myself. If the other books don’t fail (and maybe step away from the ‘Big heist in a creative way’ plot), this could turn into one of my favorite fantasy series.

 Red Seas under Red Skies, Scott Lynch, Gollancz 2007


The Lies of Locke Lamora

At the height of the long wet summer of the Seventy-Seventh Year of Sendovani, the Thiefmaker of Camorr paid a sudden and unannounced visit to the Eyeless Priest at the Temple of Perelandro, desperately trying to sell him the Lamora Boy.

This is everything a (fantasy) story should be. There is gorgeous world building, well-rounded, fascinating characters, exciting plot lines (pretty much all of them), humour, excitement and so on. It’s a book you want to finish in one go and not to ever let it end.

The Lies of Locke Lamora tells the stories of Locke Lamora and his adventures as growing up from a little orphan to a Gentleman Bastard, stealing from the rich in elaborate ways and ..doing nothing with the majority of the bounty afterwards. He and his ‘brothers’ are small parts of the mob-like constitution that rules the underworld of the city, pretending towards them and everyone else that they’re just small fish.
Of course things go wrong. A dark figure attacks the constitution and Locke Lamora seems -somehow- to be involved. The tempo picks up and the whirl-wind starts.

I would recommend this to a lot of people. Look past the fantasy tag if that’s not your thing and dive head-first into this delightful experience. Only one warning: it’s part of a series (up to seven books) and the author isn’t finished yet. So there might be a time that we will have to do without Locke Lamora and his adventures.

The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch, Gollancz 2006