Quick Review: THANK YOU, MR. NIXON by Gish Jen (Knopf)

JenG-ThankYouMrNixonUSHCA novel comprised of linked short stories, which paints a picture of China’s past half-century

Beginning with a cheery letter penned by a Chinese girl in heaven to “poor Mr. Nixon” in hell, Gish Jen embarks on a fictional journey through U.S.-China relations, capturing the excitement of a world on the brink of tectonic change.
 
Opal Chen reunites with her Chinese sisters after forty years; newly cosmopolitan Lulu Koo wonders why Americans “like to walk around in the woods with the mosquitoes”; Hong Kong parents go to extreme lengths to reestablish contact with their “number-one daughter” in New York; and Betty Koo, brought up on “no politics, just make money,” finds she must reassess her mother’s philosophy.
 
With their profound compassion and equally profound humor, these eleven linked stories trace the intimate ways in which humans make and are made by history, capturing an extraordinary era in an extraordinary way. Delightful, provocative, and powerful, Thank You, Mr. Nixon furnishes yet more proof of Gish Jen’s eminent place among American storytellers.

An interesting and engaging novel, Thank You, Mr. Nixon contains 11 linked short stories that give us a glimpse of how China’s social, political and economic evolution since its “opening” affects those who experience it: Chinese, Honk Kongers, members of the wider Chinese diaspora, and others. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE JUSTICE OF KINGS by Richard Swan (Orbit)

SwanR-EotW1-JusticeOfKingsAn excellent start to a new fantasy series

NO MAN IS ABOVE THE LAW

The Empire of the Wolf simmers with unrest. Rebels, heretics and powerful patricians all challenge the power of the imperial throne.

Only the Order of Justices stands in the way of chaos. Sir Konrad Vonvalt is the most feared Justice of all, upholding the law by way of his sharp mind, arcane powers and skill as a swordsman. In this he is aided by Helena Sedanka, his clerk and protégé, orphaned by the wars that forged the empire.

When the pair investigate the murder of a provincial aristocrat, they unearth a conspiracy that stretches to the very top of imperial society. As the stakes rise and become ever more personal, Vonvalt must make a choice: will he abandon the laws he’s sworn to uphold in order to protect the empire?

I remember reading the synopsis for Richard Swan’s debut quite a while ago. “That sounds interesting,” I thought to myself, and made a note. The buzz for the novel grew over the next few months, as it was sent out to authors for blurbs. So, when I was able to read an early copy, I jumped at the chance. The Justice of Kings is a very strong debut, and an engaging start to a new fantasy/crime series. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE EMPEROR’S LEGION by Chris Wraight (Black Library)

WraightC-WotT1-EmperorsLegionPolitics on Terra as the galaxy burns

The Adeptus Custodes are the Emperor’s praetorian guard, the defenders of Terra and watchers over the Golden Throne. But when a threat arises, they and their Sisters of Silence allies may find themselves pressed almost beyond endurance…

The Custodian Guard have stood watch over the Emperor’s Palace on Terra since the foundation of the Imperium. Charged with protecting the Master of Mankind from all threats, within and without, their fearsome resolve is renowned throughout the galaxy, and their golden armour is the last thing that a would-be assassin or saboteur will ever see. Alongside the Null-maidens of the Sisters of Silence, who are anathema to psykers and sorcerers alike, there is no threat to the Golden Throne that they alone cannot vanquish… until now.

The Emperor’s Legion is a novel that takes a look at the politics of the Imperium, and the ways in which recent events in the larger WH40k meta-story have changed… well, almost everything. While it has plenty of action, it felt quite different to many other Black Library novels. An interesting and illuminating shift in focus and perspective, I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: OGRES by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Solaris)

TchaikovskyA-OgresAn excellent novella from one of the modern masters of fantasy/sci-fi

Ogres are bigger than you.
Ogres are stronger than you.
Ogres rule the world.

It’s always idyllic in the village until the landlord comes to call.

Because the landlord is an Ogre. And Ogres rule the world, with their size and strength and appetites. It’s always been that way. It’s the natural order of the world. And they only eat people sometimes.

But when the headman’s son, Torquell, dares lift his hand against the landlord’s son, he sets himself on a path to learn the terrible truth about the Ogres, and about the dark sciences that ensured their rule.

Tchaikovsky’s latest novella is an intriguing, engaging examination of a whole swathe of human qualities — ambition, weakness, economics, and more. Interesting from start to finish, it’s packed with original spins on a number of fantasy/sci-fi features. Each year, the author publishes a new book that shows readers that his range is far larger than we already believed. Continue reading

Quick Review: AGE OF ASH by Daniel Abraham (Orbit)

AbrahamD-K1-AgeOfAshAn interesting start to a new fantasy series

Kithamar is a center of trade and wealth, an ancient city with a long, bloody history where countless thousands live and their stories unfold.

This is Alys’s.

When her brother is murdered, a petty thief from the slums of Longhill sets out to discover who killed him and why.  But the more she discovers about him, the more she learns about herself, and the truths she finds are more dangerous than knives.

Swept up in an intrigue as deep as the roots of Kithamar, where the secrets of the lowest born can sometimes topple thrones, the story Alys chooses will have the power to change everything.

I’ve been a fan of Daniel Abraham’s work since the Long Price Quartet, so every new novel of his is a highly-anticipated event. Each of his novels and series offers something new for readers. Age of Ash is the first in a new fantasy series, and is packed with interesting ideas and cool twists on fantasy tropes and elements. Continue reading

Quick Review: FUGITIVE TELEMETRY by Martha Wells (Tor.com)

WellsM-MBD6-FugitiveTelemetryMurderbot investigates a murder!

No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.

When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people — who knew?)

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

Again!

In this sixth book in the Murderbot Diaries, Wells’s fantastic creation finds itself investigating the suspicious death of a human on Preservation Station. It’s a great new direction for the series and character, and one I hope continues in future instalments. Probably unsurprisingly, I really enjoyed this novella. Continue reading

Very Quick Review: ACT LIKE YOU GOT SOME SENSE by Jamie Foxx (Grand Central Publishing)

FoxxJ-ActLikeYouGotSomeSenseFoxx shares the story of being raised by his no-nonsense grandmother, the glamour and pitfalls of life in Hollywood, and the lessons he took from both worlds to raise his two daughters.

Jamie Foxx has won an Academy Award and a Grammy Award, laughed with sitting presidents, and partied with the biggest names in hip-hop. But he is most proud of his role as father to two very independent young women, Corinne and Anelise. Jamie might not always know what he’s doing when it comes to raising girls — especially when they talk to him about TikTok (PlikPlok?) and don’t share his enthusiasm for flashy Rolls Royces — but he does his best to show up for them every single day.

Luckily, he has a strong example to follow: his beloved late grandmother, Estelle Marie Talley. Jamie learned everything he knows about parenting from the fierce woman who raised him: As he puts it, she’s “Madea before Tyler Perry put on the pumps and the gray wig.”

In Act Like You Got Some Sense — a title inspired by Estelle — Jamie shares up close and personal stories about the tough love and old-school values he learned growing up in the small town of Terrell, Texas; his early days trying to make it in Hollywood; the joys and challenges of achieving stardom; and how each phase of his life shaped his parenting journey. Hilarious, poignant, and always brutally honest, this is Jamie Foxx like we’ve never seen him before.

I first came across Jamie Foxx’s work in Any Given Sunday. (In my late teens, I went through a football movie/TV phase.) He stole many of the scenes he was in, easily holding his own opposite Al Pacino and others. Since then, I’ve seen quite a few of his movies. I did not, however, really know anything about him. So, when I had the chance to review his new memoir, I jumped at the chance. It’s an interesting, honest, often funny memoir and examination of his experiences and the choices he’s made in life. I really enjoyed it. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE WOLFTIME by Gav Thorpe (Black Library)

ThorpeG-WH40k-DoF3-WolftimeThe Indomitus Crusade reaches Fenris

Discover how the Cicatrix Maledictum affects even the most stubborn and steadfast of the Imperium’s warriors, as traditions the Space Wolves hold dear may be stopping them from defending the Imperium to the best of their abilities.

The Indomitus Crusade has brought the Emperor’s vengeance to thousands of star systems. The fleets and armies under the leadership of Roboute Guilliman fight for the survival of humanity against the forces of the Chaos Gods. But the traitors and heretics are not the only foe looking to destroy the rule of Terra.

Xenos prey on human worlds in numbers not seen for millennia. Worst amongst them are the rampaging orks, whose migration conquests threaten to reverse the many gains of Fleet Primus. And their throaty bellows carry a name not heard in years, of destruction made flesh, a bestial warlord without peer: Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka.

In the midst of this brutal tide is Fenris, the world of the Space Wolves. Depleted by ever-greater demands on their warriors, called upon by the Legion-breaker Guilliman, the Wolves of Fenris face a momentous decision. Grimnar and his counsellors must choose whether their fate is to ally themselves with an ancient rival and risk all that makes them the Vlka Fenryka or to accept their demise and wait for the return of their own primarch and the coming of the Wolftime.

I’ve very much enjoyed the recent batch of WH40k releases — in particular, those novels and stories that have expanded fans’ understanding of what has happened since the fall of Cadia and the opening of the Cicatrix Malediction. In Guy Haley’s Dark Imperium trilogy, and the first two books in the Dawn of Fire series, we’ve come to learn a fair bit about this “present” of the WH40k universe. In this novel, Thorpe does a great job of giving us a narrower, though no less illuminating look at how the changes in the universe have affected one of the most popular factions: the Space Wolves. I very much enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE GOODBYE COAST by Joe Ide (Mulholland)

IdeJ-PM1-GoodbyeCoastUSHCRaymond Chandler’s iconic detective, Philip Marlowe, gets a dramatic and colorful reinvention at the hands of award-winning novelist Joe Ide

The seductive and relentless figure of Raymond Chandler’s detective, Philip Marlowe, is vividly re-imagined in present-day Los Angeles. Here is a city of scheming Malibu actresses, ruthless gang members, virulent inequality, and washed-out police. Acclaimed and award-winning novelist Joe Ide imagines a Marlowe very much of our time: he’s a quiet, lonely, and remarkably capable and confident private detective, though he lives beneath the shadow of his father, a once-decorated LAPD homicide detective, famous throughout the city, who’s given in to drink after the death of Marlowe’s mother.

Marlowe, against his better judgement, accepts two missing person cases, the first a daughter of a faded, tyrannical Hollywood starlet, and the second, a British child stolen from his mother by his father. At the center of The Goodbye Coast is Marlowe’s troubled and confounding relationship with his father, a son who despises yet respects his dad, and a dad who’s unable to hide his bitter disappointment with his grown boy.

Steeped in the richly detailed ethnic neighborhoods of modern LA, Ide’s The Goodbye Coast is a bold recreation that is viciously funny, ingeniously plotted, and surprisingly tender.

When I heard that Joe Ide was going to be writing the first novel in a new Philip Marlowe series, I was intrigued. I know of Marlowe, of course, but have never actually read any of Raymond Chandler’s novels (although, like a great many classic books, I do own a few of them — just keep forgetting, because they’re on my Kindle). Having read all of Ide’s other novels to date, though, I knew I wanted to read The Goodbye Coast. I’m happy to report that it is a very enjoyable P.I. novel. Continue reading

Quick Review: NETWORK EFFECT by Martha Wells (Tor.com)

WellsM-MB5-NetworkEffectMurderbot/SecUnit returns in its first full-length novel

You know that feeling when you’re at work, and you’ve had enough of people, and then the boss walks in with yet another job that needs to be done right this second or the world will end, but all you want to do is go home and binge your favorite shows? And you’re a sentient murder machine programmed for destruction? Congratulations, you’re Murderbot.

Come for the pew-pew space battles, stay for the most relatable A.I. you’ll read this century.

I’m usually alone in my head, and that’s where 90 plus percent of my problems are.

When Murderbot’s human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.

Drastic action it is, then.

It was recently announced that one million copies of Martha Wells’s Murderbot series have been sold. This is an incredible milestone, and one that reminded me that I had fallen behind on the series! So, I decided to dive right back in with this, the first full-length novel in the series. Populated with some great characters (returning and new), and an intriguing plot, I enjoyed this a lot. Which is just what I expected. Continue reading