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

Upcoming: THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS

Caught this second trailer for the upcoming fourth Matrix movie when I went to see No Time To Die. My anticipation for this movie just keeps growing. It releases later this month.

In “The Matrix Resurrections,” return to a world of two realities: one, everyday life; the other, what lies behind it. To find out if his reality is a physical or mental construct, to truly know himself, Mr. Anderson will have to choose to follow the white rabbit once more. And if Thomas… Neo… has learned anything, it’s that choice, while an illusion, is still the only way out of — or into — the Matrix. Of course, Neo already knows what he has to do. But what he doesn’t yet know is the Matrix is stronger, more secure and more dangerous than ever before. Déjà vu.

Reeves reprises the dual roles of Thomas Anderson/Neo, the man once saved from the Matrix to become the savior of humankind, who will once again have to choose which path to follow. Moss portrays the iconic warrior Trinity… or is she Tiffany, a suburban wife and mother of three with a penchant for superpowered motorcycles?

Quick Review: WARHAWK by Chris Wraight (Black Library)

WraightC-HHSoT5-WarhawkOne of the most-anticipated battles of the Horus Heresy finally comes to pass

The Inner Walls are breached.

Traitor vanguards tear towards the heart of the Palace, sensing victory. Desperate gambits are attempted: an unwilling saint is released into the ruins, as well as an enthusiastic sinner. A black sword rises, forged from spite, ready to create a legend. But amid the slaughter, Jaghatai Khan, Warhawk of Chogoris, prepares to launch the most audacious strike of the conflict. His goal is nothing less than the liberation of the Lion’s Gate space port. Cut off from any help, he stakes everything on one desperate counter-offensive, launched against an old enemy who has been made far greater than he ever was before. As the White Scars ride out against the newly crowned lords of life and death, they know that defeat for them dooms not only the Legion, but Terra itself.

And so we come to the penultimate book in not only the Siege of Terra series, but the Horus Heresy over all. It’s been quite a journey, with many twists and turns of the story along the way. In Warhawk, fans will finally get to read about a particular confrontation that has been a long time coming. It’s one of the most epic duels I’ve read in Black Library fiction (or any other), and Wraight has done a fantastic job of realizing it on the page. I very much enjoyed reading this. Continue reading

Quick Review: STATE OF TERROR by Hillary Clinton & Louise Penny (Simon & Schuster)

ClintonPenny-StateOfTerrorUSHCAn engaging, well-written globe-trotting political thriller

After a tumultuous period in American politics, a new administration has just been sworn in, and to everyone’s surprise the president chooses a political enemy for the vital position of secretary of state.

There is no love lost between the president of the United States and Ellen Adams, his new secretary of state. But it’s a canny move on the part of the president. With this appointment, he silences one of his harshest critics, since taking the job means Adams must step down as head of her multinational media conglomerate.

As the new president addresses Congress for the first time, with Secretary Adams in attendance, Anahita Dahir, a young foreign service officer (FSO) on the Pakistan desk at the State Department, receives a baffling text from an anonymous source.

Too late, she realizes the message was a hastily coded warning.

What begins as a series of apparent terrorist attacks is revealed to be the beginning of an international chess game involving the volatile and Byzantine politics of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran; the race to develop nuclear weapons in the region; the Russian mob; a burgeoning rogue terrorist organization; and an American government set back on its heels in the international arena.

As the horrifying scale of the threat becomes clear, Secretary Adams and her team realize it has been carefully planned to take advantage of four years of an American government out of touch with international affairs, out of practice with diplomacy, and out of power in the places where it counts the most.

To defeat such an intricate, carefully constructed conspiracy, it will take the skills of a unique team: a passionate young FSO; a dedicated journalist; and a smart, determined, but as yet untested new secretary of state.

It will probably come as no surprise that I was very eager to read this novel. I pre-ordered it as soon as I could, and read it right away. (For some reason, I’ve struggled to get into review-writing, hence the delay in publishing this one.) This is a well-paced, quite substantial, globe-trotting political thriller. I very much enjoyed it. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE DAYS TO COME by Tom Rosenstiel (Ecco)

RosenstielT-PR4-DaysToComeUSHCA new president upends Washington norms, and Rena & Brooks deal with cyberthreats, corporate espionage

Billionaire entrepreneur David Traynor has big dreams for fixing a broken government in his first term as president of the United States. In the months before his inauguration, he’s developed daring and, in some cases, secret strategies to solve the climate crisis, force Congress to work again, and rebuild America’s economy — and that’s just the beginning. Everyone in the capital is scrambling to adapt to the new disruptor in chief’s bold agenda, though many, both at home and abroad, also want to see Traynor and his steely vice president, Wendy Upton, fail. Unsure of whom he can trust, Traynor intends to turn to an unusual group of people to advise him, including the savvy and sometimes ruthless DC fixers Peter Rena and Randi Brooks.

Though he is at the height of his career, Rena finds his world in chaos. His personal life is a mess; he wonders if his work — saving powerful people from their mistakes — has become too cynical. When malicious, untraceable cyberattacks related to his past start seeping from the dark corners of the internet, Rena’s doubts overwhelm him. Then an unpredictable tragedy throws the country into crisis, and he must come out of his stupor.

If Rena wants to help the new president salvage American politics, he will first have to reckon with his own demons and come to grips with a world far different from the one he once believed in. With the government and the country polarized and on the cusp of enormous change, Tom Rosenstiel’s The Days to Come is a clever, gripping thriller and a cogent meditation on how to heal a divided country.

In this fourth instalment in Rosenstiel’s Rena & Brooks series, the political fixers and their team are tasked with investigating one of the secret plans the new president has launched. It’s a story of political maneuvering and gridlock, cyber-threats, and some of the most important issues that face us today. I very much enjoyed it. Continue reading

Quick Review: UNGUARDED by Scottie Pippen w. Michael Arkush (Atria Books)

PippenS-UnguardedUSHCHow the six-time NBA Champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist, and Hall of Famer, the youngest of twelve, overcame two family tragedies and universal disregard by college scouts to become an essential component of the greatest basketball dynasty of the last fifty years.

Scottie Pippen has been called one of the greatest NBA players for good reason.

Simply put, without Pippen, there are no championship banners — let alone six — hanging from the United Center rafters. There’s no Last Dance documentary. There’s no “Michael Jordan” as we know him. The 1990s Chicago Bulls teams would not exist as we know them.

So how did the youngest of twelve go from growing up poor in the small town of Hamburg, Arkansas, enduring two family tragedies along the way, to become a revered NBA legend? How did the scrawny teen, overlooked by every major collegiate basketball program, go on to become the fifth overall pick in the 1987 NBA Draft? And, perhaps most compelling, how did Pippen set aside his ego (and his own limitless professional ceiling) in order for the Bulls to become the most dominant basketball dynasty of the last half century?

In Unguarded, the six-time champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist finally opens up to offer pointed and transparent takes on Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, and Dennis Rodman, among others. Pippen details how he cringed at being labeled Jordan’s sidekick, and discusses how he could have (and should have) received more respect from the Bulls’ management and the media.

Pippen reveals never-before-told stories about some of the most famous games in league history, including the 1994 playoff game against the New York Knicks when he took himself out with 1.8 seconds to go. He discusses what it was like dealing with Jordan on a day-to-day basis, while serving as the facilitator for the offense and the anchor for the defense.

On the 30th anniversary of the Bulls’ first championship, Pippen is finally giving millions of adoring basketball fans what they crave; a raw, unvarnished look into his life, and role within one of the greatest, most popular teams of all time.

I think this may have been one of the fastest review copy requests I’ve ever submitted. A long time fan of basketball, albeit a relative newcomer to basketball history and publishing, I was very eager to read Pippen’s side of the story: that story, of course, including his time as a key member of the six-time NBA champions Chicago Bulls squad. Pippen gives readers the full sweep of his story, from his difficult upbringing, his shaky start in basketball, and ultimate rise to the pinnacle of the sport. It’s by turns interesting, illuminating, and also amusing. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: UNREQUITED INFATUATIONS by Stevie Van Zandt (Hachette)

VanZandtS-UnrequitedInfatuationsUSHCA fascinating and fun memoir from one of rock’s great guitarists and characters

Uncover never-before-told stories in this epic tale of self-discovery by a Rock n Roll disciple and member of the E Street Band.

What story begins in a bedroom in suburban New Jersey in the early ’60s, unfolds on some of the country’s largest stages, and then ranges across the globe, demonstrating over and over again how Rock and Roll has the power to change the world for the better? This story.

The first true heartbeat of Unrequited Infatuations  is the moment when Stevie Van Zandt trades in his devotion to the Baptist religion for an obsession with Rock and Roll. Groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones created new ideas of community, creative risk, and principled rebellion. They changed him forever. While still a teenager, he met Bruce Springsteen, a like-minded outcast/true believer who became one of his most important friends and bandmates. As Miami Steve, Van Zandt anchored the E Street Band as they conquered the Rock and Roll world.

And then, in the early ’80s, Van Zandt stepped away from E Street to embark on his own odyssey. He refashioned himself as Little Steven, a political songwriter and performer, fell in love with Maureen Santoro who greatly expanded his artistic palette, and visited the world’s hot spots as an artist/journalist to not just better understand them, but to help change them. Most famously, he masterminded the recording of “Sun City,” an anti-apartheid anthem that sped the demise of South Africa’s institutionalized racism and helped get Nelson Mandela out of prison.

By the ’90s, Van Zandt had lived at least two lives — one as a mainstream rocker, one as a hardcore activist. It was time for a third. David Chase invited Van Zandt to be a part of his new television show, the Sopranos — as Silvio Dante, he was the unconditionally loyal consiglieri who sat at the right hand of Tony Soprano (a relationship that oddly mirrored his real-life relationship with Bruce Springsteen).

Underlying all of Van Zandt’s various incarnations was a devotion to preserving the centrality of the arts, especially the endangered species of Rock. In the twenty-first century, Van Zandt founded a groundbreaking radio show (Little Steven’s Underground Garage), created the first two 24/7 branded music channels on SiriusXM (Underground Garage and Outlaw Country), started a fiercely independent record label (Wicked Cool), and developed a curriculum to teach students of all ages through the medium of music history. He also rejoined the E Street Band for what has now been a twenty-year victory lap.

Guitarist in the E Street Band, long-time friend of Bruce Springsteen, Silvio Dante in The Sopranos, political activist, standard bearer for rock ‘n’ roll. Stevie Van Zandt has been, and still is, many things. As evidenced by this memoir, he is also a great storyteller. I had high hopes for Unrequited Infatuations, but it absolutely exceeded them. Fascinating and fun, I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: JUDAS 62 by Charles Cumming (Harper)

CummingC-2-Judas62UKHCThe (excellent) second Lachlan Kite novel

A spy in one of the most dangerous places on Earth…

1993: Student Lachlan Kite is sent to post-Soviet Russia in the guise of a language teacher. In reality, he is there as a spy. Top secret intelligence agency BOX 88 has ordered Kite to extract a chemical weapons scientist before his groundbreaking research falls into the wrong hands. But Kite’s mission soon goes wrong and he is left stranded in a hostile city with a former KGB officer on his trail.

An old enemy looking for revenge…

2020: Now the director of BOX 88 operations in the UK, Kite discovers he has been placed on the ‘JUDAS’ list – a record of enemies of Russia who have been targeted for assassination. Kite’s fight for survival takes him to Dubai, where he must confront the Russian secret state head on…

Who will come out on top in this deadly game of cat and mouse?

The announcement of this novel was a very nice surprise — it arrived much sooner than expected after the release of the first book, BOX 88. A long-time fan of Cumming’s novels, I eagerly sought out a review copy and was lucky enough to get my mitts on one. I’m happy to report that it lived up to my high expectations. Another excellent novel from a modern master of spy fiction. Continue reading

Quick Review: SHARDS OF EARTH by Adrian Tchaikovksy (Orbit/Tor UK)

TchaikovskyA-FA1-ShardsOfEarthUSHCAn excellent start to a new space opera series

The war is over. Its heroes forgotten. Until one chance discovery…

Idris has neither aged nor slept since they remade him in the war. And one of humanity’s heroes now scrapes by on a freelance salvage vessel, to avoid the attention of greater powers.

After earth was destroyed, mankind created a fighting elite to save their species, enhanced humans such as Idris. In the silence of space they could communicate, mind-to-mind, with the enemy. Then their alien aggressors, the Architects, simply disappeared — and Idris and his kind became obsolete.

Now, fifty years later, Idris and his crew have discovered something strange abandoned in space. It’s clearly the work of the Architects — but are they returning? And if so, why? Hunted by gangsters, cults and governments, Idris and his crew race across the galaxy hunting for answers. For they now possess something of incalculable value, that many would kill to obtain.

Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time is one of my favourite science fiction novel of the past decade or so (probably true for many others — it justifiably won the Arthur C. Clarke Award). Shards of Earth is the first novel in a new science fiction series from the author, and it’s quite the opening salvo: expansive, action-packed, and populated by varied and engaging characters. I very much enjoyed this. Continue reading

Excerpt: THE HAND OF THE SUN KING by J.T. Greathouse (Gollancz/JABberwocky)

GreathouseJT-P&P1-HandOfTheSunKingToday, we have an excerpt from The Hand of the Sun KingJ. T. Greathouse‘s debut fantasy novel, and the first in the Pact & Pattern series. Pitched as perfect for fans of Robin Hobb, Brandon Sanderson and R. F. Kuang, it’s certainly caught my attention. Here’s the official synopsis for the novel:

My name is Wen Alder. My name is Foolish Cur.

All my life, I have been torn between two legacies: that of my father, whose roots trace back to the right hand of the Emperor. That of my mother’s family, who reject the oppressive Empire and embrace the resistance.

I can choose between them – between protecting my family, or protecting my people – or I can search out a better path… a magical path, filled with secrets, unbound by empire or resistance, which could shake my world to its very foundation.

But my search for freedom will entangle me in a war between the gods themselves…

And now, on with the excerpt…!

Continue reading