Tag Archives: ARCycling

Review: “Generation V” by M.L. Brennan

Title: Generation V
Author: M.L. Brennan
Series: Generation V #1
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: ROC, 2013

Once again I have the good folks at ARCycling to thank for a very fun book! I wish I would remember to note down the specific donator before I sign off….thank you to whoever donated this one! It was appreciated!

To date, my sole contact with the genre of “Urban Fantasy” has been The Dresden Files. Well, that and arguably Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel, but that doesn’t really count for these purposes. Plus, Libriomancer. I suppose a few stories from the Book Of Apex Volume IV might also fit the bill too….anyway, all that to say that I’ve not been thoroughly inducted into the myriad worlds the genre can contain. I should read some more, because I’ve been a huge fan of the little I’ve read.

Fortitude Scott is a lot like quite a few people in my generation. He graduated college with a film studies degree that does little but serve as wallpaper, and now he’s scraping by working a job he hates at a coffee shop. His girlfriend has all but dumped him, insisting on an “open relationship.” His family is bewildered by his desire for independence which borders on rudeness–he never calls unless his big brother Chivalry personally pays him a visit to ask him to come home. It’s understandable though, since his mother had his adoptive parents ripped to pieces in front of him when he was just a boy….Oh, did I mention that everyone in his family is a vampire? Fort himself is still mostly human, having not yet matured into his vampiric powers, but he’s in no hurry. Whereas his siblings were raised at home and are (to his way of thinking) frankly monstrous, Fort was allowed to be raised by a human family. You know, at least until he let slip one too many secrets about his monthly visits to his blood family, and his older sister was sent to kill them. You can see why he avoids them whenever possible. But now there’s a new player on the gameboard–a European vampire who makes Fort’s family seem like saints. Little girls are going missing, and Fort is the only one who seems to care. But even if he can convince Suzume, the kitsune bodyguard hired by his mother, to help him, Fort is going to be seriously outmatched…..

I heartily recommend this book to anyone who is at all interested in the urban fantasy or vampire fiction genres. A solid plot is populated by a cast of incredibly interesting characters, and Suzume Hollis absolutely steals the show. Sexy and flirtatious, Suzume is the kitsune hired by Fort’s mother to protect him while the foreign vampire is in town. The kitsune are Japanese foxes that can shapeshift to look human, and have a reputation for being mischievous. Suzume is mischievous enough to unnerve even her family. Chivalry is also interesting, a callous vampire viewing most humans as simply food but with a soft spot for Fort that would undoubtedly make him lend a hand, if their mother hadn’t forbade his involvement. He’s completely devoted to his human wife, until death do them part….which it does with clockwork regularity every ten years or so, forcing him to find someone new. The human system isn’t designed for regular vampiric feeding, apparently. Fort is an interesting character in his own right, but his relative weakness leaves him somewhat of a passive operator for most of the book. He sets things in motion, and tries to help, but a lot of the heavy lifting falls to Suzume. That, combined with a very fascinating supporting cast, leaves the protagonist overshadowed. This has bugged a number of reviewers, and I can see their point, but I was fine with it. This was mostly setup for what is to come….and I can’t wait!

CONTENT: R-rated profanity, though not gratuitous. Strong violence, vampiric and otherwise. There’s a lot of flirting and suggestive teasing, mostly from Suzume just to get a reaction from Fort. The (most) villainous vampire is a pedophile who kidnaps little girls for obviously nefarious purposes. There’s no explicit depiction of his activities, but it’s disturbing nevertheless.

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Review: “Ancillary Justice” by Ann Leckie

Wow. Just….Wow. Earlier this week I posted my review of Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter’s The Long Earth. In that review, I said it was the best book I’d read in a while. If I had chosen differently when prioritizing my shortlist of upcoming books to read, I might have spoken differently. Or maybe not. I’m not really good at looking at two incredibly excellent pieces of work and saying one is better. Sometimes its easy. Sometimes its not. This time its nearly impossible. I’ve already expounded on the virtues of The Long Earth, if you want to see that go click on the title in that first sentence. It’ll take you right there. Here, I will attempt to make you understand just how brilliant Ann Leckie’s debut novel Ancillary Justice (*****) is. All I can say is that I cannot wait for the next book in her trilogy to come out….

On a remote and frozen planet far beyond the boundaries of the Radchaai Empire, the lone figure calling herself Breq draws nearer the completion of a quest for vengeance twenty years in the making. Twenty years earlier the Justice of Toren was a mighty troop carrier, one of the largest ships in the Radchaai navy. Her AI controlled and monitored the actions of the entire ship as well as the host of “ancillaries” that serve her human officers as aids, servants or soldiers as the occasion demands. Spread across the stars, the Radchaai Empire has been built on the metaphorical backs of ships like Justice Of Toren and the ancillaries they command. Annex a system, integrate them into the Empire, grant citizenship to those deemed worthy (i.e. “pure” humans), then seize a portion of the population to be converted into ancillaries–corpse soldiers, as they are referred to by resentful annexees. Suitable human bodies are placed into cryostorage, ready to be revived, given implants and slaved to their ship’s AI as readily expendable troops, flawlessly-coordinated and for all intents and purposes an extension of the ship. Twenty years ago, Justice Of Toren was one such ship with millenia of service behind her, orbiting a newly-annexed world notable only for being the final addition to the Empire, until an unthinkable betrayal tore it all away. Now Justice Of Toren lives on only as a fragment of herself, the ancillary One-Esk Nineteen, now known as Breq. She does not understand why everything she once was has been stripped away, not completely, but she does know who is responsible–Anaander Mianaai, the immortal Empress of the Radch. She must pay. But how does one kill an enemy that occupies a thousand bodies spread across the stars? And why does Breq keep risking her life and her mission to help Seivarden Vendaai, an officer who served on her a millenia ago? She herself cannot answer that question, not even to her own satisfaction. She only knows that her course is set. There’s no turning back now, not when she is so close to her goal. May the cast fall as it will….

In conception alone, this is probably the single most original piece of science fiction I have ever had the intense pleasure of reading. Leckie creates a meticulously-imagined world to explore, filled with fascinating characters that walk the line between the familiar and the completely alien, all conveyed with a sparsely elegant prose that somehow manages to put you inside the mind of an interstellar warship. This was an incredibly ambitious novel, and I was completely blown away by how well executed it was. If I hadn’t visited the author’s website myself (it’s here, by the way, in case you’re interested) I would in no way believe that this was her first novel. I would even go so far as to say that it is dang near perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing about the book itself, save one sentence I found that got mangled in restructuring–probably fixed in the release version, since I’m reading an ARC. I do think the book would benefit from an author’s note at the beginning regarding one artistic choice she made, but I’ll discuss that in a minute.

It’s no secret that writing in first-person can be incredibly difficult; many times you are faced with the impossible choice of either breaking form to convey vital information about goings-on somewhere other than where your POV character happens to be, or leaving said information untouched. The Hunger Games ran into this a few times, I thought, and the films are really benefitting from their ability to show President Snow discussing why things happen the way they do. In this book, however, the author manages to pull an end-run around the issue. In the present, there’s no need to cut away–Breq is alone, or Seivarden is with her. Either way, everything important happening centers on her. In her flashbacks explaining how she came to be in her position, she’s an AI with eyes everywhere there’s an ancillary, ship’s camera or sensor. This allows the author to write in first person omniscient for those sequences, which I’m not sure I’ve ever seen done before. We the reader can sometimes be mystified by a secondary character, can be left wondering why they said or did something, but this is okay because we’re seeing them through Breq’s eyes, and she is just as mystified as we are! This is especially confusing during the pivotal moment in Breq’s flashbacks where everything hits the fan and we learn just what happened, again because she doesn’t completely understand it herself. It is very apparent, however, that Leckie understands these things, and in time all will be revealed. This book isn’t actually out yet, it releases October 1st of this year from Orbit press. I have no idea how wide their reach is, so I don’t know whether you’ll have to go on Amazon to get it (here’s a link!) or if you’ll be able to pick it up at your favorite bookstore. However, I cannot emphasize enough how much you need to read this!

My one suggestion: an author’s note regarding the use of gender language throughout the book. The Radchaai language has no gender, so it’s not part of Breq’s “native thinking” to use gender-specific terms in her own head. All well and good, kudos for consistency, but I spent a good five minutes trying to figure out if it was a typo that Seivarden was referred to as “she” despite having been said to be male. (Ships are female, so everyone is “she.”) It works, it’s just a little confusing at the start. Certain characters, I still have no idea what their gender was. That’s ok, just….confusing. Most of the cast is female in my head, probably more than should be. (UPDATE: This is exactly what I was talking about. This or something like it should have been in the front of the book.)

Thanks and disclaimers: I received an advance reading copy (ARC) of this book for free through the ARCycling program with the understanding that I would review it. Basically, the idea is that people who get free copies of these books in order to generate reviews and publicity will pass their copies along to other bloggers (or anyone else who fit the profile–see their site for details) in order to better serve this purpose and spread the word. Its a great program, and I owe them (and the donator, of course!) thanks for getting this into my hands. I had seen ads for it, and thought it would be an interesting read, but it wasn’t a very high priority until I saw it on the list of offerings. I don’t know for sure who donated this one, but I seem to remember seeing The Little Red Reviewer credited when I requested it. (LRR, if you end up reading this, please confirm or deny so I can properly credit you? Awesome.) And by the way, if you like sci-fi/fantasy and aren’t following her, you should totally do that. My review is in no way influenced by the fact that I was given a free copy, except to ensure that I was able to write this in time to convince some of you to read it.

CONTENT: Language, R-rated but not gratuitous. Violence, occasionally gory, plus the whole concept of the ancillaries is a bit unsettling–especially the scene where they thaw out a new body and have to link it into the network. Some sexual innuendo, nothing explicit.

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