Month: June 2019

Redliners, by David Drake


David Drake has a well-earned reputation for war-heavy shoot-em-ups, high on military action, and maybe light on deeper meaning. I’ve read a lot of them. They’re fun.

But this book, written in part in an effort to exorcise the author’s own demons after his service in Vietnam, is on a whole different level. The story follows a company of troops who are used up. They’ve seen too much combat to really be effective any more, and each soldier is carrying their own scars. In it’s infinite wisdom, the bureaucracy assigns them to protect a group of civilian colonists on possibly the most hostile planet ever to be colonized. As you can guess, things do not go smoothly.

What captures the reader in this book isn’t the plot, though it is fast-paced and entertaining, but the people. The soldiers are real. They are experienced, competent, weary, and often dancing on the razor’s edge between ferocity and insanity. You can see how the horrors these veterans have been through are still with them and how they dominate every decision they make, from the officers down to the lowest foot-soldier. The pain these people carry with them and the way they either bury it or let it run is so real, so visceral, and so obviously felt in the heart of the author that the reader can’t look away even when they want to.

I won’t tell you this book is fun. But I’ll tell you this book is worth it. It won’t leave you; ever. I’ve never served in the armed forces, but after reading this I can’t help but empathize with what our troops have gone through and what they may be bringing home with them.

The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch


The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastards, Book 1)

This is a brilliantly plotted, deeply detailed and engrossing book. At first it’s all light-hearted adventure and daring, but then bad things happen, and things do indeed get serious. I though I was in for some fun escapism with this one, but then I found myself really growing attached to the characters. Then things took a turn as our young heroes learned that not everything is just fun and games, and that there are truly bad things out there in the world.

I ready the rest of this series one after another – couldn’t stop if I had to. I really, really needed to know what was going to happen to these people. To me, that’s the mark of a great story: when you find yourself skipping out on other things in life because you just have to know what’s next in this imaginary world.

His Majesty’s Dragon, but Naomi Novik


His Majesty's Dragon: A Novel of Temeraire

It’s C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower, but with dragons! Forester’s chronicles of Hornblower’s career are some of my favorite books ever, and if I’d known these books would remind me of those, I honestly probably would have stayed away for fear of sullying those masterworks. I’m so glad I didn’t know what this was when I picked it up off of a shelf while on a trip to Colorado. This book, and the ones that follow it, paint a vivid picture of the restrained, gentlemanly warriors of the Napoleonic wars, making things so real you can almost feel the ships of the navy rocking beneath you. And then the author adds dragons, who are not just props but are major characters themselves, with a naivete and depth of personality that plays a brilliant counterpart to the stiff English gentlemen (and women) that populate the rest of the story.

I tore through about the first four books in the series and then forced myself to take a break. But in the ultimate vote of confidence in the author’s ability to keep things going I’ve already bought three more, and I’ll be back into them soon.

The Hike, by Drew Magary


The Hike: A Novel

This story of a man stumbling into an unexpected journey was odd, sometimes confusing, twisty, and altogether fun, though it took a bit per perseverance to get through. There were several times where I said to myself “Yeah, I’ve had about enough. Maybe it’s time for something else.” But I kept coming back because I wanted to know this mind-bending journey would turn out. and I’m glad I stuck it out, because by the end I’d discovered something profound and thought-provoking, where I thought I was just siting down for some entertainment I accidentally stumbled into my own journey right alongside the main character.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers

Other People's Books

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers Book 1)

I loved this book, and honestly can’t say why. Good characters that I could get attached to, but not the most memorable ever. A well-imagined universe, but not fascinating in itself. A good pace, lots of excitement, but I’ve experienced better. So what is it about this? I just couldn’t stop reading. Maybe it was the emotional roller-coaster that hooked me. Maybe it was the fact that this story shows just a little more intellect and depth than most. The story has light-hearted moments, sad moments, excitement, introspection… there’s a little bit of everything going on as we go an the long ride through space with this band of misfits. I was caught and the story wouldn’t let me go. Rarely have I been so glad to be trapped.

The Way of Shadows, by Brent Weeks

Other People's Books

The Way of Shadows (Night Angel Book 1)

OK, so maybe Brent Weeks doesn’t need any more advertisements or reviews. Still, it’s just a good book. The “powerless orphan becomes something special” trope isn’t new, by any means, nor is the plot of the book anything you can’t probably guess at just by reading the back cover. But it will capture you nonetheless. The world is detailed but easy to relate to, and the pacing keeps your eyes open late at night. But the people are the best part. This is the rare sort of book where most of the characters, not just a few, are memorable people who you’re likely to think about long after you’ve finished reading.

I read books 2 and 3 of the series as well and although like just about every series, they weren’t quite as good as the first, they still got read pretty quickly. What better advertisement for a book than the fact that I felt the urge to go down to the bookstore and pay way too much cash for new versions instead of waiting to find used copies?