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After finishing the Jaran series by Kate Elliott, I turned around and read the Highroad Trilogy by Alis Rasmussen aka Kate Elliott. They were re-released in the last year or so as ebooks. Jaran is set in the same universe, but takes place a few generations before--complicated by the fact that some people have access to longevity medicine.

The Rift is a set of worlds that were colonized by Earth with ships using the "low road", slow interstellar travel. A faster method was invented/stolen/adapted after they left, but meanwhile the path had been lost to most. A few people have made it to the Rift, hiding from the government and other enemies. The main character is Lilyhae Ransome, the daughter of a mining house on a barely inhabitable world (basically, sealed underground). She's restless and has been studying martial arts with a man called Heredes. Then Heredes is kidnapped, and Lily decided to rescue him.

Reading it directly after the Jaran books made it much easier for me to catch the connections, name drops, etc. Lots of fun to try to piece together the connections while the main story (and it's complicated) unfolds. Definitely an early work by Elliott, but quite enjoyable even so.

"The old man is dead."

I then finally picked up a new book, The Sea of Time by P.C. Hodgell. It's the seventh (is that all? alternatively, already??) of Jamethiel's story. Jamethiel is a Kencyrath. The Kencyrath has been fighting a loosing battle against evil (Perimal Darkling) for thousands of years. They've been on their current planet for about three thousand. Meanwhile, there was treachery, the fall by her relatives, so she and her brother, Torisen, were raised in a kind of exile. Both have made it back to the main society, but are causing quite a bit of turbulence and mayhem in their wake. In this book, Jame has survived the randon (military) academy is assigned to the Southern Host. A good chunk of the Kencyrath have been hired as mercenaries for a fabulous trading city.

We get some more answers in this book about her and Tori's past which is great. It feels less like a diversion as some of the previous books seemed to me. I know that they're not really, everything is important, but...
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I continued on a Martha Wells binge, and read the 3 Raksura novels again. Then instigated by someone's post (sorry) and their release as ebooks, I read Kate Elliott's Jaran series again.

What to say, what to say?

Both series have incredible worldbuilding. I do wish we get a few more books in the Jaran universe, even if they're in different time periods (the Highroad trilogy by Elliott but published as Alis Rasmussen is set in the future of the Jaran series).
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Mostly re-reads. After cheering about Kate Elliott's post on Martha Wells's The Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy (um, back in February), I finally decided to reread books 2 and 3, The Ships of Air and The Gate of Gods. Oh, I do love the Ile-Rien setting. If only the first book had sold better so we could have MORE!

Ile-Rien is set in a secondary world, where magic and Fae exist. The main capital is Vienne (like Paris or Vienna). In this trilogy, Ile-Rien's world has been under attack by the Gardier who have overrun a few neighboring countries and are now about to conquer Ile-Rien. Tremaine Valiarde, a young playwright and novelist, is caught up in an investigation and research started by her father and foster-uncle, Nicholas Valiarde and Arisilde Damal. Nicholas was a master criminal, and morphed into a government agent (sort of) as a young man. Arisilde Damal was an extremely talented sorcerer who had frittered a lot of it away as a drug user, but had recovered when Tremaine was young. They had been investing early incursions by the Gardier but had disappeared. Anyway, this is about trying to fight the Gardier and to discover what is driving them to war.

I think Wells is great at well-put together worlds--there's always a lot of scope for more stories--and great characters. I end up caring about the secondary and tertiary ones, not just the primary ones and can remember them easily. A commenter on the Elliott post called it competence porn, which I've seen before in relation to Wells's works. It is so nice to have characters who may make mistakes, but are rarely stupid, and really pull through (usually by their wits) when put to it. I would love to see Miles Vorkosigan and Nicholas Valiarde paired up, except Nicholas would probably murder Miles!

A new story, "Rites of Passage", was released a week or so ago. Wheeee!!!

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller also released a new short story on their Splintered Universe site, "Roving Gambler", about Pat Rin yos'Phelium's son, Quin.

2014: early April: Cherryh

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Well, another trilogy in the Atevi series has completed with book 15 (!), Peacemaker. It follow directly after the previous book, Protector, which has the landing of 3 human children, "associates" of Cajeiri, and Jase-paidhi. Whisked off to Atageini lands, they enjoy some fun times in celebration of Cajeiri's upcoming fortuitous ninth birthday. Because the security issues, most people don't know they're there. Everyone gets caught up in an assassination by the Shadow Guild (dum-dum-dum). Once the smoke clears (or maybe before then), they're secretly off back to the capital to try to end the head of the Shadow Guild. That's the start of Peacemaker</>.

The book alternates narrators between Cajeiri and Bren like previous books. It's a nice change, and Cajeiri is slowly growing up and becoming wiser. Some interesting twists and turns occur as they attempt to retake the Assassin's Guild from the hands of the Shadow Guild members. At one point, to gain access to the Guild headquarters, Bren must be the "lord" to do so. At first, I thought, what? why can't any lord do it (there were reasons not to have Ilisidi nor Tabini), but finally remembered that it's to allow his aishid / bodyguards into the building. They have the seniority and skills to complete the task.

So, nice finish to the trilogy. Damiri-daja's pregnancy finally wraps up too, finally.

There is a series summary, ostensibly written partially by Geigi (and the rest by Bren).

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2014 books, mid-March: Wells...and Wells

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I currently am re-reading Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells as an e-book. I'm trying to do that more [read e-books] when I'm sitting around waiting for the kids to go to sleep rather than play games. I dearly love this book. It was the first Martha Wells that I read (I think) after reading many recommendations on rasfw (rec.arts.sf.written, a usenet newsgroup). I'd ignored it due to the gothic/horror-looking cover and title. It's not really although the bad guy is suitably horrific. A comment on a blog post by Kate Elliott called Wells's books, competence porn, which is a great characterization. Her characters are competent or at least fast-thinking and will keep trying and going when it gets tough. Great characters, busy plots. Stories normally take place over a week or so at the most. DotN is set in an alternative/secondary world in a place like Paris or Vienna in the late 19th century. No cars or airplanes yet, but pistols and rifles are available. Magic and sorcery are real, and studied.

Emilie and the Sky World is a second young adult novel by Wells, following last year's Emilie and the Hollow World. Emilie is a young woman, unhappy at a relative's home after the death of her parents, who decides to go live with her cousin in another city and help in her cousin's private school. She finds herself in trouble along the way and stows away aboard an airship. It turns out that it's on an expedition to travel to another world/dimension using the aether current (this world's magic source). By the end of the book, Emilie has been hired by the expedition leader's daughter, Miss Marlende. In this book, they've just returned when a disturbance or hole in the aether current has been noticed. They decide to mount a new expedition to try to figure out what's happening. They know that another expedition went missing there a year ago. As you might guess, that expedition plays a significant role in the book.

I think I need to quit reading the first books in series and just start with the second ones. I've been meh over a few first books in series recently, but quite enjoyed the sequels. I think it's the world-building--I'm finding it too boring. Anyway, I liked Emilie 1 fine, but it wasn't a 'fav'. I enjoyed Sky World quite a bit more and look forward to Emilie's further adventures!
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I sucked down a re-read of Martha Wells, The Siren Depths, the third Book of the Raksura. It's set on another world complete with many, many races, some long dead and forgotten. The Raksura are actually two races that merged together, Arbora and Aeriat. Queens and cosorts of the aeriat plus the arbora are fertile, the warriors (also aeriat) are not. The aeriat have both a arbora (groundling) and winged form.

Moon, a consort, escaped destruction of his offshoot colony as a child but lost his fellow survivors shortly afterwards. He never knew what he was and had been making his way through the world. At one point, he ran across the Fell. They are relatives of the Raksura, but hivelike and just trying to eat their way through the world. They tried to convince Moon he was one of them, but he rejected that and escaped them again. An older consort, Stone, finds him and decides he'd be perfect for his dwindling colony of Indigo Cloud, and a young queen. Moon very slowly adapting to live with Raksura when an allied (sort of) queen and warriors shows up to take him to his original colony--that Indigo Cloud has no rights to him. They're correct and off they go, although his mate, Jade, swears to follow quickly.

We get more of Moon being himself and causing consternation among more traditional colonies (yea!) and another showdown with the Fell. Consorts are usually coddled and protected. Moon's been on his own for years and just does what's necessary, so the normal etiquette usually gets tossed out when he challenges back some pushy warrior or queen. It's lovely fun. More books in this series were derailed when the publisher went down. That publisher was then bought and have contracted 4 novellas (released as two books). Yea!!

Meanwhile, Kate Elliott posted about Wells's Fall of Ile-Rien trilogy and gave it a glowing review as are most of the people replying. Wheee! I love this series. One poster called it competence p*rn. Very, very true. The main characters are often highly capable. However, they can still be full of doubts, make bad decisions, so they seem more real.

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I just found out earlier in the week that Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises was going into wide release. The Wind Rises is the semi-biographical tale of Jiro Horikoshi, an aircraft designer for Mitsubishi. It starts with him as a child dreaming about flying his own plane, but he's near-sighted and knows he can never by a pilot. He imagines that his idol, Giovanni Caproni, an Italian aircraft designer. Jiro realizes that he can be one as well.

Beautiful, bittersweet movie. Not necessarily for kids.

Edit: Baby crying, thus the short review.

If you like planes or technology/engineering, this is for you. Miyazaki has Jiro able to 'see' into the wings of the planes and then see how they're going to fail. We get a lot of crashing planes.

There's a thread about a young girl who he helps during the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake and fire. They meet again later and she has a significant influence on his life.

A very powerful part is the earthquake and later fire. It includes the roar of the fire that they must have heard.

I've read a few reviews. There's some controversies--is it glorifying the militarism and glossing over various problems? There is a little discussion about how these planes will be used for destruction, but Jiro is an engineer. The big idea is building the best plane possible, not what it's going to be used for. He wanted to work with cutting edge technology. At the time, that was for the military, unfortunately. We would have to condemn all the scientists and engineers who worked on the atomic bombs or that helped use napalm in the Viet Nam war.

2014 books: mid-February: Scott and Graham

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The third book, Silver Bullet, of the Order of the Air series by Melissa Scott and Jo Graham has just been released as an ebook. The printed book will be out in a few weeks. Due to a trip, I was able to purchase the ebook and finish it today.

The Order of the Air series follows five characters, all owners or employees (or otherwise affiliated) with Gilchrist Aviation, a small aviation company based in Colorado Springs. It's the 30s, so Prohibition is in effect (and widely disregarded), the Depression is deepening, and in this book, Roosevelt has just been elected. The characters are also members of a hermetic lodge, and have various arcane powers. Lewis Segura, is a seer, and learning to use his powers with the help of Stasi, a clairvoyant, ghost talker, and sometime thief. She's a European refugee, who never tells the same story twice if she can help it. Alma Gilchrist Segura is a co-owner of Gilchrist. She started it with her first husband (the company's namesake) but he died several years earlier. Her co-owner is Mitch Sorley, a decorated ace from North Carolina, dealing with pretty horrible injuries (although they're not obvious). Lastly is Jerry Ballard, an archaeologist currently on a temporary job in New York City. He lost part of a leg from a war injury and is struggling to get back into archaeology. Stasi and Jerry aren't pilots.

In Colorado, the group is dealing with planes crashing about blue sky lightning. Meanwhile, Jerry has come across what first appears to be an ubiquitous relic but could be the clue to an amazing archaeological find.

Everyone ends up coming back together in Colorado, with both mysteries handled--at least for the short term. There are a few very interesting developments that should have lasting effects on the group. I think this series is just getting better and better. I felt the first book suffered from introducing everyone. Now that that's been done, more story can be told, and a deepening of the characterizations as we learn more about the characters' back stories and current feelings.

Upon reflection, I was surprised at a conversation that Alma and Stasi have. I don't know why Stasi would have the vocabulary since English is at least her third or fourth language. I can't really say more as it would definitely be a spoiler. Also, this book has some (short) explicit sex. Anyway, start with the first book, Lost Things, although you could probably start with the 2nd instead, Steel Blues.

2014 books: Leckie

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I kept seeing recommendations for a new book by Ann Leckie called Ancillary Justice. I don't remember if it was called space opera, but certainly it's space-set. The Radch is an ancient civilization. The language is genderless, but defaults to female, or at least the main character, Breq, does. To fuel the Radchaai civilization, and keep it stable and rich, they practiced annexations. An annexation is a take-over of a planet or smaller civilization. During it, everyone who might be a threat or just cause problems are killed or frozen so they can be turned into ancillaries. Ancillaries are part of a multi-bodied AI. The Radchaai ships (and stations) are AI and generally use ancillaries under control of a human captain and lieutenants.

Somewhat before the book opens, the head of the Radch, Anaander Mianaai, has announced that annexations will stop and the aptitudes (tests that decide your career) will be opened up--anyone can become anything--when before it was only the best and most important families whose children got the best jobs.

The books weaves together two stories. In the first, ancillaries from the battleship Justice of Toren attends her lieutenant, Awn, on a recently annexed planet. In the second, it's twenty years later, and one of the ancillaries, One Esk Nineteen (Breq), is now trying to take revenge for earlier events.

The (non-)emphasis on gender is very intriguing. The Radch don't really care, fashion is neutral. Breq is traveling outside Radch space so has to care about it--as people get upset when mistakes are made, but just really doesn't understand. I found it quite jarring early on in the book when Breq is referring to someone as she and her, then another character describes the person as bearded. That wore off, and I quite enjoyed it later. As another reviewer pointed out, we don't know what gender Breq's body is. It's never an issue.

Breq is now a soldier without a job but she has decided on a purpose and everything it driving her to fulfill that purpose. She ends up with a companion when she rescues a lost Radchaai, Seivarden, who was one of her lieutenants, a thousand years earlier. Seivarden had been in a ship accident and frozen for that long and is now adrift. Her (actually his) family now merged with another, no career, all friends and close family dead. She had escaped the Radch and then started taking drugs. Breq rescues her and they end up becoming friends, of a sorts.

I don't want to say much more, because of possible spoilers, but this is an excellent book and will hopefully make a lot of award nominee lists this year.

2013 books: Shinn

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Mild spoilers for the first book in the Elemental Blessings series, Troubled Waters.




After a drought, I managed to finish two books fairly quickly. Sharon Shinn's new Elemental Blessings book, Royal Airs, continues the story of the people of Welce. In this country, people have an affinity for an element. For instance, coru is blood and water while elay is air and soul. A person is given three blessings at birth by strangers drawing tokens from a container in a temple. People will then drawn more tokens later to see what might be upcoming in their lives. Each trait/family has a prime who has extended powers. The new book, Royal Airs, takes place several years after the first book, Troubled Waters. In Royal Airs, the princess Josetta has settled into a life of good works by running a shelter in the slums of the capital city Chialto. She encounters a card shark (with a heart of gold), Rafe, after he rescues her step-sister (kind of, it's complicated), Corene.

Rafe has never had any blessings. His mother married a farmer when he was young and died with the birth of his half-brother. While Rafe thinks she was not from Welce, she never revealed where she was from or who his father was. When he or someone else pulls blessings, he always gets 'ghost coins', tokens that are so worn the blessing can't be read. As he gets more involved with Josetta, his past gets revealed.

Josetta was a minor character in the first book where the main character was Zoe Lalindar Ardelay, who ends up being the coru prime. She does appear in this book and it's nice to catch up with her. Rafe and Josetta are appealing characters, and Rafe's post-gambler profession is quite thrilling. I definitely look forward to more books in this series! After finishing it, I reread the first book which I had mostly forgotten.

2013 mid-December books: Shepherd

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What with family issues, a thanksgiving trip, and more family issues, I've only now finished another book. Joel Shepherd published 3 science fiction books, the Cassandra Kresnov series, several years ago. Starting this year, another few books will be released. The first one, 23 Years on Fire, is the continuing adventures of Sandy Kresnov. She's a GI, an artificial person of extremely high designation (very smart and capable, designed to be an elite commander of forces by the League), and 23 is how many years she's been alive. Now working security for the Federation, after abandoning the League, she's also been helping other League GI defectors to adapt to freedom in the Federation. She hears about trouble on a set of unaffiliated (to League or Federation) planets called New Torah. It turns out to be serious trouble and reveals big issues with GIs and the League. I guess I'd have to call the series a mil-SF one, but it focuses more on personal combat, SWAT-style fights, on the ground action, and boy is it fun. Shepherd does a good job with the action.

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