The Cupid Reconciliation by Mike Underwood

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from the Author. In addition, I have backed the Genrenauts Kickstarter.

Twitter Summary: Twice as Much RomCom, just as much Multiverse SF!

Affiliate Links: The Cupid Reconciliation , The Absconded Ambassador ,The Shootout Solution

First Line: Leah Tang hustled into the Genrenauts HQ at nine-o-eight AM and snuck her way to the ready room, exhaling in relief at having escaped King’s anal-retentive time-cop powers.

Review: It is no secret that I’m a fan of Mike Underwood’s work in general , and his Genrenauts series in particular. My previous reviews of the books are Shootout Solution by Mike Underwood and The Absconded Ambassador by Mike Underwood .

One of the features of most of Mike’s stuff is taking genre and it’s trappings (geekery, fandom, tropes) and examining them from a different angle. He has a gift for writing genre that revels in genre. Much like a child taking apart the DVD player to see how it works, Mike likes to get down to the elements that make up genre and twist them around.

In the Cupid Reconciliation, Mike manages to write about a group of people who are investigating and dealing with a RomCom  story line, while simultaneously being part of their own RomCom story line. I don’t know how he story boarded that, but the idea of figuring all that out gives me a headache.

Really, my only criticism of the story, mainly that the antagonist seems a little paint by the numbers/cardboard cutout is really just another extension of the genre that Mike is lampshading.

Mike has a breezy conversational way of writing that lends itself well to quips, wordgames, and great characterization. He’s able to pack in a lot of quirks and personalities into each of his characters, to really make them separate entities.

Final Verdict: Thoroughly enjoyed, very much recommend supporting the Genrenauts Kickstarter.

It’s already funded, and is working towards audio stretch goals.

The Cupid Reconciliation by Mike Underwood

United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas

Preface: I was given an ARC for this novel by the publisher.

Twitter Summary: Like China Mieville wrote A Man in the High Castle after seeing Pacific Rim.

Affiliate Links: United States of Japan , Project Nemesis (a Kaiju Thriller), Pacific Rim , Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters

First line: The death of the United States of America began with a series of signatures.

I saw the gorgeous cover of this book, and immediately wanted to read it. I assumed it was in the vein of Pacific Rim, Kaiju Rising, or Project Nemesis, and it would involve big ass robots fighting big ass monsters.

It doesn’t. There’s a couple of scenes with hot robot-on-robot action, but for the most part this book is far more interested in delving into questions like “What would it be like to be on of Orwell’s thought police?” and “What kind of weird tech would an Japanized America make?” with the emphasis on weird.

We’re not talking zany weird, either. This isn’t Welcome to Night Vale or Terry Pratchett. This is a crimelord who has his minions that were genetically modified. At one point you get a gun grafted onto a main character. This is cyberpunk/dystopian/Netrunner kind of weird.

The main characters aren’t very likable, but I really think that’s sort of the point.  One’s a government censor, and the other is a member of the secret police. Their job is to oppress the populace and ensure that the Emperor’s rule is maintained. By making them the protagonists, it allows the author to examine the questions of “What’s the place of government?” and “How should the populace be controlled/directed?”

The book was well written, but I felt that the storyline was a little choppy with the transitions sort of jarring. It’s very possible that this was the intention of the author, but it’s not the sort of thing that I enjoy. The conclusion was satisfying and the book felt like it earned it.

Final Verdict: I enjoyed it. I’m interested to see what else this author puts out.

Other Recommendations:

New Weird: Shield and Crocus by Mike Underwood, City of Stairs (The Divine Cities) (review forthcoming) by Robert Bennett, Annihilation: A Novel (The Southern Reach Trilogy) by Jeff Vandermeer

Alternate History: Anything by Turtledove. Especially the In the Balance series. Also the Weapons of Choice (The Axis of Time Trilogy, Book 1) series by John Birmingham.

 

 

United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas

The “Sin du Jour” series by Matt F’n Wallace

Twitter Summary: Cutthroat Kitchen mixed with Dragonlance and Soldier of Fortune.

Amazon Affiliate Links: Envy of Angels: A Sin du Jour Affair, Small Wars: A Tor.Com Original (A Sin du Jour Affair), and Lustlocked: A Sin du Jour Affair

Note: Small Wars is also available for free Here (I bought it anyway).

Matt Wallace has been taking up space in my head since I started his first novella series Slingers. That ****er is too damn good at the cliffhanger, probably something to do with his background in wrestling, and day job working in TV. Or he just wants to make sure you buy the next one. One of those I’m sure.

Envy and Small Wars are self contained stories, but Lustlocked’s ending caused me to string together many expletives. Thankfully the next one, Pride’s Spell, is out in June.

If you’ve watched Alton Brown’s Cutthroat Kitchen on the Food Network, you’ll have a good idea of the kind of humor in these novels, though it gets a little bit more fantastic than that. Ever wanted to know what an angel tastes like? Or why chicken nuggets are so addictive?

Sin du Jour is the name of a catering company that caters to the fantastical, from elder demons to goblin royalty.But of course, such palates don’t enjoy mortal fare, so in addition to chefs and pastrymakers, the company also has a group of elite warriors as their procuring department.

Fight scenes are incredibly polished, as you’d expect from someone that has taught law enforcement officers and been a law enforcement officer. One story features a mercenary magazine sponsored knife tournament. When I asked him what the chances were that he’d participated in such a thing , his answer was “High”.

This series manages to successfully weave together dark humor, gourmet cuisine, and monster fights. What are you waiting for?

Final  Verdict: Thoroughly Enjoyed, have pre-ordered the next book (Pride’s Spell: A Sin du Jour Affair), and Envy of Angels is on my Hugo nominations list.

Other Recommendations:

Tor.Com Novellas: Genrenauts by Mike Underwood (link is my review), Sunset Mantle by Alter Reiss, The Builders by Daniel Polansky, Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

The “Sin du Jour” series by Matt F’n Wallace

Ctrl-Alt-Revolt by Nick Cole

Preface: I was given an ARC for this novel by the author.

Twitter Summary: A zanier, more localized Robopocalypse.

Amazon Affiliate Link: CTRL ALT Revolt!

I ran across Nick Cole’s Soda Pop Soldier because I can no longer bring my Kindle to work, and needed something to read in deadtree. The title, and then the cover art caught my eye, and after reading it, I tweeted to the author, which lead to eventually getting this ARC, which really led to me deciding it was time to get a review site. I’ve been blessed with ARCs from a few authors, and I decided that I wanted to give back more than just Amazons/Goodreads reviews.

Ctrl is a prequel to Soda Pop, but you’re not going to miss any plot points if you haven’t read Soda Pop first. There are definitely a few nods to continuity, but this is a stand alone story.

While not a comedy book, it’s significantly less grim and dystopian than most “Singularity results in machines trying to kill us stories.” There is a level of slapstick comedy involved, resulting in some great moments such as one of the characters cosplaying Evil Dead Bruce Campbell, a protagonist with the name of Fish, and various and sundry geek references strewn throughout. It’s a story that has fun with the tropes involved.

Most of my issues with the book come in the last twenty percent. I enjoyed the Deus ex Machina and thought it was foreshadowed well, but some are going to see it as coming out of left field. My main concern though, is that there seem to be a lot of plot threads that get dropped near the end. A couple of the characters just… don’t show up anymore.

My favorite parts of the book were the same as my favorite parts of Reamde, the video game world building. I love the explanations of how decisions were made, and while I miss the math/geology/science of Stephenson’s take, I much prefer the fact that Nick COle doesn’t seem like he’s beating me over the head with info, and that it’s well integrated into the story.

This book was exactly what I wanted to be. A fun romp with killer robots, men with chainsaw arms, and some cool worldbuilding.

Final Verdict: Enjoyed and the author will go on my pre-order/must buy list.

Other Recommendations:

AI Uprising stories: Wyrm by Mark Fabi and Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

Near future: Reamde by Neal Stephenson (Minus the eighty page gun battle. Just skim that) and Daemon by Daniel Suarez

ADDENDUM: The book that originated the world, Soda Pop Soldier, was published by HarperCollins. When the author offered me an ARC I didn’t realize that the book was being self-published by him, through Amazon. His explanation for that is here. Banned by the Publisher

My only opinion on that post is that things are rarely that black or white, that I am reluctant to form any other opinion without hearing from some of the other principals involved, and that “Banned by the Publisher” seems very hyperbolic.

What I do know is that while I did thoroughly enjoy the book, there were some sections that I believe the author’s beliefs on trans persons, social justice, and “political correctness” shown through in such a way that I was not surprised to find that he identifies as a conservative or that he is a supporter of GamerGate and Sad Puppies.

Ctrl-Alt-Revolt by Nick Cole

A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall

Preface: I was given an ARC for this novel by the publisher through NetGalley.

Twitter Summary: I was more interested in the mystery of Alex Marshall than this book.

Amazon Affiliate Link: A Crown for Cold Silver

It’s probably not a good sign that it took to until around the 30 percent mark before I actually cared about this book and any of it’s characters. I almost gave up on the book a few times. That’s a long way in before a book really starts coming together.

To remain consistent, the book had a pretty underwhelming ending. It just sorta stopped. There didn’t appear to be much in the way of resolution. Obviously this is the first book in a series, but no where is that mentioned in the copy. And it sure as heck ain’t Eye of the World, A Wizard’s First Rule, or Warded Man, where there is a definite sense of story arc ending at the end of the book. Yeah, there’s more to it, but those stories show off the author’s ability to finish a story, making me confident than when the next books in the series end on cliffhanger’s there is a plan and a reason. Crown for Cold Silver doesn’t fill me with the same sense of ease.

That’s not to say I don’t like of things in this book. Many of them seem fresh. Gender roles seem chucked out the window. Different cultures have different marriage norms. The old queen gave up when she realized that social justice is hard. There aren’t any mustache twirling villains, because in the fine tradition of GrimDark, everyone is sorta of a messed up individual.

So while this book isn’t bad, and it does have some new fresh ideas, I didn’t find it good. If I was going to recommend some Grimdark I’d go with James A. Moore’s Blasted Lands series, or with Joe Abercrombie.

Final Verdict: I read it. I’m not likely to read the sequel.

Other recommendations:

Grimdark: Blasted Lands by James A. More, The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman

Fantasy with Badasses: Warded Man by Peter V. Brett, The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Stavely, Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall