Every once in a while the towering review pile of review titles hits the point where, no matter how I might dodge and duck, I just can't escape its quivering shadow. It stands there, looming over me, threatening to bury me under a landslide of words. It's at that point, where I know one more title will turn a wobble into a topple, that I know I need to clean house.
The following are more thoughts and opinions that proper reviews, notes I've made as I've gone along, and impressions that stayed with me . . .
Propinquity by John Macgregor
A sort of literary precursor to Dan Brown (it was originally published in the late 80s, but fell victim to a dying publisher), this has a lot going for it, but the pacing and the characters just couldn't compel my interesting. Intellectually, I found it fascinating, particularly with the odder, more esoteric historical tidbits, but fascination alone isn't enough to hold my attention.
The story takes a long time to get going, during which we're introduced to a small group of friend who, I'm afraid to say, just held no appeal for me. There was no emotional attachment there, no drive to follow one or another and see how things might turn out. I just wasn't invested in them or their fates, and no matter how many times I kept going back to the book, I ultimately just couldn't see my way through to the end.
Published May 12th 2013 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
A Darkling Sea by James Cambias
This is one of those titles I may try and revisit at a late time, but which just isn't working for me at the moment. Maybe my tastes have strayed too far from science fiction into fantasy over the years, or maybe I've become a bit too dependent upon a comfortable narrative, but sometimes the technical challenge just isn't worth the patience required.
I thought the book started off very well, and it managed to get some deep hooks into me early on. My problems began with the Sholan and ended (at least for now) with the Ilmataran. The former came across as a 'cheap' sort of alien species, too much like us, despite their outward appearance. The latter were much more alien, but I struggled with the scenes from their POV. As much as I enjoy stories of first contact and alien exploration, I prefer my aliens to be . . . well, alien. Like I said, I may give it another shot later, but the novelty of the setting just wasn't enough to counter my issues with the first contact races.
Published January 28th 2014 by Tor Books
Tales From High Hallack, Volume 1 by Andre Norton
Make no mistake, this is a stellar collection of tales by an amazing author. I mean, there's a good reason Andre Norton is known as the Grand Dame of science fiction. My issue with the text was simply one of familiarity. I can't count how many stories I began, only to get halfway through and suddenly realize I'd read them before. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I'm simply not one to reread books or stories, no matter how much I enjoyed them the first time around.
It was nice to visit with friends, and there were a few excellent stories that were new to me - By A Hair was an interesting bit of urban fantasy, set in the Soviet era; The Dowry of the Rag Picker’s Daughter was an exciting bit of Arabian Nights style storytelling; and The Boy and the Ogre was a great old-fashioned fairy tale - but most I'd read before, and the frustration of abandoning one story after another began to wear a bit thin. A great collection, however, if you're new to her legacy.
Published January 14th 2014 by Premier Digital Publishing
Chasm by James Bruno
I really wanted to like this one. The concept was fantastic, and I'm usually a sucker for anything with a Jack Ryan or a Jack Bauer slant to it, but this just felt too simple and too cliched, even for the genre. The writing didn't flow particularly well, and the characters were pure stock, names and faces to fill the page, with little personality to differentiate them.
The political aspects were really intriguing, but they got buried under plot twists that strained the old willing suspension of disbelief, and a rather uneven sort of pacing that seemed to let me down every time I was sure Bruno finally had things in gear. While I was curious as to how it would all end, I had a pretty good idea of what the climax would be, and a quick skim of the final chapters showed I was pretty much dead on.
Published May 22nd 2012 by Bittersweet House Press