Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Review: When the Gods Fell, Richard Paolinelli

Welcome to When the Gods Fell, the latest by the Dragon Award finalist Richard Paolinelli (Escaping Infinity)
Mars Is Hiding A Secret

When the first small group of humans arrive on Mars, they expect to retrieve some probes and learn more about Earth’s neighbor. Instead, they find Oracle Veritas, of House Delphi, who has waited 65 million years to brief these children of Olympus about their own origins, their very essence … and the danger that threatens them.

Seas and lakes, deserts and icecaps, forests and mountains once covered this planet then called Olympus. Veritas tells them that it was home to a race of immortals—Zeus, Odin, Yahweh, Lucifer, and others—who guided the fates of other worlds and fought among themselves for supremacy.

Zeus, Odin, Yahweh, and Lucifer, supported by characters from other realms, had battled for control. As civil war loomed, the most powerful of all the gods, Zeus, foresaw chaos and destruction. Left with a single, terrible solution to save all the worlds, Zeus turned to the only person he could trust to carry out his last order … and change all existence forever.
When The Gods Fell (Lost Civilizations Book 1) by [Paolinelli, Richard]This was hands-down awesome. This is one part 2001: A Space Odyssey, one part Dan Simmons, and one part Babylon 5, with a hint of Mass Effect.

The short version? The concepts are brilliant The execution is spot on. There is about 10-15% of the book that needed a little bit of a trim, but aside from that? Wonderful.

This one is very much a novel. I don't mean to be masty about the description. But this is as much of a novel as The Martian. Only without as much smart ass. Okay, there's still plenty of smart ass -- with the Mars station Von Braun, and rovers named Aldren and The Glenn -- but this one is a bit more serious than The Martian. The execution of the science bit felt an a lot like the Martian -- sensible, straightforward, and sciencey. (I especially like how Russia, in 2040, is still trying to cover their inferiority complex with bravado.)

As the flap copy mentions, the martian crew is wandering around the planet, minding their own business .... until they stumble upon a woman just standing in the middle of the martian landscape. She's so happy that the humans seeded on Earth finally made it to Mars. Of course she managed to survive that long -- she had become a being of pure energy (damn Vorlons. They get everywhere). And it's a story 65 million years in the making (yes, I stole the Jurassic Park ad campaign).

The following story is an epic tale of ... well, we're going to take ALL the mythology, and make the gods aliens with style. There were so many mythological references in this one that I'm certain that I missed some. As this is mythology, there are enough betrayals and back stabbing to make the cast of Game of Thrones look like amateurs.

We have Caste Zion, led by Lord Yahweh, where everyone in the City of Eden is part of the national guard, which was helpful when Lucifer's House Satania challenged Chronos Saturnius' Caste Olympia a hundred years before hand, and Lord Marduk and Lord Tiamat of Houses Canaan and Dagon are plotting a followup coup....

Okay, this book is a little chocked FULL of smartass, if just requires a degree in classical studies (or a read-through of Bullfinch's Mythology) to really get the jokes.

As I said before, when Richard uses ALL of the mythologies, he uses ALL of the mythologies. If he missed one, I can't tell you what he may have left out. We have appearances by Thor, Loki, Shiva, Kali. Nippon, a literal Mount Fuji .... okay, Ganesh didn't make it into the book, but there's a sequel. And yes, Loki is still Loki. Then again, when everyone's pantheon gets together, everyone starts to look a little like Loki. (Honestly, straight up mythology has enough murder and incest porn to make Game of Thrones look like Kindergarten).

Now, in a book that mixes mythology and scifi -- especially when one turned mythology into Scifi -- you'd normally expect a ton of handwavium. Not really. I especially enjoyed describing Hades' House Orcus as underground, on the banks of a fire river Styx .... but that Styx had carved out tubes and caves from pole to pole, and the way the water is described as being laced with enough methane so that the water was always on fire. It was just such a nice touch. It's less scifi and more ... fi.

And the ending .... well, all I can say is that you should pay VERY close attention to the numbers they throw about.

There is only one problem with this book.

And no, I'm not kvetching about "Yahweh is a Vorlon." Even in the book, the Oracle telling the story said that yes, there was a Deity to whom these "gods" prayed. And I saw no mention of one of the kids becoming a carpenter. If you're that concerned, unbunch your panties and just relax. This is not Dan Brown. Paolinelli is not poking at your faith with malice aforethought.

The real problem: As the book nears the end, it's fairly obvious how this runaway freight train is going to end. In fact, we kinda know how the book is going to end from the beginning -- but the journey to how it gets there is so interesting and so readable, you don't care how it ends, you want to see how they got there. But after a certain point, runaway train is not only running off the rails, but is on fire. What comes next?

What comes next ... is a heck of an epilogue that sets up for an apocalyptic battle that I'm sure will be very interesting....

But damnit man, why did you have to end it THERE?

Anyway, at least pick up When the Gods Fell , and you'll see why I considered it for my Best SF novel for the Dragon Awards.

And please remember to vote in the Dragon Awards. If you think you know what you're going to vote for, you can click here and cast your vote right now, COMPLETELY FREE

If you think you might have some open slots in your ballot, then here's what I voted for -- and if you don't see something you like on my ballot, keep scrolling down the post, and you'll see all of the eligible books that I could find.


1000x500_horizontal_book_banner

Review: The War Revealed, by Karl Gallagher

I almost wish that The War Revealed came out this month.  That way, I could have voted for it for the Dragon Awards this year. I'm going to have to settle for The Lost War (reviewed yesterday).
Newman and Goldenrod survived landing in a monster-infested wilderness. Their group of historical reenactors no longer fears starvation. But can they control the magic powers people are developing? Discover how they were transported there? And stay safe from the orcs and dragons?
The War Revealed (The Lost War Book 2) by [Gallagher, Karl K.]As noted in yesterday's review, this series is amazing.

In the first book, we saw the emergence of magic just beginning to settle in among the folks of the SCA troop transported to a fantasy world where magic is common ... and so are orcs. This book goes far deeper into the mechanics of magic. I'm trying to recall when the last time I saw magic being executed this practically. In the previous novel, a lot of time was spent on logistics and how things work. This novel centered around how magic worked. There's Chekov's gun, and then there's Checkov's SAW. There were even some uses of potential energy that read a little bit like old-school philosophy (IE: Ancient Philosophy). And some of it boils down to "Magic is weird."

But yeah, there's a lot of how things get done, only with magic. Call it "hard fantasy" if you must be picky, but it's interesting and readable for well over 30% of the book.

Then there were the elves. The mother. Flipping. Elves. Who are nasty, brutish and .... tall. The following exchange from the book sums it up rather nicely.
"It's an Elf."
"Don't call it that. We don't know anything about it. If you call it 'elf' just on its looks, you're making assumptions about its culture, morals, everything. That could bite us."
"I'm not going by his looks."
"What then?"
"The arrogance."
The book 1, the reader was made aware that our heroes were brought over to help with the orc problem -- the humans are the exterminators. Here, our heroes are told the "why," and then things become fun. Once again, the moral of the story is "Don't screw with the humans."

About a third of the book is focused on magic and how it works. Twenty percent is on the elves. And the rest of the novel focuses on and gears up to The Big Battle.

Also .. yeah, I'm going to make one or two more comparisons to John Ringo. Why? Because of lines like "The reply that sprang to mind was It's my job to be an @$$hole. But this wasn't the army, he wasn't a sergeant." Then there's an entire scene where someone is counting coup, only with orcs... because infantry, apparently. Yes, I still enjoy how easily Karl does character. Ignoring that some of the names are a tad on the nose ("Autocrat Sharpquill" is my favorite subtlety hammer), when Karl does character, he can do it in a few lines. I especially like the head of the camp, "King Ironhelm." ("I played Othello and Richard the Third in front of a thousand people! I can keep a f***ing poker face.")

And I do enjoy the lines. Karl even gets in good coinage. Like "I'm a Metatheist. I don't believe in God, but I believe I should."  I'm sorry, I just like the line.

And screaming "Cannae!" to order an encircling maneuver. That was fun.

I have one problem with The War Revealed .... there might not be a third book. So buy book one and two, read them, review them, and make sure I get a book 3, damn it.

To help that along, you may consider The Lost War for this years Dragon Award. I voted for it and a bunch of other stuff right here.  If you already have a slate picked out, clicking here will take you straight to the awards and voting in the nominations.


1000x500_horizontal_book_banner

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Review: The Lost War

When I was sitting next to Karl Gallagher at LibertyCon, he mentioned that Torchship was about his day job (yes, he is a rocket scientist), and that The Lost War was about his hobby.
It was supposed to be a weekend of costumed fun. Instead these medieval historical reenactors are flung into a wilderness by magic they don't understand. They must struggle to survive and deal with monsters who consider them prey . . . or worse.
The Lost War by [Gallagher, Karl K.]Buckle up. This is going to be fun. This is my fantasy pick for best fantasy for the Dragon Awards this year. It is awesome, and you are going to like it. And if you don't, you're wrong.

Our main character is Newman Greenhorn -- and if you can't tell that he's a newbie at a gathering of the Society for Creative Anachronism, now you know. When his girlfriend brings him to the pagan circle on the first night, well, what's the worst that can happen?

This. This is the worst that can happen.

As the circle disbands, the entire camp has moved. The flora is different. The fauna are different. The stars are different. And there are three moons in the sky. The entire camp has been moved and the struggle to survive has begun. They need food. They need weapons. They need to know what threats are out there. And look up in the sky! It's a bird.... no, it's a plane.... crap, that's a dragon.

If you're thinking "SCA surviving in a fantasy landscape. Hmm, sounds like John Ringo's Council Wars".... that is a very superficial view of it. Let's put it this way, when I read Karl's Torchship trilogy, I said in a review "Well, if David Weber ever needs help finishing Honor Harrington, maybe he should take to Karl."

Having topped David Weber, Karl has apparently decided to top John Ringo. And I don't even mean the Council Wars. Because there is a very specific reason that Newman and the camp have been brought over to this new world. The world has a problem, and the humans are to be the pest control. Thank you, rotten, mutha-bleepin elves. (Yes, think Posleen. Only worse).

However, the plot is not what got me started on thinking about John Ringo. There is so much readable logistics in this book, it's amazing. There is a ton of effort put in on how things get done -- are the flora safe? Are the Fauna safe? The amateur astronomer who confirms, "Yes, the stars are different. We are not in Kansas anymore, Toto." "Oh look, here are piles of bones, we can deduce that we aren't the only hunters out here." There are considerations about medicines, hygiene, resource consumption, resource allocation, down to "How do we make soap?" and the question of law enforcement. Karl does a great job of setting up the situation, the variations of reactions to the setting, the governing of the new world -- both official and unofficial. You can see how it feels a bit like a Ringo novel, as he's one of the few I can think of who can recreate and rebuild an entire society that completely.

Amateurs study tactics. Karl's a professional.

Also, I dare you to find someone else who will deal with fantasy parasitology, microbiology and serology.

AND EVERY LAST MINUTE OF IT WAS EASILY READABLE AND ENJOYABLE. Unlike most geniuses, Karl writes plainly and easily without dumbing it down.

The character of Newman himself is ... a lot of military guys with two brain cells to rub together. (Which seems to be most of them -- I've only met one or two I wouldn't trust to breath into a paper bag.) Down to one section of "I'm more comfortable with strangers trying to kill me in the wild than dealing with protocol for nobility. Your excellency."

It was perfect. Down to the placement of the period.

There is a lot of easy character development. At least one character became my favorite in a one-page description (look for the character of "Burnout." I suspect she is a PA).

And then human beings start developing magical powers, and we have SCA X-Men.

This leads to some interesting moments, including several instances where the characters make a deduction, follow through on the deduction, and it is apparent to the reader what is going on -- and it is AT NO POINT SPELLED OUT FOR THE READER. Because Karl figures that the reader also has two brain cells to rub together. And he's right. I didn't have to be told what was going on ... in fact, I had to double back to make certain that Karl didn't spell it out. It's great writing.

And it's so nice when a character calls out "Thalassa!" and I know what the bleep he's talking about.

I have only one problem with the book -- no chapters. The novel is more or less one continuous work. Luckily, I read quickly, so I didn't have to lose TOO much sleep.

Anyway, as I said, a great book, brilliantly executed, and I've already finished books 1 and 2 this weekend. I hope to have the sequel reviewed by tomorrow. I'm hoping there's a book 3.

Buy book 1, The Lost War, here.

It is my pick for the Dragon Awards -- to see what else I've nominated, click here.

To go straight to voting for the Dragon Awards, without looking at anyone else's thoughts.that would be here.


1000x500_horizontal_book_banner

Monday, July 15, 2019

Review: Come, Seeling Night

What families don't have their little problems?

Paxton Lock is back, and payback can be a mutha.

Enter Come, Seeling Night.
Paxton Locke’s been in some pretty tight spaces before. This one might be the worst.

Drugged and shipped to who-knows-where on an airplane, he’s locked up by men who seem to be Feds. But they haven’t given him his phone call, and Pax isn’t sure if his cell mates are even human.

This is one cell he can’t get out of, but he’s got to find a way to escape. Mother has his girlfriend, and she wants a redo of the night she killed Paxton’s father. But this time she won’t be interrupted. Paxton’s got to find Cassie, and he’s got to stop his mother.

Or the world might end.

Apocalyptic visions from Mother’s grimoire have haunted him for years. Now she’s close to making it happen. And all Paxton can do is wait in his cell for someone to realize he’s not the bad guy.

Can Paxton escape his magical prison and stop Mother? Or will he be too late, and lose Cassie just like he lost his dad?

The third installment of the Paxton Locke series delves deeper into the meaning of love and forgiveness, while providing plenty of action, magic, and Humphreys’ signature subtle horror.

Will Mother bring about a world on fire, or a dead Earth? Can Paxton defeat her? Find out and read Come Seeling Night today!
Once again, this is a brilliantly executed plot. Even the tangential subplot that becomes a thread to be untangled in the rest of the series is nicely place. It effects the plot of this book, sets up for the next book, and we move right along.

In short, there's nothing like C4 to cut through red tape.

I'm not sure if I can add anything new to my review that isn't a spoiler. Though I will admit that the historical aspects we have revealed to us over the course of the novel are very interesting.

And if you think I mean a mention here or there, no. There are whole characters who are historical references. I think I have about or or three figured out.

But yeah, a lot of what impressed me about this book was the setup for everything to come. It almost feels like a three-book origin story.

Yeah, I know it almost feels like cheating that I'm saying so little. But everything interesting really is a spoiler... and I read the ARC for this book months ago, and I'm a bit rusty trying to catch up to my book reviews.

And damn does Paxton want to be Harry Dresden when he grows up... if he grows up. Right down to pissing off everybody he meets. And if anything ever happens to Butcher (God forbid), Humphreys can Sanderson in as replacement quite well.

And I like the punchline. Very Terry Goodkind.... except for the speeches. There are no speeches.

But Come, Seeling Night here.

This would be my Dragon Award nomination for fantasy this year -- except that Dan wants A Place Called Hope for military SFF.

Please remember to vote in the Dragon Awards.

My ballot is here.

1000x500_horizontal_book_banner

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Final Dragon Award Discussion, 2019

Dragon Con has one massive award, with thousands of people voting on it. In the second year, there were 8,000 people voting.

And now, the eligibility window has closed as of the end of June. Start marking the books that have come out since July 1st for next year.

However...

Voting doesn't close until July 19.

That's right. Anything that comes out before the deadline of June 30th is eligible, but voting cuts off on July 19th. So if you haven't voted yet, you might want to finish off the books you have coming.

This time, the format is going to be a little different. This time, I'm going to tell you who I'm voting for, based off of books I've read and enjoyed.

The NEXT section is going to have everything and everyone I could scrape together just on a level of pure eligibility.

This second section will include books I haven't read, from people I don't even know.

It is a huge freaking list, and I would clutter up the blog post if I dealt with them as I have previous posts.  The lists of the purely eligible are so long, I considered making them a separate post entirely. But I figure having one place for my conclusions and everyone else's suggestions would make it easier on everyone.  Okay, easier on me, but moving right along....

Here we go.

Best Science Fiction Novel

I have already reviewed Heroes Fall by Morgon Newquist. You might think. Still one Hell of a solid novel, and some of the best SF I've read in years.

What is it? Superheroes. If you liked Astro City, or JMS's Rising Stars, or, hell, the MCU, you're going to want to read this one, and I think you're going to agree with me that it's pretty kickass.

And I really, really wanted to nominate Richard Paolinelli. But I haven't gotten to When the Gods Fell yet. Sorry Richard. Don't worry, I'm going to get there much, much later. Probably next year. With my luck, it'll be after the sequel comes out.





Best Fantasy Novel 
(Including Paranormal)

Karl Gallagher's The Lost War.

Wait? What? What happened to Bokerah Brumley's "Keepers of New Haven: Woe for a Faerie?

Two things happened. And I'll explain in the next section...

Okay, three things happened. One of which was I actually read Karl's book.



Best YA / Middle Grade Novel

Bokerah Brumley's "Keepers of New Haven: Woe for a Faerie."

Yes, I know. After months of talking about The King's Regret by Ligon before it was published, I'm shifting one novel, and deleting the author. WTF?

Three things happened.

1) I read Karl's book.
2) Bokerah mentioned online that this was more YA than Fantasy
3) Amazon screwed the pooch on releasing Ligon's book that I don't think it's reached a wide enough audience to gather votes.

If you have read and liked Ligon's book, I still recommend it. But right now it's a matter of timing and a matter of math.

Lucky for everyone, Jagi hasn't come out with another Rachel Griffin novel. Otherwise I'd be pushing that one like a maniac, because she's earned one for the last four novels.


Best Military SFF Novel

Daniel Humphrey's A Place For War... Still.

For the record, no, I have not yet read David Weber's Uncompromising Honor. I suspect he will not need additional support.

Imagine this is like Ringo's Black Tide Rising, only ten years after the world fell apart, during the reemergence of human civilization.

And then the shit hits the fan again.

Best Alternate History Novel

Hans Schantz's Brave and the Bold (reviewed here).

So, my vote goes to Hans.

Image result for hans gruber gif


Best Media Tie-In Novel

Thrawn: Alliance
Timothy Zahn is doing a Thrawn novel. Your argument is so invalid, it's not even funny.


Best Horror Novel

This is funny, since by the time the Dragons comes out, I will have SIX horror novels eligible.

Hell Spawn
Death Cult
Infernal Affairs
City of Shadows
Crusader (
Deus Vult (Coming soon....ish)

..... But as I argued, it's best to nominate Hell Spawn and move on. And if you disagree and would like to nominate one of the other books in another category ... okay, but I'd like you not to split the vote too too much.

Please refer here for my thoughts on the matter.

Then again, Hell Spawn has already won an award, so yeah, it's worth it. It's endorsed by the CLFA for their book of the year, and Jim McCoy, Richard Paolinelli, and Karl Gallagher have all said they're voting for it. So... yeah, not bad.

Best Comic Book

Dark Maiden #2, by Jonathan Baird.

Joan of Arc fantasy comic book.

I dare you to find me something better.


Best Graphic Novel

I may leave this one blank.


Best SFF TV Series

God Friended Me ...

Best SFF Movie

Aquaman.

Because everyone else is going to vote Endgame.

Best SFF PC / Console Game

Spiderman, PS4, Insomniac games.

Yup. No hesitation. This was .... amazing.


As for ... Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game ....
AND
Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game....

No idea.

However, 

Best SFF Miniatures / Collectible Card 
/ Role-Playing Game....

Nathan to the rescue on this one: Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team


And if you want to vote RIGHT THIS MINUTE, without looking at anyone else's thoughts.that would be here.


1000x500_horizontal_book_banner

HOWEVER, if you want to look below the break, LET THE DISCUSSION BEGIN!!!  BWAHAHAHAHAHA


Monday, July 8, 2019

#LibertyCon32 AAR

I've got some After Action reports for this year's LibertyCon.

One comes from my publisher. This comes complete with a video of a panel I was one.  Click here, and enjoy.

This one is from my acquaintance, Tom Tinney, who was one a panel I moderated.

As for me .... I was blitzed by driving 850 miles to get down there. Most of my interactions were social. It was great to hang out with people who, for me, exist only online the other 362 days a year. But there was Brian, and Cisca, and Amie Gibbons, and Marina Fontaine, and Dan Humphreys, and the Newquists, and His Tankness. And people I'm sure I'm forgetting.

And there are business dealings that will be announced soonish.

But most of what happened at LibertyCon, for me, is going to stay there. Hence why I posted the other AARs.

Be well, all.