Book: Maelstrom

I begin to realize that this blog has been around for some time and isn’t just my little idea from a couple of days ago when I prepare to write a note on the second book in a series for which I blogged about the first book.

I like Anne McCaffrey, and to a lesser, but still quite great extent Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. Their second book in The Twins of Petaybee series is available, and is titled Maelstrom (The Twins of Petaybee, Book 2).

I look at this book very much like the first. It is lighter than the Dragonrider series, and I don’t find the cultural background anywhere near as interesting, but the characters are engaging, and the story is fun. That’s a lot to recommend a book, especially since I look for books to read when my mind wants to rest rather than be challenged. I’m glad there are books that fit the bill.

As long as you don’t demand sophisticated politics or advanced military strategy, and also as long as you can enjoy a story where the key players are children, you’ll likely enjoy this. I would warn the unwary that this second book takes the tranditional trilogy view and leaves you in a tough place. I knew it was going to happen as I read and saw the number of pages remaining–they didn’t resolve a number of conflicts. That, of course, is promising for next time, but annoying for those who don’t really like unfinished series all that well.

Book: Innocent in Death

OK, it’s another book. I’ll get around to writing another story or something soon. That’s what you were waiting for, right? No? I’m so disappointed!

Anyhow, my wife brought home another J. D. Robb, and I had to read it. It’s pretty good. In this most recent book, Eve gets to feel her dislike of schools as she deals with murders that occur in a school. At the same time she’s dealing with jealousy over Roarke, but is it justified? Everything seems so confusing until she follows an unlikely track and fights her way through to the conclusion. Oh, and is it possible she’s making a truce with Summerset?

This continues the interesting future world, and all the very interesting characters with which Roberts/Robb chooses to populate it. It’s honestly not my usual fair, because I find near future science fiction a bit troubling. Even Star Trek has been made somewhat obsolete by the advancement of actual science, but that’s part of the game. Near future seems to get me comparing the technology then and now more carefully, so even though it should be easier to be accurate, I’m more likely to quibble. Of course, I’m just as likely to be wrong.

In any case, I find the cultural background of this series believable and enjoyable. I’ll continuing borrowing the copies my wife gets from the library on a pretty regular basis.

Book Series: Starwolves

I was looking over a few of the older paperbacks in my library, and I enjoyed a bit of time with this series, so I thought I’d mention it here. Thorarinn Gunnarsson is one of the authors I enjoy as light reading, and Starwolves is one of her series that I enjoyed. Those who enjoy serious military fiction will not be overly excited by the battles and history in this series (I’m not), but the personalities are interesting and the stories are fun.

You can still find copies around on Amazon.com, though in many cases only used. It is quick reading for when you want to rest your mind. I also have found her other Magic Words series interesting on the same basis. It’s not deep and serious, but light, fun, and humorous. I enjoy that type of reading for a certain percentage of the time.

I think many readers would enjoy a detour into Gunnarsson’s fun writing.

Book: Off Armageddon Reef

It no doubt surprises nobody that I am quick to read a new book by David Weber, who is one of my favorite authors of all time. In this case, our local library was quite helpful, because they had Off Armageddon Reef in almost immediately.

This book is set in a completely new universe and promises to be fascinating. The first volume always requires a great deal of content just to allow the readers to get their bearings, but Weber manages to give us all that while fascinating with action and with politics. I know that some complain about the politics of the Honor Harrington series, and some about the detailed battle scenes, but I find both fascinating and excellent. Weber thinks through his battles and gives you specific strategies and tactics and the reasons that they work. At the same time, he has fasicnating characters who are part of fascinating cultures carrying out those tactics.

One of the great features of this new series is the discussion of specific new elements of technology and how they impact strategy and tactics, which in turn impacts politics. I will be eagerly awaiting the next book in the series, while I continue to eagerly await the next Honor Harrington novel.

Book: Runner

William C. Dietz is primarily an author of military science fiction and he’s outstanding in his portrayal of military action. I’ve previously written a couple of notes on his book For Those Who Fell, and since reading that book I’ve been quite quick to check his books out of the library or find them on bookstore shelves.

In many ways I like the story in Runner better than the military science fiction. The characters are very engaging, the action is good, and the theme very enjoyable. Yet I think Dietz is not quite as good at this type of story as he was at the military material. He seems less able to create the transitions, and more of the book seems to be there just taking up space. But that is really a small complaint, and I might not have noticed except for the much tighter structure of his military stories.

Overall, I strongly recommend this book (4+ out of 5), and intend to continue to read books by this author as they are available.

Book: Old Soldiers

Considering that Keith Laumer is one of my favorite authors, and that David Weber is on my “read everything he writes” list, it’s not surprising that I found this book fascinating. Laumer was happy to go off in different directions with the bolo series, but those who have taken it up since his death have been trying to build a more coherent history around it.

One of David Weber’s major skills is in description of combat and of the feelings of those who participate in it. He has definitely brought that skill into this portrayal of a bolo in the time of the Melconian war. A bolo commander who survived the death of her bolo, and a bolo whose commander did not survive are combined in protecting a colony mission designed to plant a human presence outside of the area of the war where the Melconians might not find it.

Old Soldiers is a wonderful new addition to the bolo literature.

Book: Destiny’s Forge

I enjoy the Man-Kzin wars series, but they aren’t on my list of favorites–good, but not exceptional. Thus Destiny’s Forge was an wonderful surprise. Expecting something merely interesting and entertaining, I was presented with something fascinating and challenging yet certainly no less entertaining. To put is simply, this is a great book.

The characters are strong and portrayed in depth. You might think some character is getting stereotyped at some points, but simply continue reading and you’ll find that there are greater depths. The cultural backgrounds remain largely logical and comprehensible, but are not so simple that you constantly predict what everyone will do. Mysteries can remain mysteries, yet when their solution arrives, you can agree that the solution fits.

The details of space battles are much more limited than in the Honor Harrington books, though I think they are just right to carry this story forward. The politics are interesting. In keeping with its setting on Kzinhome, we hear much more about Kzinti politics than human, but that only makes it more fun.

Paul Chafe goes immediately onto my short list of authors whose books get an automatic pass to the top of my reading list as quickly as they appear.

Book: Dragon’s Fire

When I read the first two books set on Pern by Todd McCaffrey I really was not too impressed. Because they were from Pern, and the stories were OK, I knew I would keep reading them, but I didn’t feel that they had the same charm as Anne McCaffrey’s own work.

For the first few pages of this book I felt much the same way, but over time the story became more interesting and the characters more engaging, and for a while again I simply enjoyed Pern. The story is fairly simple, dealing again with the period of time just before a fall when there are skeptics who claim thread will never fall, and others who disagree on the preparations. I really appreciate the effort to deal with the implications of some of the social practices started by the colonists as we see some of the impact of the practice of shunning, something that had practically disappeared from Pern during the time of F’lar and Lessa.

We see a bit of overlap with Dragon’s Kin, and you may enjoy seeing some further development of those themes and characters. We also learn more about the watch whers.

All in all, this book was a good experience, and while I doubt I’ll ever rate Todd McCaffrey as the equal of his mother, I’ve definitely upgraded my desire to read his writing in the future.

Book: Changelings

This little book is the first volume in a series The Twins of Petaybee which continues the story of the planet Petaybee that was told in Powers that Be, Power Play, and Power Lines.

Those who really like McCaffrey’s writing will really like these little books. They’re somewhat lighter than the Dragonriders series, but they still have plenty of fun and interesting characters and cultures. Don’t expect excessive depths of mystery or strategy; everything is kept on a much simpler level than that.

The next volume in this series will appear in December of 2006.

Book: Running from the Deity

Unfortunately I must say that this is my least favorite Pip and Flinx adventure thus far. But considering how much I like the series as a whole, that’s not too bad. This book develops a little bit more culture, though we get too little of the culture of the planet Flinx winds up on. It develops a little bit more of Flinx’s character. But it’s very slow on action and on conflict. At no point did I get the impression that Flinx was in actual danger. He’s just marching on to the next episode. It’s sort of like a novel written about the time between major active episodes.

Now because it’s Flinx and it’s set in the Humanx Commonwealth, and because it’s written by Alan Dean Foster, I really like the characters and the history I enjoyed it anyhow. But I’m warning you it’s not one of the more exciting episodes in Flinx’s life.