S.L. Viehl's AFTERBURN - Degrees of Recommendation (Linda, Preeti)
I did enjoy AFTERBURN by S.L. Viehl though it took a while for me to become involved in the story. I love books with alien and human interaction but it's just harder for me to get involved when the aliens are aquatic, especially for interspecies romance. My imagination has trouble stretching quite that far. But that said, the main romance is actually between members of two different aquatic species.
AFTERBURN continues the story of the Allied League of Worlds and the elite Bio Rescue unit of military-enhanced SEAL pilots. It begins within months of the previous book in the series, BIO RESCUE, and has all the same characters--and then some!--so I'd recommend reading them in order. Viehl does remind you of previous events but there is so much going on, having read BIO RESCUE will help in keeping track of the plot.
The main character is the Burn, cousin to Dair (heroine of the last book). Like her, Burn is an intelligent, orca-like being--a Zangian--bioengineered so he can spend time out of water and learn to be a fighter pilot. The process somehow aged him rapidly to adulthood, but his family still doesn't take him seriously. The heroine, Liana, is of an alien aquatic species called the Ylyd and is coming to Burn's planet to take part in a crucial peace summit. She is also marked as the future Queen of her people. A dramatic rescue on a spaceship brings Burn and Liana together and sparks an attraction, though circumstances don't leave them together much.
There is a lot going on in this book between people trying to disrupt the peace summit and an investigation into a possible environmental problem with a shark-like species venturing out of its normal habitat, not to mention the relationships to keep straight, because there are actually four romances in AFTERBURN.
You get to see 1) how Dair and Onkar from BIO RESCUE are doing, 2) that Dair's human stepmother Ana is at a critical point in her relationship with Dair's Zangian father, 3) Burn and Liana's growing friendship or more, and 4) love between a human and an Omorr. Almost all of these were hard to believe for me due to physical or cultural differences between the species, and I'm afraid I enjoyed the main romance least of all because of the speed of it in the limited time the couple had to get to know each other. It was still interesting however. AFTERBURN was definitely an unusual and interesting read though a little hard to follow. It's probably not for everyone but I moderately recommend it.--Linda
I read AFTERBURN recently, but I had a somewhat different reaction from you, Linda. Even though I hadn't read BIO RESCUE, I was only slightly lost at first. Overall, I found the story entertaining, the characters all engaging, and the themes of the story (tolerance, mainly) pleasing. The one romance I had a difficult time wrapping my head around was the one between the human scientist and her orca-like husband. The resolution to that was disconcerting as well. And you're right, the emotional payoff for Burn and Liana's love victory (I just made up "love victory") was weakened by Viehl not taking the time to invest more time into their story arc. Still, this was a fast, easy read, and I recommend it.--Preeti
The August 2005 Locus features interviews with singer/songwriter/writer Janis Ian and with writer Judith Berman. Also, details of the always interesting results of this year's Locus Survey.
Lots of exciting news! --Mercedes Lackey sold three new "Valdemar" novels and four "Elemental Masters" novels to DAW. --Kate Elliott sold her seventh and final "Crown of Stars" novel to DAW. --Sharon Lee & Steve Miller sold a sequel to BALANCE OF TRADE and a sequel to TOMORROW LOG to Meisha Merlin. --Judith Tarr, writing as "Caitlin Brennan", sold three new books in her "White Magic" series to Luna. --Vickie Taylor sold two more "gargoyle romantic suspense" novels to Berkley. --Anne Kelleher sold fantasy trilogy "The House of the 13th Moon" to Luna. --Laurell K. Hamilton handed in Anita Blake novel MICAH to Berkley. --Sharon Shinn turned in DARK MOON DAUGHTER to Ace. --Chris Moriarty's SPIN CONTROL was delivered to Bantam. --Patricia Bray delivered THE FIRST BETRAYAL to Bantam. --Phaedra Weldon turned in her Zoe Martinique series to Ace. --Film rights to Holly Black's VALIANT went to MTV Films, with Mosaic Media Group producers Chuck Roven and Alex Gartner. The film will be distributed by Paramount.
MELUSINE by Sarah Monette -- flawed but promising (Suzanne)
In a somewhat Renaissance-like time, Melusine is a city with a citadel called Mirador where courtiers and wizards hang out and a 'wrong side of the tracks' full of thieves, prostitutes and other denizens of the darkness. Felix Harrowgate is a very strong, uniquely beautiful young wizard who harbors a secret, sordid past. Mildmay the Fox is a former kept thief and assassin who has escaped his keeper to become a cat burglar.
Felix's past catches up with him, destroying his standing in Mirador, his relationship with the noble young lord who is his lover and breaking his mind. When Mirador is destroyed and he meets Mildmay, they are both shocked by their eerie resemblance. They begin a journey to find their land of origin - the only place Felix can be healed - with Mildmay as caretaker of an increasingly ill Felix. (There were echoes of Lynn Flewelling's LUCK IN THE SHADOWS in this book.)
Monette is an author to watch. MELUSINE is her first novel, but the bio on the cover indicates she won an award for a short story. She is excellent at evoking place and mood, but there are some problems that marred the read for me. The book is written in first person - a chapter from Felix's point of view, then a chapter from Mildmay's - a conceit I liked. What jarred is that Mildmay's voice is 21st century trailer trash, and this just didn't work (for me) in her old-world setting. The author may have considered this amusing, but I found it exceedingly distracting. My other criticism is that the author occasionally goes a little overboard with those flourishes that don't advance the narrative but just show she's clever with a turn of phrase.
Once Felix and Mildmay got on the road, the narrative picked up. I enjoyed it through the reasonably satisfying conclusion, but the author left so many loose ends that it seems sure there must be a sequel in the works. There is no HEA romance, but there is sexual tension between Felix and Mildmay. And since they believe they are half-brothers, this looks like a promising plot thickener for a sequel. I'm interested in following this journey into a sequel with the full expectation that the talented Monette is going to advance in skill. --Suzanne
Speaking of, Anne Bishop hit the jackpot in the cover art stakes for her forthcoming hardcover fantasy, SEBASTIAN. Well, you might only think so if you like poetic, dark, brooding, handsome men on your book covers. Who happen to be half-incubus. Amazon indicates the SEBASTIAN is being released on February 7, 2006.
THE AUTUMN CASTLE by Kim Wilkins -- Surprising and Different (Linda)
An original fantasy set in modern day Berlin, this book encompasses a large array of emotions: love, friendship, wonder, betrayal, sacrifice and horror. Christine Starlight and her artist lover, Jude, have joined four other winners of the Zweigler fellowship sponsored by renowned artist Mandy Zweigler. They're staying for one year at the Hotel Mandy Z. in Germany.
While their sponsor is slightly repulsive and strange, they have no idea of his more sinister side and his obsessive unreasonable hatred of faeries. But then they have no idea that such beings exist.
But now Christine's tragic past is about to catch up with her. The "Real World" and the world of faery are the closest they've come in years, which means the bond between Christine and her childhood friend, May, who had been kidnapped many years ago into the faery world, is going to make it possible for these old friends to meet. May is now Queen Mayfridth of Ewigkrus.
With their renewed friendship, May will introduce the wonders of her world to Christine, a world free of the chronic pain Christine has suffered for years. A world of simple people and small magics. But she'll also bring heartbreak and unwittingly, danger.
I loved this book and give it a high recommend. The plot is very unusual and interesting and continues to grow and surprise you and ultimately have you on the edge of your seat. Christine has had a very tragic life but has coped with it well. I could really relate to her. Jude and his friends were unusual and very much had the artistic temperaments.
Eisengrimm, Queen Mayfridth's advisor was one of my favorite characters. He's a creature that can shapeshift only as a wolf, crow, fox or bear, and is so loyal and intelligent. Mandy and Hexebart, the witch, were quite shockingly cruel. The whole world of faery and the faery themselves are totally different than any other book I've read. I loved the differences and the reasons for some of them. And it was romantic though many will be surprised at the end. There is a lot of great surprises in store as I've only given the bare bones of the story.
I'm definitely going to buy her next one, GIANTS OF THE FROST, the excerpt is in the back of the book and also sounds romantic. :)--Linda
A SUNDIAL IN A GRAVE: 1610 -- great swashbuckler (Suzanne)
I loved this historical fantasy by Mary Gentle. A few months ago I read "WILL IN THE WORLD," which paints a really good picture of Shakespeare's life and times. It really set the stage for a better enjoyment of Gentle's swashbuckler - starring spy Valentin Rochefort. It's a great read, with a big homage to both Georgette Heyer and Dumas, among others. It starts with Marie de Medici's assassination of Henri IV, and moves to the court of King James Stuart, with a side trip to Japan. The history diverges from ours in some interesting ways, and there is a magic element in this fantasy world. There is a love story - an interesting one - that is front and center in this book, but it is not your usual romance.
Mary Gentle has done work I like a lot, and then other work I find unreadable. But this book was enjoyable all the way through. Lots of fun. --Suzanne
EYRE AFFAIR and LOST IN A GOOD BOOK -- Stop at one? (Rebekah)
I recently finished THE EYRE AFFAIR by Jasper Fforde. Wonderful! It's an extremely hard to describe book, containing elements of Science-Fantasy, Alternate History, Police Procedural, Romance, Horror, Literary Criticism, and on. Fforde also plays with the nature of reading and bookwriting which creates a sort of looping metastory, but don't worry - it's not as slow-going as that sounds. The world is one where literature is popular culture -- Bronte and Browning are like our rock stars, wars happen between Surrealists and Non-surrealists, and every Friday night the local theater puts on Shakespeare's Richard III with actors drawn from the audience because everyone comes costumed and knows the lines by heart.
The protagonist is a woman named Thursday Next who is a veteran of the Crimean War (still going on in 1985), owns a dodo (cloned out of extinction), and works in a specialized police department that investigates the extremely lucrative business of literary fraud. Her father was/is a member of police squad who specialize in time travel anomalies, but got prevented from being born when he went rogue. This doesn't stop him from regularly popping up in Thursday's life.
The plot is about someone who can enter fiction -its own bounded reality- and kill favorite characters thereby altering all copies of the book. This person then kidnaps Jane Eyre and holds her hostage. One thing that bugged me a lot -- I listened to this as an audio book, so the cuteness behind the antagonist's name "Jack Schitt" was just annoying.
The romance is between Thursday and an old war-comrade named Landen. Ten years ago when they were fighting together in Crimea, they were engaged. They broke up when Landen testified in tribunal that Thursday's brother caused a military disaster ("The Charge of the Light (Armor) Brigade"). She meets him again ten years later but still can't forgive him. Spending some time with Jane Eyre's Rochester convinces Thursday to try again. There is a great scene where literary characters help Thursday break up Landen's wedding to someone else.
EYRE AFFAIR is one of those books that the only way to really describe it is to hand the person a copy of the book. :) Highly recommended if you're looking for something fun, unusual and clever. .--Rebekah
I enjoyed EYRE AFFAIR so much that I ran out and got LOST IN A GOOD BOOK, the sequel. I actually wish I hadn't! I enjoyed LOST IN A GOOD BOOK a great deal all the way up until the end. It had the same sort of odd reality-bending fun. At the beginning of the book, Thursday is getting settled into married life with Landen, expecting a baby, and dealing with her unintentional fame from saving Jane Eyre. We are introduced to the special operatives of Jurisfiction, people who protect fiction from the inside of the works. Thursday is apprenticed to Miss Havisham from Dickens's GREAT EXPECTATIONS. Thursday travels to the Great Library and meets the Cheshire Cat (now renamed the Unitary Authority of Warrington Cat) and learns how to move into books herself. She also manages to save all life on Earth from turning into a pink goo. Problem is that Landen gets eradicated - erased from all memory but Thursday's - as a blackmail device. By the end of LOST IN A GOOD BOOK, Landen still hasn't been rescued. Thursday is still wanted by the police and multiple old enemies. Thursday has to go off into hiding in an unpublished work until her kid is born and ... there we are left. I read some about Fforde's next few books, but it sounds like Landen never really gets rescued! A big bummer after the hea of the first book. --Rebekah
"The fundamental question of history is 'What were these people thinking? History gives you ideas, things you never would have imagined with this sort of bland picture you get of it from a more cursory reading."
"I don't think of my own fantasies as particularly gritty. They're generally not as horrible as real life, or what would be the point?"
"Teresa Neilson Hayden had this little disertation abgout writers as otters. You can't train an otter, she says, because when you reward it instead of saying, 'Let's do that again' it says, 'Oh, let's do something else that's even cooler!' This is the writer's approach. ... Drives editors nuts, because they're trying to train their writers."
This issue of Locus also contains an interview with Mark Budz and the results of this year's Locus Poll for the best books and stories of 2004.
Some news which caught our eye: --Catherine Asaro recieved the 2005 Outstanding Achievement Award for breaking new ground in genre writing from the Washington Romance Writers, a division of Romance Writers of America. --Jennifer Roberson turned in KARAVANS, first in a new fantasy universe, to Baen. --Lyda Morehouse, writing as "Tate Hallaway", delivered TALL, DARK and DEAD to Penguin for an imprint to be named later. --Jim Butcher turned in PROVEN GUILTY to Roc. --Peter S. Beagle sold WRITING SARAK, which will include the script of the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode Beagle wrote, along with a memoir of the experience, to Conlan Press.