Reviews by eknapp
Terrific, smart and thoughtful.
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The brightest and best that the Earth have to offer are drafted into the army to wage pan-galactic war against the only known sapient extraterrestrial species. Thanks to relativity and near-light-speed travel troop transports, the helpless conscripts keep bounding forward in time. The Forever War follows one physicist/trooper across centuries of warfare and loss, waste and stupidity.

It's not poetry but it is wonderfully well-written with lots of deliciously hard science. Haldeman uses the time dilation to envision over 1000 years of social evolution from a more or less modern perspective. It's absorbing.

SPOILERS AHEAD

In the early stages of the war, it's mentioned in passing that casual sex among the male and female troops is all but mandatory. Which was jarring until I considered that within the parameters of the story, STDs were not a concern, pregnancy was impossible, and there was no stigma, no slut-shaming. Why WOULDN'T the hormone-filled not-long-for-this-world rank and file get busy at every opportunity?

A few decades later, the Earth government is pushing homosexuality HARD as a means of population control. A third of the planet is gay. Crime is at an all time high but at least straight-gay relations have never been better.

A few more centuries pass and not only is everyone gay (save the unusually long-lived protagonist and a few "uncurables") but childbirth and parenthood have been entirely replaced with laboratory "quickening" and creche government-raising. Those who can't let go of their heterosexuality are institutionalized for life, as are those who exhibit "sociopathy" by refusing to volunteer for combat when asked. The protagonist is referred to as the "old queer" by resentful subordinates and his fellow officers magnanimously allow that it's not his fault he's straight. "Besides" says one, "it's not like you're eating babies." So generous. Shades of White Man's Burden here, addressing social injustice by simply reversing it and waving it around. It's effective.

Forever War is riddled with antiwar and antimilitary sentiment; impressively, Haldeman is able to pull this off without being preachy or reductive. He just tells a smart, thoughtful story and the message shines through. Awesome book.
Standard issue Dresden Files.
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Mab forces Harry to work a heist run by Nicodemus in order to pay off an old debt. The target: the Holy Grail, in a vault owned by none other than Hades himself and buried in his Underworld.

Standard issue Dresden Files. The wise-assery is funny and the geek culture references are excellent:
"I've had worse. Only a flesh wound."
"Yeah, 'Tis but a scratch, come on ya pansy!'"
"...pansy?"
"Oh. You weren't quoting the movie."
"Movie?"
"Holy Grail?"
"Nicodemus still has it."
Sigh. "Never mind."

Butcher is beginning to bog his characters down in burdensome nobility. A holy righteousness, albeit a sarcastic, juvenile holy righteousness. I miss the days when Dresden would just nuke the bad guys. Hey, they deserved it. Nowadays he spends way to much time trying to REDEEM them. Urk.
More of the same, and that's a good thing.
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The authors once again use the backdrop of the Long Earth, a functionally infinite chain of slightly-different human-free Earths, to play with Ideas. There are new animals: giant tortoises, huge kangaroos-like herd animals, feathered tool-using dinosaur-descendants. New sapient species, with a focus on a lupine society. Joker worlds, which are inhospitable due to some bizarre trait or other (desertification, locusts...) All of this thinly drawn. The authors put forth many ideas lightly without delving deeply into any one.

They expand on the exploration of the human capacity for bigotry, short-sightedness and destructiveness in dealing with man's treatment of trolls, a big hairy gentle and supremely useful neighbor species.

Like the previous book, this one ends with a massive disaster that promises more to come.
Very good, but some unrealized potential.
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There are three plotlines in v2: Kez invades Adro with monsters and an insane Kresimir on their side, and Tamas and his army are trapped in the enemy's land due to treachery (McClellan is big on traitors); Taniel, on the front lines of the conflict, battles not only the enemy but also corruption and treason (yep) in his own army's general staff; and Adamat uses his connections and investigative tricks to locate and rescue his family, held hostage by a wealthy, powerful sociopath.

One thing stood out to me, partly--and paradoxically--by not standing out. The setting is roughly Napoleonic in terms of technological and social/political development, not the best of times for women in the real world. In Adro, women hold plenty of power: they are generals, colonels, captains and sergeants in the army, they are heads of institutions and political factions, they are mages and "special forces" operatives. And within the context of the story this fact is utterly unremarkable. No one notices that women are in power because why wouldn't they be? It's just neat to see a merit-based power structure that isn't obnoxiously self-aware.

Same serviceable level of writing as in Volume 1. While there's certainly a lot to be said for a fast moving, well-crafted war adventure like this, I find myself yearning for the depth, richness, and insight of KJ Parker's Engineer trilogy. McClellan almost captures that but falls short.
A logical travesty. Disappointing.
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This...was a weird one.

The archangel Gabriel has been murdered. To keep reality from unraveling, a lesser angel named Bayliss kills an innocent woman and turns her into an angel so that she can take Gabriel's place as a load-bearing member of the Heavenly Host.

The setting is c.2070, but there's very little "future" in the story. There are two POV characters: Molly, the unwitting rookie-angel, and Bayliss, who for some reason talks, thinks and acts like a hard-boiled noir detective. "I needed a bit of the folding so I could get tight but this dame with crackerjack gams was quite the lulu. I torched a pill and tried not to think about how I'd get pinked if this went sideways." That sort of thing. And my favorite: "He looked more put out than St John's haberdasher." Ha.

Anyway, the all-powerful "Trumpet of Jericho" went missing with Gabriel. True to the noir formula, assorted heavenly thugs take turns bracing, warning off, and/or pummeling our cynical, heroic gumshoe and his confuzzled new partner. They must solve Gabriel's murder and find the Trumpet and time is running out. It's a clever twist on a classic formula. However...

SPOILING IT ALL AHEAD






There needed to be some logic to Bayliss's Raymond Chandler-inspired persona. The setting doesn't account for it. No other character follows his script. But the big plot twist, instead of justifying it, makes it worse: Bayliss was the bad guy all along. There is no reason whatsoever for Bayliss's hard-boiled affectations--and in fact it's his adherence to the formula that gives him away to the good guys, so why do it at all? Furthermore, since he's the bad guy, NONE OF HIS CYNICALLY HEROIC FIRST-PERSON POV CHAPTERS ACTUALLY HAPPENED; literally half the book up to that point was, well, malarkey. Flim-flam.

The mystery was decent, the characters reasonably three-dimensional, the catchy noir lingo a lot of fun. But there's no coming back from that kind of climactic fail.