Reviews by eknapp
Science vs Sorcery
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WWII alternate history pitting Hitler's scientifically enhanced supermen against the horrors of England's warlock community.

Bitter Seeds is a gruesome book. Germany's supermen--a flying man, a telekinetic imbecile, an invisible assassin, etc--result from hideous experiments performed on young orphans. England's warlocks' power comes from the Eidolons, vast malevolent godlike entities that extract a "blood price" for each intervention on England's behalf. The price constantly grows. This behind-the-scenes occult conflict is where the war will be decided.

Good dialogue, great characters, credible spycraft, strong internal logic, and a quick pace all make Bitter Seeds an excellent read. The worm in the apple is the sociopathic German oracle who ties all events together. She's written as essentially omniscient, and it casts an air of pointlessness across the entire story. I felt it'd have stood up better if she'd been limited somehow, or absent altogether. There's more than enough plot to chew on. Perhaps it'll look better after I've read the sequels...
Good story, bad writing.
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I didn't actually read the whole thing.

Mistborn is classic humble-nobody-must-overthrow-the-all-powerful-evil-emperor fantasy story. Repackaged Star Wars or LotR. The world-building is decent. The magic system is excellent: Allomancers consume metals then burn them to perform magic; different metals grant different abilities.

But the characters are paper-thin, and it was painfully obvious when they were speaking to me rather than to each other...BAD dialogue. It felt like someone had come up with an excellent story idea and then handed it to their 13-year-old kid to write. I gave up less than halfway through; my to-read pile is just too big to waste time on stuff like this.
Ruminations on the nature of evil.
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The final installment of the Engineer trilogy checks in at a slim 409 pages. There were also a few chunks of story missing, the plot holes clumsily recapped in conversations between the characters. I wonder if there was an editor changeup halfway through the series.

Anyway, book 3 ties up the sprawling Eremeian-Vadani-Mezentine-Aram Chantat war story quite nicely. The resolutions are...interesting. Fairly unexpected (by me, at least). Not all the characters survive the final battle, and some of them actually get what they (think that they) want. It's a very skillful wrap-up.

After the endless reflections on Love permeating the first two books in the series, Parker switches gears and tackles Evil in The Escapement. It consists mostly of characters rationalizing their horrible deeds through marvelous ethical contortionism. Evil doesn't exist. Evil and Good are the same thing. It's not Evil if there's no choice involved, and did I REALLY have any choice? Parker's characters are masterpieces of astonishing resourcefulness and--when tested--moral bankruptcy.

Where Tolkien goes on and on about flora and fauna, Parker talks endlessly about gears and driveshafts and, well, escapements. No dragons, no magic, no elves, just people, medieval wartime politics, and lots and lots of verbiage related to engineering and craftsmanship. It's very convincing. So yeah, great series, highly recommended.
Excellent and exhausting.
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****SPOILER ALERT****


Book 2 of KJ Parker's Engineer trilogy. After witnessing the fall of Civitas Eremiae in the first volume, we now get to watch the destruction of Civitas Vadanis.

Parker continues her diatribe on the evils of love. "Obsession is just another kind of love, after all." "Hate is just another form of love."

And my favorite exchange:
Miel Ducas: "Love is really, really important, and I missed out entirely. Unfair."
Death: "Love is a confidence trick, it's Nature's way of suckering a mammal with a brain and a long, vulnerable gestation period into reproducing. It's a substitute for rational thought. Love takes all your choices away. It leads to the worst pain of all. You might as well be getting uptight with me because you've never had diphtheria."

The ruination of character after character is attributed in some way or another to love. I counted at least five characters who wax philosophical about what a destructive force it is, how perhaps the world would be better off without it. It makes me want to read a bio of the author to find out just what the hell happened to her to have arrived at this place.

I enjoyed Evil for Evil quite a bit, and I'm looking forward to the final volume of the trilogy. But it can be pretty depressing. It reminds me of Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series in that you can't get too attached to the characters unless you don't mind seeing them abruptly ended (off screen as likely as not). It also put me in mind of Card's Ender's Game in the way some of the most upstanding characters are systematically broken down, distilled into the worst elements of who they were before Vaatzes' "machine" got hold of them. These are great books I'm comparing it to, for sure, but it's the most grinding, exhausting parts of them that are echoed by Evil for Evil.
Great concept. Awful execution.
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The idea is terrific, an Old West tale about six magical pistols, each with a unique power. Three are just deadly: they strike like a cannon shell, spread the very flames of Perdition, and kill by spreading a flesh-rotting disease. The fourth can call up the spirits of those it has shot down. The fifth grants it's bearer immortality (I was surprised that this wasn't THE gun, the focus of the series). The final gun, the eponymous Sixth Gun, gives visions, knowledge of current and future events. There are echoes of Fred Saberhagen's Books of the Swords here.

This all comes wrapped in a thin story about a pair of treasure-hunters pulling an innocent young woman into a fight against an evil undead Confederate general and his minions.

The art is serviceable, if not particularly great. The character illustrations are glaringly two-dimensional, often reminding me of old 60s newspaper comic strips.

I wonder if I'd appreciate the art more if it weren't for the writing. The narration is straightforward and dull: first this happens, then this happens, then this happens... The Old Westy dialogue is stilted and forced, painful to read. There are bad sound effects printed in the panels, like in the Adam West Batman TV show. Kapow. K-blam. Wh-thump. B-doom. Just, ugh. And one of the henchmen actually goes by the name Bloodthirsty Bill. *rolls eyes*

Plus-one star for concept. But while I have volume 2 checked out from the library, I'll be returning it unread.