Reviews by eknapp
A solid debut for the son of Stephen King.
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Jude Coyne, an aging heavy metal frontman with a bizarre occult collection, buys a ghost at an online auction. Unfortunately the ghost--a recently deceased hypnotist and dowser--bears a grudge against Coyne and is bent on making him murder his girlfriend and kill himself.

Before I read it, most of what I've heard about this book was pretty polarized, either "OMG BEST BOOK EVAR!!!1!1" or else "why was this talentless hack trying to write a book." In a nutshell: Heart-Shaped Box wasn't a revelation or anything but I did quite enjoy it.

Coyne makes for one of the more unsympathetic protagonists I've encountered. He's not a BAD man...but he is just kind of a dick. Because of that it took me a while before I started to relate. And the way his girlfriend was introduced--an off-camera hanger-on who was trying to passive-aggressively provoke a fight--was even weirder; I was honestly surprised when I FINALLY understood that I was supposed to care about what happened to her. I'm glad I stuck with it though, the payoff was worth it.

It was relatively low on gore (which is neither good or bad, necessarily) for a product of Stephen King Jr. That was fine by me as there was plenty of horror to be found in the utter loss of control experienced by the good guys.

The climax was serviceable, nothing special. The windup was actually quite good, wrapping up a lot of interesting plot points without running into LotR-style endlessness. All in all, very satisfying.
It's not bad, but there's better stuff out there.
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Yeine, the nineteen-year-old leader of a tiny barbarian nation, is summoned to Sky, the empire's capital city-in-the-sky, and designated an heir candidate alongside her cruel, ambitious aunt and uncle. A pantheon of bitter enslaved gods further complicates her new life.

I yawned through the first half of the book, which was filled with exposition: incomplete character history, clunky world-building, and trumped-up mysteries. It perked up significantly with descriptions of the creation of the Three, the first gods to be born of the Maelstrom, and the Gods' War which led to the story's current sorry state of affairs in the mortal world. These parts of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms reminded me strongly of Steven Brust's novel To Reign in Hell. That's a good thing.

It concluded in predictable but reasonably satisfying fashion. It's billed as the first book of a trilogy but the book feels conclusive; I think the next one will be more of a sequel than a Part Two (if that makes sense).

Considering how highly The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms came recommended, I was pretty disappointed. Characters were thinly-drawn. The plot occasionally relied on convenient coincidences. The protagonist didn't try very hard to survive; she just brooded a lot. I wanted--and thought I was getting--a fantasy/political thriller but it read too much like a romance novel. For me the book shone brightest when trying to convey the perspective of tormented, captive gods. But that didn't make it good; it merely saved it from being bad. I probably won't bother with the rest of the trilogy.
Uh oh, plot bloat.
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Follow-up to Morgan's The Steel Remains.

I was really of two minds about this book. On one hand, the world is fascinating, wonderfully developed, colorful, believable. The characters are fleshed out and I found myself caring what happened to them.

On the other hand, I spent an uncomfortable amount of time trying to figure out what was real and what wasn't. The protagonist keeps disappearing into a sort of ghost dimension; at different points in the book it's apparent that what happens there is real; at other times it's pretty clear that it's all--or mostly--in his head. After two books this still hasn't been resolved. Frustrating.

I'm also starting to experience something that I first encountered with Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time: plot bloat. It's not as bad yet as that series, but Morgan set up a major plot step early in The Cold Commands, and then didn't come at all close to reaching it. Things have started moving sideways instead of forward.

Still looking forward to book 3 though.
Martinesque fantasy novel with a twist: the protagonist is a gay hero ex-soldier in a world currently awash in anti-gay fervor.

The fighting is brutal, the sex is graphic, interesting characters are introduced only to be summarily deleted 'offscreen'.

After a slow start, I really had trouble putting The Steel Remains down. Looking forward to the sequel.
Ouch, my brain.
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Set in not-too-distant-future Scotland, Rule 34 envisions a host of quite-plausible and often subtle social and technological advancements. Like Stross's Halting State, it's riddled with Scottishisms and a second-person pov which takes some getting used to.

Late in the book, a character sits in "slack-jawed near-comprehension, at the sheer novelty of it all." That's how I felt reading Rule 34. The hypothetical technology alone is enough to stuff a good science fiction novel; the police-procedural, political, social, and economic concepts are enough to make one dizzy. Rarely does a book beg for re-reading like this one.