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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Four Series Books from 2014: David Weber/Eric Flint, L.E. Modesitt, Christian Cameron and David Weber (with comments by Liviu Suciu)

Since my interest in reading has been moving away from English language sff, my contribution here at FBC has become sparse and I expect that to continue for the indefinite future.

I thought about reopening my personal blog to discuss the books currently of interest to me, books of which many are untranslated in English - mostly written in the Romanian language, but also in the French, Spanish and even Italian language - while most others are either translations or literary stuff from the 90's and the 00's rather than 2014 books and I may do so, while in the meantime I plan to keep using Goodreads for thoughts about all the books I have read, tried, am reading etc and I welcome any comments or messages there. 

I still plan to cover here any English language sff I actually finish or read enough from to offer an informed opinion as well as other recent English language novels that I find of interest, but so far I have opened quite a few such including for example the upcoming Words of Radiance - wordy indeed at 1087 pages in the review copy and something I sorely lack the patience to read as of now - the hyped Anne Leonard's Moth and Spark which is a fantasy with dragons and all but marketed as a romantic-literary novel for the Night Circus crowd but lacking imho the narrative power and lush descriptions that made that one such a hit, or The Fell Sword which as of now did not grab me and made me turn the pages, the way the author's The Great King below did, and while some moved to the "tried but nor for me" pile, others remained on the "currently reading" list but at lower positions and you can see all such on Goodreads as noted. On the other hand Le Suaire ecarlate by Serge Brussolo, 2nd in a fantasy series after La Fille de l'Archer is a huge asap I plan to read on publication...

Here are the four sff/associational novels of 2014 I have read so far and which - partly by default as outside them I have read only one more - non-sff - 2014 release which was quite mediocre, but mostly because I really liked them - occupy my top 25 of the year to date. 

They are all far-from-standalone series books, one being #20+, another #5 or #8 depending on how you look at things, another #4 and another #7, so the short-ish reviews below should be enough to cover them.


Cauldron of Ghosts (e-arc available to buy at Baen books, where also the first 15 chapters are available to sample, to be published in April) is the best - and most likely last as by the end the story is wrapped in the mainline - of the three Wages of Sin novels and the most complete Honorverse novel since At All Costs as it closes the Mesa storyline and we finally can move to the breakup of the Solarian League, The Renaissance Factor and all the promised goodies. The ending coincides more or less with the ending of Shadow of Freedom as the timeline goes plus travel time of course, but nothing else moves ahead.

Houdini, new characters, most notably the replacement of Isabel Bardassano and the brother of Jack McBride on the alignment side, Torch commandos, Mesans and freed slaves on the good guys side and much more; lots of happenings, lots of twists and as mentioned a great ending that obviously leaves one wanting the next series installment asap.

As characters, Victor Cachat and Thandi Palane are clearly the lead ones here, though there are quite a few more with speaking parts and we meet a ton of familiar characters in cameos.

The first 1/2 is lighter in tone and the last half is frantic and brutal on occasion -as we get to see first hand Houdini of course - but there are a lot of quotable lines and laugh out moments:

"He smiled. “But now I do mayhem in a uniform. Makes all the difference in the world. When I killed people retail, I was a terrorist. Now that I kill ‘em wholesale, I’m a stalwart soldier. Get medals for it and everything.”
“The point is, now that I’m an of-fi-cial soldier, I can get a medal. As a Ballroom guy, the only thing I qualified for was a wanted poster.”
“They haven’t made wanted posters in over a millennia.”
“Fine. Wanted e-poster. I did get one of those."


Not to miss making some points about today's hot topics and coming I guess from the Eric Flint's side of the collaboration there is this too:

"Still, compared to her home planet of Ndebele and most worlds of the Verge, the seccies lived in relative luxury. Leaving aside buildings which were completely abandoned, everyone had power and climate control. The quarters might be over-crowded by Mesan standards but they were nothing like the teeming hovels she’d seen on many worlds—or the slum in which she’d grown up herself, for that matter.

It was an ancient pattern, she knew. The degree to which people were dissatisfied by their lot in life was determined by their relative position in a given society, not by some sort of absolute and external measure. From time immemorial, reactionaries had pointed out (quite correctly) that the less privileged in their own societies were veritable Midases compared to paleolithic hunters and gatherers. Never understanding—mostly because they didn’t want to understand—that such comparisons were pointless.

What mattered to a seccie mother tending her sick child was not that children in ancient times or on some far-off Verge worlds often died in infancy—and she should damn well be grateful that there was little chance her own child would actually perish. No, what mattered was that if she were a full citizen she’d be able to give her child the best possible medical care instead of the very sub-standard care she could actually afford."

One more quote that I liked a lot:

"Leonard Detweiler’s great-great-great-grand-daughter Cecilia had once depicted the problem thusly: We will bring down the great bison with a pack of wolves. The tricky part is that we don’t control the wolves."

In addition there is a lot of universe back-story - the final war, the Detweiler secession, plus in-story moments like the video showing what happened on Earth many years ago when Victor Cachat first appeared and saved Helen, Berry and Lars, uncle Jacques etc... 



Rex Regis is a very appropriate ending to Quaeryt's story though of course one wants more in the Imager universe. More in the vein of Scholar, with intrigue rather than battles, and almost all the little things from the first books - eg the fate of the last Khanara of Tilbor or of Eluisa's family or the question about who wrote the book about Rholan that is quoted throughout - are settled here.

In a very nice salute to the Rhenn books, new student Imagers with names like Poincaryt and Chartain appear, as well as the path to ascendance for the Ryel high holder family is established despite the very unpromising beginning here of the current Ryel nobleman being Rex Kharst's confidant so his lands being prime target for dispossession.

If you like the series to date, you won't be disappointed in its ending for sure - while here the bar was somewhat lower as from the Rhenn books we know the general outline of the ending, I would still mention that its execution is great as series endings are really hard to do well.

Great stuff that has a high reread value too and of course it will be one of my top 25 in 2014.  


The Long War #4, The Great King follows Arimnestos from his return from the West till the battles of Artemisium and Thermopyle (485- early 480); the first three quarters of the book are awesome, both among the best of the author and of historical fiction in general - some of the highlights being the political maneuverings to unify Greece in the face of the Persian juggernaut, the Olympic Games of 484, Sparta and the Spartans as seen by Arimnestos, a trip to Susa and a memorable audience with Xerses...

The last quarter is more rushed and will be appreciated better once the next book - presumably dealing with the sack of Athens, Salamis, the departure of Xerses from Greece, Plataea, Mycale etc - is out as it covers the actual war in Greece and as we get only to Artemisium and Thermopylae, the story is very incomplete and that shows in the book - the earlier volumes all had great stopping points, this one though really needs volume 5 for completion

The novel is full of larger than life characters, both men and women, from Aristides, Themistocles, Leonidas to Xerses, and from Briseis - still beguiling and full of surprises -, Queen Gorgo of Sparta - Leonidas' younger wife -, to a Babylonian princess and Queen Mother Atosa - wife of Darius and mother of Xerses.

Arimnestos finds out about his various children, gets to meet and help raise some of them, finds new and old enemies as well as new and old friends while being at the center of the action as usual.

Great stuff begging volume 5 asap.


Like a Mighty Army (Safehold #7) is a direct continuation of Midst Toil and Tribulation and I would say it is part 2 of 3 or 4 in a huge single novel within the larger series, all depending on how things will go in the next book as tempo and/or how David Weber's contract with Tor for the series works out. 

The book is a sweeping epic of land war in Siddamark with lots of other things on the side - the real deal from the infamous snippet about Irys is excellent and shows once again David Weber's deviousness, while the instructor part from same only adds to the fun...

I loved the ending too which is a little twist at the end, not that I did find it that surprising since after all... - read the novel to find out what, but as a small spoiler, it's a request and the last word of the novel proper justifies said request - and I think that like in MTAT. the balance between war and the rest is struck very well.

There are emotional moments on occasion and a few surprises including one major new - ok more or less - character whom I expect to start becoming more and important as time passes by, while for fans of military history and technology, lots of new goodies are introduced.

LAMA covers a few more months of action and ends at a point where I expect about 2 more books to wrap up the current war, though as mentioned above it could happen at the end of the next book under some scenarios. Maps to follow the action are a must and the 90 pages of characters, glossary and varia are quite useful too.

Overall excellent stuff if you enjoyed the series so far and very similar to MTAT in structure, action etc while as usual a page turner that kept me awake very late at night and compelled an immediate reread to get the finer points.


Paul Love said...

Just finished "Like A Mighty Army". Like all the others in safehold series I wanted more chapters. Looking forward to the next continuation of the series.

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