Review: Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells

Series: The Murderbot Diaries #3
Published by: Tor
ISBN: 1250185432
ISBN 13: 9781250185433
Published: August 2018
Pages: 160
Format reviewed: eBook from publisher
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended
Related Reviews: All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) | Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2)

Fine, I’ll admit it. Murderbot is my favourite detective (which is steep praise considering how many detectives I love).

In this third edition, it’s continuing its search for more answers, and along the way has to grumpily save the day yet again, because that’s what it does. It sneaks aboard another transport as we saw in the previous novella however this time it’s surrounded by humans and another bot that it can’t easily hack. Especially as it seems to be beloved by its human and treated almost like a pet. As novellas are short it’s hard to review the plot without giving something away from this or the second one which has only recently come out, and so lets just say that the lies do kind of spill out the rest of the plot…

As the others have done, this one continues to explore what it means to be human. What makes one life worth more or less than another.

Overall what works best about this one – other than its snark and sarcasm as we’ve come to love from the previous books, is the connection that our murderbot continues to make. In particular to another bot, Miki, who our bot kind of views as a bit of a simplistic and laughable piece of hardware in one hand, and is almost a little jealous in another, as Miki is so loved and valued by her human.

The decision we see it make with the information it now carries is what makes me look forward even more than I was already for the fourth book.

Review: Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis

Series: The Harwood Spellbook #1
Published by: Five Fathoms Press
ISBN: 1999725409
ISBN 13: 9781999725402
Published: September 2017
Pages: 168
Format reviewed: mobi
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended
Related Reviews: Spellswept – The Harwood Spellbook #0.5

Snowspelled is the first book in the Harwood Spellbook series, although there is a recent novella (Spellswept, link above to the review) set as a prequel where we get to meet a younger Cassandra, though the book focuses on Amy and a bit of Jonathan also.

We now meet Cassandra as a young woman – firmly a magician rather than a political player, and Amy is now pregnant with her and Jonathan’s first child. They receive invitation to a week-long house gathering however the man Cassandra broke off an engagement with shall be there… so she doesn’t want to go. Amy, with her fancy political ways of talk and swaying people, prompts Cassandra to see this is exactly what they need to attend in order to show Wrexham and the rest that Cassandra is firmly over all of this.

However, things are never that simple. Upon arrival they are immediately dispatched to try to find other newcomers who may have been lost in the snow on the way. Oh, and the magic we see Cassandra wield so expertly in the novella Spellswept? It’s gone. The very thing that makes her love life, and what tied her excellent mind to Wrexham’s is lost to her forever; unless she wants to end her own life.

And then out in the snow looking for the missing members of the house party, of course the first person she runs into is Wrexham himself.

There’s been a recent thing going around twitter about how many books make no sense as if the two characters had simply talked to each other (as you really would in reality) then there wouldn’t be a plot. This makes it all highly plausible, and there’s nothing better than two excellent characters who are highly intelligent and utterly mad for each other. You just want to grab them, shake them, yell JUST KISS ALREADY. There really is nothing better.

Oh, also tricky elves. They are also handled excellently.

It’s evident in the novel however reading it with fresh eyes from the novella you get an even firmer understanding of how brilliant Cassandra’s mind is, how important magic is to her (well that could barely have been made any clearer), and how much family really does matter in this political and sassy world.

We may get the second book – Thornbound – later this year. As at May Burgis was 1/4 of the way through the first draft. I can hardly wait!

Review: Spellswept by Stephanie Burgis

The-Underwater-Ballroom-Society-GenericSeries: The Harwood Spellbook #0.5
Published by: Five Fathoms Press
ISBN: TBA
ISBN 13: TBA
Published: October 2018
Pages: 101
Format reviewed: epub
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Favourites and Recommended
Related Reviews: Snowspelled – The Harwood Spellbook #1

These are trying times that we’re currently in. Besides all the current shite that’s going on in America and in Australia and everywhere else that seem to be morally bankrupt I have some personal things going on in my life, and at the end of the day sometimes all we have are books. Stephanie Burgis is beyond kind and offered free copies of this prequel novella in order to spread some comfort where she can – and it worked. I leapt at the chance as Snowspelled was one of my instant favourite reads – and I highly recommend both to you – anyone – and your co-workers and their neighbours.

This world is so excellent. We see woman as the heads of their family, and men as the more emotional of the sexes, and it is they who are proposed to, and treated sometimes as trophy-husbands, while it is the women to control their urges and run the world of politics and so on. It is also however the men who are socially accepted and allowed to learn and wield magic, and a lady must request a mage for help from time to time – whether it be enchanting something, or using a charm to enhance ones’ voice to address the masses.

Even with all the above, Burgis reaches out to turn their norm on its head. We meet a young Cassandra in this novella – someone we center on in the first book of the series that came out last year. This one focuses on Amy who is rising through the ranks of the Boudiccate (the political party) as assistant to Cassandra’s mother – and in such few pages we meet all our characters in stunning definition as one can rely upon with Burgis.

And Amy is excellent, of which there was hardly any doubt. We get to see a younger Jonathan who is still earning the wedge of life he wants for himself, but most importantly we get to see Cassandra. In tears about who she wants to be, too, and how she was as a young lass before the firey woman we meet in Snowspelled – and I do love how we repeatedly get to see the characters make their own choices for their lives even in a time and society that wants to dictate otherwise.

This novella is due to come out alone in October 2018, but for now you can read it as part of the wonderful anthology The Underwater Ballroom Society.

Discussion Post: Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold

vorkosigan

Cryoburn is the latest novel we’ve read in our Vorkosigan Saga Project and the second last in our chronological read-through. This novel follows Miles, accompanied by Roic, on Imperial Auditor business, and takes place after Flowers for Vashnoi and before Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen.

You can read Tsana’s review of Cryoburn here, and Katharine’s review here.

Katharine: Welp it’s going to be incredibly hard to discuss the book properly after an ending like that, but I’ll try anyway… Miles is off to Kibou-daini in his role as Imperial Auditor to do what he does best – investigate something strange by shaking things up and seeing what falls out.

Tsana: When we first encounter him, he is drugged and hallucinating and, having escaped his kidnappers, is wandering around in underground catacombs full of cryogenically frozen people/corpses. Which is super creepy, but a staple of life on Kibou-daini.

Katharine: Once he manages to get to the surface he runs into a very kind lizard-person who sneaks him into his home to rest and recuperate. Which is lucky, as Miles’ hallucinations could lead him pretty much anywhere, but in the morning he is safe, and the lizard-person is an 11 year old boy called Jin, who likes to adopt pets. And Miles is quite pet-like when he’s not hyperactively solving cases.

Tsana: It’s also fortunate that Miles is good with children because, once sober, he quickly asuages Jin’s fears around adults taking over and treats Jin respectfully rather than condescendingly like many adults apparently do. Which is an interesting insight into Miles’s personality in a few ways, I thought. On the one hand, it’s easy to dismiss “good with children” because, well, Miles has kids now so he’s had the practice. But on the other hand, I think he’s pretty much always been good with children, we just haven’t had as much chance to see that in other books. The first example that jumps to mind is in Komarr when he first meets Niki (now his stepson) and is perfectly happy bonding with him about jumpships (before he has any ulterior motives to befriend the kid).

Katharine: Spoiler shields up so I can say a thing!

*klaxon klaxon klaxon*

Continue reading

Review: Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold

Series: Vorkosigan Saga
Published by: Baen
ISBN: 1439133948
ISBN 13: 9781439133941
Published: October 2010
Pages: 345
Format reviewed: mobi
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Vorkosigan Saga Project

A whole book about Cryo-sleep and revival, which has been here and there in crucial parts of the series to be sure, but now it’s all anyone is talking about. This time the planet setting is what one could pretty well call ‘new-Japan’ (especially as their money is nuyen… new-yen, goodness) and with every character given the suffix -san, -domo, -sama, etc it’s pretty clear. And quite well done, really.

Imperial Auditor Miles is there to investigate something there that isn’t quite right – something that Gregor’s (now not so new) wife has brought to his attention, and taking Miles’ personal experience in the business has picked him as the perfect one to despatch. He’s there to attend a conference, possibly shake some things up and see what falls out, when instead he and Roic are separated early on and it all pretty much goes to hell.

The start is a bit odd – partly because Miles has recently had a poor reaction to a drug attempted by his would-be kidnappers, a poorly organised group who are trying to make a point but just exist to royally stuff things up wherever they go. This leaves Miles out in the street hallucinating, where he is lucky adopted by an almost-teenager who loves adopting pets. Miles is small and hardly any different, and flourishes under his care. And then, Miles being Miles, rabbits on with relentless energy as soon as he’s waited out the allergic reaction through the three hundred plus pages through everything – losing his adoptee to the police, reviving the wrong woman but then the right one, capturing and losing kidnappers, and winning over yet another crowd of people to his relentless charms… or whatever it is that Miles’ possesses that allows him to win over people…

Overall the plot is good and doesn’t always go according to plan (Miles is involved after all), but the bits where it doesn’t go according to plan somehow make things easier or more possible, yet felt utterly realistic. Roic is miles ahead now of his previous uncertain and bumbling self – able to gently (or firmly) direct Miles when he’s trying to plan something and possibly not going about it in the best way possible – though still occasionally losing out.

What’s charming in this book is the young boy who has been hurt by so much in this world and just wants to care for his animals and try not to get hurt again. Whether it’s living in hiding in an abandoned building with a slew of people who also don’t want to be found, or refusing to allow himself to think that Miles may be an old lonely eccentric who just might adopt him (and his little sister who also tags along eventually), or then – well, I don’t want to spoil anything, but a certain worker in the consulate was good, and that all seemed very well handled, too.

The way this one ends is of no surprise (I’ve been dreading it happening the last few books…) and it’s handled superbly well. I appreciate the names mentioned where they are… and how they all react to it. Ivan’s last line – and how it includes Miles, is probably my favourite in how it captures the changes ahead. The part where Miles is about to go off script (literally) as he does but then looks at his children, and decides not to possibly for the first time in his life is just… it makes you bite your bottom lip just thinking about it.