Fresh Loot: 6/29 (I don’t have any shelf space)

We’ll just call this my “Stacking the Shelves” for now, as I’ve never liked the name. Besides, everyone has one of these; I just wish I didn’t enjoy them so much. It’s an oddly embarrassing thing to admit. Anyway, this marks my first of… whatever I end up calling it, which may or may not become a thing. Shooting for biweekly, but we’ll see.

And yeah, at the moment I have no free shelf space. I really have to get on that, but uh… haven’t?

So, credit for “Stacking the Shelves” goes to Tynga’s Reviews, I think. Anyone confirm?

eARCs (via NetGalley)

Old Bones – by Preston & Child (Nora Kelly #1)

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for this one! I’ve not actually enjoyed many of Preston & Child’s books lately, particularly the Pendergast ones. I mean, they’re okay (the Gideon ones’ are awful, in my opinion), but I really liked all the ones Nora Kelly starred in, so I’m going into this spinoff cautiously optimistic.Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for this one!

The Wolf’s Call – by Anthony Ryan ( #1)

Another where I haven’t enjoyed, well, much after Blood Song. But it was probably my favorite book ever. Tower Lord was good, just not compared to Blood Song. Queen of Fire is best just forgotten. Anyway, I’m hoping that with Vaelin al Sorna back center stage this will be the a worthy successor. I can report that it seems to be written much in the style of Blood Song (at least at first), in 3rd PPOV with Vaelin as the chief narrator, so there’s that. Thanks to Ace Books for the ebook!

ARCs

The Girl the Sea Gave Back – by Adrienne Young (Sky in the Deep)

Thanks to St. Martin’s press and probably Goodreads for this! This was a surprise. I must’ve won it, but I couldn’t remember entering a contest. After reading the blurb I am looking forward to reading it, so hopefully we’ll get to that soon! As far as I can tell, this is set in the same world as Sky in the Deep, but isn’t a direct sequel. Which is fantastic, as I haven’t finished the first yet.

Purchases

Silver in the Wood – by Emily Tesh

I knew I was going to end up buying this. I’m a sucker for anything involving the Green Man, and the sample I read earlier in the week already hooked me. I can’t wait to read this!

Other

The Great Book of Amber – by Roger Zelazny (Chronicles of Amber #1-10)

Totally forgot about this one as my birthday wasn’t anytime recently, but my sister’s present finally got here. It’s been a decade (more?) since I read the first Amber book (Nine Princes in Amber) and can’t remember squat about it. Can’t even recall what I thought of it. But, this’ll give me a second chance at that, eh? This thing’s like a brick, too. A solid 1258 pages—almost a Stormlight’s worth. Probably won’t take it backpacking.

Do y’all have any suggestions or near-future books you’re excited about? Let me know, please!

Book Review: The Six Directions of Space – by Alastair Reynolds

Standalone, Novella

Scifi

Subterranean Press; January, 2009

85 pages (Hardcover)

2.7 / 5 ✪

An interesting piece of scifi set in a future where the Mongol Khanate never fell but overran the earth, eventually extending their vast empire to the stars. Interesting, but quite short—especially when considering Reynolds’ other work—Six Directions tells the story of Yellow Dog, a spy for the Inner Systems sent to investigate phantoms on the Empire’s fringe. These “phantoms” appear in wormholes on the outskirts of the Outer Systems, and are thought by most to be simply a glitch of the machine, mistake of the eye, or even ghosts from the past. Others believe them to be aliens; though these are far in the minority.

And yet the Inner Systems seem to be taking the phantoms seriously, as they have sent one of an elite number of spies to investigate (albeit, after quite some time). Yellow Dog’s investigation will take her to unique and new places, let her see sights few of her kind has ever laid eyes on, while danger and death close in all around.

Six Directions is… okay. I mean, it was interesting, and I never had any trouble reading through it. I liked it, when everything was flowing. It’s just that right when I began to really get into the story—it ended. To say the conclusion was abrupt would be an understatement. I mean, I knew the thing was short, but it just… stopped. Some loose ends were tied up, the main arc as well, I guess. The story wasn’t anything to get excited about. The main problem with novellas is that; it’s hard to weave together any kind of adequate thread-count when your tale lasts about as long as the average cartoon.

The author also seems unwilling to completely separate the Chinese and Mongolian influences, although historically they were completely different, only coming together during the short period where the Khans conquered China (known as the Yuan Dynasty). I mean, they’re separate in the text, yet still oddly connected. I couldn’t figure out what was going on with their relationship.

All of this lends itself to my rather odd rating. I’d read it again, if only as it wouldn’t take much doing. I’d recommend it, but only if it were cheap or free (I got it from the library, so that was a win-win). I’m familiar with the author (and generally enjoy his stuff), so knew it’d be thoughtful if not terribly fulfilling.

Ultimately, however, it was just a thin story followed up by an brief, shallow conclusion and no prospect of future continuation. In short, it was interesting, but only that.

Book Review: The Tattered Prince and the Demon Veiled – by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Song of the Shattered Sands Novella

Fantasy, Epic

Quillings; November 28, 2017

70 pages (ebook)

4.5 / 5 ✪

SPOILERS: Beware minor spoilers for Of Sand and Malice Made.

I used this to brush up a bit on my Shattered Sands before Beneath the Twisted Trees, as well as get some insight into Brama’s backstory after the events of Of Sand and Malice made. Ideally, I’d say you’d want to read this after Sand & Malice, but before A Veil of Spears. The novella is set after Brama has returned to Sharakai following his encounter with the ehrekh Rümayesh (a powerful demon that inhabits the Shangazi), and details the events that lead him to encounter the woman Jax.

I’m not a huge fan of novellas (specifically those that try something new and different) as there’s very little time to get everything out there before you run out of pages. They typically feel cramped, hurried. The Tattered Prince is no great exception, however, as it instead details a backstory (and something previously alluded to), I was much more accepting of it. In fact, I quite enjoyed it.

The Tattered Prince is written in 1st PPOV, narrated by Rümayesh. Upon beginning the tale, Brama is wandering the slums of Sharakai when he spots a foreigner with noble bearing, sticking out amongst the gutter rats which otherwise choke the streets. It turns out that this is Jax, and she and her brother have been hiding amidst the slums in a desperate attempt to escape the assassins sent to kill them. Brama’s subsequent involvement changes the course of his life forever. Uh, again.

A nice bit of backstory filling in the blanks, with a equally interesting bit of lore and insight into at the mind of an ehrekh.

The Tattered Prince is one of a handful of novellas set in the Shattered Sands. I feel like it would actually’ve fit quite nicely at the end of Sand & Malice, but hey as a standalone it wasn’t too bad. You can get it from Beaulieu’s sales for around a buck, but for $3 it’s acceptable. Ish. Acceptable-ish. Actually, I think I got it as a bonus for pre-ordering Veil of Spears. I do believe he’s running the same promo this time around, should one pre-order Twisted Trees.

The cover’s quite nice, too, innit?

Beneath the Twisted Trees is out on July 2nd in the US, and July 4th in the UK.

Book Review: Crowfall – by Ed McDonald

Raven’s Mark #3

Grimheart, Epic, Fantasy

Ace; July 2, 2019 (US)

416 pages (ebook)

5 / 5 ✪

I was kindly furnished me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to both NetGalley and Ace Books. All opinions are my own.

WARNING SPOILERS: The following contains spoilers for the previous Raven’s Mark novels!

Ravencry ends with Saravor thwarted, Nenn slain, and Ryhalt staring out over the Misery. Crowfall opens with Galharrow hunting drudge. The Deep Kings (shockingly) didn’t abandon their plans to overthrow the Range following Saravor’s defeat atop the Valengrad spire. They had since evolved a new breed of servants; drudge that are blue in pallor and cast, noseless, featureless, they retain very little of their former humanity. He has recently come across quite a few of their number and left their bodies broken in the wasteland.Crowfall opens with Galharrow hunting drudge. The Deep Kings (shockingly) didn’t abandon their plans to overthrow the Range following Saravor’s defeat atop the Valengrad spire. They had since evolved a new breed of servants; drudge that are blue in pallor and cast, noseless, featureless, they retain very little of their former humanity. He has recently come across quite a few of their number and left their bodies broken in the wasteland.

Since the events of Ravencry, Galharrow has made a home for himself in the Misery, leaving his old life behind. In return, the Misery has grown within him, changed him. In many ways, he is no longer the man he once was. And, alike the drudge, he seems to retain little of his former humanity. But a trip back to the Range proves that he still is—while reminding Ryhalt of the life he left behind him.

For not only the Deep Kings have been restless since the Crowfall—a “sorcerous cataclysm” that had occurred three years prior, very reminiscent of the strike that once created the Misery itself—the Nameless are moving as well. And events have somehow become even more dire.

But something more moves in the dark. Something the likes of which Galharrow has never seen, and it will take all his strength and cunning to deal with this new threat, while not sacrificing the last shred of his humanity in the process.

It’s humanity’s last stand—an epic conclusion to an epic series.

Crowfall really is epic, and brilliant.

What starts with a changed Galharrow kicking about the wasteland, soon returns to the Range itself, in a scenic tour around humanity’s last bastion of the continent. Old friends, old enemies join the fray, which is peppered with gods and mortals both, each with their own agenda. Crowfall incorporates much of the past two adventures with fresh content: places, people, monsters, things. It’s a pleasant mix of past and present, without leaning too heavily on either.

Galharrow’s personal story is a bit of a quagmire of emotion. It’s a bit of a convoluted mess—quite like real life, in fact. I guess that’s why McDonald didn’t like the term ‘Grimdark’ applied to his work and instead coined the term ‘Grimheart’ for it. Much of the book—inhuman monsters and immensely powerful magic and gods aside—explores a very real world, with very real emotion. Ryhalt’s passage through the story is but one of many, something the book does rather well at relating. That McDonald managed to pull this off is impressive, especially when writing with a 1st person POV. And yet, at times Galharrow’s story sometimes interferes with the mood of the overarching plot. Its feeling. It’s not that his journey is at odds with the plot, it’s just that occasionally one might distract from the other. I found it a bit of a stutter at the time, but no more. Crowfall races along quite nicely once it gets going, with only this slight impediment to the pace.

There’s a real sense of desperation in the story, one that’s only built upon by the past desperations of the previous two books. I really enjoyed the book, the story it told, the lasting mood that it imparts. Galharrow takes some surprising steps—some that may seem contradictory, ablative, yet rarely out of character—to achieve his ends. It all feels very human, raw and emotional, to an extent I didn’t expect. Blackwing was a great book, Ravencry almost as good—but Crowfall was an experience for me, a journey I won’t soon forget. Now, everyone will have their own reaction to the story, but really, if you enjoyed the first two, you’ll enjoy the third.

Crowfall is much more than the end of a series, it’s the creation of something new. McDonald has expressed a desire to return to the world—and while Galharrow’s own story seems pretty much wrapped up by the end of the book—the sheer amount of half-rendered lore and untold stories of war, toil, and survival certainly give him a multitude of places, and times, to begin anew.

Crowfall comes out July 2nd in the US, and will be published by Gollancz in the UK June 27.

On Tap 06/23

Currently Reading

• Beneath the Twisted Trees – by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Book 4 of a predicted 6 Shattered Sands, opens with Çeda… well, I won’t ruin it. Sufficient to say I’m terribly excited about where this installment—and ultimately the series—will lead. NetGalley was very nice to furnish me with a copy (incidentally, this might be the longest I’ve gone without buying a book in ten years—which is great as I’m still not rich) (totally isn’t gonna last though; the not-buying-books thing, not the not-being-rich one). Other than Çeda, the character I’m most looking forward to revisiting is Ramahd. Following the events of Veil of Spears, he has lost Meryam and been exiled from his homeland, furthermore Çeda wants nothing more to do with him. Will he recover? Will he do something foolish or desperate? I dunno. Yet. Who are you looking forward to revisiting?

Next Up

• Silver in the Wood – by Emily Tesh

I really want to read this one as I’ve read the teaser already but somehow abstained from buying it on the spot. Mostly because I was waffling between a physical book and the ebook version. Still am kinda. Other than the characters, setting and plot, I’ve no idea why anyone would want to read this. Never heard of the author before—but I’m sure that will change.

• Fallen Gods – by James A. Moore

Upon finishing Book 1 of the Tides of War, I kicked around a bit before buying the second. Audio CD version must’ve been like, $4-5? It’s up a bit now, and I’m not in love with the reader to recommend him without reading it first. And that was good enough after a lackluster intro to Brogan McTyre’s story. So, I have this all loaded up, and with a couple backpacking trips in the near future, I should have plenty of trail-time to get through it.

To Do

I have a couple reviews to get up. I’m touching up ones for Verses for the Dead and Exit Strategy that should be up later this week, hopefully. And I’m finishing digesting Crowfall, so that shouldn’t be much later. It was AMAZING, so I’m super excited to see how everyone else likes it when it comes out.

I need to do a “Stacking the Shelves” thing to. Never done one before, and they’re a fair bit of work, but I really like them, so I’ll try and break one in… Monday-Tuesday-ish? We’ll see.

Ah, also I just got Red Dead Redemption. Both of ’em. I’ve played a bit of the first one, which was awesome, but the second looks incredible, so… I maaaay be a little late on some things come July.

Book Review: David Mogo: Godhunter – by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Noob #1 or standalone

Urban Fantasy

Abaddon; July 9, 2019

386 pages (ebook)

2.5 / 5 ✪

NetGalley furnished me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

David Mogo: Godhunter is a study in contrast.

Looking back on it, there were so many things that annoyed me about it and yet I still can’t bring myself to give it a bad rating. That said, I did lower my initial rating due to the sheer amount of said annoyances and the fact that they did not sit well. The fact is, DM:G does just enough right to make up for its generally mediocre plot, confusing explanations, horrible inconsistency and just odd, uneven pacing.

First off, DM:G isn’t really one full story. I mean… it’s a series of connected, consecutive events, divided into three parts: Godhunter, Firebringer, and Warmonger. Firebringer is set 6 months after the events of Godhunter. The first chapter of it sets up something completely different only to immediately ditch it in the second and continue with the overarching story. It’s such a departure that it throws off whatever flow the plot had established before. The 2nd and 3rd parts seem much more whole, as Warmonger is set only 10 days after Firebringer.

Godhunter opens with David Mogo and a potential client negotiating a job.

As you might have guessed, David Mogo is a god hunter. Something made necessary by the events of the Falling, where the gods were ejected from their plane and forced upon our own. For the most part, David hunts godlings; those lesser entities that have lost their way and made homes in people’s gardens, garages and trees. Upon capture, he looses them on the outskirts of Lagos, where they’ll stay out of trouble. He does not mess with High gods, nor capture anything. And yet, this is exactly what the client is after. Ajala is a local Baále—like a clan chieftain, or duke—and a wizard to boot. And he’s after a pair of high gods (twins), to be captured and delivered to him, no questions asked.

David Mogo initially refuses, but ultimately ends up taking the job.

And that’s where the trouble begins.

For not only is Ajala a renowned wizard attempting to use the gods’ power to overthrow the government’s rule, he’s also but a puppet for some shadowy force, some even greater power. And it falls to David to defeat not only Ajala, but the Baále’s masters as well.

The setting and world-building of DM:G alone is reason enough to read it. Set in Lagos, Nigeria, even at the start of the book I was already outside the realm of urban fantasy I’m used to. Even though the story never leaves the city—only hinting at the country, the continent beyond—the setting never feels crowded and is always refreshing and interesting. Even though Warmonger is set in a comparatively drab locale, it gets by through intermittent side-trips to nearby, vibrant locations.

There were several terms in DM:G I had to look up; I’m not terribly familiar with African folklore, terms, or Nigeria specifically. For the most part, none of these had a satisfactory English translation (not every word translates well, after all—it’s like how Inuit has so many words that all translate to just ‘snow’ in English) so when there’s a word like that, I’ve no issue with it being rendered in another language. The main issue I did have concerned the dialogue. In the text, it was billed as English, but was really some kinda pidgin (a hybridization between two languages). I could catch the meaning of the general conversations from context, and the fact that a lot of English words were involved. A lot of the dialogue was just filler, or greetings, or banal stuff, so it didn’t matter. At first, even, the pidgin made it feel more authentic, more Nigerian. When it got into backstory, insight, or anything technical or spiritual—I often had no clue. There was one bit in particular where Papa Udi was set to drop some bombshell regarding his history with another character, and the resulting conversation was so incomprehensible that I swore at the book and had to resist the urge to throw it at the wall (which is never a good idea when reading an ebook).

There’s more than a bit of stutter in the story; just ODD pacing, all over the place. Though it’s especially bad on the lead up to the epic conclusion. And yet, the conclusion is so epic I found myself not caring over the build-up.

There are so many important details that are never mentioned, it’s kind of amazing. I actually had to edit my review down quite a bit, as there wasn’t room to complain about everything that annoyed me. So I’ll just list a few here. Lack of explanation; lack of backstory; realism in rights, acceptance, homophobia, to name a few; consistency; characters, settings, story items that are introduced and immediately abandoned (not killed off, just never mentioned again); the execution of so many things.

DM:G is so obviously a debut novel. It is riddled with annoyances, missteps, even flat-out mistakes that the author might not have ever considered. It’s well-written, language-wise. Just not so much, plot-wise. And yet, there is a certain charm to it. For the amount it tries and fails, there is are a number of occasions where it tries something new and succeeds. At no time did I find it unreadable, unpalatable, or awful. Most often, there was something annoying, frustrating, or inconsistent. Now, it’s entirely possible you might find one (or all) of its flaws unacceptable. But there’s also a chance you’ll find one of its triumphs ingratiating. And another chance you’ll be just as flummoxed as I am trying to rate it. For, if David Mogo: Godhunter did one thing truly well, it got my attention. I’ll be anticipating more from Suyi Davies Okungbowa—and I’m sure his work will improve with experience and time.

BTW- The cover is AMAZING. Dunno who did it, but it’s just incredible.

Book Review: Early Riser – by Jasper Fforde

Standalone

Scifi, Dystopian

Viking; February 12, 2019

402 pages (ebook)

4 / 5 ✪

Early Riser opens upon an alternate Wales that’s seen an early Ice Age, one of many, and features long, cold winters followed by pleasant, warm spells during which time all of humanity basks in the sun’s glow, gorges themselves on food and drink, and prepares for a long winter ahead. A winter that most will sleep away. While the majority of the populace hibernates—enjoying a dreamless sleep in one of many specialized dormitories, towering over the Welsh countryside—those few in the Consul Service mind them, making certain nothing disturbs their slumber.

First year Winter Consul Charlie Worthing is untested, straight out of St. Granata’s Orphanage. Shortly into the text he is recruited by Chief Consul Jack Logan into the Consul Service as a Novice, but quickly achieves the rank of Deputy, even before his first winter is well and truly underway. But though many threats brave the winter’s embrace—Nightwalkers (they’re like slow, shambling zombies), Villains (mostly English rogues), Megafauna, womads, scavengers, insomniacs, and the mysterious Wintervolk—the greatest threat to Worthing and the sleepers may instead come from within. See, during their hibernation, humanity takes Morphenox, a drug that suppresses dreaming. Instead, in the blink of an eye, they pass from summer to summer, albeit many pounds lighter. A season later, they turn and do it all over again. But something troublesome is traversing the halls of the Sector 12 Dormitorium. Viral dreams. Odd, yet consistent. A blue Buick. A beach in summer. A photograph.

Charlie Worthing initially dismisses the viral dreams as nonsense. Until he has one.

The blue Buick. The beach in summer. The artist living next door. The photograph shared, and yet… Something is wrong with the dream. But Charlie is careful with this newfound knowledge. For if people find out he’s been dreaming, life will certainly get interesting.

Well, MORE interesting.

Add in a pair of women who are one, a beautiful woman that Charlie loves, a dude named Shamanic Bob, a mystery that’s made all the more mysterious by the fact that it’s a mystery what exactly the mystery IS, and the Gronk—a legendary Wintervolk (although all Wintervolk are legendary in the sense that really no one believes they exist) that preys upon those unlucky enough to run across it in the snows, leaving behind nothing more than a neatly folded pile of clothes—and, well, you get Early Riser.

Personally, I found it quite spellbinding until the end. Whereupon in goes all Inception and dream-hopping confuses the very nature of causality. And I got lost. I actually reread the ending three times before giving in. Stuff happens, I’m just not sure of the specifics.

Charlie is a quite likable character. A great narrator, too. The world flows well through his eyes, normalcy and weirdness alike. Okay, so mostly weirdness. I… what more can I say about it?

I like the cover.

Bottomline, it’s an entertaining, if ultimately confusing adventure. Set in a vividly imagined, if confusing winter world. Starring intricate, odd characters. Up to the 90% mark, I was all for giving it 5 stars. The ending was a disappointment. But everything leading up to it was pure—if muddy—excellence.

And, yeah.

Book Review: Rogue Protocol – by Martha Wells

Murderbot Diaries #3

Scifi, Spaceships, AI

Tor; August 7, 2018

160 pages (ebook)

4.5 / 5 ✪

Rogue Protocol sees the return of just the most adorable, rogue SecUnit—a being only slightly more antisocial than myself. But due to some recent body modification, said rogue is now able to pass off as near-human, only recognizable to one of its own or the company that made it. This enables it to blend in quite nicely in crowds. Which it just loves.

The events of Artificial Condition have done more than left Murderbot with some minor body alterations, however. Following the events of All Systems Red, in which GrayCris contrived to murder a bunch of scientists so it could take the planet for its own, shows up again, this time attempting to murder a bunch of scientists to cover up trying to do something equally shady. It should come as no surprise that GrayCris is back at it again, but this time, Murderbot, which is passing itself off as a security consultant, Rin, has taken the fight to them.

Despite having left the relative safety of Dr. Mensah and her team, Rin has not forgotten them. And so it travels to the one system it has been avoiding thus far, one with the answers it seeks. For somewhere, years earlier, the SecUnit went rogue and became Murderbot. And within the abandoned terraforming facility on Milu there may await the answers it seeks. Even, hopefully, the data that Dr. Mensah and her team need to win their lawsuit against GrayCris.

But the road is not easy. Still masquerading as the human consultant Rin, it picks up another team of strays attempting to make their way through the facility, this one possessed of a “pet” robot, Miki, with a pair of mercenaries and their hidden agenda in tow. And must make its way forwards, without exposing its true identity—in between watching episodes of the Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon—while somehow getting the answers it wants. And the answers Dr. Mensah and her team need.

The penultimate Murderbot adventure does quite a lot to set up what’s sure to be (and WAS, as it happens), a thrilling conclusion to the series. I had no trouble at all blowing through Rogue Protocol. Less even than the two before it. At the tune of 160ish pages, it’s about the length of each of the previous two, while still being half that of any proper novel. It felt a bit short, a bit cramped, as the story tried to burst through the seams set around it. Other than a similar $10 price tag (again, a bit much for a novella), that’s my only issue with it. Then again, I picked this up from the library, so I really shouldn’t complain—but, as I really want to read it again… I still will.

Book Review: The Cruel Stars – by John Birmingham

noob series #1

Scifi, Spaceships

Del Rey; August 20, 2019

416 pages (eBook)

3.5 / 5 ✪

NetGalley furnished me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Totally thought I posted this already, but I can’t find evidence of that anywhere, so… Huh. Well, here it is!

The Cruel Stars is a space opera set in a black-and-white world populated by vibrant and interesting characters. It chronicles the return of an old enemy, once defeated—the Sturm, a radical group of human purists set on purging the galaxy of any they don’t see as genetically pure. Where initially the world seems well-thought out and complete, it quickly becomes clear that the story is set entirely within the bounds of a single star-system, while supposedly the invasion is staged on a galactic scale. Plagued by uneven pacing and a fairly uninteresting story, The Cruel Stars is certainly an example of a piece that just would not come together as it was meant to.

Five regular POVs (and one infrequent) tell the tale of the Sturm’s attack: retired Admiral Frazer McLennan, the infamous hero known for defeating the Sturm hundreds of year prior. Princess Alessia, twelve year-old and heir to the Montanblanc Corporation. Booker 3-212162-930-Infantry, once soldier now prisoner and believer in the Code—a kind of digital consciousness that transcends the human body. Lieutenant Lucinda Hardy, initially assigned to the stealth corvette Defiant, a series of malware attacks soon sees her in charge of the ship, the entire mission hanging in the balance. Sephina L’trel, a pirate leader with a score to settle, must use all the tricks at her disposal to see her crew through the invasion. (Archon-Admiral Wenbo Strom of the Sturm is seen but a few times and makes a poor POV, due to a lack of depth and a heavily racist overtone that firmly entrenches him as a bad guy).

I’m pretty sure I was the only one annoyed about this, but: There is no perfect enemy. There are two short Sturm POVs, both using their ideology to just kill people. Not even those implanted, genetically modified, post-humans, but also the regular unadorned they came to “save”. Not that I’m defending the racists, but the author isn’t either. They’re the designated as the bad guys. While their ideology or beliefs or prejudices and such are never explained, or even briefed. By the 89% mark, there have been 3 Sturm POV appearances. All short, which totals to around one full chapter in length. So there’s really no dissenting opinion—one side is good, the other bad. I would’ve liked to see someone on the other side, some perspective into their thought process beyond blind doctrine-spouting. But hey, my opinion.

There’s also very little disconnect with the modern world. The weapons are fairly well thought out, but little else. The detail that Birmingham strives for in the first half soon departs, leaving the action and plot to carry the entire weight. I probably wouldn’t have minded as much had the plot been good. Sadly, what follows is a straightforward story with little to no character growth and frankly a lame ending. During the second half of the book, the author goes out of his way to remind the reader again and again of the characters’ motivations, backstories, and even why the Sturm are bad.

While the Cruel Stars was an excellent read over its first half, the following 200 pages struggled with identity, uneven pacing, and a slight, under-developed world. While the action is enough to carry the book to its outset—a subpar, unfulfilling ending leaves the audience awaiting the sequel just to figure out what exactly happened.