Review: Ack-Ack Macaque

Ack-Ack Macaque Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L. Powell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As ludicrous as the jacket cover blurb for this novel may sound, this is a really fun story. It is a really interesting mix of cyber punk, steam punk, pulp, and noir. The cast of characters is very diverse and interesting. Merovich is a reluctant prince of an alternate history / future where France joined the UK. Julie is an idealistic freedom fighter bent on liberating sentient AIs. Victoria is a former journalist who survived a terrible crash at great physical cost and has redefined herself as a fighter. The titular Ack Ack Macaque is a simian fighter pilot unaware that he is a character in a World War II video game. Together, these character's lives intertwine as they work to uncover a sinister plot that could lead to the end of life as we know it.

Due to the diverse mix of genres this book touches on, I could easily recommend it to any number of readers. I think anyone can pick it up and enjoy it, but I would particularly call it out to folks that have enjoyed works by Paolo Bacigalupi, Ernest Cline, Daniel Suarez, or Ramez Naam.

View all my reviews

Review: Armada

Armada Armada by Ernest Cline
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I recognize when I am being pandered to. I don't mind being pandered to sometimes, especially if it is from a trusted source. Ernest Cline earned that trust with Ready Player One. Unfortunately he chose to completely cache in on that trust with Armada.

Have you seen the movie The Last Starfighter? That is essentially the plot of this book with a few minor tweaks. Slathered on like icing on a boutique cupcake are 80's pop culture references. It is like an episode of The Chris Farley Show sketch from SNL. "Do you remember that? Yeah, that was awesome!" Ad nauseum.

This was a quick beach read for me that hit on my interests, but unfortunately didn't rise to my expectations. The characters are uninteresting and I never really felt a sense of suspense. The character of Lex just is utterly ridiculous to me as she continuously supplies wondrous technical escapes for Zach. You could certainly read worse material than Armada, but if you were hoping for a worthy follow up to Ready Player One, this is not it.

View all my reviews

Review: The Library at Mount Char

The Library at Mount Char The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is dark. This book is ridiculous. This book is very good!

A powerful being referred to as "Father" adopts / abducts 12 children to become the librarians for his library. By becoming his librarians they become absolute masters of their subject matter. Father then mysteriously disappears, and the children are cast out from the library. They set about trying to find Father, find a way back into the library, and protect the library from opposing forces that will try to take it from then.

Over the course of the story we learn of the terrible techniques father has used to motivate the children to learn. These tortures have twisted the children. It reminds me very much of the children in Bitter Seeds.

I highly recommend this tale, but with a word of warning concerning the very dark nature of the tortures these children both endure and inflict on each other.

View all my reviews

Review: The Night is For Hunting

The Night is For Hunting The Night is For Hunting by John Marsden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This series is a bit of a guilty pleasure with me. The stories are neither challenging nor innovative. Even so, I've enjoyed the tale of these kids from Wirrawee as they tackle the challenges of surviving as rebels in their invaded country. I'm nearly to the end of the series now, and I'm glad to see that the characters are showing something like development. That's not to say that all of these kids are growing. While Ellie and Homer are showcased in this episode, Kevin is as useless as ever.

In this episode the group takes on the challenges of supporting some of the feral children they were accosted by in Stratton. The young children aren't eager to be under the leadership of older kids, and this presents difficult situations for Ellie and her friends. They must struggle not just to survive on their own but to also cope with these youngsters who at times work directly against them.

I'm excited to see how this is all going to wind up in the next book.

View all my reviews

Review: Mort

Mort Mort by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Imagine Death is a real creature, anthropomorphised such that you could have a conversation with him. Would he enjoy his job? What rules must he operate by? Now, imagine for a moment that he takes you under his wing as an apprentice. This is the story of Mort. Young Mort goes looking for an apprenticeship and after being passed over by everyone else in town, is chosen by death. What follows is a humorous tale full of all of the usual tropes you would expect. While this story is set in the Discworld, you could easily choose this as your first book in the series as it only mentions other characters in passing and you lose nothing by missing those references. As with the other books in this series I think this is a fine way to pass the time, say, on the beach or on a long drive. It is not profound literature, but instead a whimsical, lighthearted tale.

View all my reviews

Review: Burning For Revenge

Burning For Revenge Burning For Revenge by John Marsden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After being disappointed in the previous book, I'm glad to see Marsden to return to previous form. This episode picks up with the band of teens back in Hell, licking their wounds from their previous failures. The pace quickly picks up with solid action and tension throughout. The relationship between Lee and Ellie takes center stage here while the remaining characters continue to play supporting and mostly unchanging roles.

View all my reviews

Review: Perdido Street Station

Perdido Street Station Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm enormously conflicted on how to review this book. On the one hand, Perdido street station is incredibly imaginative. There are some really interesting ideas and themes, and a veritable Henson show of humanoid characters. I imagine that playing paper-and-pencil RPGs with a young Mieville would have been fantastically entertaining. The city of New Crobuzon is imagined in grotesque and vivid detail. We learn of a city that is as much a alive as any of the flesh and blood characters.

What Perdido Street offers in fanciful imagination, however, it lacks in compelling storytelling. I checked this book out from my local library, and after two weeks of stubbornly persisting I was barely a hundred pages in. Even so, I was struggling to find the thread of the story. Sure, I'd been introduced to some characters of mild interest and I was learning of their motivations, but I wasn't interested. A second checkout and I pushed to get myself past the 300 page mark where it finally, FINALLY, started to produce something of a plot. I finished the book on a third checkout mostly because I felt invested at that point.

I'm at once excited to talk to other readers about some of the truly novel concepts found here, but also wary of sounding as though I'm recommending this as a good read. I think there are some readers out there who will enjoy the endless detail and creativity of the characters and setting of New Crobuzon. I think there are far more readers who will find this story bizarre and unapproachable.

View all my reviews

Jade Mason