Review: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really enjoy sci-fi, and on the spectrum of sword to laser I definitely fall strongly on the laser side. Even so, I've enjoyed fantasy in the past. I grew up on Dragonlance books, and I love a good Elder Scrolls RPG. I've been tempted to jump into the 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series based on the recommendations of several of my friends with similar reading tastes, but I've always been put off by the investment. I hate to not finish a book, so if I'm not enjoying it I tend to drag out the time to finish it rather than do the honest thing and put it away. So when I received "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms" from my father-in-law, it was a bit of a boon. Here was a collection of three short stories set in Martin's world, a fine sampler to see if I would enjoy reading more or not.

The short answer is, I did enjoy it. These three stories of Dunk and Egg were fun and exciting. I believe existing fans of the series will likely get more from them as I was lost among the various sigils and names, but that didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of Dunk's journey. The artwork throughout the story is fantastic. A three star rating may not seem to reflect my words, but I think it is a fair rating based on my subjective enjoyment. I'm unlikely to pick this book up again, nor am I likely to highly recommend it, but it did further encourage me to read more of Martin's series.

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Review: Leviathan Wakes

Leviathan Wakes Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Sometime in December I started seeing ads for new shows coming to SyFy, including Childhood's End and The Expanse. I'm not much of a TV watcher, but they seemed interesting, so I watched the Childhood's End mini series and the first two episodes of the Expanse. Both were entertaining, and while I was intrigued by the world The Expanse was establishing, I wasn't sure it was enough to get me out of my habit of spending my evenings gaming or reading. Then Christmas rolls around and some generous soul gifted me a book that had been on my to-read list for a while: Leviathan Wakes. To my surprise the cover tells me it is now a SyFy series called The Expanse!

This book really grabbed me. Many sci-fi books set in space focus largely on a particularly interesting scientific concept, or perhaps wonder at some as yet unknowable facet of our larger universe. While these books entertain by providing a sense of awe and wonder, they typically lack fully flushed out characters with interesting lives. Not so with Leviathan Wakes. We're introduced to a wide cast of distinct characters, and the science takes a back seat to the politics of the factions governing their lives. Our solar system is composed of three primary factions: Earth, Mars, and The Belt. Earth is still the cradle of civilization, but our own negligence in being shepherds of our planet has left it in poor shape. While they don't come right out and say it, Mars appears to be some sort of idealized communist society. All of Mars is united in their goal of terraforming the planet. That process is incomplete, so the denizens of Mars live under domes. Finally, The Belt is the loosely organized set of stations and ships necessary for mining the asteroid belt for raw materials needed by Earth and Mars. They do not have the political or financial muscle of the inner planets, and are largely seen as a pawn to be used rather than having a voice in solar system. A thin veneer of diplomacy hides an underlying distrust and animosity among all three factions.

I loved the characters. Holden is XO of an ice mining ship, the Canterbury. He is naively optimistic, a bit of a goof, but he is also has a fierce and unwavering sense of what is right and wrong that drives all of his decisions. Miller is a jaded cop on the belt station Ceres. He walks a fine line of being a native son of the belt while still trying to uphold the laws as an employee of an earth based security team. Their lives quickly become intertwined.

The format of this book switches perspective between Holden and Miller with each chapter, and each chapter tantalizes you with some form of teaser that entices you to keep reading. I found myself setting aside more of my evening time just to get a few more pages read. Now that I'm finished, I'm excited to catch back up on my recorded episodes of the show. From what I've seen so far (I'm 4 episodes in) there are some minor differences in the details, but otherwise the story is being very closely followed. I'm eager to watch more and to pickup on the next book in the series.

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Jade Mason