Archive for January, 2024

Review: Void Black Shadow and Static Ruin

Saturday, January 20th, 2024

This is the second book of Corey White’s trilogy that started with Killing Gravity. It continues to deliver on a well-tuned space opera. I had been away from the characters for several years and fell right into the narrative. I read both Void Black Shadow and Static Ruin back to back. Since I’m not digging too deeply into plot, I’m covering about both here.

I like that though White is clearly writing a space opera, he’s not writing in a world without logic. His evil galactic empire isn’t shaky enough to put all its eggs into one Death Star. And it’s also populated with the sort of punch-the-clock evildoers who wind up working for evil in the real world.

It’s also a world with consequences. While White and his protagonist, Mars, may understand how you wind up as a file clerk for the Empire, they neither excuse or forgive temptation into more nefarious vocations. There’s a “break in to Devil’s Island to break our guy out” trope in here that runs aground on the kinds of terror that runs amok in such places. Those responsible are neither excused nor forgiven, but Mars gets her scars, too.

Evil’s not incompetent either. Mars’s plans do not always go as she expects or as a reader of space opera might expect. Competent foes and real consequences are in play.

I quite like the mix of full-bore planetary-class superpowers and real-world dynamics here. Being able to throw a starship around with your mind has less practical application than one might wish. White brings that home without losing the operatic scope.

The protagonist remains a space witch, though some unpleasant alternatives are put forth as well.


Review: The Best of Richard Matheson

Saturday, January 20th, 2024

Richard Matheson made his name writing short stories and novellas that looked at genre standards with a modern eye. The unexpected turns those took made them both standards in SF magazines of the day and the basis for many a Twilight Zone episode. I saw a collection at the LAPL and decided to have a look.

The man deserves his reputation. The stories are well crafted and clever. It’s easy to see how these stories both delighted readers and inspired later writers to play with different perspectives on old tropes.

They are a product of their time. I wouldn’t want to be a woman in a Matheson world. While I can be frustrated that a writer who can generate sympathy for the Devil would still have Satan’s wife doing the dishes, I still recognize the craft.


Review: The Last Chairlift

Saturday, January 20th, 2024

To get ready to write this review, I looked at my previous Irving reviews, and the review of In One Person covers everything I want to say.

I want to underline that John Irving is one of my favorite novelists. I enjoyed reading this novel. If you like John Irving, you will too. But if you don’t know if you like John Irving, I’d probably point you at The Cider House Rules. Or A Prayer for Owen Meany depending what I know about you.