What initially attracted me to this book was its absolutely gorgeous cover, reasonably interesting-sounding description, and decent reviews. Unfortunately, it didn't work for me, and I ended up spending maybe two months slogging through it.
I wasn't a huge fan of English's writing. It was a little too flowery for my tastes and featured a massive overuse of adverbs. I became very tired of the words “rather” and “quite.” It felt like one or the other of them was used on every single page.
I also became very tired of all the fantasy names – this, from someone who cut her teeth on fantasy. There were weird, almost Lewis Carroll-like names for everything, and I wasn't always sure they were necessary. I didn't need constant reminders that Draykon was set in a fantasy world. “Nivvens” could easily have been called “horses.” The same goes for many of the other things that had real-world equivalents. In some cases, the fantasy names were a little confusing. I couldn't read “whurthag” without imagining a warthog, although I'm pretty sure whurthags had more in common with big cats or other large predators.
I could have put up with English's writing, however, if either the story or characters had grabbed me. That didn't happen. I liked Eva well enough, but I actively disliked Llandry. Whereas Eva was older (maybe in her forties?), competent, and usually had a good head on her shoulders (except for a few blips involving Tren), Llandry was young (20) and appeared to suffer from To Stupid To Live Syndrome. Yes, I know, she had crippling social anxiety and parents that were maybe a little too overprotective. Even so, I didn't think that completely excused her behavior. Even after she found out people were being killed for having istore, she kept a little piece of it around. She followed after Devary like a puppy, despite the fact that any idiot could see she'd only slow him down. I couldn't understand why he wasn't more angry with her when he learned she'd been following him. I mean, he was on a secret mission to deliver the last known piece of istore to someone who might be able to find out more about it. Llandry was well-known as the discoverer of istore. Having Llandry around was practically like having a giant neon sign saying “you'll probably find some istore here!”
I couldn't decide whether English was trying to set up a future romantic subplot between Llandry and Devary or not. On the one hand, Llandry seemed to have a crush on Devary, even though I don't think she realized it. On the other hand, Devary's behavior towards Llandry felt more like that of an indulgent family member than a potential love interest – not surprising, since he was an old friend of Llandry's mother. At any rate, there was absolutely zero chemistry between Devary and Llandry, and I do hope that was intentional.
Draykon's story didn't grab me any more than its characters did. I think it could have, if maybe 100 pages had been edited out. The occasional interesting event would happen, and then there'd be pages and pages that didn't seem to accomplish much of anything. It felt like most of the book happened in the last 60 or so pages.
The story became a little more interesting to me near the end, and part of me wants to know what happens next in the series. However, I'm not nearly hooked enough to buy and slog through the next book, if it's as much of a drag to get through as this one was.
The book includes a color map of the seven realms and a glossary.
(Originally posted on http://familiardiversions.blogspot.com/2012/11/draykon-e-book-by-charlotte-e-english.html)
After finishing The Sixth Discipline, I wanted to try something else by Buxton but didn't feel ready to read the book's sequel, No Safe Haven. I spent some time looking through descriptions, and Tribes sounded like it had one of the biggest things that appealed to me about The Sixth Discipline: an exploration of a fascinating sci-fi/fantasy culture. I was also intrigued by the bit about Jahnsi being from a fighting tribe.
The cultural stuff did turn out to be really interesting. I liked finding out how everything worked, from the planet's justice system, to tribal badges, to the service every tribe member was required to do. While I found the world interesting as a whole, I particularly enjoyed the little details that showed how the tribal system affected the way native Mariposans thought and behaved. For example, Jahnsi thought of LuAnne as “the Mingo” because, to Jahnsi, a person's surname is their tribe. Also, their tribal name automatically tells others what their gender is. It wasn't necessary to specify that someone was female if you said they were a Han-Lin, so the idea that a Mingo could be male or female seemed odd to Jahnsi.
Speaking of Jahnsi, I liked her. As a Han-Lin, she knew how to fight, but she wasn't a dark, gritty warrior heroine. I think that, to her, fighting was often just a job. She was very practical about it. There was always a risk of getting hurt, but she was experienced enough that she had a fairly realistic idea of what her risks were. There was one part where she decided to take on a job involving a dispute over an order of uniforms that weren't the right color. She viewed the job as a good, fairly low-risk way to earn money, because it was only going to involve hand-to-hand combat. Hob, on the other hand, was much more worried about the possibility she might get hurt.
While I wouldn't call this book a sci-fi romance, it did have some romance it in. I thought Jahnsi and Hob's relationship moved at tad fast. Hob had spent his entire life as a slave, and a good chunk of that time as a sex slave. Because the drugs the other slaves were given didn't work on him, he was fully aware of everything he was made to do. Granted, Jahnsi was different – she forced nothing on him. I still thought things went a little more quickly and smoothly between them than they should have. They were a couple after maybe eleven days (or less?). LuAnne and Forest's relationship also started fairly quickly, but it was more believable to me because neither one of them had gone through the lifetime of abuse that Hob had gone through.
I spent much of the book very curious about what would happen once LuAnne found Hob. Would he be willing to go to his aunt? Would he be forced to go if he wasn't? What was going to happen between him and Jahnsi? I absolutely did not expect what did happen, not even with the hints (like Hob's brain implant) that there was a little more to the situation than just an aunt looking for her long-lost nephew. I wasn't really happy with the way things developed. I'm trying to avoid spoilers, but...well, it felt a little Borg-like and creepy. And the romance-loving part of me was disappointed by the ending. I suppose some people might feel that things end on a positive note for Jahnsi and Hob, but I had serious doubts that their relationship was going to last long, since there was already strong evidence that Hob felt the duties of his new life took precedence over his own wishes. I could easily imagine his aunt forcing him into an arranged marriage, and I seriously doubt Jahnsi would be willing to stand by and be his mistress. LuAnne and Forest's relationship was actually more satisfying to me than Jahnsi and Hob's – an unusual feeling for me, since I tend to identify more with younger couples in books than older ones.
Hmm, what else? This is a bit spoiler-y, but I loved that Andre Ortega got what was coming to him. He was horrible. Also, I was not a fan of the number of times (two, I think?) that Hob had his ability to make choices for himself taken away from him by people he should have been able to trust. Especially considering his history as a slave, he didn't hold this against those people for nearly as long as I thought he should have. And, ugh, Jahnsi's reaction after she found out the shocker that was the identity of one of Hob's former customers. Hob didn't deserve that, although at least she realized pretty quickly she was out of line.
All in all, Buxton's turning out to be a good author for me when I need a "interesting sci-fi culture" fix. Her characters sometimes act in ways that make me rage at them, but I still get a decent-to-good read overall.
(Originally posted on http://familiardiversions.blogspot.com/2013/03/tribes-e-book-by-carmen-webster-buxton.html)
The descriptions I've seen on Goodreads and Smashwords all led me to believe that this story would focus more on the bonding process between Shadia and Feef, one of the pets Shadia regularly took care of. That didn't turn out to be the case. While the descriptions of the various pets and their individual characteristics and needs were really interesting, not much attention was paid to any one pet, at least until the disaster. Shadia didn't seem any closer to Feef than she was to Gite or any of the other pets.
For me, this story was so-so. It was too brief to do much more than scratch the surface of anything. Shadia, a loner, is rarely shown interacting with anyone. A short paragraph described some of the gifts her clients gave her, and I found myself wishing that the story had continued, even just a bit, past the ending. I wanted to see her begin to make connections with others more. I felt like I barely got to know her, any of the pets, the space station, and the other residents of the station.
(Originally posted on http://familiardiversions.blogspot.com/2013/04/feefs-house-e-short-story-by-doranna.html)
This was different from Durgin's usual stuff. No animals, and kind of dark. Maybe darkly humorous?
Augie was not a sympathetic character. To me, he seemed to be the sort who grasped at “get rich quick” schemes and thought himself clever for doing so. He didn't bother to get the LitEd (reading) education that his workplace offered because he didn't feel it was necessary. Also, he resented those who were educated and didn't want to become like them – he didn't realize it, but he judged educated people just as much as he believed they judged him.
The ending was clever and tied in several things that had previously been mentioned – even the story's title served as a clue. If I had to name one complaint about the story, it would probably be that what the pills truly did was kind of...silly? That's probably not the best word for it. These pills were supposed to be future tech, but they did something that people could easily do right now if it weren't for the politics and ethical concerns. The future tech...wasn't.
Anyway, I thought Durgin did well with the short story format and wasn't left feeling that Fountane Of should have been longer.
(Originally posted on http://familiardiversions.blogspot.com/2013/04/fountane-of-e-short-story-by-doranna.html)
I first became aware of this book when several people I follow on Booklikes added it to their “planning to read” lists. The cover was gorgeous and caught my eye. While I was checking out Mindtouch, I saw Earthrise again and realized they were by the same author. I bought both of them at the same time.
This book had a much stronger start than Mindtouch, and I appreciated that it had more of an actual plot. There is something addictive about Hogarth's writing, and it's pretty much guaranteed that I'll be reading more of her works. That said, I did feel that Earthrise was a slightly less enjoyable read than Mindtouch.
My biggest problem with the book was Reese, who was very, very prickly. She had reason to be. She grew up on Mars and was part of a family that followed the tradition of having only girls and reproducing via artificial insemination. Her family would have preferred her to stay with them, take care of her mother in her old age, and then have a baby who would eventually take care of her. Instead, she disappointed them all by going off and captaining a merchant ship. We only see her family once in the book, but they make it clear that they're not an accepting bunch. As a result, I think Reese expects rejection more than she realizes, and so she puts up walls around herself. Thick, spiked walls.
I put up with her prickliness in the beginning because I wanted to see what caused it. Also, it was clear that she was more prickly with newcomers, like Hirianthial, than long-time crew members. Maybe she'd open up more as she got to know Hirianthial, or at least stop kicking at him so much. She did make a bit of an effort to learn more about Eldritch (although reading romance novels featuring Eldritch didn't seem to be the best way to go about it), and I loved it when she defended Hirianthial from undeserved emotional abuse after tragedy befell a patient in his care.
However, in the last 10% of the book, Reese behaved in ways so boneheaded that I actually cheered when her crew members bit her head off for it. She absolutely deserved it. Yes, she was in a tense, dangerous, stressful situation, but so was everyone else, and she was the only one acting like an idiot. Despite a whole book's worth of evidence that Hirianthial was stubbornly honorable and more capable than stereotypes about Eldritch might lead one to believe, she continued to insult him by implying that he might read her mind on purpose and by complaining that he was constantly in need of rescue. She had so little trust in Hirianthial, even that late in the book, that she refused to listen while he tried to quietly lead them all safely through enemy territory. My head almost exploded.
While I appreciated that she later apologized to Hirianthial for what she said and did, her apology came a little late and might not even have happened had a crew member not asked her to treat him less like dirt. I really hope that, in the next book, Reese's behavior towards Hirianthial improves. I'm not sure if Reese and Hirianthial are going to be a romantic couple, but, if that's where things are going, they're off to a really crappy start.
Unlike Reese, Hirianthial did soften and warm up as the book progressed. I can't remember how old Jahir, the Eldritch in Mindtouch, was, but Hirianthial felt much older, more wearied and worn down by his years. Even his physical condition made him seem older – he had arthritis in several of his joints. He was a doctor, and his greatest concern was saving others' lives, even if he ground himself down in the process. Being with the crew of the Earthrise brought him a little more back to himself, I think. One of my favorite parts of the book involved the crew members getting together to make him a thank you gift, which they then (minus Reese) braided into his hair.
This book had more action and less alien culture info than Mindtouch, although there were still some nice tidbits. For example, a brand new (to me) being called a Flitzbe was introduced. Also, a sizable portion of the book took place on Harat-Sharii, the home world of the polygamous (polygynous?) Harat-Shar. The way their medical industry worked was both fascinating and horrifying. I learned a little more about Harat-Shar family groups, but I ended up with more questions than I started with. Irine and Sascha's relationship, for instance, had me doing a triple-take – like Reese, I wasn't quite comfortable with their complete lack of issues with sibling sexual intimacy, and I couldn't help but wonder what sorts of taboos the Harat-Shar had, if any.
The action portions of the book were good and reminded me a bit of Joss Whedon's Firefly at times. Like Mal, Reese was perpetually short on funds and occasionally did things she wasn't entirely comfortable doing, because otherwise there was no money to keep going. At least once in this book, that bit her in the butt in a major way. Because she and her crew were primarily merchants, not fighters, they tried to talk their way out of trouble when they could. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. They could, and did, run away from trouble when possible. One of my favorite early scenes involved the use of crates of berries as accidental weapons, because the Earthrise was not equipped with real ones.
All in all, this was a decent book that I would have liked a good deal more if Reese's behavior hadn't been so bad so close to the end. The storyline was fairly interesting, I liked most of the characters, and it was nice to find out a little more about the overall universe that Mindtouch had introduced me to. Some parts of the book could have been tightened up a bit, while others might have benefited from a bit more detail. For example, I would have liked to have seen and learned more about Reese's life and family on Mars, and, while the portion that took place on Harat-Sharii was interesting, I suspect it could have been shortened without hurting the story.
(Originally posted on http://familiardiversions.blogspot.com/2013/11/earthrise-e-book-by-mca-hogarth.html)
I really enjoyed Mindtouch and was thrilled when I saw that Mindline had been released. In Mindtouch, Jahir was given a choice between remaining near Vasiht'h and developing their budding mindline, or leaving his new friends and the mindline behind and accepting a residency at Mercy Hospital on Selnor. He chose to go to Selnor. Mindline picks up where Mindtouch left off. Vasiht'h has decided it was a mistake to send Jahir off on his own and has arranged to finish up as much of his education as possible through distance learning on Selnor. While he is traveling to Jahir as quickly as his limited funds allow, Jahir, unaware that his friend is coming after him, is rapidly running himself ragged. Not only is the residency program extremely difficult, Selnor's higher gravity is making every day feel like a grueling marathon. Things only get worse when a large number of mysteriously comatose patients start showing up at Mercy.
I love Jahir and Vasiht'h. A lot. But it occurred to me, while I was reading this book, that they might be a bit too wonderful and nice for some readers. I think Vasiht'h's only failing in Mindline was that, when his temper finally exploded, which it only rarely did, it was hard for him to rein it in. Jahir had two main failings: he was so pretty that all humans fell a little in love with him (the stuff with Levine seemed unnecessary and repetitive after the minor incident with Berquist in the previous book), and he cared so much about others' well-being that he tended to neglect his own. I really wish the portion of the book in which Jahir was killing himself hadn't dragged on for so long – it made for painful reading.
Everyone around Jahir and Vasiht'h liked them or learned to like them. That didn't bug me, because I liked them too – sometimes I found myself reading with an involuntary smile on my face. What got to me was other characters' comments about their education/professional development. Jahir literally almost killed himself trying to save patients, even after it became clear that they could not be saved. I'd have thought he'd be censured for not recognizing his own physical limitations and for running the risk of turning himself into another patient in need of care or, worse, a corpse. Instead, he was later praised for his dedication.
When Jahir and Vasiht'h scheduled therapy sessions on their own after their faculty oversight canceled all their official appointments, I expected they'd be censured for doing something that could have potentially been dangerous or unethical (they were only student therapists, after all). And yet the same thing happened to them that happened to Jahir on Selnor: they were praised, told that there was no more they could be taught, and sent on their way. I would love to get a medical professional's perspective on this book, because this all seemed pretty dodgy to me.
Jahir and Vasiht'h were wonderful, nice people, a solid (asexual) couple, and students who were praised by every single teacher and patient they encountered. So, yes, they were more than a bit perfect. I can recognize that. But I loved them anyway, when I didn't want to throttle them for trying to kill themselves for the benefit of others. Mindline had fewer lovely, intimate moments than Mindtouch, but there were still some good ones. I enjoyed the hair cutting scene, and their negotiations over the details of owning their first apartment together. Their mindline added a new dimension to their relationship, allowing them to share memories and tastes.
The other characters in the book were, unfortunately, not quite as vivid as Jahir and Vasiht'h. I kept getting several of them mixed up. Paga, a Naysha (aquatic Pelted) and one of Jahir's physical therapists, was the most memorable of the bunch.
The structure of this book was odd. The first two thirds were a medical mystery of sorts, while the last third was quieter and, like Mindtouch, more focused on Jahir and Vasiht'h finishing up their schooling and trying to figure out what they were going to do with their lives. I had assumed that the epidemic of comatose patients would take up the entire book. Moving from the first two thirds into the last third was jarring, like stumbling from one story into another. I think, if that transition had been smoothed out, I'd have enjoyed the book even more than I did.
Overall, I liked this book. Jahir and Vasiht'h are, so far, my absolute favorite of Hogarth's creations, and, as usual, I enjoyed how alien culture was worked into the story. It's too bad this is a duology – I'd love a third book focused on the early days of setting up their own practice.
At the beginning of the book, there's a brief glossary. At the end of the book, there's a recipe for Almond Saucer cookies.
(Originally posted: http://familiardiversions.blogspot.com/2013/12/mindline-e-book-by-mca-hogarth.html)