August 8, 2012

Your micro-review roundup: 8 August 2012

(Because I make my way through so many books and movies for CCLaP, I regularly come across projects that are interesting enough unto themselves but that I simply don't have much to say about, or at least not enough to warrant an entire entry. I thought, then, that on occasional weekends I would gather up such "micro-reviews" and post them all in one large entry; they can also be found on CCLaP's main book and main movie archive pages.)

Dance of the Chupacabras, by Lori R. Lopez

Dance of the Chupacabras
By Lori R. Lopez
Self-published

I've already reviewed something by horror writer Lori R. Lopez before, the wispy story collection Chocolate-Covered Eyes, and mentioned at that point that I was looking forward to seeing something a little longer and heftier from her; and now here it is, an "Author's Draft" version (think "Director's Cut") of a full-length horror tale, a sweeping story that takes place over multiple periods of human history among a whole host of different Latin communities around the world. But I have to confess, I'm not much of a horror fan, which means that even a bit of the usual tropes of this genre is usually too much for me, of which there are lots here in this example -- the overly flowery prose style, the melodramatic plot, the 'BWOO-HAA-HAA' tone of the entire thing. But I never think it fair for a genre book to get penalized just for displaying the traits of its genre, simply because the reviewer isn't much of a fan of that genre; and so that's why I'm giving it at least a middle-of-the-road score here, and am humbly suggesting that you get the opinion of a more dedicated horror reviewer if you're truly interested in learning more about this book.

Out of 10: 7.5

The Process Server, by L.H. Thomson

The Process Server
By L.H. Thomson
J.I. Loome

I never quite appreciated the distinction when I was younger and simply a fan, but now that I'm a full-time reviewer of such work, I've come to realize that there are actually two different strata of success in the world of science-fiction: there is the cream of the crop that bleeds through into the general culture, the William Gibsons and Neal Stephensons and Charles Strosses of the world, and there are the much greater number of authors who aren't exactly bad, but who deliver exactly what that genre requires and not a single tiny bit more, the "pushers" of the fetishistic "highs" that come with that genre for that fan, which is all that they're looking for to have considered that project not a waste of their time. (Or to think of it another way, many of these second-tier SF authors also double as screenwriters on syndicated SF and fantasy shows, Buffy and Fringe and whatnot, successful and popular shows all, but purposely designed to mostly be consumed once then never thought of again, except for that small number of convention-going hardcore fans who keep that author's mortgage payments coming in each month.) And that's what L.H. Thomson's The Process Server is, basically, a very serviceable cyberpunk-tinted space opera but not much else, that will satisfy fellow fans of cyberpunk-tinted space operas but make most everyone else say, "Eh, okay, whatever." Set among a dystopian humanity that now spans the galaxy, it posits a complexly Doctorowian political situation that essentially makes our hero a planet-hopping noir-like server of court papers, with a saucy 250-year-old stuck in a 14-year-old girl's body as a spaceship pilot, stuck as pawns within a blackly comic thriller played out among nation-sized corporations and a galactic population terminally addicted to a sensurround virtual reality. A well-done story for what it is, it breaks not even a single step of new ground within the genre but will be a minor treat anyway for fans of this type of work, which is why it's getting a good score but not a great one, and a limited recommendation instead of a general one.

Out of 10: 8.2

Bitter Seeds

Bitter Seeds
By Ian Tregillis
Tor

The reason I put this older (2010) urban-fantasy alt-history novel on reserve at my local library is because its sequel The Coldest War just came out, and the premise sounded interesting enough to warrant going back to the first book and catching up; set within a Johnathan Carroll like alt-reality where magic is real (via evil, ephemeral cosmic aliens who we barely understand but who some can take advantage of), it tells the story of a World War Two where the Nazis have literally invented supermen and crusty upper-class "magic scholars" in the UK are made MI6 operatives to stop them. But alas, although the idea itself is just really quite amazing, the execution of the idea is only subpar; the plot itself is quite clunky at times, the level of characterization uneven, the dialogue sometimes flat, and perhaps worst of all (or at least a big personal pet peeve of mine), a paper-thin wife is invented for one of the main characters exclusively to serve as a flimsy deux-ex-machina for the story's climax, otherwise servicing as a disposable distraction for the other couple of hundred pages we have to deal with her. I can see why the book's gotten so much attention, because it really is a captivating story idea, unique and historical and yet another great modern take on the Nazi's real-life obsession with the occult; and while it's sure to satisfy hardcore urban-fantasy fans, I doubt that I myself will be reading volume two of the series, and do not recommend it except to the most diehard Joss Whedon fans out there.

Out of 10: 8.4

Filed by Jason Pettus at 8:25 AM, August 8, 2012. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |