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Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

Review: Armada by Ernest Cline published on 3 Comments on Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

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Ernest Cline’s first novel, Ready Player One, read like a love letter to those of us who experienced the 1980s. The book was saturated with – but not bogged down by – an incredible number of references to the pop culture of that era. Some of the references were blatant, and some were hidden; some were buried several layers deep, and some of his tidbits nestled inside larger and more obvious trivia – like he’s a mad scientist who put Return of the Jedi in the same room with Super Mario Bros., and extensively documented their love-making and the pregnancy that resulted. Ready Player One was a glory to read.

His sophomore effort, Armada, is much the same. 

Zack Lightman is an ordinary kid whose Dad died when he was little, and who escaped to video games as soon as he learned to press buttons on a controller. It doesn’t take long in the read to discover that this kid is an elite player, but there is a tone of humility to it that makes the reader really like the guy. He’s a little aimless in real life, a little lonely, has anger management issues, and would rather play video games than do much else – in many ways, he is a typical young guy.

Then his entire world changes. Unlike Ender, who had to wait until the end of his Game, Zack is informed of the reality of the game he’s been playing all these years fairly early on. The heart of the story unfolds at a rapid pace from there, and you won’t find any spoilers beyond what I have already told you.

Armada did not capture me nearly as much Ready Player One, but I expected that. It is, however, a very excellent novel. It reads as swiftly-paced as a movie. For all his love for trivia, Cline is a tidy writer. Nothing felt overtly out of place, nothing felt shoe-horned in. I think its greatest fault is that it is a little too much of an homage. In Ready Player One, the plot is its own, despite all the references. Armada, however, is Cline’s response to Ender’s Game and The Last Starfighter. It is very good, very entertaining, and strongly written, but it is not quite as good as its big brother.

Armada by Ernest Cline was published by Crown Publishing on July 14, 2015.

Book Gossip: Volume One

Book Gossip: Volume One published on 6 Comments on Book Gossip: Volume One

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The last book in Jacqueline Carey’s Agent of Hel trilogy, Poison Fruit, came out last fall. So what has she been working on? Two projects, it turns out. The first is a novella, “One Hundred Ablutions”, which will be published in Yanni Kuznia’s Fantasy Medley 3. It will tell the tale of Dala – a young woman chosen by her people’s overlords to be a slave among slaves, and will include themes of ritual and redemption. The anthology will also include novellas from Kevin Hearne, Laura Bickle, and Aliette de Bodard.

Carey’s next novel will be a dark retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and will chronicle the lives of the titular characters Miranda and Caliban. It will be published in July 2016. I am still hoping that this is a code, and what it really means is that she is writing a new trilogy set in Terre D’Ange, but that hope is dwindling fast.

Seth Skorkowsky will be publishing a new collection of Black Raven stories in October, and is also hard at work on the third book in his wonderful Valducan series: Ibenus. He gave us a brief teaser of the plot, and it looks fantastic. Don’t believe us? Read it for yourself.

After surviving a demon attack, disgraced police detective Victoria Martin tracks down the Valducans in search of answers. Recognizing her potential, and despite the warnings of the other knights, Allan Havlock, protector of Ibenus, takes her in as his apprentice. As the Valducans travel to Paris to destroy a demon nest infesting the catacombs, the knights find themselves hunted by an Internet group intent on exposing them. Victoria, who belongs this group, must desperately play both sides to not only protect herself, but Allan whom she has begun to love. Ibenus, however, has other plans.

Back in April, Guy Gavriel Kay announced his new novel, Children of Earth and Sky, which will be published in spring 2016. This will, of course, be one of his lyrical and thoughtful fantasies in which he reveals a culture that has its roots in our world, but is obscured by a fantastical lens.

In The Children of Earth and Sky Kay returns to the familiar territory established in several earlier works, a reimagining of the melting pot of the medieval Mediterranean. In his hands well-known places and events are transformed into the wonderful and strange through the lens of fantasy, and brought to life with brilliantly drawn characters and the most graceful of styles, which will seduce his many fans and new readers alike.

Isn't this a beautiful cover?

The interesting bit about this is that in February of last year, he sold not one, but two books. Could Children of Earth and Sky be the first in a duology like the Sarantine Mosaic or Under Heaven and River of Stars? It’s a wonderful notion – how many of us wish Tigana had been the first of two (or, maybe, seventeen) books?

Perhaps he could take a page from Robin Hobb? Her Realm of the Elderlings series is made up of sixteen novels.

robin hobb

Assassin’s Fate, the book every single one of her fans longs for, yet are terrified by, is the culminating novel. It is sure to be wonderful and bittersweet at the same time, especially since she allows her story to take her to dark places. I can’t say that she ever simply “kills off” characters for the fun of it (or to add some drama), but she is devoted to the story she wishes to tell. No one is safe. No one is safe from having to wait, either. Typically, Hobb has a publishing schedule that has a book by her out every year. To my deepest sorrow, it looks like we will have to wait until spring 2017. It will be worth it. The best things are worth waiting for.

Fortunately, sometimes patience wins the day! Our wait for Grim Oak Press’s Unbound is nearly over, however. Shawn Speakman, expert author wrangler and talented writer, has put together another anthology that is… bound… to be a fantastic read. A lot of anthologies celebrate a particular theme, or joke, or location. Unbound is a compilation of stories that the authors just wanted to write. The Table of Contents is impressive, with Kristen Britain, Tim Marquitz, Terry Brooks, Shawn Speakman, and Jim Butcher. (Yes, the Butcher story will involve our first glimpse of Harry Dresden post-Skin Game). Speakman prizes collectibles, and knows exactly what book lovers want. Follow the link to Grim Oak Press to purchase limited editions and ARCs.

In other news:
1. The first book in Tad Williams’s new Osten Ard trilogy has been delayed by one full year due to publishing shenanigans.
2. Christopher Moore is working on a book called Noire, set in 1947 San Francisco. Will the Author Guy never cease to surprise us?
3. Ernest Cline, author of Armada and Ready Player One, has signed another contract for a science fiction novel to be delivered at a later date.
4. Jeff Vandermeer spent the month of August away from social media, and came away 100,000 words richer. He is working on not one but two new novels for us.

That’s it until next time! Feel free to share in the comments any juicy book-related gossip.

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