Thursday, December 31, 2015

Who you gonna call?

I'm under the distinct impression that Forces From Beyond (or Bayonne, if you're from Jersey) is the last of Simon R. Green's Ghost Finder novels. It's actually a satisfying way to end it, explaining one whole heck of a lot of what's been going on over 6 novels and finally revealing what happened during JC's confrontation with Fenrir Tenebre back in book 1.

In this, we start with a haunted hotel room that confronts people staying inside with their own life purpose or lack thereof. After providing some team building for the Finders, we then move to a Carnacki Institute convention where we find out Lattimer (who runs the Institute) has decided to team up our heroes with their counterparts in The Crowley Project, since the physical location of The Flesh Undying has been found in the Atlantic Ocean.

The death of all the convention attendees, Lattimer being replaced as head, and a confrontation with the Faust winds us up on a boat floating over the Flesh with the overall plan being dropping JC, Melody, and Happy down in the depths in a bathysphere.

Anyway, there are quite a few revelations along the way, as Green does his darndest to wrap up multiple plot lines.

As I keep saying, if you've read any of his other work, you have an idea what you're in for when you crack open the first page. But he does so with skill and panache.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Wild Horses couldn't drag me away

Closer to the Heart by Mercedes Lackey is a better read than its predecessor in the Herald Spy series. Among other things, she's not twisting around a pre-existing story.

Mags and Amily are getting married. Finally. Not that the course of a big ceremonial wedding ever runs smooth, particularly in fantasy.

A civil war in Menmellith has broken out when the new king (at the age of 10) is having issues with an uncle trying to take the throne. Problem being the Uncle is using Valdemarian weaponry, thus making sure everyone gets split apart before the big day to prevent a war with a neighboring country.

It's fast, it's fun, and if you've read any of the other Valdemar books, you already have an idea of what you're going to get.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Magical politics makes for strange bedfellows

Alex Verus has a problem. Not only is his former Master back from where ever he'd vanished off to, but most of Light society seems to think he's still appretinced to Richard.

As part of image rehab, Alex contacts his sort of friend, the Keeper Caldera, to see about becoming an auxiliary keeper. Which is great, until he winds up getting attacked by a mute air mage assassin on the outskirts of London while investigating some kind of disturbance.

As he digs deeper into the case (as well as learning that the Keepers are less like pulp novels and more "Well, that's done, what's the next case?"), he gets caught in bigger webs of Magical politics involving the unbending Levistus on the Light side and the machinations of Richard on the Dark side.

In the center, with a loose data focus, is an independent organization, White Rose. White Rose, while run by Dark mages, caters to all factions of mage society, as long as they're willing to pay. Services include prostitution as well as things straight out of Hostel. Given the organization's access to conditioning techniques, you can sort of imagine what's involved here.

The conflict comes in that a few factions of the Light mage Council don't want the records revealled, lest their lily white image be tarnished. Dark mages, on the other hand, are using it as leverage to gain a seat on the Council.

It's quite ugly, and the Byzantine politics of the situation make it seem like a spy novel on speed in places.

Unrelated to the main plot line, Luna has a new trainer, who happens to be a Dark mage. While we meet her only briefly, it would seem that she will play a larger role in the ongoing metaplot.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Straight on til morning

While The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher is not a new Dresden File, it's still one heck of a lot of fun. (To be fair here, Butcher's Codex Alera was also quite good, even without a modern wizard narrator.) And hey, I'm not Annie Wilkes; I'm sure waiting a while for a new novel in either series will be fine.

Anyway, setting: We're on an unnamed planet covered in mist, where humanity lives on on giant spires with Habbles (giant platforms) holding residents at various heights up and down the spire. Most of this particular book is set on Spire Albion, starting on Habble Morning (where most of the great houses are as well as the Spire's political head) and on Habble Landing, a double decker platform where most of the commerce in the spire transpires.

Great ships fly on Etheric currents, including Captain Grimm's privateering Predator. When we meet Captain Grimm, he's busy trying to privateer a Spire Aurora merchant ship which turns out to be a dreadnought in disguise. Badly damaged, Grimm conscripted into service for the Spirearch. Not before we learn hints of his shady past, however. Seems Grimm got drummed out of the fleet for cowardice, although it's alluded that there's a heck of a lot more to the story. On his way to meet the Spirearch, however, he gets attacked in the ventilation tunnels by some kind of surface creature, which in turn introduces us Master Ferus and his apprentice, Folly. The two are etherealists, two folks who interact with ether in ways that most normal humans don't. They're also slightly mad.

Rounding out the eventual troupe in service to the Spirearch, we have Benedict and his cousin Gwen, as well as Bridget and her feline companion Rowl. Benedict and Gwen are of House Lancaster, which grow the etheric crystals that power pretty much everything in the setting. Bridget is of the lesser house Tagwynn, which grows meat. Rowl is a cat, with his own set of house rules that really don't involve the Human houses. Benedict is Warriorborn (or half-souled in the cat's terms), which seems to convey feline characteristics, greatly increased metabolism, and increased strength, dexterity, and stamina. (For D&D folks, he's a min/maxed twink.)

Spire Aurora ends up sending in a landing of Marines as an expeditionary force to recover certain items as well as cause chaos. While the leader Espinoza seems to be a fairly normal guy, the real leader, Madame Cavandish, is an etherialist who once apprenticed under Ferus. Her lunacy is a strict adherence to polite manners, thus making her likely to destroy people for not offering tea during parlay.

There's a heck of a lot going on, as the party winds up on Habble Landing trying to find the Aurorans as well as the plots of the Auroroans themselves, with the bulk of the book being pretty much about 24 hours of time. We get glimpses of possible future romances between the principles, as well as a vision of a greater evil through Folly's visions.

As stated above, I rather enjoyed this, even if Steampunk isn't my usual thing. But, as usual, Butcher delivers a strong plot, engaging narrative, and characters who are breaking out of the stereotypes they start out in.