Brad Horner's Books

I read a great deal of books with a great deal of range, but my primary loves are sci-fi and fantasy. Close runner-ups are traditional fiction, horror, and non-fiction. I'll be giving full reviews of each book as I read them.
A Local Habitation - Seanan McGuire I need to clarify my adding this book to the transhumanism bookshelf. It really ought to have it's own category of transfaeism, but the fae really act so much like humans that I just couldn't find the real difference.

In the end, I decided to let the characters climb their own trees.

The book was solid, if a bit difficult to pull off. The novel had less melodrama and a lot more plot this time, and really felt like a mystery for our intrepid fae private eye. There were a lot of interesting character concepts, and I think that's what makes these books quite good. I mean, really: a seal fae? Oh yes.

On to the next novel!
Rosemary and Rue - Seanan McGuire I had been meaning to read this series for a while, ever since reading Mira Grant's zombie books. I finally got around to it and was very pleased with this urban fairy story. I was happy to get to know Toby and Sylvester and was rather surprised and interested in trying to piece together Toby's personal history through the action. I prefer books that make me work a little for my satisfaction, and while this is no James Joyce, I had a great time reading it.

For an Urban Fantasy series, it has a great leg up on most, in that it isn't a non-stop sexcapade with an extra serving of misogyny. Part of what I enjoy most about UF is the discovery of magic and magical creatures, mythological or otherwise. I was quite satisfied on this count.

I had read reviews before reading this one, so my own is somewhat influenced by them, but with one caveat; I disagree that nothing happens. The main plot is relatively simple, true, but we're dropped into the sub-plots and history with a vengeance and it really stirred up the action in nice ways. I know that I can expect a great deal of great things in the future, and I'll be diving into them right away with joy.
Eifelheim - Michael Flynn In all fairness, I ought to give one or two more stars to this novel for the following reasons.

The sheer amount of research put into the novel to make a complete picture of a small medieval German town and it's surrounding politics, not to mention the great walk-on parts of Occam and the peripheral references to Roger Bacon, made the novel a true tour-de-force.

Mr. Flynn's well-thought out idea behind hyperspace was explored quite thoroughly and also deserves much praise.

Even the basic premise behind the novel, where chivalrous knights meet grasshopper aliens, where priests are successful in converting bug-eyed aliens to christ, and a humanistic treatise on the nature of charity applied equally to the alien and the human during the horrible times of the Black Plague made the novel shine.

Why I am not giving the novel a 4 star or a 5 star is purely upon me. I was bored. It took an awful long time to get through the novel, for me, and I'm generally very forgiving for every text I pick up. I can usually find great things to say about a novel even if I didn't quite like it.

I'm in a different position for this one. I liked it. I liked it quite a lot. Unfortunately, I wanted more action, more reveals, more melodrama, more something that I can't quite put my finger on. Perhaps I would have been as happy with the novel without the present day sequences. Perhaps I would have been more happy with a lot more philosophy shaken in to the situation. These are personal preferences, and I know that's such an obvious thing to say within a review. I want to apologize for not giving the book more stars because I feel like it tried so hard and was brilliant on so many other levels. If I were to say that the novel was technically great, I wouldn't be wrong, but it also drops the hint that something was missing.

Perhaps, in the end, what I was looking for amidst the beautiful detailed description of the world he wrote was something as small and juicy as a theme. Perhaps I just wanted a theme that was beyond the good christian alien.

I really feel guilty. It was good. I just have the feeling that something was missing.
Abaddon's Gate - James S.A. Corey All of the implicit promises made to me as a reader have been fulfilled and titillated and stoked to a nice fine fire. I wanted something with huge scope, and while I kept thinking about Iain M. Banks Culture or more to the point, Brin's Uplift War, or even Pohl's Gateway series, I was thoroughly impressed with the Expanse because it kept me grounded in the multiple scales needed to fully appreciate it. Sure, there's series that have galaxy-wide adventure, but how does one truly draw the reader into a true appreciation of it? Answer: have an extremely fully-fleshed solar system and the need for an equation between time and distance. Keep all of the action in that localized space but throw the implications of something so vast and horrible into the mix that it makes everyone feel like ants. These guys have that little literary monster on a leash and they like to let him snap at pedestrians. I love it.
The characters are all spectacular and engrossing. I'm not just talking about the standard crew, either, but even the many who fight, love, and die in this fantastic story. The quality of story and writing is amazing.

I will be following this series forever, I do believe. :)
Caliban's War - James S.A. Corey The Expanse series is rapidly becoming one of my favorite stories, and it's only partly due to the scope. Look: If I'm going to read a space-opera, I want huge, Huge, HUGE scope, right? Well it's my own preferences here, so the answer is a definite YES! I know a little astronomy and scale and putting all of that in perspective with what the hell just happened at the end of this novel is right likely to blow my mind, if it hadn't already been blown when I read Stephen Baxter's The Ring. That's not really that important right now, though, because this novel isn't that novel. This is a much better novel in all the ways that count; in characters, in action, in complicated drama and fully believable, no... engrossing settings.
I think I've read some fantastic space-opera, before, and I think of Bujold as one of the best, but now I will be putting these two guys at the head of the class. Thank you, D.A. and T.F.! For the rest of you peeps sitting on the fence about reading these books, get off your asses and get some startle on.
Leviathan Wakes - James S.A. Corey Fantastic Space-Opera! I didn't know what to expect when I picked up the book besides the basic premise, and yet I was slowly drawn into situation after situation that got bigger and more bad-ass, contrary to what I was expecting in the first hundred pages or so. Sure, Solar-system action, big haulers, warships... I didn't expect the scope to become as large as it soon became, and believe me, I was quite satisfied with what came next. War? No problem. Expectation of high-level manipulation? Again, no problem. Cthulhu vomit zombies from galactic gods? I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING. Sorry about the spoilers, folks. I couldn't resist, especially how well it was developed and written and snared me big time. The title could have been filler, but actually, it was spot on: mythological-wise. There were quite a few great cultural references that never felt strained or out of place. I was frankly delighted by the story and ideas. I've read quite a few novels that couldn't match this one.

I am tempted to compare this, slightly, to the tone and complexity available in Brin's Startide Rising. Nothing quite matches between SR and LW except the amount of world-building, depth of characterizations, implied scope, and delightful multiple plot twists. That is a lot, mind you, but in no way are the two related in story! Leviathan Wakes was my first intro into the Expanse and I'll be looking forward to reading all of the rest, including the not-yet released 4th book, with great anticipation.

Great, great space opera!
The Selfish Giant - Oscar Wilde Being reminded of this short story is a recollection of my childhood, or at least of the day when I was a 14 year old plowing through an Oscar Wilde complete anthology book. I remember thinking that it was so much better than the pithy and pathetic morals found in the Smurfs and for some really odd reason, I wanted a really great moral story with lots of protein when I at this one. I smacked my lips and felt full afterwards.
Of course, like many compulsive word-overeaters, I ignored my appetite and continued the anthology until I wasn't even digesting the moral verbiage anymore. I suppose I ought to have stopped at this story, at least for a day or two. Too much of a good thing can still give you a stomach-ache.

I know, I know! I'm speaking of Oscar Wilde, Mr. Wit and convicted homosexual, and I'm propping him up as a moral giant! And yet, his writing shows us his depth and I appreciated it. The Selfish-Giant was one of my favorite short stories of his. I only gave it 4 stars because it kinda felt too preachy. :)
Dead Ever After: A True Blood Novel - Charlaine Harris I may have had my own issues with the series, but after seeing all of the really nasty comments from previous fans, I had to sit down with my own thoughts and really have a heart-to-heart with them. I didn't dislike the last Sookie book. It felt, rightly so, like a gently methodical loose-end tie-up. Sure, there was a little bit of contrived tension, but I had no issues with it. This was a novel, after all, and not a post-mortem compendium.
I always liked the man she ended with, and while Eric and Bill had their charms, there was just way too much baggage to let them have a happy ever after with Sookie. The books were always relatively light, despite the blood, gore, mayhem, explosions, and torture. It was their charm that kept me as a reader, and this last book kept the charm strong. I had to remind myself that this was a southern-vampire series, after all, and a Line-Dance at the end was not only appropriate, but also fitting. A wedding at the end capitalized the idea that the series was a traditional comedy, not a tragedy. I was charmed and relaxed through the entire reading and it felt good, like any good lazy read about people you've known and loved for years.

I wasn't in it for the Eric-Sookie romance, either. Perhaps that's why I enjoyed it so much. Granted, I was fully charmed when Eric had lost his memory and the man he used to be charmed the pants from Sookie's hips, but I was also charmed by the witch sequence and the fairy sequence.

Maybe I happen to enjoy the grown-up ending and the almost complete release of character tension without having to worry about just killing the dog at the end. It's not a spectacular hollywood ending, after all, but it was very satisfying.

I will continue to read Charlaine Harris. :)
Zoe's Tale - John Scalzi I've been a big fan of Scalzi ever since Old Man's War, but I was slightly worried that Zoe's Tale would be a some milking of The Last Colony, which is a POV change of that novel. I'm not entirely certain it was necessary, except for the fact that it develops what might have been a serious dues ex machina event and makes everything hunky-dory. It may sound as if I didn't like the novel, but that's plainly untrue. This was an excellent YA novel, and I have to admit I love the concept of an intelligent alien race without self-consciousness. The whole novel was solid and Zoe always had a strong voice. Even better, I never thought she was overblown or annoying or perfect. Well, for me, that's high praise for a YA heroine.
I will freely admit that I liked the first two novels best, but I see why this one was nominated for Hugo.
Fuzzy Nation - John Scalzi I admit I've never read any of Mr. Piper's works but now I've got a real hankering to do so. I loved this story. It had everything. Furries, exploitation, edge-of-the-seat legal drama, and one hell of a tinseltown ending. I was almost swearing to myself that I was reading a Heinlein novel that was updated to modern standards until I realized, for the tenth time, that I was reading one of my favorite modern authors, Mr. John Scalzi, and I subsequently face-palmed myself.
This was a quick and easy read, but by no means was it simple or lacking depth. I laughed out loud and I even dropped the book to clap. I even cursed myself when I dropped the book because I normally don't drop or throw books. Fortunately, I didn't forget my place and was able to keep reading with minimal interruption.

I can't praise the novel enough. It had heart.
The Alloy of Law - Brandon Sanderson I've always loved clever mash-ups between genres, but I hadn't expected this one. A western with Brandon Sanderson's fantastic world-building and magic system from the Mistborn trilogy? Brilliant. I have never really loved westerns, but I was able to get into this one with joy and amusement. The characters are very well developed, despite being somewhat cookie-cutter western materials. The saving grace and perhaps the transcendence of the book is the reliance on its gods and magic system. I didn't know if I'd have enjoyed this book because it was several hundred years after the time of the first three, but now I'm hoping to read a long line of mistborn books.
Legion - Brandon Sanderson I have read and enjoyed a number of Sanderson's YA novels, and while I never got into them as strongly as I did his adult novels, I always thought they were very strong in characterization. I may remember the lead character for a long time, but really, that might only be due to the cool-ass gimmick associated with him. Very funny stuff, and a cool take on the traditional mystery-action novel.
The Emperor's Soul - Brandon Sanderson Very interesting story. My first thoughts ran, "Cool, it's high-class magical forgery done Brandon Sanderson style!" And then I realized it had heart and soul, which, upon reflection, was very Sanderson. What blew my mind the most was the depth of characterization, perhaps being the best of all his works.

It's a short work, but ultimately one worth remembering and enjoying and re-reading.
Necessary Evil (The Milkweed Triptych, #3) - Ian Tregillis Upon finishing the trilogy, I'm caught between a rock and a hard place, because I'd grown to really enjoy Gretel's company, and she's been relegated to a fate worse than death. Humanity, that is. Am I so wrong to want a demi-god to remain a demi-god?
On the other hand, Raybold has been a pleasure to follow, in all of his incarnations, despite the pudgy and worthless husband incarnation from the second book. He's learned to redeem himself several times over.
The main question is: did I like the complicated plot? I had no problems following it, and it gets very interesting because of the bleedthrough of alternate time-lines.
The darkness of the books remains fairly steady, but it drops slightly for the third one. Perhaps it's because the author is wrapping up the series and allowing just a little bit of a happy ending to occur, and perhaps he just felt that it was the right time to kill-off some of the more interesting characters. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.

I'm forced to consider these books along the current trend in fiction to go for the deep dark feel that never likes to let up, a-la Game of Thrones style. Enjoyable, for all of that, and there's not such a huge build-up of characters to see die, but the feel of omnipresent danger is quite good.

I think I'll be recommending these books to anyone who enjoys alternate history, magic, and the SS.
The Coldest War (The Milkweed Triptych, #2) - Ian Tregillis The story is getting more impressive. We're moving away from traditional hero types and we're getting a lot more flip-sides. Sure, we've scooted a couple of decades into the future and everyone has gotten a little flabby, but what can you expect in an upside-down world where England is pretty darn evil, the Soviet Union saved the day from the Nazis, and Cthulhu is knock knock knockin on heaven's door. I've still got that image of Greta with pigtails, and she's just as charming and as odd as ever, for a raving lunatic hell-bent on destroying the world. (Or so we're lead to believe.)
I'm enjoying these stories so much that I'm prepared to risk wetting myself because I can't be bothered to put the book down a moment. Shame on you, Mr. Tregillis. It's ok, perhaps I'll rearrange my entire life so that when I was 17 I got into such a large car accident that I had to be fitted with a permanent catheter just so when I finally get around to reading this novel I'll have found that I don't actually need to get up to use the restroom and so therefore all things are copacetic again.
Did I really expect a time travel novel? No, but I'm thinking it works in a hell-ya kinda way.
Maybe I should get some sleep? Nah, it's time to start the third novel.
Bitter Seeds - Ian Tregillis I knew this was a retelling, an alternate history of WWII with a fantasy bent to it, and rather expected a Captain America feel. I was very wrong on that count. Gretel was thoroughly enjoyable as the main villain, and I still picture her in my mind as a young flighty woman who loves to read poetry and pick wildflowers and carries a secret torch for a young man. Never mind that she's completely insane and is willing to sacrifice the world for her own gain.
Actually, I was really impressed with the depiction of England, which has fallen very very far, indeed. The bitter seeds from the title could entirely be planted by those plucky English chaps.
I particularly liked the mix of quasi-Cthulhu Eidolons as a substitute for demonic contracts and the more traditional stick-those-wires-in-the-brain awakenings. I mention these things first because I found them fun, but more than that, I really enjoyed the story and the characterizations. I kept wanting to see a secret agent book with magic and sci-fi elements in WWII, but what I actually find is a heart-felt analysis of hard choices, coping mechanisms, regret, loss, and a deep horror at the situation. Mr. Tregillis could easily write a straight novel without any fantasy elements and be perfectly at home, but he succeeds in making a great sci-fi/fantasy novel.
I know it is just beginning, of course, and so I'm going to sink my teeth in the next, now.

Currently reading

Making Shapely Fiction
Jerome Stern
An Artificial Night
Seanan McGuire