Night of the Assassin – Russell Blake

Assassin #1 El Rey is a famed, cold-blooded assassin. But how did he get to be that way? ‘The marines, for whatever reason, couldn’t be bought off.’ That line sums up part of the book for me. The stated purpose of the story is to explain how the assassin El Rey got to be who he is. But it doesn’t. It explains how he learned his skills, but aside from a brief, summarized romance, we…

Keep reading

Against the Light – Dave Duncan

A family of secret witches falls out with those in power. I’ve been reading Dave Duncan for a long time now – since A Man of His Word’s first book (Magic Casement), at least. I’ve read a lot his books, and enjoyed most of them (The Alchemist’s Apprentice was an exception that I found dull). Mostly, Duncan specializes in the very real feeling, likeable young hero. His characters may have special skills, but they act…

Keep reading

The House on Lily Street – Jack Vance

Policeman George Shaw investigates the murder of a social worker in Oakland. Vance is better at science fiction than he is at detective novels. SF allows more scope for his amazing use of language, and for description of the weird and strange. Despite that, in The House on Lily Street, Vance applies his skill to observation of ordinary humans. The result is highly credible and immersive study of human nature in all its foolishness and…

Keep reading

The Emperor’s Edge – Lindsay Buroker

Emperor’s Edge #1 Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe is tasked with hunting down a notorious assassin, but gets caught up in larger issues. The full title (“Lindsay Buroker’s The Emperor’s Edge”) is awkward and a bit pretentious (perhaps a shared universe in formation?), but don’t hold that against the book. Title aside, The Emperor’s Edge is actually a pretty smooth piece of writing. It’s straightforward fantasy, lightly steamed. Amaranthe, an enforcer (police), learns of a dangerous…

Keep reading

Clarges – Jack Vance

In Clarges, anyone who qualifies can live forever, but Gavin Waylock, falsely accused of crime, has had to live in hiding. Now, he emerges to try again for everlasting life. Wikipedia quotes Floyd C. Gale as saying “frighteningly logical…[t]he sick, inbred society of Vance’s imagination comes fully alive, even though his characters remain mere symbols.” I really can’t say it better than that. Where most Vance work is focused on atmosphere, attitude, and of course…

Keep reading

Empire – Michael R. Hicks

In Her Name: Redemption #1 Human youth Reza Guard is seized by the alien Kreelans, who make a cult of combat, and train him to fight. Writing-wise, Empire was good. The prose is smooth, the characters generally interesting. The beginning chapter is (as so often) a bit rocky, but once we settle in to following our hero Reza, things go more smoothly. There are occasional and sometimes unheralded point of view shifts, but nothing really…

Keep reading