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Goats, gripes, and grasping for greatness
Books: Kris Longknife - Daring 
23rd-Nov-2011 09:21 am
Today to Read
I dropped into this series in what I found out is book 9, with a cast of characters that was full of backstory and a sprinkle of commentary about things that have already happened. I have to give Mark Shepherd a lot of credit for building a book that I could jump into without feeling like I had missed out on anything. He gave me just enough backstory to understand without weighing down the story or slowing down the plot. The characters were likable, personable, and understandable.

This starts as a typical whodunnit space opera - ships are missing and we want to know why. It turns into a scientific exploration/first contact. Then it finishes as a Someone Must Take Word Home!/run for your lives/fight to the death action story. Nowhere in this story was I at all surprised, not by the people, the banter, the plot twists, or the sprinkling of distractions from all of the above. Like in a stereotypical Star Trek episode, our heroes just happened to have everything that they needed to redesign their starships, translate alien radio signals, and visit doomed planets. Oh, yeah, and the scientific crew with the Next New Weapon showed up right on schedule, too.

As far as starship battles go, this guy can out-Weber the David himself. The entire second half of the book was full of unlikely heroics, feats of strength and cunning, miracles of science and engineering, and the requisite realization of love-found-too-late. The battles ran across star systems, through jump points, and dashed a quarter of the way around the outside of the Milky Way. The place where Shepherd didn't even try to match Weber was the science. There was plenty of science in this fiction, but there was not page after interminable page of explanation regarding things we didn't need to know. Where Weber would have weighed us down with the how of it all, Shepherd simply explained the what and moved on with the plot.

I recommend this as an "airplane book." It has engaging characters, it has a distinct and well-bounded plot/mission, and the areas of interest move quickly from place to place. However, I have no emotional investment in the story, and was easily interrupted without losing my spot in the story line. The presentation is fairly two-dimensional, as well, with all political nuance painted with broad brushes and heavy lines. Combine the gobs o' action with the distinct lack of sex, and you have the perfect book for teenage entertainment.


-- New-to-me books read in 2011 (as opposed to re-reads) --

January
Little Dee vol 2
Little Dee vol 3
Unusual Suspects
Harvest Moon
The Black Stallion (yes, I know, I should have read it with Black Beauty)
Ravens in the Library: Magic in the Bard's Name, with a pre-finished commentary here
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Fang Bangers: An Erotic Anthology of Fangs, Claws, Sex and Love
Must Love Hellhounds
Truthseeker

February
Dark and Stormy Knights
Tortall and Other Lands
River Marked (2/28 - it arrived a day early)

March
Questionable Content, vol 1
How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf
Lifeblood
Magic Bites
Skinwalker, A Jane Yellowrock Novel
Running with the Pack
Magic Burns
Blood Cross

April
"Skyblaze" Adventures in the Liaden Universe #17
Kings of the North
Goblin Tales
Do Not Sniff the Bees, Two Lumps book 6
Magic Strikes
Magic Bleeds
Mercy Blade
The Initiate Brother

May
Angelology
City of Pearl
An Artificial Night
Late Eclipses

June
After Hours: Tales from Ur-Bar
Magic Slays
Ghost Ship (e-ARC)
Warbreaker

July
Quarter Share
Half Share
Full Share
"Intelligent Design" (short story in the Liaden Universe, published online at Baen)
Heroes in Training
Serenity: Better Days
Serenity: Those Left Behind
Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale
Tiger's Curse
Calamities of Nature, vol 1
Troubled Waters
Wolfsbane and Mistletoe
In Fury Born

August
Naked City
Unnatural Issue
Home Improvement: Undead Edition
Summers at Castle Auburn
"Kin Ties" (short story in the Liaden Universe, found here)
Flying Blind
Archangel
Hunger Games
The Shape-Changer's Wife
A Matter of Magic

September
One Salt Sea
"Guaranteed Delivery" (short story of the Liaden Universe, found here)
Wayfinder
Double Share as an audiobook from PodioBooks.Com
Cast in Ruin

October
Captain's Share (as an audio book)
Land of Painted Caves
Owner's Share (as an audio book)
Beauty and the Werewolf
A Beautiful Friendship
Mastiff

November
Down These Strange Streets
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
"The Space at Tinsori Light," Liaden short story found here
Prized
The Wild Ways
Kris Longknife: Daring

-- Books abandoned rather than completed in 2011 --

February
Sing the Four Quarters, by Tanya Huff

August
Fuzzy Nation, by John Scalzi

October
Gamestorming (gave it to a co-worker)

-- Books Still in Progress --
These are books that I haven't totally given up on, I've just... put them aside... for now.
The Brand Within
If You Don't Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtails
Swords and Dark Magic
Battlestations
Wise Man's Fear
Comments 
23rd-Nov-2011 02:58 pm (UTC)
This looks good. I"ll add it to my list.
23rd-Nov-2011 06:27 pm (UTC)
Would you recommend it for an 11 year old? Bud needs a sci-fi book for his reading class genre project in the spring and he's just not feeling it with what we have on hand.
23rd-Nov-2011 06:38 pm (UTC)
Really, I wouldn't. It's not that he can't read it, but more because I think he'll be bored. This book assumes the reader is well-read in the genre and is ready to accept a LOT of things as fact, both politically and scientifically.

What about classic Heinlein? Have Space Suit, Will Travel is a good one, or even A Wrinkle in Time if he hasn't already done it. Or, if he's willing to put up with a slow start and a romantic finish, what about Lackey's The Ship Who Searched? And hey, if you don't mind the stupid humor, what about The Stainless Steel Rat for a winner?

Edited at 2011-11-23 06:41 pm (UTC)
23rd-Nov-2011 06:52 pm (UTC)
Oh, The Stainless Steel Rat might be perfect! I didn't even think of it. And it is sort of the same humor as Daniel Pinkwater, one of Bud's all-time favorite authors. He tried the Heinlein, and couldn't get into it. He's already ready L'Engles books and can't read them again for the purpose of the project. I hadn't thought of Lackey's book. I will run it past him as well. Thanks for the suggestions.
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