Iceberg (Dirk Pitt #3)

0425197387-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Iceberg by Clive Cussler
My rating: 1.5 of 5 stars

A missing luxury yacht is found encased in an iceberg by a Coast Guard air patrol, but within a week of the discovery that bizarre sight won’t be the only thing that isn’t what it seems. Iceberg is the second published book of Clive Cussler’s series featuring Dirk Pitt, taking the U.S.A.F Major to the north Atlantic and Iceland then to Disneyland.

Taken away from his California vacation and dispatched by NUMA Director Admiral Sandecker to the titular iceberg in the North Atlantic, Dirk Pitt takes Dr. Bill Hunnewell to search for the ship before heading to Iceland. The two commandeer a U.S. Coast Guard cutter as a base of operations along the way, which proves fortuitous as the helicopter is low on fuel after a wild goose chase for the iceberg. Finding a way into the ship, they find it burned along with the crew as well as the owner, Kristjan Fyrie who is identified by Hunnewell who worked with him. As they head for Iceland, the two are attacked by a black jet and Hunnewell is mortally wounded while Pitt uses the helicopter to take out the jet before crash landing just off shore. Pitt survives an attempt on his life by two thugs disguised as local Icelandic police before eventually getting to the American consulate in Reykjavik. Sandecker offers to send Pitt back on his vacation, but as he suspects Pitt wants to find who killed him. The Admiral then orders Pitt to get close to Kristjan Fyrie’s twin sister who is now Iceland’s wealthiest person and who has shied away from the working with the U.S. government on a state-of-the-art probe, but Kirsti is engaged to fishing magnate Oskar Rondheim and Pitt decides to play a homosexual so as not to pose a threat to the man. After several escapes with Sandecker and a National Intelligence Agent respectfully, Pitt and Sandecker’s secretary are invited to party at Rondheim’s home which is a trap for several wealthy and politically important men from around the globe so they can die while a cabal of wealth businessmen that include Rondheim and Fyrie play to take over all of Central and South America. Rondheim beats the presumably gay Pitt and leaves him and the others to die in a remote part of Iceland. Pitt is able to find help and save nearly everyone, while in the hospital the head of the National Intelligence Agency swindles Pitt from NUMA to Disneyland so stop a duel assassination of Latin American leaders. Pitt gets revenge on Rondheim and then makes a deal with Fyrie, who had been Rondheim’s puppet after he learned Kirsti was actually Kristjan after a sex change.

Like The Mediterranean Caper this was a quick paced book, but this time there was a larger cast of characters instead of a tiny one that was present in both Pacific Vortex and Caper. Iceberg improved in narrative flow over its predecessor as well as making the characters a little more rounded, but still the one-dimensional characters were still prevent. While Dirk Pitt wasn’t as big of a…“jerk” as in Caper, he still wasn’t the same character that appears later in the series and what bad qualities he loses from Caper are negated from the over-the-top homosexual clichés that he displays as part of his act. Besides Pitt’s gay act, the transsexual-sex change angle and the misogynistic comments by numerous male characters could be called typical clichés of the mid-1970s but age really badly over the last 40 years. However the biggest hole in the book is the missing of Pitt’s best friend, Al Giordino, a mistake that Cussler never made again.

Iceberg shows improvement in narrative and characters to an extent, but some of the choices Cussler made negated them. Overall I can’t give this a lesser or better rating that the first Dirk Pitt book, but if there is anyone interested in getting into this series I don’t recommend starting with some of these early books. Read books later in the series and then come back to these early ones.

Dirk Pitt

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Wild Creatures in Winter (Old Homestead #4)

215dd950eaf47ea59354b555251444341587343Wild Creatures in Winter by Neil Wayne Northey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wild Creatures in Winter is the fourth and final volume Neil Wayne Northey’s Old Homestead series. Like the previous volumes in the series this is a quick and pleasant children’s book that follows the lives of numerous animals that inhabit the area around the series’ titular location. Unlike the previous three books that could be read out of order, this book needs to be read last as all the animals followed were previously introduced in the other books in the series. Yet despite this one difference from the other books, it’ll still provide enjoyment to young children either reading on their own or being read to by their parents.

The Bluebirds and Their Neighbors
The Mallards and Their Neighbors
Paddletail the Beaver and His Neighbors

The Reign of the Kingfisher

1250170214-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Reign of the Kingfisher by T.J. Martinson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I received this book via the Goodreads First Reads program in exchanged for an honest review.

The legacy of Chicago’s very own, mostly forgotten, superhero suddenly becomes center stage when a gunman demands the police come clean on the hero’s supposed death or innocent people will die. T.J. Martinson’s debut novel, The Reign of the Kingfisher, follows several characters attempting to stop the gunman in their separate ways before coming together and using the information they collected to help stop the gunman.

Early in the morning of a soon-to-be hot Chicago summer day, a retired journalist is awakened by a call from Chicago Chief of Police and sees a video of a gunman claiming that the CPD helped the Kingfisher fake his death and demand they come clean before killing a hostage and threatening several more with the same fate. Recognizing the victim as someone he interviewed for his book about the superhero, the journalist gets concerned about others which gets the attention of a CPD detective who has a suspended CPD officer look into the journalist’s list. Meanwhile a hacktivist is angry that the gunman is claiming to be a part of her group and to stop him hacks the CPD database to get a medical exam of the Kingfisher case to prove he might be alive only for the gunman to kill another hostage. After several up and downs, the four characters come together and are able bring their talents and discovers together to bring resolution to the situation.

This mystery with a fantasy twist begins with an intriguing premise and some interesting flashbacks, halfway through the book I came up with three possible ways it could play out or in various combinations which made me look forward to see how things would end. However, while I correctly picked the villain and partially got the ending scenario right that doesn’t mean I was satisfied with the book. While the three main and two (or three) secondary characters all came out of central casting, that didn’t make them bad as they started off interesting and developed well. However they either stopped developing to become stale or began doing and saying things that was completely out of the blue from where they had been heading (or both), which undercut the quality of the storytelling. In addition some of the minor subplots, in particular the Police Chief’s, were detrimental to the overall book once it was over.

The Reign of the Kingfisher has a great premise, but unfortunately it doesn’t really achieve its potential. While T.J. Martinson might just be beginning a long career, his debut novel is a mixture of good and bad that in the end makes the reader think about how good a book it could have been.

Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive #3)

1250297141-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The Everstorm is striking Roshar and a new Desolation has begun as the once docile parshman become conscious gathering to face off against humans who’ve owned them for millennia, however nothing as it seems in the long view of history. Oathbringer, third installment of Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive, immediately picks up where the story left off as the survivors from the clash on the Shattered Plains regroup in the legendary home of the Knights Radiant and attempt to bring together all the humans on Roshar but hard truths and politics stand in the way.

Dalinar Kholin’s actions in the past and those in the present dominate the book like Kaladin and Shallan’s did in the previous two installments, whether through his own eyes or those of others. Setting up base in Urithiru, Dalinar begins slowly and diplomatically piecing a coalition together though his own past is a major liability. Using his connection with the Stormfather, Dalinar has other rulers join him in his visions setting up a connection with Queen Fen of Thaylenah and slowly building a relationship. However his attempts with doing the same with the Azir Prime is complicated by Lift no trusting him initially and the bureaucracy around the young man as well. But its Dalinar’s bloody past which turns out to be his own worst enemy as we see through his flashbacks a different man who loved battle and bloodlust, two traits nurtured by Odium to create his champion for the conflict to come but which turn against the enemy when Dalinar accepts his past and uses it to defend Thaylen City.

Kaladin and Shallan continue progressing through their respective development while Adolin’s slows a bit so as to give time to his cousin Jasnah and the former Assassin in White, Szeth, time to develop into major secondary characters throughout the book. Through scouting and spying, Kaladin first assesses the actions of the newly awakened parshmen though not without gaining relationships with them, a fact that haunts him when he faces them later in battle and creating a moral crisis that prevents him from stating the Fourth Ideal and almost kills him, Adolin, and Shallan if not for Dalinar’s actions. Shallan has her own growing crisis throughout the book, multiple personality disorder, which is exacerbated through her Lightweaving and attempts to not be the “scared little girl” she’s always seen herself as. Though she does not fully overcome it by the end of the book, she has begun dealing with it especially with help from Adolin who is dealing with his own issues stemming from his killing of Sadeas in regards to his place in Alethi society now that the Knight Radiants are reforming. Though Szeth’s progresses through his Skybreaker training with “ease”, his view of the order and of the overall conflict dovetails with the revelations that nearly destroy Dalinar’s fragile coalition. These revelations also correspond with Jasnah’s development and her concern for Renarin, whose own spren bonding is a revelation in and of itself as history and expectations are quickly being subverted.

Unlike the previous two books, Oathbringer is not as action-packed but is more centered in expanding the understanding the various peoples and politics of Roshar. While the beginning of the “overall” story was a bang, Sanderson turned the focus from one main area to many which resulted in building the world he created with different peoples with different cultures and long complicated histories interacting with one another during the beginning of what might be a long conflict. Add on top of this the fact that the ancient history that many believed to be true was not and as a result some are choosing a different side than what is expected of them plus the influence of Odium on everyone, and the next seven books in the series look to be very intriguing. Though the book’s length is once again an issue, around 1250 pages, attempting to do so much in one book it was the only result. And if there were flaws, it was mostly the perceived open-ended ways some events happened that were either a mystery to be solved later either in this book or another or just to be left open for no reason.

I will not say that Oathbringer is a perfect book, but it was a different change of pace after the first two books in The Stormlight Archive which helped continue the narrative while expanding it over more of Roshar. Knowing when to “subvert” the standard grand fantasy narrative is always a challenge, doing it this early in the series right now looks like a good move on Brandon Sanderson’s part and I’m interested to see where the story develops going forward.

Cosmere

Legends: Tales from the Eternal Archives #1

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Legends by Margaret Weis
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The short story anthology Legends edited by Margaret Weis, the first collection of the Tales from the Eternal Archives, contains almost twenty stories of near above average quality loosing connected to one another through a mystical library, titular Eternal Archives. Although the majority of the nineteen stories were fantasy, historical fiction and science fiction were also featured.

The two best stories of the collection were “Wisdom” by Richard Lee Byers, which was followed an alternate interpretation of The Iliad and The Odyssey as Odysseus ventures to save the world from chaos. The second was “Silver Tread, Hammer Ring” by Gary A. Braunbeck features an alternate world in which mythical and folkloric figures exist side-by-side as John Henry faces down a steam drill run by a minotaur. Other excellent stories were the two opening stories, “Why There Are White Tigers” by Jane M. Lindskold and “The Theft of Destiny” by Josepha Sherman, as well many more such as “The Last Suitor”, “King’s Quest”, “Ninety-Four”, “Precursor”, and “Dearest Kitty”.

The two worst stories of the collection were “The Wind at Tres Castillos” by Robyn Fielder which featured historical individuals who didn’t interact with one another at the titular location and the fantastical elements just didn’t make sense creating a waste of paper. The second worst story was “Final Conquest” by Dennis L. McKiernan, while short this story featuring Genghis Khan was a headscratcher though a nicely written one. Although overall not bad, the preface and short introductions loosely linked all the stories with the mystical library between worlds though some were better than others.

The nineteen stories that make up Legends feature—more than not—very good short stories across fantasy, historical fiction, and science fiction. Yet like all anthologies, it is a mixed bag of quality but only a few stories were completely subpar thus presenting the reader with a lot of good reading.

Individual Story Ratings
Why There Are White Tigers by Jane M. Lindskold (4/5)
The Theft of Destiny by Josepha Sherman (4/5)
Final Conquest by Dennis L. McKiernan (2/5)
The Wisdom of Solomon by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (2.5/5)
Bast’s Talon by Janet Pack (3/5)
Wisdom by Richard Lee Byers (5/5)
The Last Suitor by Kristin Schwengal (4/5)
Two-Fisted Tales of St. Nick by Kevin T. Stein and Robert Weinberg (3/5)
King’s Quest by Mickey Zucker Reichert (4/5)
Silver Thread, Hammer Ring by Gary A. Braunbeck (4.5/5)
Memnon Revived by Peter Schweighofer (2.5/5)
The Ballad of Jesse James by Margaret Weis (2.5/5)
Legends by Ed Gorman (3.5/5)
The Wind at Tres Castillos by Robyn Fielder (1.5/5)
Ninety-Four by Jean Rabe (4/5)
Hunters Hunted by John Helfers (3.5/5)
Precursor by Matthew Woodring Stover (4/5)
“Dearest Kitty” by Brian M. Thomsen (4/5)
Last Kingdom by Deborah Turner Harris and Robert J. Harris (3.5/5)

Last Kingdom (Tales from the Eternal Archives #1)

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Last Kingdom by Deborah Turner Harris and Robert J. Harris
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

In his bunker, the Leader meets with Himmelmann who promised him great things and delivered (though neglected to say how long The Leader would have them). The Leader gives Himmelmann a piece of the Key of Abaddon that he found through his conquest as part of their agreement and Himmelmann gives the Leader a bottle of pills and shooting advice before leaving. Decades later after working with the Man of Steel, Himmelmann now going by Westerlicht takes with a politician on top of Mount Rushmore promising to help him “achieve” his destiny to leading the titular “last kingdom” which he shows the politician from the mountain top.

A nice blending of history and Apocalyptic Last Day events, though there are some misinterpretations of the Book of Revelation but a nice call back to Temptation of Christ in the Gospels. Overall a nice short story.

“Dearest Kitty” (Tales from the Eternal Archives #1)

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_“Dearest Kitty” by Brian M. Thomsen
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Inspector QB7 talks with an AI Counselor about a recent case he investigated in deciding between suicide or homicide. Set in the far future, between the 23rd and 30th century, the victim–later determined to be a suicide–is one of twelve individuals who strove to remember the Holocaust which by the time of the story is believed to be a legend from the 20th century in which human killed one another at an unprecedented rate. However using the technology at his disposal, the Inspector realizes why his case decided he needed to commit suicide and decides to keep the man’s materials, including Anne Frank’s Diary then to seek out someone else to share the memory of something that should not be forgotten.

Honestly, this story could have been really bad if the author had made the wrong choices but given my rating he did not. Though it focuses on the Holocaust, the mentioning of the Killing Fields and Rwanda, reminds the reader why it’s important to remember the events of the past…so they don’t happen again in the future.