Review: Night Fall by Simon R Green

Review: Night Fall by Simon R GreenNight Fall by Simon R. Green
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, audiobook
Genres: urban fantasy
Series: Secret Histories #12
Pages: 464
Published by Ace Books on June 12, 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
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From the New York Times bestselling author of Moonbreaker comes the epic final Secret Histories adventure, where the Droods will take on the most unexpected of enemies: the inhabitants of the Nightside.

The Droods are all about control, making people do what they're told for the greater good. The Nightside is all about choice: good and bad and everything in between. The Droods want to make the world behave. The Nightside wants to party. They were never going to get along.

For centuries, ancient Pacts have kept the Droods out of the Nightside, but now the Droods see the Nightside as a threat to the whole world. They march into the long night, in their armour, to put it under their control. All too soon, the two sides are at war. It's Eddie Drood and Molly Metcalf against John Taylor and Shotgun Suzie. The Drood Sarjeant-at-Arms and their Armourer against Dead Boy and Razor Eddie. More groups join in: the London Knights, the Ghost Finders, the Spawn of Frankenstein, Shadows Fall, and the Soulhunters. Science and magic are running wild, there's blood running in the gutters, and the bodies are piling up.

Is anyone going to get out of this alive?

My Review:

It’s the end of the world as they know it, in a hail of bullets and a shower of blood, with a chaser of hellfire. This is where the implacable force meets the immovable object – and both decide that they’ve had enough.

Night Fall is the official 12th volume of the Secret Histories. Unofficially, it’s also the 13th book of the Nightside and the 7th story about the Ghost Finders. And also the unofficial last and final volume of all of this author’s current long-running series, at least according to the note at the back. Night Fall, as its name implies, is an ending and not a beginning. An ending with a bang – and plenty of whimpering. But that’s the Nightside for you.

Consider that a warning – this isn’t the place to start with any of these series.

For those who have at least a nodding acquaintance with the Nightside and the Secret Histories, this is a conflict that feels inevitable. The Droods, the keeper of those ultra-secret histories, have felt duty-bound throughout the centuries to protect humanity at all costs – even from itself.

The Nightside feels like the Droods moral opposite. Where the Droods believe in law and order above all, as long as its their law and their order, the Nightside is a place of absolute freedom of choice. Even if those choices lead a person straight to heaven, or hell, or somewhere above or below either of them. Or out of this world, and possibly their minds, altogether.

The Droods have always wanted to bring the Nightside under their domain. The Nightside just wants to be left the hell alone. The Droods never leave anyone or anything alone – not once they have it or them in their sights.

The story begins as a cascade of events that start wrong and just go downhill from there. The dominos are falling, and the war that both sides say they don’t want moves from inevitably to being splashed bloodily and viscerally all over the Nightside.

But if dominos are falling, then who, or what, flicked that first tile?

And can John Taylor, the Walker of the Nightside, and Eddie Drood, the family’s rebel agent, figure out who set them against each other before the long night falls – and takes the Droods with it.

Escape Rating A: For readers familiar with at least some of this author’s worlds, Night Fall is an absolutely smashing, bang-up, explosive ending. Complete with smashing, banging and explosions, as well as at least a tip of the hat to possibly every major, interesting, colorful and/or profane character that has been created along the way.

It’s a blast. Sometimes with actual blasting powder – or substances even more explosive.

At the same time, Simon R. Green is an acquired taste, like oysters, or escargot, or chocolate-covered ants. Possibly complete with the “Ewww, I’m not really sure about this” reaction. And it’s the only one of the four that I’ve ever bothered to acquire.

The level of constant, utter, bloody-minded, so arch that it needs a keystone, snarkitude is bitter, wry and incredibly addictive – while at the same hard to swallow in a sustained gulp bigger than one book at a time. It’s marvelous and crazy and sometimes absolutely exhausting.

I love his work, but I can only read them one at a time. Part of that is because the uber-clever descriptions, introductions and backstories for each and every character tend to repeat if one attempts to binge-read. It’s been long enough for me that re-reading the character portraits of John Taylor, Eddie Drood, Suzie Shooter, Molly Metcalf and the rest gave me a sense of nostalgia. It was good to catch up with all my old friends, one last time.

Underneath the constant snark there are several interesting stories being told.

The biggest one is the one about just how thickly the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The Droods do want what’s best – admittedly for their definition of best, but their hearts at least begin in the right place. But the veneer of respectability proves to be much thinner than any of them expect. While there is an outside force that pushed the first domino, once it falls the Droods are more than happy to keep knocking more dominos, even extra dominos, all on the own.

The people of the Nightside are stuck playing defense. The Droods invade, and begin conquering their home block by block and street by street, leaving everything behind them paved with blood and guts. Some of it even their own. Surrendering doesn’t even feel like an option – because it isn’t.

While the Droods would frame this fight as a fight of good vs. evil, that’s only their interpretation. A closer interpretation, at least for their initial motivations, is a battle between order and chaos. But the Nightside isn’t truly chaotic, and the Droods have taken order to its tyrannical extreme. At which point they’ve lost the moral high ground they came in with.

It’s also interesting to see just how many older and darker powers both sides end up calling on, and how all of those occupying the thrones and dominations tell them to get stuffed and clean up their own messes.

Diving into Night Fall reminded me just how much I’ve enjoyed all of this author’s work, and why science fiction and fantasy, particularly urban fantasy, are always my go-to genres. Night Fall is the wildest of wild rides from its slam bang opening to its quiet close – and I savored every page of it.

Review: The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman

Review: The Lost Plot by Genevieve CogmanThe Lost Plot (The Invisible Library #4) by Genevieve Cogman
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: alternate history, fantasy, libraries, steampunk
Series: Invisible Library #4
Pages: 367
Published by Ace Books on January 9th 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
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After being commissioned to find a rare book, Librarian Irene and her assistant, Kai, head to Prohibition-era New York and are thrust into the middle of a political fight with dragons, mobsters, and Fae.

In a 1920s-esque New York, Prohibition is in force; fedoras, flapper dresses, and tommy guns are in fashion: and intrigue is afoot. Intrepid Librarians Irene and Kai find themselves caught in the middle of a dragon political contest. It seems a young Librarian has become tangled in this conflict, and if they can't extricate him, there could be serious repercussions for the mysterious Library. And, as the balance of power across mighty factions hangs in the balance, this could even trigger war.

Irene and Kai are locked in a race against time (and dragons) to procure a rare book. They'll face gangsters, blackmail, and the Library's own Internal Affairs department. And if it doesn't end well, it could have dire consequences on Irene's job. And, incidentally, on her life...

My Review:

Like the rest of the Invisible Library series (start with the first book, The Invisible Library, and settle in for a marvelously good time!) The Lost Plot has a strong flavor of the old movie serial “The Perils of Pauline”. I would say “out of the frying pan and into the fire” but that phrase just isn’t sufficient to describe Librarian Irene Winters’ many (many, many) hair-raising adventures.

Either those frying pans are bubbling on top of an institutional sized range, with frying pans as far as the eye can see, or it’s an endless stack of frying pans on fires, getting progressively hotter as they go, all the way down.

Irene gets in trouble a lot. To put it another way, Irene has lots of adventures, in the sense that adventure is defined as something that happens to someone else, either long ago, far away, or both. I’d love to have a drink with her, but I wouldn’t want to be her.

In this particular entry in the series, Irene starts out attempting to carry out a simple retrieval mission for the Library. For once, she’s even planning to conduct it above board – buying the book the Library wants rather than just stealing it. This was her first mistake, but certainly not her last.

Irene’s last mistake is undoubtedly going to either be fatal or see her as the head of the Invisible Library – possibly both. But not yet. Nowhere near yet.

This time, Irene finds herself stuck in the middle of dragon politics, a situation that up until now she has carefully tried to avoid at all costs. But this time, as is usual for Irene, even though she doesn’t go looking for trouble, it inevitably finds her.

Getting involved in dragon politics might get her killed. And that might be the least bad of the many available possibilities. It’s almost certainly going to cost her relationship with her apprentice Kai. A relationship that Irene has attempted to keep as loosely defined as possible, because she doesn’t want to lose Kai in her life in any capacity, even though Kai is himself a dragon.

More dangerous all around is the possibility that in the fallout from this ever-growing clusterf**k, the Library will lose its not merely prized but absolutely vital neutrality in the endless conflict between the dragons and the fae, who respectively represent order and chaos. Because its only in the middle ground between those two vast forces that human beings can thrive. If the Library loses its neutrality through thoughtless political machinations (or Irene’s inability to counter those machinations) there’s not much hope left.

The needs of the many, as always, outweigh the needs of the view, or of the one. And it’s up to Irene to find a way to meet those needs, no matter what the cost is to herself.

Again.

Escape Rating A: I used the Star Trek paraphrase for multiple reasons. Irene is always at the sharp end of the spear, in danger of losing something (or many somethings) that she holds dear in order to preserve the balance. She’s always in a “mission impossible” situation, where the Library will cut her loose and disavow any knowledge of her actions if things go wrong.

But it’s the setting of this particular entry that really made me think of Star Trek. The alternate world in which Irene finds herself this time is an over-the-top version of America during Prohibition, complete with goons with “tommy guns” on every corner. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Original Series episode A Piece of the Action, which has a similar setting.

One of the interesting things about this series as a whole is the way that it has eschewed the traditional conflict between good and evil for the much more interesting and nuanced balancing act between order and chaos. This is the same battle that played out in Babylon 5, and illustrates yet again that neither of those forces are good or evil per se, but that extremes of both are bad for humanity.

Irene is as intrepid a heroine as ever, always running and dancing as fast as she can to stay a half step ahead of the doom that is inevitably following her. I absolutely love all of her adventures and can’t wait for more.

Reviewer’s Note: I loved this book, but it is difficult for me to review. It is one of the books that I read at my mother’s bedside while she was in hospice. I needed something that would take me mentally away from the circumstances but still leave me reasonably present for the inevitable. I got lost in The Lost Plot and it proved to be a perfect distraction.

Review: Free Space by Sean Danker + Giveaway

Review: Free Space by Sean Danker + GiveawayFree Space (Evagardian #2) by Sean Danker
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: science fiction
Series: Evagardian #2
Pages: 320
Published by Ace Books on May 2nd 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

In the follow-up to Admiral, the intergalactic war has ended and hostilities between the Evagardian Empire and the Commonwealth are officially over, but the admiral is far from safe. . . .
"I'd impersonated a prince, temporarily stopped a war, escaped a deadly planet, and survived more assassination attempts than I could conveniently count. After all that, there shouldn't have been anything simpler than a nice weekend with a charming Evagardian girl.
However, some corners of the galaxy aren't as genteel as the Empire, and Evagardians aren't universally loved, which is how I ended up kidnapped to be traded as a commodity.
Their timing couldn't have been worse. I'm not at my best, but these people have no idea whom they're dealing with: a highly trained, genetically engineered soldier in the Imperial Service who happens to be my date."

My Review:

What kind of story do you get when a completely unreliable narrator attempts to be at least semi-reliable? And when the rest of the story is from the perspective of someone who always plays it straight but in this case just doesn’t know what part or game she is playing?

It makes for one hell of a wild and crazy ride, in some ways even crazier than the ride in the first book in this series, Admiral.

We still don’t know the man’s real name. We know that he spent quite a few years pretending to be Prince Dalton of the Ganraen Empire. We know that he used to be an Evagardian Imperial Agent, and that now he is on the run from everyone on all sides. The Ganraens would execute him as a traitor. The Empire just wants to clean up their very loose end.

Whoever he is, he wants to live. But first, he wants one last chance with Jessica Salmagard, one of the three cadets he both bamboozled and helped rescue in Admiral.

But like so many of his plans, this one goes very, VERY “gang aft aglee”. Because the Admiral and Jessica get themselves kidnapped. By accident.

And that’s where all the fun and adventure really begins.

The story is one of those “out of the frying pan into the fire” and then into the oven and then into the blast furnace kinds of things. Events are always on the brink of disaster, it’s just that the disaster they are on the brink of gets bigger and bigger as they go along.

Until the disaster is so big that the only thing bigger is a black hole. And look, there one is, right on the event horizon!

And we’re left wondering who exactly ended up saving whom in this insane adventure. Not to mention, we still don’t know who the Admiral really is. And neither does Jessica. Possibly at this point neither does the Admiral himself.

We’re all left hoping that someday we’ll find out. If the Admiral can manage to escape, yet again, from whomever has captured him. This time.

Escape Rating A-: At the start of this book, there’s a brief portion where events seemed to take a bit to get going. And it takes the reader a bit to catch themselves back up on previous events. So much of Admiral was kind of a locked room (or locked ship) mystery, and it happened so much in isolation that we don’t get much of a handle on events in this universe.

And just like in Admiral, we pretty much get dropped into the middle of the story yet again.

But once this thing takes flight, meaning once they get kidnapped, the ever escalating sequence of perils keeps the reader hanging on tight until the very end.

Unlike in Admiral, the narrative here is split between the Admiral and Jessica Salmagard. The Admiral is a completely unreliable narrator. He never reveals what he’s thinking, what he’s doing, or who he is. He embodies the idea of wheels within wheels within wheels. He’s always playing a part. But in this book we start to get the sense that even he is no longer certain exactly what part he is playing.

But very early on in the story the Admiral and Salmagard are separated. This leaves part of the story tied to her separate actions and events. Unlike the Admiral himself, we don’t see Jessica’s story from inside her head, but rather in an omniscient third-person. We really don’t need to see inside her head, because she is much more of “what you see is what you get” kind of person. She’s mostly straightforward in her actions, even if she is starting to wonder about a whole lot of the things she’s been taught to believe.

The universe, and the people in it, do not conform to the simple stereotypes that she was trained to expect. The experience for her is both unsettling and eye-opening, often at the same time.

One of the great things about the way that Free Space progresses is that the separation works to throw some of the usual expectations on their heads.

Once they are separated, it’s Salmagard and another female soldier who break themselves out of captivity, shoot up a couple of space stations, steal a ship, and generally commit all the mayhem and badassery that is usually reserved for the male protagonists in this kind of story. The two women become the rescuers, and the Admiral and a male soldier kidnapped with them become the rescuees.

Also, it’s the men who suffer from the comedy of errors, falling from one bad situation to an even worse one, tied up, gagged and often drugged through the entire mess as they descend through what feels like, instead of a descent through the seven circles of hell, a descent through the seven circles of illegal intergalactic human trafficking as perpetrated by a pair of unprepared idiots.

This is an adventure where not only does the right hand not know what the left hand is doing, but all the participants are either incapacitated, incompetent, or just plain lying every step of the way. Including the hero and heroine.

At the end, we’re left gasping, wondering if this was a real rescue, or just a setup for even more (and probably worse) yet to come.

In the next book. May it be soon.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

I really enjoyed Free Space (and Admiral) so I am very pleased that the publisher is letting me give away one copy of Free Space to a lucky US/Canadian commenter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway