Today the topic of Top Ten Tuedays is Top Ten Book read in 2014. This has been a good reading year; I’ve read 64 books so far and most of them have been at least good. On the other hand, few stood out as excellent. In the order I read them:

1, Andy Weir: The Martian
A lone man’s struggle to survive on Mars, after he was accidentally abandoned there during a NASA mission.

2, John Scalzi: Redshirts
A parody of various SF TV-shows.

3, Terry Pratchett: Night Watch
Commander Vimes and time travel!

4, Fiction River: Moonscapes
This is a short story collection centered on various moons.

5, Seanan McGuire: The Winter Long
The new October Day book where she finds out some disturbing things about her past.

6, Fiction River: Time Streams
Another short story collection, this time about time travel.

7. Kris Nelscott: A Dangerous Road
A historical mystery during the days when Martin Luther King was murdered.

8, Liu Cixin: The three body problem
An SF story set in China and a virtual reality world.

9, Lois McMaster Bujold: Diplomatic Immunity
One of my favorite book series, ever.

10, Agatha Christie: The Body in the Library

Special mentions to Brust’s Hawk and Priest’s Inexplicables (which I’m currently reading). Mostly I’ve been reading books from familiar authors and it’s always hard to compare them (like one set of friends against each other!).

Rejoice! A new Vlad Taltos book!

Publication year: 2014
Format: print
Page count: 320
Publisher: Tor

First things first: Hawk is the fourteenth book in the series and I’m happy to read it, so: I love the characters and the setting, there’s no question about it and I can’t really say how someone who reads Hawk as their first Brust book would feel about it. But briefly: Vlad is a (former) assassin and he’s a human in a world where humans are second-class people (if that) and the world is ruled by Dragaerans (elf like, very long lived people). Vlad used to work in the criminal organization/noble house Jhereg but for almost the whole series he’s had a prize on his head and has been running from the Jhereg. He has just his familiar Loiosh and a few good friends to help him. He had to leave behind his home, wife, and everything he knew before and is quite bitter about it.

He’s also really tired for it and has returned his home city Adrilankha even though that means that he’s in constant danger and worse: he also puts his ex-wife in danger. After surviving an almost successful attack on his life, he has an epiphany and now he might have found a way to get the prize off his head. Of course, it’s not going to be easy and most likely he’ll be double crossed sooner or later. But Vlad might finally be able to return home.

Hawk is written in the first person and in a very conversational style. It’s not a long book and some of the material even seems extraneous with Vlad talking with Loiosh, Kragar, and various other characters. I don’t mind since I love the characters. Especially Sethra and I was happy when Vlad took a detour to the Dzur Mountain. However, that means that there’s actually very little plot in the book, because the majority of pages are just a set up for the big plan. It’s not a bad book by any means but not one of the best, either. But the ending left me very curious about where the series will go in the future. What you will get is sparse descriptions, witty and sarcastic dialog, and Vlad develling so much in his situation than even his familiar tells him to stop it.

Once again, Brust’s book left me craving for more. In fact, I’m thinking of rereading the Khaavren romances.

Collects X-Men #214-228, Annual #10-11, Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men #1-4

Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: Barry Windsor-Smith, Bob Wiacek, Alan Davis, Dan Green, Jackson Guice, Mark Sylvester, Bret Belvins, Arthur Adams, Jon Bogdanove

The previous collection ended with Marauders murdering many Morlocks, mutants who live in New York’s sewers, and wounding three X-Men critically (Colossus, Shadowcat, and Nightcrawler).

This collection starts with Dazzler. The marauder Malice has taken over the mutant singer and she’s using her powers openly. The X-Men (Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Psylocke) arrive to warn Dazzler about their recent enemies and about the growing human hatred towards mutants. However, Malice prompts Dazzler to attack the team. Malice is an energy based mutant who can unleash a person’s worst side and so persuade them to attack others.

In the next issue the team splits up so FF vs X-Men seems to happen before the rest of the collection. Most of the team is headed to Muir island but Storm and Wolverine stay in the New York state. At the end of the previous collection, the Marauders attacked Morlocks, killed many of them and wounded three X-Men grievously. Shadowcat, Colossus, and Nightcrawler are in such a bad state that they’re going to the Muir island hospital. The new group of Psylocke, Rogue, Longshot, and Dazzler are both guarding them and also learning to work as a team with Banshee training them. Meanwhile, Storm and Wolverine encounter three new super beings, former soldiers who have taken it upon themselves to cleanse their country of criminals whom the justice system ignores for one reason or another. Unfortunately for them, they mistake Storm for a criminal. Issue 216 is quite a philosophical one: The old solders think that they are fully justified in taking “scum” of humanity and hunting them in the woods. This time their prey is Storm and a young woman who seems at first quite helpless but is actually a rich girl who sells drugs for fun and doesn’t shy away from killing. Storm thinks about her own values while evading the super soldiers.

In the next two issues, the new X-Men fight Juggernaut. First Dazzler confronts him alone because she wants to prove that she can and then they fight him as a team. Before Rogue turned into a hero, she attacked Dazzler and Daz accuses her of that, so they have some internal, personal grievances, too.

In the next issue, two old X-Men return: Havok and Polaris. Havok has gone to Xavier’s but returns with just nightmares. When he goes back to the mansion, to his horror he finds quite a different X-Men… and Magneto. However, after the initial misunderstanding, Havok rejoins the team. Meanwhile, the Marauders attack Havok’s girlfriend Polaris. She has magnetic powers and puts up a fight but in the end, the energy being Malice takes over.

Then, the next long storyline kicks into high gear: Storm goes to meet Forge to beg her powers back. However, Forge is gone, leaving behind just holograms of Storm and his own time in Vietnam, where he fought demons by using demons. Forge’s teacher, Naze, confronts Storm and tells her that Forge is a shaman who has been trained to fight the forces of Chaos but Forge has become evil. Naze needs Storm’s help against Forge and she agrees.

The next issues are intertwined with X-Men and Storm’s quest. She battles demons with Naze and we also find out that Naze is actually the bad guy and is training Storm to take out Forge. Meanwhile, the X-Men battle Marauders and Freedom Force while coming to grips with their internal strife. In issue 225, Storm finds Forge and tries to kill him, realizing too late that he was trying to keep Chaos at bay. However, they are whisked into another world where they stay for about a year. Storm gets her powers back and they decide to return to Earth and face Chaos with the X-Men. In the penultimate issue (for this collection) the X-Men and Madelyne Pryor make the ultimate sacrifice and die fighting Chaos.

The final issue (228) is a reminiscent story where where Dazzler writes a letter to her old friend, a bounty hunter, remembering their previous adventure together. Alison has a hunch that her friend is in trouble and leaves the team to help him. Wolverine follows. It turns out that the bounty hunter is in quite a deep trouble indeed and both Dazzler and Wolverine help him.

In Annual 10, Longshot makes his first appearance. The X-Men and Magneto are training in the Danger Room. Colossus, Shadowcat, and Nightcrawler are in good shape so the story is set before this collection. Mojo sends Longshot to the Danger Room along with mystical goop which transforms the X-Men and Magneto gradually to children. The New Mutants want to investigate their condition but the X-Men run away to Mojo first. The New Mutants take up their individual uniforms and try to follow them. Instead, they’re forced to fight against the mind controlled X-Men.

I don’t have annual 11; it wasn’t published here in Finland.

In Fantastic Four vs. X-Men the little Franklin Richards sees a disturbing dream where his father finds his old diary which leads to the FF and X-Men fighting and killing each other. Then Reed kills his wife and turns into Dr. Doom. In the real world Susan finds’ Reed diary and finds out that Reed had known about the cosmic rays and that they would transform the four. This makes her, of course, really angry with Reed. He protests that he couldn’t have written that but starts to doubt himself; what if he subconsciously had known about the problem? Magneto ask Reed for help with Kitty’s problem: she’s stuck into intangible state and her atoms are starting to drift apart. Reed has built a machine which could save Kitty but his doubts grow and he in the end he refuses to help, fearing that he will kill Kitty. The Dr. Doom offers his own help. The X-Men have deep reservations, but agree. I don’t really think that Reed was in character here. His confidence is taken away awfully easily.

Once again, I really enjoyed most of these stories. The artwork is quite variable and I don’t like Silvestri’s art as much as John Romita Jr’s but I really enjoyed Jackson Guice and Arthur Adams. The characters are the highlight, as usual. The only thing which really bothered me was Storm’s and Forge’s quick romance which suddenly grew into death defying love. I would have wanted them to at least spend some more time together before it developed. I mean they spent grand total of what three issues? four issues? together and during that time Storm was extremely depressed because her powers were gone.

Also, I felt extremely sorry for Polaris and Havok. Their happy life was disrupted and an extremely nasty villain took over Polaris. IIRC, they never recovered from it. Poor Madelyne Pryor is also hunted by Marauders and then have to tag along with the X-Men in order to survive. She also “dies” along with them.

I was also a bit surprised that Rogue is still considered such a rookie. She has a lot more experience than any of the others in the team. But I guess she was still stubborn and acted on impulse a lot. Like, um, 80% of heroes ever.

Overall, a great read.

A Miss Marple mystery.

Publication year: 1952
Publication year of the Finnish translation: 2011
Format: audio, 8 cds
Publisher of the Finnish translation: WSOY
Finnish translator: Anna-Liisa Laine
Narrated by Lars Swedberg

Mrs. Elspeth McGillicuddy takes a nap in train and when she wakes up, she witnesses a murder. On a train travelling to the same direction but next to McGillicuddy’s train, a tall, dark man strangles a blond woman. But nobody belives her when she tells about it. At least until she tells her friends, Miss Marple. Marple thinks that they will read about from papers and then the police will listen.

But no such body is found. Miss Marple realizes that she’s a bit old to do her own sleuthing, so she sends Lucy Eyelesbarrow to be her eyes and ears. Lucy is a young and highly sought after housekeeper who rarely stays long in one place. She’s also very intelligent and resourceful, looking for both the body and the murderer.

She goes to old Rutherford Hall which belongs to the highly dysfunctional Crackenthorpe family. The father is old and an invalid and his only surviving daugther looks after him. The father resents his three sons and they in turn resent him.

Lucy is the main POV character, along with detective Dermot Craddock. She’s a delightful narrator and I didn’t mind Craddock, either. The family is full of suspects and the characters are interesting. I throughly enjoyed the book even though the ending was less stellar than other Christie books I’ve read.

The first Farscape novel.

The author’s note sets it late in the second season, after ”Won’t get Fooled Again” and before ”The Locket”.

Publication year: 2001
Format: ebook
Page count: 166
Publisher: Tor

A trading ship contacts Moya. One of the passengers want to go to Liantac, a gambling planet which is nearby (when using starburst). However, the planet is surrounded by a field which prevents inorganic ship from going to the planet. But organic ships can go and so the passenger has been looking for an organic ship for a while. He’s also willing to pay and so the crew agrees to go to Liantac. When they arrive, John remains on board Moya, trying in vain to remember words to ”Viva Las Vegas” and driving D’Argo nuts, while Rygel, Chiana, Zhaan, and Aeryn go down to the planet. Aeryn is looking for parts to her Prowler and John’s module and Zhaan is looking for more herbs while Rygel and Chiana are looking for fun. Rygel is lured into a high-stakes gambling where he bets Moya – and loses. Now, the crew has to either surrender Moya or agree to do some tasks to pay off Rygel’s debt.

I liked this book a lot because the whole premise is fun and every character has some great scenes. Chiana and Rygel are very exited about the planet, the rest of the crew not so much. In fact, John thinks that it might make him homesick so he remains on Moya. But later he gets to work on actual science and he’s very exited about that. Rygel is really in his element here and the only reason he loses Moya is because he was cheated. But he can’t prove it. Chiana is also like a fish in water and she has a feeling that their passenger has been lying to them, and investigates. Aeryn has to pretend to be a Peacekeeper which brings back lots of bad old memories. And D’Argo gets to be a grumpy bodyguard, making snide comments to a self-absorbed singer. Eventually, they work well together to get out of the jam.

This is a fun little book and it could have been a light episode.

Couple of fun quotes:
”For once, the Luxan and I are in a total agreement,” Rygel said.
”That’s the scariest thing I’ve heard all day,” Chiana muttered.

Crichton: ”What’s the worse that could happen?”
Aeryn: ”Do you really want me to answer that?”

A collection of fantasy short stories.

Publication year: 2014
Format: audiobook
Running time: 7 hours, 24 minute
Narrated by: Jerimy Colbert, Jane Kennedy, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith, Matthew Buchman, Iretty Y. Patterson, Stephanie Writt, Shaun Yoder
Publisher: WMG Publishing

Once again I like all of the stories, some more, some less but this is still perhaps my least favorites Fiction River collection. I most enjoyed Rusch’s story and ”Sisters”. These aren’t really just urban fantasy but a mix of different styles and settings.

“Life between dreams” by Devon Monk is a story of Wardens who guard the different realities and also put down the humans who are Dreamers. There are horrors between realities which use the Dreamers as portals to the real world.

“The grasshopper and my Aunts” by Esther M. Friesner: the 14-year-old narrator is frustrated with her guardians who are her aunts. The story is quite comedic and several myths are referenced. When the governess throws, by accident, a sowing basket in the small pond, it unleashes terrible powers.

“Here, Kitty Kitty” by Annie Reed: D&D investigations will look for any lost items. This time they’re hired to find a statue for a fairy and things go wrong.

In ”Shadow side” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch the narrator, Dan, is a cop who has had too many brushes with supernatural. He’s trying to escape it with a new job in a small town. He goes to the job interview but realizes that his luck is all bad.

“That lost riddle” by Dean Wesley Smith is a Poker Boy story where the characters think through a problem rather than fighting. Very good for those who know and love the characters.

“Barbarians” by David Farland is a prequel to his Runelords series which I haven’t read. Duvaal’s people are at war with the Mistarrians. Chasing a lost horse, Duvaal has strayed into their lands and stumbles on a wrecked carriage. He wants to just loot it, but he finds a survivor and then a wolf pack comes near.

“Finally family” by Ray Vukcevich. Bugboy can’t tell people that he’s actually an alien. He ended up in Japan, without knowing any Japanese. Kimiko is an American-Japanese woman who has come to live in Japan but she doesn’t know any Japanese, either. She teaches English to Japanese people. Bugboy and Kimiko meet during an earthquake.

In “Sisters” by Leah Cutter the narrator’s younger sister has died and she will do everything she can to make sure that her eight-year-old sister will be remembered and have a happy afterlife.

“Dog Boy Remembers” by Jane Yolen tells the sad tale of Dog Boy whose abusive father is Redcap who just want to train the boy to be useful and doesn’t really care out him, or his mother.

In “True Calling” by Iretty Y. Patterson the narrator, Cat, tries to ensnare her true love with baking.

In “A taste of joie de vivre” by Kellen Knolan the main character, Ashley, is a fat girl in high school. She’s also agreed to be the mascot in an almost suffocating outfit. She’s bullied by the school’s pretty girls. Magic vanished from her small town during her grandmother’s time but now it’s returning.

In “The witch’s house” by Richard Bowes the narrator is taken by telepathic fay. She’s being trained to use her own telepathic gifts. She’s also a former soldier and have troubles with flashbacks to previous violence.

Collects Farscape issues 1-4.

Story: Rockne S. O’Bannon
Script: Keith R.A. DeCandido
Artist: Will Sliney

After the events in the previous collection, Aeryn and John have a few clues where to look for answers concerning their son’s condition. Specifically, little Deke has an extra gland which presumably causes the weird time shifts John and Aeryn have been experiencing. Also, a mysterious assassin is after the baby. The gland was assumed to have come from John because he’s a different race than Aeryn but in the alternate timeline Aeryn’s fully Sebacean child also has the gland. So, it came from Aeryn. She assumes that it’s the result of a genetic weapon but she can’t remember where her regiment could have come into contact with it. So, she’s tracking down her former Peacekeeper comrades. A couple of them have ”retired” to a farming colony and Aeryn heads there. Once there, she finds out something weird: a religion based on teaching of Yemahl. And a man from her past reappears.

Meanwhile, John’s looking for the assassin. When he was in the alternate timeline, John got to know the assassin – or at least the person that assassin is in that other universe – and he’s now using the information he got. John knows the assassin’s name (Roiin), his ship’s name, comm frequency, and even his favorite vacation spot. He’s listening comm frequencies in the hope that something will come up. However, when that doesn’t work John and Chiana head for Liantac, a gambling planet where Roiin likes to spend time. When they finally find him, Chiana leaves with him, going undercover to find out who has hired him.

Meanwhile, Jothee and Sikozu are engaged in a battle of minds – by playing a strategy game. Mostly, they’re trying to force the other to make a move. This was short but hilarious.

The collection starts with Aeryn’s narration which was very interesting. She goes to a peaceful colony where the Sebacean settlers follow the god Yemahl, who doesn’t condone any kind of conflict. Not surprisingly, Aeryn thinks that that’s idiotic and observes how some of the settlers still have old-fashioned conflict, even though in a more underhanded way.

Chiana is put into a difficult position because she starts to develop feelings for the assassin. What began as a simple undercover job to help John, becomes much more complicated.

I don’t think we’ve seen Liantac on screen, or even the bird-like Lian people, but they’re in the first Farscape novel, House of Cards, which I’m currently reading, which was a strange coincidence. Liantac had a bit too familiar feel and the dancing girls looked like human women with red or blue skin, which was cheesy. Otherwise, I enjoyed the collection, although not as much as the previous one.

This time we’re shown a Sebacean religion which was a first. Aeryn immediately dismisses it as ”superstitious nonsense” and the sect’s people are behaving in a far different way than Peacekeepers. We also get to know more about Crais’ past and even Aeryn’s origins. I’m interested to know where the writers will take Aeryn. I just can’t imagine her as smiling and peaceful – without Nebari mindcleansing.

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