Completed 2/11/2017 Reviewed 2/21/2017
“Smoke and Shadows” begins a series by Tanya Huff that follows a
supporting character from the Blood novels.
Tony, an ex-junkie and hustler, has gotten clean and sober with the help
of vampire Henry and is now working as a production assistant on a Canadian TV
series about a vampire detective. Despite
all the inaccuracies, considering he was in a relationship with a vampire, he
likes his job. But strange things begin
to happen around the studio. First he
notices that the shadows seem to have a mind of their own. Then there is a death on set. And suddenly, Tony is in the middle of his
own paranormal investigation. With Henry
and a wizard from another dimension at his side, Tony tries to subvert a
takeover from the Shadowlord.
This is another fluff novel from Tanya Huff. But I have to say it was very
entertaining. First off, I really liked
the meta-scenario of a guy who knows about vampires working on a TV series
about a vampire. The show, “Dark Night”,
reminded me of the Canadian syndicated series “Forever Knight” from the
90s. It wasn’t a great show, but it was
fun fluff. Like this novel.
One of the best things about the book is that it is self-contained
even though it’s part of a series. It
seems like I’ve been reading a lot of books lately that are part of a series
and are not self-contained. I don’t mind
it as much anymore, and don’t begrudge authors writing trilogies. After all, my favorite book is LOTR, a
trilogy. But for the most part, these
days, I want to read a book that ends.
This one did. I was so happy at
the end of it. I think that’s part of
why I gave it a high rating.
As far as characterization goes, Tony is great. He’s gay and has a crush on a one of the
stars of the series who is apparently straight, but gives off mixed
signals. He also goes on a comical date
with the show’s music director, who has a crush on him. All this, though, creates some conflict
because Henry is still in the picture.
Tony is no longer in a relationship with the vampire, but he still helps
Tony out throughout the story. There’s a
few interesting instances where we understand why Tony wanted out of the
relationship when we learn of Henry’s possessiveness. It’s not just normal possessiveness, but the
kind that a vampire has for his prey, and it’s intense.
I found Arra, the wizard from the dimension of the
Shadowlord to be a bit annoying at times.
She has a great setup. She’s the
special effects director for the show.
Of course she uses her powers to create great effects on the show’s low
budget. Unfortunately, she does not want
to help our hero subdue the Shadowlord.
It’s understandable that she’s reluctant considering she barely escaped
destruction in her own dimension.
However, I would have liked to have seen her have more backbone
throughout the story rather than just near the end.
I gave this book four stars because I had a lot of fun with
it. It’s not a great book, but I really
enjoyed it. At some point in the future,
I would consider reading the other books in the series, just not now. Tony’s a great character and I’d like to see
him have success in life, amidst all the supernatural urban fantasy that he
Completed 1/29/2017 Reviewed 1/30/2017
I’ve been hit or miss with Bujold, particularly the
Vorkosigan Saga. The book was a
hit. The plot is a little off the main
line of the Saga, more like an offshoot.
It revolves around Ethan of the planet Athos, a world of men. It turns the meme of a female utopia on its
head. Children are born from uterine
replicators, which is not unheard of in this universe. With a planet of only men, the replicators
wear out and new organs are needed.
Ethan, a doctor who works with the replicators, is chosen to go in
search of a new supplier after the previous package of ovarian cultures is
sabotaged. It forces him to go out into
space and deal with the rest of society for the first time ever, including
women. It leads to some comical moments. Of course, this being part of one of the more
famous space opera series, Ethan ends up in the middle of espionage with the
What’s surprising about this book is that it was written in
1986 but is a mainstream novel that deals with gay issues. Many of the men on Athos are in M/M relationships,
though not all, mostly those who raise children. Being a planet of only men, all the children
are sons. Now it should be noted that
the gay issues are quite tempered. But
there’s a bashing scene that was really traumatic to me. And just the fact that it exists in this book
from such a long time ago is quite stunning to me.
The culture clash between Ethan and the rest of the universe
is embodied in Elli Quinn, a female mercenary who is after the same Cetagandans
that are after Ethan. She keeps on
popping up on Ethan, causing a lot of cognitive dissonance. The scenes are humorous even though the
circumstances become direr. It’s fun to
watch him slowly back away whenever she approaches him. You see, the planet of Athos is actually
rather misogynistic. It is incorporated
into its religion and morality. Women
are seen as the embodiment of sin. So
whenever Ethan interacts with Elli, he’s concerned that her immorality will rub
off on him. At first the misogyny is
disconcerting, but Ethan comes to understand and appreciate Elli, and of course
the lessons are learned. The best part
is watching all that develop and unfold for Ethan.
I give this book four stars out of five. It’s a surprisingly fun, fast-paced space
opera romp. It’s a quick read yet has
enough depth to contain messages about tolerance and acceptance. The book is self-contained in this epic
multi-book saga so it can be read without having read any of the other books,
which I always find a plus.
Completed 1/26/2017 Reviewed 1/30/2017
It’s been a long time since I awarded a book five
stars. This one did it for me. It’s about Saloninus from “Blue and Gold”,
the philosopher/alchemist who lies a lot, and I mean, a lot. He’s now in his 70s. He decides to sell his soul to the devil, in
grand Faustian tradition, for another 20 years to finish his life’s work. But the question is can the king of lies
outwit the father of lies?
It just so happens that the demon sent to Saloninus with the
contract and to watch over him for those 20 years is a fan of his
philosophy. Saloninus’ arguments prove
the lack of existence of God and prove that morality is relative. But does he really believe his own
writings. The demon comes to realize
this as he comes to realize that his brilliant ward probably has a loophole to
get out of the contract at the end of the 20 years.
The book is short; it is just a novella. The narration switches a lot between the
demon and Solaninus, which at first is a little disorienting. It quickly got the two voices down and had no
problem with the switches between scenes versus the switching between narrators,
making it and easy read. As I noted at
the top, I gave this book five stars because I was completely caught up in the
question of what Solaninus had up his sleeve, and the demon’s attempts to
figure it out.