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Kelson Reads

Joined 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Techie, software developer, hobbyist photographer, sci-fi/fantasy and comics fan in the Los Angeles area. He/him.

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2022 Reading Goal

40% complete! Kelson Reads has read 8 of 20 books.

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In a case of weird timing, the day I finished reading it, I also stumbled on a discussion about the Canadian boarding schools for indigenous children that quietly disposed of dead students in unmarked graves. Seeing the reminder of that added a disturbing layer of reality to some aspects of the story. And not just the murder mystery.

Every Heart a Doorway (Hardcover, 2016, Tom Doherty Associates) 4 stars

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children

No Solicitations

No Visitors

No Quests

Children have always …

Fast read, intriguing concept and characters, but the plot gets in the way

4 stars

A fast read with an intriguing concept that reverses multiple YA fantasy tropes: It’s a non-magical boarding school for teens who have experienced magic. And it’s not about the adventures they have going through the portal to a fantasy world, but about how they handle the trauma of coming back to the mundane one. The characters are interesting, and I’d like to read more about them, but halfway through it turns into a murder mystery. That gives it a plot, but it comes at the expense of the characterization. (And some of the characters.) It was entertaining, though, and it does make me want to check out the second book.

Norse Mythology (EBook, 2017) 4 stars

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of …

Entertaining, sometimes gruesome, sometimes funny and sometimes sad

4 stars

collection of stories about the gods of Asgard and the elves, dwarves and giants around them, book-ended by the Norse creation myth and the world-ending battle of Ragnarok. It’s a storytelling approach, not a scholarly description. And it’s not the shiny, techno-magical Asgard of Marvel’s Thor, or the ethereal Olympus we’ve come to think of with Greek myths. For all the magic and impossible feats that get tossed around, it’s still a gritty, harsh world with wars, murders, lust, deception and betrayal.

The stories are mostly separate, but a pattern emerges: not just when stories refer back to earlier events, but the slow transformation of Loki from the kind of trickster who steals Sif’s hair, tricks rival smiths into creating fantastic gifts, and generally outwits his opponents (while finding ways to embarrass the other gods if he can) to the kind of trickster who thinks it would be hilarious to …

The Kaiju Preservation Society (EBook, 2022, Tom Doherty Associates) 4 stars

Jamie’s dream was to hit the big time at a New York tech start-up. Jamie’s …

Escaping the pandemic by learning to survive on a world with gigantic monsters

5 stars

A fun, breezy story about unexpectedly landing a job at a secret scientific base on a parallel world studying giant Godzilla-like animals. Which is about as dangerous as it sounds. Plus, of course, not all humans are interested in the kaijus' welfare, and the KPS has to step up the "Preservation" part of its name.

There's some interesting world-building in terms of what kind of environment and ecosystem would actually support 100-meter-tall animals, what kind of biology would be able to handle the size, the energy, shooting beams of radiation, etc. And what might evolve to protect itself in a world with kaiju. And of course: what role nuclear explosions have in the whole thing, because these are kaiju after all!

It's also weird because it takes place in 2020. Like, real 2020, complete with Covid-19 lockdowns and everything. The main character starts out working for a GrubHub competitor at …

Content warning Concept spoilers

Quantum night (2016) 4 stars

Quantum Night is a 2016 science-fiction thriller novel written by Canadian novelist Robert J. Sawyer. …

If consciousness is a quantum state, can we reboot humanity?

4 stars

I read Quantum Night when it was new, back in early 2016. And while a key part of the premise doesn’t add up, I keep thinking back to it.

It links human cruelty, psychopathy, and mob behavior to the nature of consciousness and quantum entanglement, mostly focusing on the main characters but playing out against a global crisis brought on by a rising tide of xenophobia.

There’s an ultra-conservative US President who makes grandiose statements. A rising trend of anti-immigrant murders. A war launched by Putin.

Through all this, the main characters are investigating their own dark pasts, trying to figure out what caused them to change for the better… and ultimately, can we reboot humanity?

Seared into my memory

5 stars

I read this when it was new, and I had a child in preschool. It was very good. And I never, ever want to read it again.

It's about a zombie outbreak in an elementary school, a cascading failure of one preventative measure after another, and how one teacher manages to get some of her students out alive.

Little Fuzzy (EBook, Standard Ebooks) 4 stars

Little Fuzzy is the name of a 1962 science fiction novel by H. Beam Piper, …

First contact, colonialism, and corparate greed vs. who counts as "people"

4 stars

An enjoyable tale of first contact, colonialism, environmental stewardship, corporate greed vs. ethics, and most importantly, who counts as “people” – all wrapped up around a cute, inquisitive, furry species encountered by humans on what they thought was an uninhabited planet, threatening to upend the status of the humans’ established mining colony.

It’s a worthy classic: engaging aliens, big themes and a high-stakes struggle. But it’s also very clearly of its time (1962). Everyone smokes and drinks highballs (in space!), there’s only one woman of consequence, and it’s much heavier on plot than characterization, which is mostly flat. There’s a twist near the end that feels a bit like a deus ex machina because some of the most important work has been going on off-page. Though I imagine it wouldn’t have bothered me if I’d read it when I was ten instead of as an adult.

The Time Traders (2020, Standard Ebooks) 4 stars

The Time Traders is the first book in Andre Norton’s Time Traders series. …

Enjoyable cold war spy thriller...through TIME

4 stars

Apparently I’m still a sucker for time travel stories. The Time Traders (1958) is a cold war spy novel, but it’s a temporal cold war – more accurately, it’s a temporal front in our cold war. Both sides have time travel, the “Reds” have been plundering another era for technology, and the west is trying to find the source and shut it down.

I wouldn’t accuse it of being deep. About the only philosophical point is that today’s misfits blend in better with other times. It’s also very rooted in the cold war mentality. But it’s a satisfying adventure through the arctic and bronze age Europe, with characters who have modern knowledge and goals, but are making do with bronze-age technology. There is a swerve toward the end, but it works.

Star Hunter (EBook, Standard Ebooks) 3 stars

On the unexplored jungle world of Jumala, former pilot turned safari guide Ras Hume schemes …

A standard survival adventure with mismatched partners and ruthless rivals, only with weird stuff going on and in space.

3 stars

I’d never read any of Andre Norton’s books before, so when I saw a bunch of them on Standard Ebooks, I figured I’d take a look. The first one I read was Star Hunter, which maybe wasn’t the best place to start. It’s mainly an adventure story, a jungle survival trip with ruthless rivals that could just as easily be set in any wilderness area on Earth.

Of the two main characters, one is the tough guy type who runs safaris on alien worlds, and wants to “find” the lost heir to a fortune who had crashed on the planet some time ago. The other is captured and brainwashed into believing he’s the lost heir, then dropped on the planet ahead of the expedition. Things go wrong, adventure ensues.

But the adventure isn’t really satisfying. Even when weird things start happening because it’s an alien planet, they’re never really addressed …

Star Born (Pax /Astra Book 2) (EBook, 2019, Standard Ebooks) 5 stars

When the oppressive global dictatorship of Pax took over Earth they put a stop to …

Adventure with humans caught on opposite sides of an alien world's post-war struggles.

5 stars

I enjoyed Star Born a lot more than Star Hunter. The main characters are more interesting, the world is more fleshed out and has more to do with the story itself, and the story actually has a point to it beyond “cool stuff happens!”

Again there are two main characters: one the descendant of humans who fled an oppressive Earth decades ago and were stranded on another world. The other, a member of a modern survey team from a freer Earth. The colonists befriended an ocean-dwelling species that helped them survive, but the survey team is focused on the cities built by the planet’s other intelligent species, one that looks more human and has more complex technology, but is far more brutal and warlike than the mer-people.

On one level it’s an adventure: the human born on this world is going through a rite of passage with his best friend …

A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching (2021, Workman Publishing Company) 4 stars

Part field guide, part history, part ornithology primer, and altogether fun.

Fact: Pigeons are amazing, …

A fast, funny, informative read about, well, pigeons

5 stars

A fast, funny, informative read about, well, pigeons (and to some extent other birds). Readers of the author’s webcomic about nature, Bird and Moon, will recognize the quirky humor and the drawing style of the illustrations.

You might think pigeons are boring because they’re so common, but they can be as interesting as any other bird once you start looking. And because they’re found everywhere humans live (there’s a reason for that), anyone can go out and start looking in the real world for the patterns and behaviors described.

The irreverent but enthusiastic style draws you in as the book runs through the long history of pigeons and humans. We’ve bred them for messaging, food, chemistry and as pets since ancient times, and the common pigeons seen today are descended from domestic pigeons that have escaped over the years. It continues through an overview of pigeon anatomy, what types of …