What I’ve Been Reading February 2021 Edition
Updated: Feb 11
So far, 2021 is promising to be a great year for reading. Last month, I reported on some fantastic reads, a few surprisingly so. February is no different. Lately, I've been reading my bread and butter: science fiction and fantasy. This includes one sci-fi on my list of must-reads for this year–the book did not disappoint.
This book is on my must-read list for 2021–it is awesome. If anything, Cyber Shogun Revolution is the best book in the always fun United States of Japan series. I don't know that I've read any author who mashes up tropes (dystopia, alternate history, sci-fi, anime mecha) with as much success as Peter Tieryas. Like its predecessors, this book is not perfect, but it's damn fun to read. I can hardly wait for the next installment!
Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter (spoilers!)
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter. I thought it might be good, but I did not expect the pure awesomeness that is this (I believe) debut novel. By the end of the book, I decided it might well be one of my favorite reads over the past couple of years. I didn't think this right at the beginning, though. The book does have some issues, at least in my opinion.
First off, the story opens with an extended battle scene. It's really well done, extraordinarily so, but it lasts for a long time and is followed up by several more long, intense battle scenes. Don't get me wrong, I love great battle scenes, but even I was getting exhausted by them.
My next issue followed in close succession. The protagonist pulls a total 180 in his outlook and never once doubts his decision. He goes from being willing to seek injury to avoid military service to being absolutely fanatically obsessed with becoming the greatest warrior possible so that he can legally challenge the men who murdered his father. Now, I can understand the desire for revenge is a powerful motivator, but he never seems to stray from or doubt his path. For probably, I don't know, half the book I found him a bit of a flimsy character, a cardboard cutout.
My last issue is the tribes attacking the kingdom on the peninsula. I mean, why? This does get sort of explained near the end but never to my satisfaction. The kingdom has people who can summon dragons to breathe fire on the tribal warriors, yet they keep coming. They keep coming for no discernible reason. The explanations that are given don't really jive. This is a bit of a credibility issue for me, but this and the book's other flaws are overcome by what the author does really well.
The world-building is excellent in this novel. The caste system is easy to understand, which is crucial because it plays a significant role in the plotline. Plus, the magic system is familiar enough to be readily grasped by fantasy readers while having enough nuances to be interesting. I think Evan Winter creates his immersive fantasy world with a dearth of words. It's worth studying how he accomplishes this.
Next is the action. Evan Winter writes excellent action, which is important since most of the scenes involve combat or combat training. After the first few chapters, I didn't feel as overwhelmed and exhausted by the combat scenes. I think this is because more training scenes are sprinkled in between the battles.
Lastly, Tau, the protagonist, turns into a strong character as the book progresses. At first, I did find him only so-so with the world-building and action keeping my interest. I think his character turns a corner when he starts going into the demon world for extra training. This action leads to him struggling to keep his sanity, which adds vulnerability and depth to the character.
I highly recommend this book to fantasy fans who enjoy scads of bloody action. It's highly entertaining.
I enjoyed Ready Player One. Ready Player Two is more of the same. Unfortunately, the novelty of 80s pop trivia and video game references have worn off. I was also turned off by the fact that all the growth we saw in Wade from the first book has worn off too. He's back to being a cyberspace addict, only now, instead of being a dirt-poor kid from the stacks, he's a multi-multi-multi billionaire. I don't know. Personally, I find it easier to empathize with the plucky underdog than the wealthiest person on the planet. Having said all that, fans of Ready Player One hungry for more nerdy trivia will find plenty to like in Ready Player Two.