Savage Reviews

Powell's Books Partner I18 (violence to sacred cows, harsh language, and adult sensibilities) The intellectually challenged are strongly cautioned. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Usually, these reviews concern specific books; sometimes they don't. They're in alphabetical order by the author's last name. Note for the squeamish: I don't believe in taking prisoners. I do, however, shoot the wounded. You can buy these books securely on the net through Powell's Books.

Last Updates:

 
Ratings | Reviews
 

Total Items Reviewed (including Slugs and the Dumpster): 134
Other Recommendations (in passing and on the Basic Bookshelf): 219
Visitors since that bright cold day in April when the clocks were striking thirteen: 25285

Ratings

5 stars 5 Stars Outstanding; future classic, should win multiple awards Top 1%
4 stars 4 Stars Excellent, award candidate; should be a finalist for multiple awards Top 2–3%
4 stars 4 Stars Excellent; no substantial flaws, although tastes may differ Top 10%
3 stars 3 Stars Very Good; slightly flawed Top 10–15%
3 stars 3 Stars Good; solid book worth reading Top 20%
2 stars 2 Stars Almost good; generally solid, but seriously flawed Bottom 80%
2 stars 2 Stars Mediocre; may have a well-hidden redeeming feature Bottom 70%
1 stars 1 Stars Almost mediocre; don't bother this time Bottom 30%
1 star 1 Star Bad; don't bother Bottom 25%
 star Star Really Bad; eviscerate the clerk who sold you this one Bottom 10%
no stars Ugly; readers—and dead trees—deserve better Bottom 5%

Reviews

The context for these reviews is fiction published in English since 1968, regardless of genre, gender, country of origin, publisher, marketing success, "serious intent," or theme. (As the estimated percentages indicate, there's a lot of dreck out there.) Sometimes, a work will fall between these rough indicators, particularly at the top end of the scale.

These reviews are not like those in Masterplots. Plot is only a small part of a book; it's usually the only part the marketing copy (on the book or online) comes close to representing accurately. Current "writerly" theory holds that there are only six (or eight, or thirty-six, or in any event some limited number) plot structures anyway. While that's flat wrong and a vast oversimplification, I'm still not going to waste our time on plot summaries except when absolutely necessary. Here are my diatribe on reviewing published works and my discussion of "plot".

Item Reviewed Date Type Rating
1998 In Review 26 Dec 98 Build Your Library Good (3)
3 stars
1999 In Review 28 Dec 99 Build Your Library Mediocre (2)
2 stars
2000 In Review 31 Dec 00 Build Your Library Mediocre (2)
2 stars
2001 In Review 29 Dec 01 Build Your Library Almost Mediocre (1)
1 stars
2002 In Review 22 Jan 03 Build Your Library Mediocre (2)
2 stars
2003 In Review 19 Jan 04 Build Your Library Almost Good (2)
2 stars
Award Recommendations lists my recommendations for award consideration. Currently, this covers through 2003. 19 Jan 04 Build Your Library
The Basic Bookcase is a general listing of essential works that should be part of any good speculative fiction collection. 12 May–12 Sep 1999 Start Your Library
Dumpster Diving is reserved for short reviews of material found in the dumpster (also available in main index). If the marketing dorks had read the books and were even marginally intellectually honest, these are what would go on the cover of books rated from 2 stars (Almost Good) down to  star (Really Bad). Toxic waste (no stars) will continue to get individual reviews. Rearranged in December 2001 to include only the less-than-good material; the more generous short reviews are now in Cover Slugs. Last entry: 27 Dec 03
Cover Slugs is a collection of short reviews, somewhat more positive than those in Dumpster Diving (also available in main index). These are what I believe should be on the cover instead of marketing pablum written by some marketing dork who hasn't read the [unbelievably foul and offensive expletives deleted] book. The more-positive reviews—3 stars (good) and above—that formerly resided in Dumpster Diving have been moved here as of December 2001. Last entry: 30 Apr 03
Alama, Pauline J. (2002)
The Eye of Night

New York: Bantam Spectra
19 Mar 03 Novel
Dive
Bad (1)
1 star
Banks, Iain M. (2001)
Look to Windward

New York: Pocket
13 Apr 01 Novel
Dive
Almost Good (2)
2 stars
Barry, Max (2003)
Jennifer Government

New York: Doubleday
15 May 03 Novel
Dive
Mediocre (2)
2 stars
Bishop, Michael (2000)
Blue Kansas Sky

Urbana, IL: Golden Gryphon
28 Feb 01 Collection Excellent (4)
4 stars
Bradley, Marion Zimmer, ed. (1999)
Sword and Sorceress XVI

New York: DAW
09 Nov 99 Anthology Mediocre (2)
2 stars
Britain, Kristen (1998)
Green Rider

New York: DAW
13 Mar 99 Novel Good (3)
3 stars
Butler, Octavia E. (1998)
Parable of the Talents

New York: Seven Stories
04 Jan 99 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
Award candidate
Card, Orson Scott (1999)
Enchantment

New York: Del Rey
16 Apr 99 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
Award candidate
Card, Orson Scott (1999)
Ender's Shadow

New York: Tor
02 Sep 99 Novel Very good (3)
3 stars
Card, Orson Scott (2001)
Shadow of the Hegemon

New York: Tor
07 Jan 01 Novel Very Good (3)
3 stars
Card, Orson Scott
Various works
26 Nov 98
Updated 29 May 01
Author
Retrospective
Build Your Library
Carroll, Jonathan (2001)
The Wooden Sea

New York: Tor
15 Apr 01 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
Cast, P.C. (2002)
Goddess By Mistake

Tulsa, OK: HAWK Publishing
15 Mar 02 Novel
Dive
Really Bad ()
1/2 star
Christian, Deborah (2000)
The Truthsayer's Apprentice

New York: St. Martin's
14 Jul 00 Novel
Dive
Almost Mediocre (1)
1 stars
Clough, Brenda (2000)
Doors of Death and Life

New York: Tor
09 Oct 00 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
Datlow, Ellen, and Terri Windling, eds. (1999)
Silver Birch, Blood Moon

New York: Avon
04 Jul 99 Anthology Excellent (4)
4 stars
David, Peter (2001)
Sir Apropos of Nothing

New York: Pocket
02 Dec 01 Novel Very good (3)
3 stars
de Lint, Charles (1998)
Someplace to Be Flying

New York: Tor
16 May 98 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
de Lint, Charles (2002)
The Onion Girl

New York: Tor
09 May 02 Novel
Slug
Very Good (3)
3 stars
Dozois, Gardner, ed. (1998)
The Year's Best Science Fiction (15th Annual Collection)

New York: St. Martin's
21 Jun 98 Anthology Excellent (4)
4 stars
Elliott, Kate (1999)
The Burning Stone

New York: DAW
02 Jun 99 Novel Good (3)
3 stars
Ellison, Harlan (1997)
Slippage

New York: Houghton Mifflin
02 Apr 98 Collection Excellent (4)
4 stars
Feintuch, David (1997)
The Seafort Saga

New York: Warner Aspect
16 Feb 00 ISFS
Dive
Bad (1)
1 star
Fforde, Jasper (2003)
Lost in a Good Book

New York: Penguin
30 Apr 03 Novel
Slug
Good (3)
3 stars
Flint, Eric (2000)
1632
New York: Baen
28 May 00 Novel Good (3)
3 stars
Foy, George (2001)
The Last Harbor

New York: Bantam Spectra
01 Jan 02 Novel
Dive
Almost Good (2)
2 stars
Gaiman, Neil (2001)
American Gods

New York: Morrow
18 Jul 01 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
Grimsley, Jim (2000)
Kirith Kirin

Atlanta: Meisha Merlin
11 Jan 01 Novel
Dive
Almost Mediocre (1)
1 stars
Haldeman, Joe (1997)
Forever Peace

New York: Ace
28 Apr 99 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
Hambly, Barbara (1998)
Icefalcon's Quest

New York: Del Rey
24 Mar 98 Novel Good (3)
3 stars
Harlan, Thomas (1999)
The Shadow of Ararat

New York: Tor
27 Jul 99 Novel Good (3)
3 stars
Harris, Joanne (1999)
Chocolat

New York: Viking
24 Mar 99 Novel Good (3)
3 stars
Harris, Thomas (2000)
Hannibal

New York: St. Martin's Press
17 Mar 00 Novel
Dive
Bad (1)
1 star
Hartwell, David G., ed. (1998)
Year's Best SF 3

New York: HarperPrism
30 Aug 98 Collection Good (3)
3 stars
Hemry, John (2003)
A Just Determination

New York: Ace
23 Oct 03 Novel Very good (3)
3 stars
Herbert, Brian, and Kevin J. Anderson (1999)
Dune: House Atreides

New York: Bantam
02 Nov 99 Novel Mediocre (2)
2 stars
Hobb, Robin (1998)
Ship of Magic

New York: Bantam
30 May 98 Novel Mediocre (2)
2 stars
Irvine, Ian (2001)
The Shadow on the Glass

New York: Warner Aspect
13 Dec 01 Novel
Dive
Almost Good (2)
2 stars
Jones, Diana Wynne (1996, first US 1998)
The Tough Guide to Fantasyland

New York: DAW
26 Nov 98 Lampoon Excellent (4)
4 stars
Jones, Diana Wynne (1998)
Dark Lord of Derkholm

New York: Greenwillow (Morrow)
11 Jul 99 Novel
("YA")
Good (3)
3 stars
Keyes, J. Gregory (1998)
Newton's Cannon

New York: Del Rey
14 Oct 98 Novel Good (3)
3 stars
Kress, Nancy (1998)
Maximum Light

New York: Tor
10 Apr 98 Novel Good (3)
3 stars
Kritzer, Naomi (2002, 2002)
Fires of the Faithful and Turning the Storm

New York: Bantam Spectra
19 Jan 03 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
Lackey, Mercedes (1998)
Oathblood

New York: DAW
01 Jul 98 Collection Almost good (2)
2 stars
Lackey, Mercedes (2000)
Owlknight

New York: DAW
15 Feb 00 Novel
Dive
Bad (1)
1 star
Le Guin, Ursula K. (2003)
Changing Planes

New York: Harcourt
07 Dec 03 Collection
Slug
Excellent (4)
4 stars
Le Guin. Ursula K. (film, 2002)
Lathe of Heaven

[Alan Sharp, Philip Haas, et al.]
New York: Arts & Entertainment Channel
14 Sep 02 Film Almost mediocre (1)
1 star
Le Guin, Ursula K. (2001)
The Other Wind

New York: Harcourt
18 Sep 01 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
Award candidate
Le Guin, Ursula K. (2001)
Tales From Earthsea

New York: Harcourt
07 May 01 Collection Excellent (4)
4 stars
Award candidate
Le Guin, Ursula K.
Various works.
11 Nov 98
Updated 29 May 01
Author
Retrospective
Build Your Library
Lisle, Holly (2000)
Courage of Falcons [The Secret Texts 3]

New York: Warner Aspect
14 Nov 00 Novel
Dive
Mediocre (2)
2 stars
Lucas, George (1999)
Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Los Angeles: Fox
14 Jun 99 Film Mediocre (2)
2 stars
M'Caffrey, Anne (1998)
The MasterHarper of Pern

New York: Del Rey
21 Mar 98 "Novel" Ugly (0)
no stars
McGarry, Terry (2001)
Illumination

New York: Tor
24 Feb 02 Novel
Slug
Excellent (4)
4 stars
McMullen, Sean (1999)
Souls in the Great Machine

New York: Tor
28 Mar 00 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
Marillier, Juliet (2000)
Daughter of the Forest

New York: Tor
24 Jul 98 Novel Bad (1)
1 star
Martin, George R.R. (2000)
A Storm of Swords

(A Song of Fire and Ice III) New York: Bantam Spectra
31 Dec 00 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
Award candidate
Mixon, Laura J. (1998)
Proxies

New York: Tor
11 Dec 98 Novel Good (3)
3 stars
Modesitt, Jr., L.E. (1997–98)
The Spellsong Cycle
[The Soprano Sorceress, The Spellsong War]
New York: Tor
06 May 98 Novels Bad (1)
1 star
Moon, Elizabeth (2003)
The Speed of Dark

New York: Ballantine
08 Mar 03 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
Award candidate
Morrow, James (1999)
The Eternal Footman

New York: Harcourt Brace
29 Feb 00 Novel Good (3)
3 stars
Morse, David. (1998)
The Iron Bridge

New York: Harcourt Brace
19 Jul 98 Novel Mediocre (2)
2 stars
Moscoe, Mike (1999)
The First Casualty

New York: Ace
20 Nov 99 Novel Good (3)
3 stars
Orwell, George (film, 1999)
Animal Farm

[Robert Halmi, Sr., Greg Smith, et al.]
Atlanta: Turner Entertainment Networks
03 Oct 99 Film Bad (1)
1 star
Powers, Richard (2000)
Plowing the Dark

New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
02 Jul 00 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
Award candidate
Pullman, Philip (2000)
The Amber Spyglass

   (His Dark Materials, Book III)
New York: Knopf
11 Nov 00 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
Pullman, Philip (2003)
Lyra's Oxford

New York: Knopf
13 Nov 03 Novel
Slug
Very Good (3)
3 stars
Robinson, Kim Stanley (1998)
Antarctica

New York: Bantam
24 Jul 98 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
Rose, M.J., and Angela Adair-Hoy (2001)
How to Publish and Promote Online

Cincinnati: Writer's Digest
26 May 01 "Reference" Ugly (0)
no stars
Rowling, J.K. (1998, first US 1999)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets [Book 2]

New York: Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic (1999)
22 Jun 99 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
Rowling, J.K. (2003)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix [Book 5]

New York: Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic (2003)
21 Jun 03 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
Rowling, J.K. (film, 2001)
Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone

Los Angeles: Warner
18 Nov 01 Film Very Good (3)
3 stars
Rushdie, Salman (1999)
The Ground Beneath Her Feet

New York: Holt
02 Jun 99 Novel Good (3)
3 stars
Russell, Mary Doria (1996)
The Sparrow

New York: Villard
26 Apr 98 Novel Outstanding (5)
5 stars
Russell, Mary Doria (1998)
Children of God

New York: Villard
11 Nov 98 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
Russell, Sean (1998)
The Compass of the Soul

New York: DAW
14 Oct 98 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
Russell, Sean (2001)
The One Kingdom

New York: Eos
29 Mar 01 Novel Very Good (3)
3 stars
Russell, Sean (2002)
The Isle of Battle

New York: Eos
05 Oct 02 Novel
Slug
Excellent (4)
4 stars
Sawyer, Robert J. (1997)
Illegal Alien

New York: Ace
14 Jan 99 Novel Good (3)
3 stars
Scott, Melissa, and Lisa A. Barnett (2001)
Point of Dreams

New York: Tor
08 Mar 01 Novel Very Good (3)
3 stars
Seuss, Dr. (film, 2000)
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas

[Ron Howard, Brian Glazer, et al.]
Los Angeles: Universal/Imagine
25 Nov 00 Film Almost Mediocre (1)
1 stars
Sheffield, Charles (1999)
Starfire

New York: Bantam
26 May 00 Novel Good (3)
3 stars
Silverberg, Robert (1998)
The Alien Years

New York: HarperPrism
14 Oct 98 Novel Good (3)
3 stars
Simmons, Dan (1989–97)
The Hyperion Cantos
[Hyperion, The Fall of Hyperion, Endymion, The Rise of Endymion]
18 Apr 98 Novels Outstanding (5)
5 stars
Smith, Kristine (1999)
Code of Conduct

New York: Avon Eos
22 Nov 99 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
Award candidate
Smith, Kristine (2000)
Rules of Conflict

New York: Eos
16 Sep 00 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
Smith, Kristine (2001)
Law of Survival

New York: Eos
13 Dec 01 Novel
Slug
Excellent (4)
4 stars
Spinrad, Norman (14 Aug 00)
Greenhouse Summer

New York: Tor
14 Aug 01 Novel
Slug
Good (3)
3 stars
Steele, Allen (2003)
Coyote

New York: Ace
19 Mar 03 Novel
Slug
Excellent (4)
4 stars
Strauss, Victoria (1999)
The Garden of the Stone

New York: Avon Eos
25 Dec 99 Novel Excellent (4)
4 stars
Tepper, Sheri S. (1998)
Six Moon Dance

New York: Avon Eos
03 Aug 98 Novel Good (3)
3 stars
Tepper, Sheri S. (2001)
The Fresco

New York: HarperCollins
30 Apr 01 Novel
Dive
Almost Mediocre (1)
1 stars
Tolkein, J.R.R. (film, 2001)
The Fellowship of the Ring

Los Angeles: New Line
22 Dec 01 Film Very Good (3)
3 stars
Tolkein, J.R.R. (film, 2002)
The Two Towers

Los Angeles: New Line
22 Dec 02 Film Very Good (3)
3 stars
Tolkein, J.R.R. (film, 2003)
The Return of the King

Los Angeles: New Line
31 Dec 03 Film Good (3)
3 stars
Turow, Scott (2002)
Reversible Errors

New York: FS&G
12 Jan 03 Novel
Slug
Excellent (4)
4 stars
Turtledove, Harry (2003)
Gunpowder Empire
(Crosstime Traffic, Book 1)
New York: Tor
27 Dec 03 Novel
(YA?)
Dive
Mediocre (2)
2 stars
Varhola, Michael J., et al. (1999)
The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference

Cincinnati: Writer's Digest
16 Feb 99 "Reference" Ugly (0)
no stars
Wharton, Ken (2002)
Divine Intervention

New York: Ace
24 Feb 02 Novel
Slug
Excellent (4)
4 stars
Williams, Liz (2002)
Empire of Bones

New York: Bantam Spectra
15 Jul 98 Novel Good (3)
3 stars
Wurts, Janny (2000)
The Wars of Light and Shadow

New York: DAW
15 May 00 Novel
Dive
Really Bad (1/2)
1/2 star
Zettel, Sarah (2000)
The Quiet Invasion

New York: Warner Aspect
14 Jun 00 Novel
Dive
Mediocre (2)
2 stars
Zettel, Sarah (2001)
Kingdom of Cages

New York: Warner Aspect
02 Dec 01 Novel
Dive
Almost Good (2)
2 stars
Zettel, Sarah (2002)
A Sorceror's Treason

New York: Tor
04 Jun 01 Novel Very good (3)
3 stars
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