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Boxing Day book reviews

After downloading Charles' Stross Wireless by mistake, the second and third books I picked up for the Kindle were John Ringo & Tom Kratman's The Tuloriad and S.M. Stirling's The High King of Montival


I read The Tuloriad first, which ruined by sleep schedule for Saturday, but it was worth it. The story picks up with a scene at the end of Ringo's Hell's Faire, with the defeated Posleen leader Tulostenaloor and a handful of followers being accosted by the Indowy Aelool and offered safe passage off-planet. Now, having spent half a dozen novels detailing how horrible the all-conquering, all-consuming Posleen are, you might say it'd be a pretty tall order to make them seem even remotely sympathetic; there's a scene in When The Devil Dances when Tommy Sunday joins the 555th and is interviewed by "Iron Mike" O'Neal, and we see that O'Neal doesn't hate the Posleen as most of his men (and Sunday, in fact) do, because he's figured out that they don't have any control over what they are and how they operate. It's all wired in. Still, by the time you get to the end of Hell's Faire (to say nothing of Watch on the Rhine) you're probably agreeing with Tommy Sunday that the best thing for the Posleen would be genocide. So I have to hand it to Ringo and Kratman: what they have done here, building on the foundation stones laid in Yellow Eyes, is to make you feel sympathy for the Posleen and a smoldering hate for the Alldenata, who made the Posleen what they were and then walked away from their responsibilities as uplift mentors when it became too hard. There's also a very interesting subplot revolving around the Posleen religion and a mission from the Vatican to find out if the Posleen have souls and are open to the Word. I admit to buying this for the sake of completeness, to bridge the mysterious gap between Hell's Faire and the return of the Posleen foreshadowed in Eye of the Storm, but I didn't stay up half the night just for that reason. This is high-quality brain candy with some unexpected nuggets of coolness throughout, and is definitely worth your time.

And then there's The High King of Montival, Holy crap, what a book. Like several of its predecessors in the series that began with Dies the Fire, I could not put the damn thing down. Rudi Mackenzie has taken possession of the Sword of the Lady and begun to grow into his role as Artos, the eponymous High King of the title, but before he can take possession of his kingdom he's got a lot of traveling and a lot of fighting to do. Fortunately, he's made a lot of friends along the way, and most of them are pit-bull-murdering PISSED at his enemies. I can't help seeing echoes of Stirling's earlier work on the Raj Whitehall series here, though the Sword doesn't have as friendly a user interface as Center, and Rudi's not handling it nearly as well as Raj Whitehall. Still, this is one bad-ass novel. Highly Recommended.