Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kraken - China Miéville

   2010; 509 pages.  New Author? : No.  Genre : Urban Fantasy; Weird Fiction.  Overall Rating : 9*/10.

    The kraken’s been kidnapped!  Well, technically, its corpse has, since it was already dead.  It was an exhibit immersed in a tank of Formaldehyde in a London museum.  And technically, it was a giant squid, not a kraken.  So maybe we should call it a squidnapping.

    But the theft has triggered something metaphysical : an end-of-the-world angst felt by every Doomsday cultist in the city.  There are even a few normal people who feel it.  So lots of folks want to get their hands on that purloined piscine, for all sorts of reasons  Some are even willing to kill for it.

    But no one is quite sure who stole it.  Or how.

What’s To Like...
    Kraken is vintage China Miéville.  The writing is superb; the characters are fascinating; and the world-building of a gritty, dark “Other London” will have you wiping the grime from your hands.  The book is written in “English”, as opposed to “American”, and I always eat that up.  You’ll need to keep a dictionary handy (unless you are reading this on your Kindle), for the Britishisms, the Cockney rhyming, the technical terms, and a bunch of regular-but-unfamiliar words.

    The basic storyline involves one Billy Harrow, the guy at the museum who actually pickled the giant squid, and his efforts to retrieve it.  Billy’s motivations are academic; he wants to understand why someone would steal the specimen.  But since he's physically touched the cadaver while prepping it, there are cultists who view him as “The Chosen One”.

    Miéville uses the plot as a vehicle for discussing a number of themes – Doomsday Seers, Evolution, The Flow of Time, Blind Faith, Labor Unions, and Religious Cults.  He refreshingly finds a way to poke gentle fun at all of these topics, while also finding plusses for each.  To keep this from getting preachy or annoying, he infuses a subtle, but steady amount of wit and humor into the tale, including puns and absurdities, such as a gang lord who’s now a tattoo, bullets that hatch, and the spirit-world’s “familiars” going on strike.
Kewlest New Word. . .
Pootling (v.)  :  moving or traveling in a leisurely manner.  A Britishism.
Other new words/phrases encountered : Shtum; Dosh; Coco (v.); Benthos; Asymptote; Kip; “Sweet Fanny Adams”; Haruspex; Buboes; Melisma; and Tachyon.  Britishisms in italics.

    They gathered to compare gnoses, in Edgware cafés over sheesha or pubs in Primrose Hill or somewhere called Almagan Yard, mostly their favoured hangouts in the “trap streets”, Vardy said.  They traded dissident mysteries in vague competition, as if faiths were Top Trumps cards.
    “What about your apocalypse, then?”  “Well, the universe is a leaf on the time-tree, and come autumn it’s going to shrivel and fall off into hell.”  Murmurs of admiration.  “Ooh, nice one.  My new lot say ants are going to eat the sun.”  (pg. 41)

    “What was that squirrel?” Billy said.
    “Freelancer,” Dane said.
    “What?  Freelance what?”
    “Familiar.”  Familiar.  “Don’t look like that.  Familiar.  Don’t act like you’ve never heard of one.”
    Billy thought of black cats.  “Where is it now?”
    “I don’t know, I don’t want to know.  It did what I paid it for.”  Dane did not look at him.  “Job done.  So it’s gone.”
    “What did you pay it?”
    “I paid it nuts, Billy.  What would you think I’d pay a squirrel?”  (pg. 101)

 I have a rule: I prefer anyone who doesn’t try to kill me to anyone who does.”  (pg.  223)
    Kraken was my fifth China Miéville novel, and my view of him as one of the top authors of the 21st century has not changed a whit.  But before plowing into one of his books, it should be recognized that they are always long, and the reading (unless you are a “skimmer”) will be rewarding, but slow.  Miéville mitigates this by using short chapter lengths here, but it still took me two weeks to finish the book.

    Also, Miéville’s works are character-driven, so at times the pace of the plot slows as the reader is treated to Billy meeting yet another fascinating character, but one who doesn’t get him any closer to solving the squid mystery.

    In the hands of a lesser writer, this is a recipe for a boring book.  But Miéville makes it another scintillating masterpiece.  I've yet to read a mediocre novel by him, let alone a poor one.

    9 Stars.  This was a challenging, thought-provoking read, but I loved it.  Subtract one star if you have a book report due tomorrow, and plan to rush through Kraken.  You’ll either miss the beauty of a Miéville novel due to the requisite skimming, or else find yourself staying up all night as the story pulls you in.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Blood Faerie - India Drummond

    2011; 264 pages.  New Author? : Yes.  Book #1 (out of 6) of the Caledonia Fae series.  Genre : Urban Fantasy.  Overall Rating : 7½*/10.

    Even from her high perch in the steeple of St. Paul’s church, the exiled faerie Eilidh heard the scream.  It came from the sidewalk below her, and sounded like someone was having his/her heart ripped out.

    That’s because someone was having his heart ripped out.  And judging from the residual scent, another faerie did this.  Which means the (human) police detectives won’t have a clue as to how to solve the murder.

    But the really weird thing is that one of the detectives can “feel” Eilidh’s presence. Humans aren’t supposed to be able to do that.

What’s To Like...
    Blood Faerie is set in Perth, Scotland, which seems to have been India Drummond’s stomping grounds at one point or another.  This gives the setting a “real” feel, instead of reading like something out of Wikipedia or a travelogue.

   The characters are well developed, and there are both good and evil faeries, which is a refreshing change.  The magic also comes in good and evil flavors, which I liked.  There are also Druids, and that’s always a plus with me.  Although exiled years ago from the Faerie Kingdom (the “Otherworld”), Eilidh thus far has had very little interaction with humans, and that makes for some humorous culture gaffes.

    There’s enough Romance to attract female readers, but it doesn’t steal the show from the fantasy and murder-solving aspects, so male readers will keep reading too.  The ending completes the main storyline, while also setting up Eilidh and Quinton to continue having adventures throughout the rest of the series.  

    Physically, the Faeries reminded me of Legolas and the LOTR elves.  There are also a couple nods to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time.  Faeries can be "severed" from their magic (“stilled” in WoT).  Alternatively, they can “bind” with a Druid (“warders” in WoT).  But this doesn’t really detract from the India Drummond's world-building.

    Other than one character’s last name morphing from “Dewer” to “Dewar”, the editing is quite well done.

Kewlest New Word. . .
    Skive (v.) :  To avoid work or a duty by staying away or leaving early.  To shirk.  A Britishism.  Here, “Gordon eyed him suspiciously.  Maybe the young PC thought he was skiving.”
    “I do not cast the azure.  I told you that.”
    “Yet you say you could not sever yourself from it.”
    “I am what I am.  My crime was being born.”
    “Self-pity does not suit you.  You have grown thin of heart.”
    “And you are as self-congratulating as ever, Saor.  Go.  The Otherworld calls.  I have not grown so thin that I cannot hear it.”  (loc. 820)

    “I cannot teach you everything you need to know, but I can give you a small chance.  I wish you had come here decades ago.  Even a year or a month would have made an enormous difference.  I will try, but I cannot guarantee you will be prepared for what we are about to face, or that we two even stand a chance.  There is some good news though.”
    “I would like to hear some good news,” Eilidh said with a wry smile.  (loc. 2582)

Kindle Details...
    ANAICT, Blood Faerie is always a free download at Amazon.  At present, the other five books in the series range in price from $3.99 to $4.49, which seems quite reasonable.

”Can’t get much more personal than ripping someone’s heart out.”  (loc. 203)
    The writing in the first part of Blood Faerie is excellent, but beginning with a trip up to Skye, we start to get more telling and less showing, and the story’s tension starts to wilt.  This culminates in a somewhat flat ending, where several characters are summarily killed off with little drama.

    The storytelling could use some tightening up too.  The first victim is initially seen walking with a woman, but is all alone a short time later when subjected to the open-heart surgery.  Was the female companion  really needed?  Similarly, it is a bit too convenient for the murder to occur right beneath Eilidh, and for some exiled (and supposedly in hiding) faeries to be nearby, with just the training Eilidh needs.

    But these are minor and fixable.  Overall, this is a good introduction to the series, and a satisfying read for anyone who likes their Urban Fantasy with tinges of both Humor and Darkness in it.

    7½ Stars.  Add 1 star if you’re just fine with "convenient coincidences" if they keep the plotline moving at a crisp pace.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wings - Terry Pratchett

    1990; 224 pages.  New Author? : No.  Book #3 of the Bromeliad Trilogy.  Genre : Comedic Fantasy.  Overall Rating : 8½*/10.

    It’s time for the nomes to go home. In this case, "home" means their un-nomed spaceship, which has been circling earth for thousands of years waiting for them to contact/board it again.

   A human might see that as quite the challenge, but for the nomes the plan is simple.  Steal aboard a plane to Florida, then steal aboard a space shuttle and fly up to the spaceship.  Nomes are small and incredibly fast; humans won’t notice them.

    Ah, but then there’s Angalo.  If something can be driven or flown, he just has to try his nomish hand at piloting it.  And humans will notice a nome at the controls of a Concorde jet.

What’s To Like...
    The storyline in Wings runs concurrent with the previous book in the trilogy, Diggers.  For most authors, it would be more coherent (and presumably easier to write) to just jump back and forth between the two plotlines in a single book, but Terry Pratchett makes it work here.  Of course, I wish I had known that when I was reading Diggers and wondering what the heck Masklin was up to. 

    The Prologue gives a brief backstory for those who aren’t reading the books in order.  There are four footnotes in the Kindle version, which are easily accessed.  You never want to skip any Pratchett footnotes.

    Wings is a nice closing volume to the Bromeliad Trilogy.  Its tone is lighter than that in Diggers, and it is more story-driven than either of the other books.  The “Bromeliad frogs” get a lot more ink here, and there is even some interaction between the nomes and the humans.  All the plotline threads are tied up tidily by the end.

    The target audience is Juveniles to YA, and those readers will be enthralled.  There are only a few new characters to keep track of; the storyline is generally straightforward; and the plot twists are more like “plot wrinkles”.  Nevertheless, Pratchett has a gift of making his books entertaining for adult readers as well, and that is again true here.

    Since the timeline runs parallel to that of Diggers, there isn’t much mystery about how everything ends up.  A sequel story or trilogy could possibly be squeezed out of this, but Pratchett hasn’t done that so far, and frankly, The Bromeliad Trilogy doesn’t suffer without it.

    Nomes live ten times faster than humans.  They’re harder to see than a high-speed mouse.
    That’s one reason why most humans hardly ever see them.
    The other is that humans are very good at not seeing things they know aren’t there.  And since sensible humans know that there are no such things as people four inches high, a nome who doesn’t want to be seen probably won’t be seen.  (loc. 148)

    There was a polite beeping from the Thing.
    “You may be interested to know,” it said, “that we’ve broken the sound barrier.”
    Masklin turned wearily to the others.
    “All right, own up,” he said.  “Who broke it?”
    “Don’t look at me,” said Angalo.  “I didn’t touch anything.”    (loc. 328)

Kindle Details...
    Wings sells for $5.69 at Amazon, as does the second book in this trilogy, Diggers.  For some reason, Book #1, Truckers, is slightly higher, selling for $6.64.  I borrowed this book through my local digital library for free.

Flexible?  My mind’s got so flexible I could pull it out of my ears and tie it under my chin!”  (loc. 2008)
    For me, there were three main themes in The Bromeliad Trilogy, one Religious, one Scientific, and one Sociological.  They are :
1.) Faith vs. Reason
2.) Are we alone in the Universe?
3.) Nomes vs. Humans – Flight, Fight, or Communicate

    Terry Pratchett expertly steers a neutral course on the first theme, pointing out the assets and drawbacks of both sides of the issue.

    For the second theme, the tongue-in-cheek answer is “Of course not.  There are nomes here”.  But I suspect Pratchett is also intimating that the serious answer is “no” as well.

    Those themes are marvelously addressed, but Pratchett’s treatment of Theme #3 is perhaps the most intriguing.  If Book 1 (Truckers) highlights the Flight option; then Book 2 (Diggers) presents the Fight alternative.  The nomes eventually must choose between those two in Wings,  but via the Masklin's musings, Pratchett cunningly leaves the door open for considering Communication.

    Heady stuff to think about in a world where we see Arabs/Israelis, Irish Protestants/Catholics, and Ukranians/Russians all hellbent on killing each other, with no thought given to just talking things out.

    8½ Stars.  Highly recommended for readers of all ages.  The whole trilogy is a light, delightful read.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Murder on the Appian Way - Steven Saylor

   1996; 410 pages. New Author? : Yes.  Book #5 (in the order they were written) of the Roma Sub Rosa series.  Book #9 (in the order they take place chronologically) of the same series.  Genre : Historical Fiction; Murder-Mystery.  Overall Rating : 7*/10.

    Publius Clodius, champion of the common people (the Plebians) of Rome, is dead.  He was killed in broad daylight, out on the Appian Way.  Titus Annius Milo, champion of the upper crust (the Patricians) of Rome, fully admits he and his entourage killed Publius.  Case closed, right?

    Well, not really.  All sorts of rumors about what happened that fateful day have cropped up, and class warfare now embroils Rome.  There are riots in the streets, and the Forum has been burned to the ground.  To boot, Milo is a Roman citizen, and he is entitled to a trial.

    It would be prudent if someone would figure out exactly what happened on that fateful day.  But who should be sent?  How about “the Finder”, Gordianus, who’s handled a number of such fact-finding excursions before?

What’s To Like...
    I like Steven Saylor’s writing style.  Lots of showing, very little telling; with enough wit and humor blended in to keep things from being too somber.  There’s a certain “warmth” to the tone of the writing as well, due to the interaction between Gordianus and his family.

    There are a slew of characters to meet – both fictional and historical.  Some of these are “regulars” to the series; but if, like me, this is your first Steven Saylor book, you might want to take notes.  Gordianus makes a fine protagonist – smart, but not brilliant, and the kind of man with whom everyone feels comfortable opening up and talking about what happened.

    As a piece of historical fiction, A Murder on the Appian Way is superb.  Rome comes alive via Saylor’s pen, in both the “big picture” and the minutiae of everyday life.  There are a few, clunky info dumps (does Eco really need to explain to his father what a “fasces” is?), but I suppose they serve to help those who aren’t history buffs visualize what it was like to live in Roman times.  There’s also a map of the Appian Way in the front of the book, which I found to be very helpful as Gordianus wended his way on the fact-finding trip.

    However, as a Murder-Mystery, AMotAW was somewhat meh.  The pacing over the first hundred pages is slow as we watch the rabble go a-rioting.  And even when Gordianus gets moving on his investigation, things just plod along, interview after interview. 

    Some of the “breaks” in getting to the bottom of the case are arbitrary – a snippet of handwriting, for instance.  But if you take careful note of the “unexplained” factors that Gordianus notes along the way, you might be able to uncover the truth before he does.  There are also some “winks” at things like gay sex, masturbation, abortion, and incest; but these were all present in ancient Rome.

    “Not all diseases are grossly physical.  The Athenians are addicted to art; without it they become irritable and constipated.  Alexandrians live for commerce; they’d sell a virgin’s sigh if they could find a way to bottle it.  I hear the Parthians suffer from hippomania; whole clans go to war with each other to lay claim to a fine breeding stud.
    “Well, politics is the Roman disease.  Everyone in the city catches it sooner or later, even women nowadays.  No one ever recovers.”  (pg. 41)

    “Still, rumors spring up like weeds in a crack.  If a story has a hole in it, people will fill it up with anything that fits.” (. . .)
    “People haven’t yet made up their minds.  There’s still a chance for us to tell them our side of the story.  But we’ll have to do it quickly.  Gossip sets like mortar in people’s heads.  Once it’s hardened you have to chisel it out.  Best to pour your own gossip into their ears first.”  (pg. 68-69)

 “Stop quoting laws to us.  We carry swords.”  (pg.  140)
    The most impressive aspect of A Murder on the Appian Way is its historical precision.  Clodius and Milo are real, as are the circumstances concerning their fatal (for Clodius) encounter on the road.  Wiki them to see how painstakingly accurate Saylor was in penning this.

    Just as impressive are the historical consequences of this murder.  Rome as a Republic was on its last legs.  The riots destabilized it further, and paved the way for acceptance of an emperor.  And “Emperor” is just another word for “King”, a concept the Roman populace despised.

    In hindsight, I think I read A Murder on the Appian Way with the wrong expectations.  I was looking for a good Murder-Mystery (which I like), when I should’ve read it as Historical Fiction (which I also like).  Being constrained by the details of this pivotal event in Roman history, which are plentiful, thanks to Cicero, means that there is very little literary freedom to construct an entertaining mystery.

    7 Stars.  This was a slog for me.  Add a full 2 stars if you read it as Historical Fiction, in which case it is a stellar effort.  Two more books in the series reside on my TBR shelf.  I will read them with a different approach.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Bad Monkey - Carl Hiaasen

    2013; 315 pages.  New Author? : No.  Book #14 in Hiaasen’s crime novel series.  Genre : Florida Crime Noir; Humor.  Overall Rating : 8*/10.

    Poor Nick Stripling has lost an arm.  But he probably isn’t too concerned, since that’s all that’s left of him after the sharks had a feeding frenzy when he fell overboard.  But some people think it might have been murder most foul.

    Andrew Yancy wants to get to the bottom of this, but strictly for the brownie points.  Once upon a time, and not too long ago, he was a detective in the Miami Police Department.  But after two demotions, he currently finds himself in the groveling position of Health Inspector.  Or, as they call it in the business, Roach Patrol.

What’s To Like...
    Bad Monkey is the latest in Carl Hiaasen’s Florida Crime Noir series of books.  “Series” may be a misnomer, since Hiaasen conjures up a new hero in almost every book.  Most of them are amoral characters, and Andrew Yancy is no exception.  He has anger management issues, and his present career demise is totally deserved.

    The rest of the characters, including the bad monkey, are hilariously fascinating.  So are the various, seemingly unrelated plotlines, which Hiaasen once again manages to deftly pull together into a satisfying, albeit somewhat rushed, climactic ending. 

    Besides the captivating crime storyline, Hiaasen turns the spotlight on a number of scams that plague Florida, including ruinous land development in Florida, abundant Medicare fraud, and duping naïve tourists into thinking they actually caught a major trophy fish.  As usual, the story isn’t a whodunit.  Instead you tag along with Yancy as he tries to figure out a way a bring the baddies to justice.  But don’t get too comfortably numb; the baddies are resourceful, and there’s a major plot twist just when you least expect it.  Hiaasen knows how to tell a story.

    “Who else did Charlie tell about the arm?”
    “Nobody but me,” Madeline said emphatically.  “Soon as he sobered up he got semi-paranoid about it.  But the money, you know, that was different.  The night after he got paid he took me to Louie’s for dinner and bought a round for everyone at the bar, two hundred bucks.”  She dragged hard and then flicked the butt into a rain puddle.  “Nobody said he was Alvin Einstein.”
     Yancy thought it was fortunate that Phinney and Madeline hadn’t pooled their genes.  (loc. 1379)

    A bartender one-third his age pretended to be interested in him.  Claspers didn’t mind being strung along.  The bartender had stellar fake boobs and a quick sense of humor.  He considered telling her about his years as a big-time smuggler, but he doubted it would improve his chances of getting laid.  Once upon a time, sure, absolutely – but hers was a generation that grew up on homegrown or Humboldt and thought Panama Red was a merlot.    (loc. 2699)

Kindle Details...
    Being the newest addition to Hiaasen’s “adult” Kindle offerings, Amazon sells Bad Monkey for $8.99.  Most of his older books go for $5.99.  I borrowed my copy through my local library for free, although there are usually a half-dozen or so people with "holds" on Bad Monkey.

”She was an outlaw and a schizo, but I loved her anyway.”  (loc. 4583)
    Hiaasen’s books are formulaic.  I make this statement with statistical confidence since Bad Monkey was the fifth book I’ve read by him.  The elements of a Carl Hiaasen novel generally include the following :

    1. A psycho protagonist down on his luck.
    2. An equally messed-up girl (or several) to help him back on his feet.
    3. Inclement weather, usually a hurricane.
    4. An incongruous animal.  Or two.
    5. Gullible tourists.
    6. Greedy land developers.
    7. Equally psycho bad guys…
    8. …who eventually get their just desserts.

    It took me a couple books to get used to point #1, but I’ve made my peace with Hiaasen’s antiheroes.  I’m now kewl with his “two wrongs make for a page-turning storyline” literary style.  The elements may be repetitive, but the wit, characters, and plot details are always fresh.

    8 Stars.  There’s nothing deep or epic about Bad Monkey, but it’s a great “light read”.  Subtract 1 star if you prefer your protagonist to have the morals of a Boy Scout.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Caribbee - Thomas Hoover

    2010; 454 pages.  New Author? : Yes.  Genre : Historical Fiction.  Overall Rating : 8½*/10.

    Quick - in the 1630’s, where were the largest number of English settlers in the New World, Virginia or Massachusetts?  It’s a trick question; the answer is the various “Lesser Antilles” islands in the eastern Caribbean, most notably, Barbados.

    The first cash crop tried by the Barbadian settlers was tobacco, but it was soon evident that Virginia’s version was much better.  So the Barbadians turned to sugar cane instead. There is a lot of money to be made in the sugar business.

    But it comes at a cost.

What’s To Like...
    The historical setting is unusual, feels “real”, and is fascinating to read about.  Aye, these be swashbuckling times, matey, but pirates take a backseat here to independence, human rights, and even romance.  Some social issues, such as feminism and slavery (and even a brief wink at gay rights) are tackled.  Their resolution seemed to be a bit anachronistic, but it made for a better story.

    The main characters are well-developed, albeit somewhat stereotyped.  Indeed, it felt like the three components of the main love triangle were plucked straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean, but without the foibles and punchlines.  You can quickly figure out who will end up in whose bed, although I suppose this is true of any romance novel.  Surprisingly, my favorite character was one of the baddies, Benjamin Briggs, who starts out all black, but due to a dominant trait of self-serving ambition, turns “gray” at times.

    But it is as a piece of historical fiction that Caribbee shines.  This is the second book I’ve read this year where the Sugar Industry is shown to be both a boon and a curse.  It may create a reliable cash flow, but cultivating sugar cane is labor-intensive, and here on Barbados, it brought about a huge slavery problem.  Do you think Thomas Hoover is hyper-fictionalizing this?  Read Sarah Vowell’s excellent history, Unfamiliar Fishes, reviewed here, and see how sugar utterly destroyed the kingdom of Hawaii.

    Caribbee is sprinkled with bits and pieces of several languages – French, Spanish, Portuguese, and (what I presume to be genuine) Yoruba.  It works well here, and you don’t need to be fluent in any of these to understand what is going down.  There’s one recurring typo that should be noted.  Our hero’s ship is called the Defiance, and apparently somewhere late in the proofing, it was decided to put the name in italics.  A “global change” was done, but alas, Thomas Hoover also likes to use that word in the storytelling.  So you end up with a capitalized, italicized “Defiance” in the middle of sentences employing the word in its ordinary sense.  This can get annoyingly confusing real fast.

    Katherine studied her.  “Do you believe in all those African deities yourself?”
    “Who can say what’s really true, senhora?”  Her smooth skin glistened from the heat.  She brushed the hair from her eyes in a graceful motion, as though she were in a drawing room, while her voice retreated again into formality.  “The Yoruba even believe that many different things can be true at once.  Something no European can ever understand.”  (loc. 1278)

    “You do not own slaves, senhor.  Yet you do nothing about those on this island who do.”
    “What goes on here is not my affair.  Other men can do what they like.”
     “In Ife we say, ‘He who claps hands for the fool to dance is no better than the fool.’”  He glanced back at the arsenal stored in the dark room behind him.  “If you do nothing to right a wrong, then are you not an accomplice?”    (loc. 4372)

Kindle Details...
    At present, Caribbee is a free download at Amazon.  Indeed, all of Thomas Hoover’s Kindle books are free right now.  Wowza.  Get ‘em while they’re hot, and thank the author by leaving a review on Amazon of the ones that you read.

If we do not bear suffering that will fill a basket, we will not receive kindness that will fill a cup.  (loc. 1328)
    The pacing in Caribbee is uneven.  Most of the story (80% or so) takes place on and around Barbados, but frankly, none of the main plotlines get resolved there.  Instead, the scene shifts to Jamaica for the last 20% of the book, where everything finally gets tied up.  This made for an exciting ending, but it felt rushed.

    I suspect the problem lies not with the writing skills of Thomas Hoover, but with the historical facts themselves.  In truth, the independence movement on Barbados was a noble effort, but ultimately in vain.  So the author had no choice but to switch locales to Jamaica.

   I can’t help but think that this would have made one fantastic piece of Alternate History fiction.  What if the opportunities for freedom on Barbados had not been missed?  What if the British "enforcers" had been sent packing?  How would that have affected the next 200 years of slavery in the Western Hemisphere?  What would an independent Barbados have done to the British Empire in the New World?  And in turn, what impact would that have on French, Spanish, and Dutch colonialism?

    But I'm dreaming.  Let’s be clear; Caribbee is a superior Historical Fiction novel, and an enjoyable read.  The quibbles are minor, and are mostly due to historical realities, not to any failing on the author’s part.

    8½ Stars.  Highly recommended.  Subtract ½ star if you aren’t into heroes who buckle their swashes.