Book Reviews: Joe Ledger: Unstoppable, An Anthology

First, I should say, I have had the very great pleasure of meeting and talking with a few of the authors in this anthology in real live person.  Some of them are very dear friends.   I have also been reading the Joe Ledger series since the first book came out (and there’s a story behind how I got introduced to the series that will be its own post later on) and the idea of an anthology in the canon with the characters I love so much made me ecstatic.

Unstoppable cover (taken from Indiebound.org)

Now, if you have no idea who Joe Ledger is and you like weird thrillers with extremely plausible science (the type of ”no wait, that’s a real thing that is plausible and could happen…oh crap”)  then hie thee to a library or to your favorite bookseller.   They start off with a bang and just get better and better from there.   I’ve heard them  described as “comic books in novel form” and there’s some truth to that.   Jonathan Maberry is amazing at what he does and how he structures his books and it’s the best kind of thing to pick up one of these books and go for a ride down a fantastic, all too plausible rabbit hole.  He’s written an introduction to Joe and his world in the beginning of the anthology in case you want to pick up the anthology first for a taste of what the Ledger books are all about.

The anthology itself spans over the entire timeline of the canon novels and even includes a couple of crossovers with other book series, a thing that has added a few new books to the list of to be acquired.     These stories made me laugh, cheer, and in a couple places, cry (Three Times, by Jennifer Campbell-Hicks). All of the short stories in this anthology are amazing, but I wanted to focus on two of the stories that stayed with me the most.   The first being Mira Grant’s  Red Dirt, which is a short that takes place after the events of the second book in the series, The Dragon Factory, and if you know Mira’s writing…it’s flawless in how the prose grabs you and sucks you into the story she’s weaving.  You don’t read this short, you experience it.   Her sense of place is magnificent.   You can feel the despair and the heartache and the way that red dirt sticks to everything it touches.   It’s gloriously executed and a perfect coda to the second book.  It also made me sniffle for the remembering of certain events.

The second is actually my favorite out of all of them and it’s written by Keith DeCandidoGanbatte, features a member of Joe’s team, Lydia Ruiz who is one of the first members of an all-female SEAL fire team.   She is easily one of the most badass characters in the series and this story gives us a snippet into how she got to be a member of Echo Team.   Lydia is a hell of a martial artist and Keith’s own expertise in that field shows in this story.    It also touches on a sensitive topic around one of the people in Lydia’s life and while the situation is an all too real one, the outcome was one that I appreciated the hell out of as much as I simultaneously wished that situations like that would really end that way in actual life.    Just like with Mira’s story, you don’t read this one so much as you experience it.   You feel the wind in your hair, that smell you only get when driving on the overseas highway.  It’s easy to get into Lydia’s head, to see what she sees.   Ganbatte deepens your understanding of Lydia Ruiz as a character and a person.

So all in all, this anthology was exactly I wanted and hoped for.  Some of my favorite authors writing in one of my favorite series.   Definitely a book worth picking up if you haven’t already.  Get it here from your favorite indie bookstore!

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Book Review: Invisible 3: Essays and Poems about Representation in SF/F

So as a quick disclaimer, I was always going to buy this book.  I was always going to make it part of the library of both digital and dead-tree format books that I have.   I personally know one of the people featured in it and Jim Hines as an editor was a huge selling point.    I have met him in person and while they say never meet your heroes, I was not disappointed in the slightest by meeting him.   He also gives super awesome hugs.   I had also heard great things about  Mary Anne Mohanraj who co-edited it with Jim.

I was always going to buy this book.   I knew I would read it and I had a feeling I would love it.  I knew from the premise that it would probably emotionally compromise me and I was not wrong there.  My tears are good tears, because this collection, while it points out where SF/F has failed or where we can do better as a genre with regards to representation for POC  and people with disabilities and alternative sexualities, it’s ultimately hopeful.

Cover of Invisible 3 ( taken from the Amazon page)

It starts conversations that we need to have.   Points out viewpoints that maybe we hadn’t stopped to consider before.   The essays and poems presented here are some of the finest writing I have seen and what each piece contributes is priceless.  The knowledge, the wisdom, the heart behind each piece is invaluable.

I can’t pick a favorite piece.  I’ve re-read this book twice now and I love all of them.   I will be purchasing it in every single format that it is released in because I want to support the people in it, because I want to support what they are after in producing such a work, and because I lend books freely to people and I need to have it accessible in whatever formats someone might need it in.  It is a wonderful collection that is both brilliant and necessary.

So if you have means, pick this up.  You won’t be disappointed at all.   And if you don’t have the ability to grab it or the library doesn’t have  it yet,  drop me a line and I am happy to lend it to you or send it to you.

Here is the link to the Kindle format on Amazon:  Invisible 3    The editors, Jim Hines and Mary Anne Mohanraj are both on Twitter and elseplaces at @jimchines and @mamohanraj

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