The Caledonian Gambit by Dan Moren

The Caledonian Gambit by Dan Moren

When I was pulling together my to-read list for Sci-Fi Summer, I ran across The Aleph Extraction, which sounded fun, but I decided to start with the first in the series instead, The Caledonian Gambit. Starting with the first in a series, or the zero-ith in the case- the numbering's odd, is rarely the wrong choice. The Caledonian Gambit is a fun spy novel that happens to take place in space. I enjoyed it, but the sci-fi trappings weren't really necessary to the story. It could have happened on earth now, with just minor transportation and weapon changes. And that's fine by me. Basically, we have two political entities at war, a special ops team, and a lost pilot that could save the galaxy. We also have the requisite superweapon that could change the tide of the war. And at the end we have two political entities at war, a special ops team and a pilot who will probably have to...
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From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming

From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming

I'm officially done with the James Bond books. I enjoy the movies, but the books are just too incredibly chauvinistic and sexist. Usually I can take books for when they were written, but when characters say things like, "All women want to be swept off their feet. In their dreams they long to be slung over a man's shoulder and taken into a cave and raped." or when one scene is literally naked gypsy women fighting to the death over a man. Rape was never okay, not then, not now. Our Bond girl, Tatiana, is gullible and too sweet and beautiful and Fleming actually has her ask Bond, "You won't let me get so fat that I am no use for making love? You will have to be careful, or I shall eat all day long and sleep. You will beat me if I eat too much?" I want to say at least the plot was good, but I'm not entirely...
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The Witch Who Came in from the Cold: Season One by Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone, Ian Tregillis, Cassandra Rose Clarke, and Michael Swanwick

The Witch Who Came in from the Cold was first published weekly on Serial Box, although I read the whole first season as a collection. That means no waiting, but I think I might subscribe for Season 2 next year and read an episode a week, since in theory that's the way it's designed to be read. This was a great mix of fantasy and espionage. Prague in the 1970s is in the midst of the Cold War, with spies from both sides keeping tabs on each other, trying to outwit each other, but there's another war going on too, a war between Ice and Fire, and your ally in one might be your enemy in the other. Secrets and more secrets, stakeouts and safe houses, clandestine meetings and backroom negotiations. This episode centered around a scientist who was defecting from Russia to the US, but he also has great value for the sorcerers. I like the world. It's based in reality and adds...
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All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer

I listened to the audio version of All the Old Knives, which I think may have been a mistake. The plot is interesting: former lovers, Celia a former spy, Henry still in the game, meet for dinner. Henry's goal is to put to rest once and for all a case from years ago that involved a plane hijacking, or at least that's what he tells us his goal is- he doesn't tell Celia that when she agrees to meet him. Of course, she has her own reasons for coming to the restaurant. The story takes place during this one meal, but we go back and forth in time to the hijacking. the book alternates between Henry and Celia's viewpoints, with a different narrator for each. Most of the time, switches in viewpoint and time period don't bother me, but I think the two narrators made this one tough. Celia's "voice" threw me out of the story every time. She just didn't sound like...
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A Colder War by Charles Cumming

Maybe it was a mistake to listen to this one so soon after The Cairo Affair since they are both spy thrillers, but I found A Colder War more annoying than anything. You have Kell, a train agent in his 40s who knows the game, knows the people, knows how it all works. You have Amelia, his boss, who has called him back to look into Wollinger's death and then do some searching for the mole. She's obviously intelligent, and also, we're told, his actual friend. So far, so good. Amelia's keeping info from Kell, but he's doing the same things. They can't trust the Americans, but have to pretend to cooperate with them. Standard spy stuff and it could have been a good thriller. Until The Girl enters the picture and Kell apparently loses his mind. He becomes obsessed, or "in love," and stops thinking clearly. And I just wanted to smack him.  It's obviously not going to be in his...
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The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer

It's been a while since I've read a good espionage book. I've read a couple of barely mediocre ones, but that's beside the point. My library had The Cairo Affair available on audio and the title rang a bell, so I borrowed. Turned out that was a really good choice. It's nice to start of the new year with a winner. The story is told through several viewpoints, but it was always clear whose eyes we were seeing situations through. It was interesting, although not surprising, how much the same event could vary from viewpoint to viewpoint. The characters were all real, there were not over the top superagents, no too good to be true loyalists, no overly intelligent office worker able to predict everything. They are all doing the best they can given their abilities, limited knowledge and resources. Okay, maybe "the best" is not quite true, because we do have people willing to kill, to betray their country and...
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