Angelic Eye for the Gendered-Species Individual

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11:18: books read, April 2012

Jasper Fforde, First Among Sequels; The return of Thursday Next, book-travelling detective. Fforde continues to layer more things into his conceit, including in this one two different fictional versions of his heroine; unfortunately the plot largely consists of running around from point A to point B to have stuff waved at the protagonist up until the last little bit of book. It's as if Fforde wants to be Andrew Hussie but does not have the organisational skills. Not recommended.

Naomi Novik, Victory of Eagles, Tongues of Serpents; Reread of volumes 5 and 6 of Temeraire, the first resolving the desperate plight the titular dragon and his captain were in at the end of book 4 by having Napoleon invade Britain and devoting a book to fighting him off, while the second transports them to Australia and is mostly concerned with a journey across that continent, exploring yet another variation on human co-existence with dragon-like beings. The last third or so of it finally starts to bring how these various cultures interact with each other into focus, though too little too late for any hope of plausibility. Not recommended.

Jeff Lindsey, Dexter is Delicious; The fifth volume of this series is a refreshing turn for the better, save for the author seeming to have grown tired of one of his significant secondary characters and characterising her almost entirely negatively throughout. In this one, Dexter and company have to cope with cannibals, who are as nasty as they sound, and we finally get some closure on one of the major plot threads thrown out earlier in the series. Recommended.

John Barnes, A Princess of the Aerie, In the Halls of the Martian King; Sequels to The Duke of Uranium, which do a lot to destroy its appeal, in revealing one of the central characters to be not at all as they seemed, and full of betrayal, cynicism, and gratuitous depravity. Not recommended.

Roger Zelazny, This Mortal Mountain; Third volume of the NESFA collected shorter works, including Damnation Alley and the Steel General section of Creatures of Light and Darkness. The collected stories continue to be colourful, wide-ranging, and display a unique mastery of prose. Very highly recommended.

Iain M. Banks, Against a Dark Background; Reread, first time in a while. This (apparently) non-Culture novel is set in the Golter system, a solar system with millennia of layered history and space travel lost in the deeps between galaxies, unreachably far from anywhere else in the universe, in which a group of typical Banks characters partake in a Quest, which takes them from one brilliantly imagined bizarre setting to another; it is however more after the fashion of early Moorcock than anything else, and the title is fair warning for tone as well as physical setting. Highly recommended.

Sarah Monette, The Bone Key; Collection of stories featuring Kyle Murchison Booth, an extremely shy museum archivist in early-20th century Boston who is, to his lasting discomfort, something of a magnet for ghosts and other uncanny phenomena. These are delicately pretty stories, elegant and psychologically subtle. Highly recommended.

Karl Schroeder, The Sunless Countries, Ashes of Candesce; Reread of the fourth, and first reading of the fifth, of Schroeder's Virga series. The Sunless Countries introduces Leal Maspeth, an academic in a sunless nation undergoing unpleasant political change, who encounters sunlighter Hayden Griffin and ultimately finds herself exploring outside the great sphere of Virga. Ashes of Candesce gathers the central characters of all the previous volumes together for a climactic and generally satisfying resolution. Highly recommended.

Jasper Fforde, The Fourth Bear; On the other hand, in this series Fforde is totally in control of his material and far better for it; DCI Jack Spratt investigating porridge-dealing bears sounds as silly as anything in Thursday Next, but something about the levels at which things are taken seriously, and also not overloading the setting, makes the second Nursery Crimes book quite a successful oddball noir. Recommended.

Yves Meynard, Chrysanthe; Unusual, elegant, beautifully written fantasy, in which teenager Christine is freed from amnesiac imprisonment on Earth and brought to the real world, Chrysanthe, in which she is a princess caught up in magical wars and scheming. An extremely impressive book, unlike almost anything written today, with some immensely powerful and innovative elements, but a couple of oddities that are not entirely to its favour; the opening sections, in which Christine is bullied/manipulated into accepting false memories of horrendous abuse, are really unpleasant, and there is an odd shift of balance towards the end of the book such that characters who have been central are very much sidelined and characters who have been secondary get most of the focus. With those caveats, highly recommended.

Ted Chiang, Stories of Your Life And Others; Collection of mostly novella-length work of one of SF's smartest and best writers; the underlying ideas are sufficiently new and impressive to make it next to impossible to say anything at all about individual stories that would not be severe spoilers. Very highly recommended.


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Date:February 3 2013 18:07 (UTC)
I've given up on the Temeraire series, somewhere around the middle of book 4... I realised I just didn't care anymore.
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