Waargh, let this go too long without posting it again.
- 26. The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross
- More Laundry! Not nearly so bleak and depressing as the previous installment. I enjoyed it, but found the ending a tad abrupt. I was expecting more epilogue than there was. I am starting to get more of a feeling that there's a larger story with an actual ending going on behind the books here. So, I think it's possible that we may eventually get a book title CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN that ends the series.
- 27. John Dies At The End by David Wong
- This is not the right book to read while camping. There is a lot of bug-related body horror going on. That said, it was a nice, solid creepy horror novel that play with Lovecraft's toys in a manner quite different than Stross.
- 28. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
- This was a decent book, and I get why it's gotten so much attention. It was, very obviously, written to be turned into a movie.
Not that there's anything wrong with the story, but it's got all the biases of a Hollywood movie. A straight white teen-aged male who's smarter than everyone else overcomes adversity by being smart and brave, with the help of his friends who aren't white, straight or male enough to be heroes. The significant female character is the love interest, who has a relatively minor flaw that the protag can overlook, showing how deep and pure his love is when he gets the girl as part of his reward. Which makes it sound like I didn't like it. I have just come to expect a bit more of my literature in terms of trope awareness. I'm sure the movie will do well. Michael Bay could direct!
The other aspect of the book that's interesting is the 80s nerd culture fixation. Again, it's pretty specifically the nerd culture of the straight white kid who grew up middle classed in the 80s. It's extremely detailed, and makes it pretty clear that the book is not only fantasy for a certain kind of dudenerd, but a dudenerd of a certain age. I'm pretty close to the target demographic myself. It's this element that has gotten the book so much attention, I think. It aims itself directly at the classic SF audience. I assume the details will be sanded off for the movie version to make it more accessible to today's teens.
- 29. Colder War by Ian Tregillis
- I confess, when I read book one of the Milkweed Triptych, I didn't realise that it was part of a trilogy. Which made the state of the end of book one rather bleak and miserable. Book two is, well, overall pretty bleak and miserable, but there are shards of hope glimmering here and there. Set 20 years after book one, Colder War does marvelous things with the terrible remains of book one. There's not too much I can say without spoiling one of the two books, but I was very happy with the way the character development was handled. I want book 3 now.
- 30. Distrust That Particular Flavour by William Gibson
- A collection of William Gibson's non-fiction essays spanning the length of his career. It's interesting seeing the various ways he, as an author who hasn't done all that much non-fiction, has influenced the memetic atmosphere. It's more interesting when he analyzes that impact and mentions that he didn't really know what he was talking about at the time.
Which is of course, the other reason to read the book - Gibson is a fantastic writer, whose style makes everything interesting, even when it wouldn't otherwise be.
- 31. vN by Madeleine Ashby
- Living, self-reproducing robots created as helpmeets for those left behind after the Rapture (which didn't occur).
These are the vN (von Neumann machines), a human created rival sapient species on Earth. Ashby does a fantastic job extrapolating from her premise, and builds out from Asimov's three laws, Blade Runner's Replicants and the various androids of SF's past.
There's a lot of pondering on the nature of Free Will, Humanity, etc. Also, killer androids on the loose! I loved the heck out of this book, and really hope there's more forthcoming.
- 32. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
- The elevator pitch: standard D&D party fantasy novel, but! it's all set in a fantasy version of the Baghdad of 1001 Arabian Knights. Smart, rich fantasy that doesn't need a white dude to hang the reader's viewpoint off of.
Ahmed passed my most important test for good characterization - those moments where I say to myself, "Oh, Doctor Adoulla!" because the character has done something endearing or touching that is so very consistent with the traits that character has shown so far.
mycrazyhair, you can read this one; the characters suffer, but none are actually broken.
- 33. Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear
- And, without planning it, here's another non-white, non-Eurocentric fantasy where I can almost hear the dice rolling in the background.
The setting really knocked me for a loop at first - the trick with the skies took some time to wrap my head around. And I still have questions about how the moons work.
Because this is Bear, though, it wasn't overly distracting, because Bear's strength is her amazing characters and their living dialogue. I fell for Timur (our !Mongol warrior prince) and Samarkand (Our !Tibetan(I think) wizard and former princess), and Dumpling the horse, and the refreshingly titless tiger woman Hrahima. As always with Bear, the characters felt like real people, and people I'd like were I to meet them.
Plot-wise, there's some standard questiness and a sinister evil in the form of someone whose the head of a cult that borrows a lot from the story of Hassan-i Sabbah and Alamut. There's some interesting plot nuggets of various amounts of obviousness placed throughout - enough for me to enjoy playing my game of trying to figure out if X is foreshadowing what I think it's foreshadowing.
I'm looking forward to the next book.
- 34. The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturlusson (translated by Jean I. Young)
- I had never actually read this before. The translation I was reading was from the 50s, and the translator made some weird choices - in some places the beverage of the gods is translated to mead, in others, wine. The Jotnar are referred to as "frost ogres" instead of "frost giants". There are a lot of lists of names of things and places, and the translator frequently uses footnotes to explain the literal translation of about half of them, with no explanation of why those are translated and others aren't. So, not the best translation.
As far as the content goes, I was somewhat surprised by the amount of work Sturluson had to do to place the Norse myths into a contemporary (for him) context - I'd never run into the bit about placing the Aesir as wayward Trojans from an era when, after the Flood, man had somehow forgotten the Christian God (except for a desert tribe in the Middle East, naturally). The amount of mental gymnastics going on is impressive, but given that he was writing only a couple hundred years after Iceland converted to Christianity, he had to walk on fairly thin ice to get away with writing it at all.
The stories themselves I had already read elsewhere, in more coherent and internally consistent adaptations, and I'm left with an urge to do more research - it seems to me that we've got at least a little more references for Norse myth than I ran into here.
Which is not to say I didn't enjoy it, or get anything out of it.
- 35. Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher
- I went into this book braced for the sort of clever, winking, self-aware sort of superhero deconstruction of Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible or Minister Faust's From The Notebooks of Dr. Brain. What I actually found was a fairly decent first novel that took a straight shot at the superhero genre. No smirking deconstruction required.
The basic setup is that Tony (whose name was derived from the Pixies song), finds himself with superpowers one day, in a fictional not-LA where the last superhero team battle frequently and inconclusively with the last supervillain. There's a couple deleted scenes at the end that I think really shouldn't have been deleted - certain bits of skulduggery fall through the cracks without one of them, and an important character change doesn't make any sense without another.
On the whole, I think the character development is on the weak side - I didn't see enough to understand why people were doing things, so a lot of character action seemed random. Things seemed pretty clearly set up for sequels, and I did enjoy it enough to read the next book at least.
- 36. The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
- A British secret society tasked with recruiting super-powered people, and using them to combat supernatural threats to the nation! Our protagonist, one Mwfanwy Thomas, comes to covered in bruises, surrounded by dead people in latex gloves, with no memory of who she is or how she got there.
So, superpowers, White-Wolfian secret societies, and Identity Horror?
O'Malley did not disappoint me. This book was fantastic and wonderful, and hit so many of my literary kinks that I am still sad that it ended. On his blog, O'Malley states his intention to write more books, some in this world, some not.
Which saddens me only in the implication that there aren't more waiting in the publication queue already.