- 24. Dzur by Steven Brust
- Foodie Vlad is a foodie. Also, there's something in there about him interfering in Cawti's life again, allowing him to save her while being a douche. But the primary focus of the novel is clearly dinner at Valabar's.
- 25. Jhegaala by Steven Brust
- Ass-kicked Vlad is ass-kicked. Vlad gets beat up a lot in this book. It's like someone pointed out that Vlad seems to get away with risky stuff without consequence too often to be believable, and this book was the answer to said criticism. Even by the end, when things are resolved, it's not really cathartic.
- 26. Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
- Book one of the epic, ten book long "Malazan, Book of the Fallen" series. This grew out of a shared RPG setting that Erikson and his co-GM wrote years ago, first for D&D and then for GURPS. As often happens with GMs who love world building, they realised that players would never explore the setting satisfactorily, and became authors. I myself have a strong urge in this direction. So, there was a decent chance of me enjoying this book on those grounds. My coworker had been urging me to read it for some time, as he's a big fan of the series.
Unfortunately, I didn't really like it. It feels too much like an RPG setting in a lot of places - the place names and character names and randomly looted from real world sounding names. Kruppe (who I assume pronounces his name like a German) lives in Darujistan, where one of the major noble families has a French last name.
The other, more distracting issue I had with it is that it felt like being in a 90s comic book. Like being trapped in Wolverine's sideburns. *Everything* is grim, gritty, dark and dire. People only smile blackly, ironically or cruelly. I keep imagining the characters as drawn by Rob Liefeld, making that 90s Liefeld shouty-face. There are multiple obese wizards whose movement is surprisingly graceful for their bulk. I prefer my miserable fiction to at least have some humour and self-awareness in it. This is nearly as bleak as China Mieville, but without the awareness and genius that he puts into his books.
Also, the world has drow. And I hate drow.
On the plus side, the world is very racially diverse, and you can't pick out good or bad guys by the colour of their skin, or even their race. It even passes the Bechdel test, though it might be a technicality based on one of the conversants being possessed by a male diety at the time. Women in the setting are free to be damned by their terrible choices and ground into powder by the relentless misery that is existence.
Additionally, the setting is very detailed, and I'm told that even small details in the first book are still having impacts by the tenth. The series also really does actually end in the 10th book, though Erikson and the other guy who writes in the world have other books in the same world on the go. So, it avoids the Wheel Of Time problem and the Song of Fire and Ice problem - the series does have a solid end, and book ten is written if not yet published.
Which is to say, I can see why the books are popular, and why some people enjoy the, I just don't think that I will ever be one of those people.
- 27. Misframing Men by Michael Kimmel
- The basic theme of this collection of essays is that feminism is good for men, too, and that we should be allies for the feminist cause. Kimmel examines various social constructions of masculinity, and looks at how they're breaking down, how thier at odds with how a lot of men are living thier lives, and how they constrain and cripple us. This includes looking at the sense of entitlement that is a part of traditional masculinity, and the reactions that are drawn from that. This was a fascinating book, and I spent a lot of my time reading through it saying "Ooh, yeah, that, that exactly!" to myself. I can't really do justice to the content in a review this short, but I stronlgy recommend it to my feminist and feminist ally friends. northbard, lemme know if you want to borrow it; I'm giving you first dibs.
- 28. For The Win by Cory Doctorow (ebook)
- Doctorow did a really fantastic job here. The book is, essentially, a near future YA book about MMPORG enconomies and global labour. It avoids the "What These People Need Is a Honky" trope while having well-developed characters from multiple countries. Also, I really like that the global gamer union got called the IWWWW, aka the Webblies. Doctorow's growing as a writer in just the right ways for me - there's an ever-increasing realism to his optimism, and his charcter continue to be better and better developed. It'd make an interesting counterpoint against Stross' Halting State, in some ways, if anyone knows kids looking for books to do essays on.
- 29. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
- Neuromancer, grown up and moved to Thailand. I'm working my way through the Hugo nominees, starting here. TWG is set in a nearish future where peak oil has come and gone, global warming has raised the sea levels, and GMO food products and custom plagues have wiped out the world's food supply. The only food crops are those purchased annually from the big food corporations. Except in Thailand... Bacigalupi paints a believable and unsettling future, with the kind of accelerating future shock that reminds me of William Gibson. It's not a cheerful book, but it is wonderfully written.