- 9. Zero History by William Gibson
- Gibson continues to be amazing. Wrapping up the Bigend/Blue Ant
trilogy, Zero History focusses on the world of fashion in a very weird
way. In addition to some interesting points about men's fashion and
its relationship to the military, he covers camera drones, weird
darts, and Gurkha martial arts.
This trilogy really only gets filed as science fiction because it's
Gibson; none of the not-quite-real stuff in the books is all that
strange, and I'd have to check to confirm what is and is not
technically possible with today's tech.
The key part, though, is that Gibson is a brilliant writer. His prose
trigger synaesthetic visions of cold blue and grey and flat techno
like the Dust Brothers' Fight Club sound track. Which isn't really a
review useful to anyone but me, but there it is.
- 10. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
- An ancient, corrupt aristocracy that has several gods on leashes
as a result of an ancient divine war that left One True God ruling
Then a young girl, daughter of a princess, dark of skin and hair, gets
tossed in the middle of a battle for succession, and gets pulled into
the plans of the captive gods.
It's like Anne Bishop's Dark Jewels books, but with less rape and more
agency for the heroine. Which is really what made this book for me;
Yeine (the protag) really does drive the story by making choices.
- 11. Soulless by Gail Carriger
- At first, I was afraid that this book was going to be a period
romance with werewolves, vampires, and cogs glued on to things to make
it look steampunk. And there's a bit of that going on.
What saves this book, and made it intensely enjoyable, is the sense of
humour; it doesn't take itself seriously, and is, moreover,
hilarious. I had to keep stopping in the middle of a paragraph to
laugh, and then read the line out to whoever else was in the room.
- 12. Sex At Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern
Sexuality by Christopher Ryan, Cacilda Jetha
- Again, I have this problem with non-fiction where I worry that I
think it is brilliant and insightful in direct proportion to how much
it agrees with the ideas I had going into it.
That said, I though Sex At Dawn was brilliant and
insightful. It takes as its central idea questioning of monogamy as
the "default", "normal" or "natural" state for humans. The evidence
supporting the idea that humans are no more hard-wired to exclusive
pair-binding than bonobos or chimps is fairly compelling.
The authors devote a fair bit of time to (with some occasional snark)
examining the published works of other researchers' claims; much like
Cordelia Fine's Delusions of Gender, there's a lot of
researchers bending over backwards to try to force the data to support
their preconcieved ideas. In a number of cases, the researchers seem
to go as far as to say something like "but that would imply that
humans aren't monogamous, and we are, so it must be wrong".
The information on primate sexual biology and societies were new and
interesting to me (as a layperson), and the writing was clever and
entertaining. I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in sex or
- 13. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
- I confess that I had seen this book around, and parsed the title
as "The Lay Of Loch Lamora", and hence categorized it as some possibly
Outlander-ish Kilts-and-Claymores romance.
This is not that sort of book.
The Lies of Locke Lamora is a caper book of the first order;
the titular Locke Lamora is a thief and a con man, who operates in a
magic-fueled Not!Venice. If you like White Collar and Leverage, odds
are you'll like this.
- 14. The Broken Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
- The follow-up to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Also good,
also concerned with a mortal-god romance, but with a different god and
a different mortal. mycrazyhair points out that she found
the ending of this a lot more bleak than I did.
- 15. Pattern Scars by Caitlin Sweet
- This book reminds me of Ian Tregillis' Bitter Seeds. Both
books are concerned with knowledge of the future, and both books are
unflinchingly tragedies. In the classic Shakespearean "then everyone
is miserable or dead, the end" mode.
My brain kept wanting to read Pattern Scars as a standard
heroic epic fantasy; it has the markers, a young girl with magic
powers (ability to see the future, in this case), a sneering villain,
warring kingdoms. But Sweet doesn't follow the heroic model.
The protagonist, Nola, starts out dirt poor and miserable, until her
powers manifest, and she's taken to a better place and finds people
who care for her. Then all of that is taken from her, and we get to
watch her being abused for eight years. I kept waiting for her to find
a way to use her power to fight back and free herself, defeat the
villain and get a happy ending. This does not occur. There is even a
moment where, reading, I saw an opening for her to use her power
against her abuser, hoping for a "and then she realised that hers was
the greater power!" moment. A few pages later, Nola berates herself,
having missed her chance, not having seen the opening until it was too
late. She never really gets a chance to fight back. She never really
has any choice or ability to affect the outcome of events.
Pattern Scars is certainly a well-written book, and one that is
aware of the tropes of the genre while playing with them. It is also a
bleak tragedy that never extends hope without then crushing it.
- 16. Tiassa by Steven Brust
- Vlad! Now with alternate POVs, including the ever-lovable Paarfi
of Roundwood. I even liked the Cawti section.
- 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.
- 18.Issola by Steven Brust
- Cosmic Vlad is cosmic. Also, *sniff*. Chronologically, this is as far as I got when I initially read the Vlad books.
- 19.More Eric Meyer On CSS by Eric Meyer
- Eric Meyer's a pretty good writer, and I am interested in CSS. However, my last big drive to learn a pile of CSS a few years ago covered most of the new techniques Meyer presents, so I mostly got some incremental improvements to my skill set. Also, it reminded me why I stopped getting excited about CSS and web design - to make pretty designs you really need to be either a good artist, a good photographer, or have access to a really nice stock photo library. Next time I'm doing web design I'll probably be glad for all the IE bug workarounds from this, though.
- 20.Athyra by Steven Brust
- Paternal Vlad is... not so paternal actually. Hi Dee Hi Dee Ho la. Step on out.
- 21.Orca by Steven Brust
- Financial Vlad is financial. Surprise endings! (not that surprising if you were paying attention)
- 22.Dragon by Steven Brust
- Military Vlad is military. Some day I think I might work up something about the never-ending fantasy series and the apparent need for one installment wherein the hero enlists. Vlad does it, Tavi of Calderon does it, and I'm sure comparisons can be pulled out for Miles Vorkosigan and Harry Dresden, too. Tangentially, there's also a common theme of premise threat and having it followed through late in the series, but that's a different post that requires spoiler warnings and footnotes. Some times I just need to remind myself that I always hated writing essays in school.
- 23.Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors by Jennifer K. Stuller
- My Fandom Has a Publisher! This is a great book. Stuller writes from what seems to me to be a distinctly fannish meets academia POV. The book examines female heroes in comics, movies and TV. It covers how they're portrayed in contrast with male heroes, where they succeed and fail from a feminist perspective, and how the archetype of the female hero is forming. I especially like the parts about how the female hero's journey (in constrast to the Conradian hero's journey) is shaping up in popular culture. This is, in a lot of ways, the book I had been hoping for with Mike Madrid's book on femlae superheroes in the last booklog post. Stuller's language use is interesting - she uses feminist/academic terms fairly casually, but also uses what I think of as fan language - "The Scoobies", "Uber-whatever", etc. All in all, I am quite happy that I picked this up. It's given me a lot to think about, especially for gaming and writing female heroes.
So, my next Vlad books will be ones I actually haven't read before. Next up, Dzur, followed by Jhegaala. Then I have to wait for paperbacks. I should probably head to chapters and put in my next order...
- 8. Chill by Elizabeth Bear
- Probably my favourite Bear setting. Nanotech! A decadent aristocracy fighting back form the brink of annihilation! In spaaaaace! I had forgotten how much influence this had on the Nano-Victorian Future setting. I want a basilisk.
- 9. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
- Steampunk! Zombies! Airships! Believable characters! Boneshaker's up for a Hugo, and it deserves to be.
- 10. The Physics of Superheroes by James Kakalios
- *This* is the book on science and superheroes I wanted. Kakalios clearly loves comics in a way that Gresh and Weinberg (of "Science Of Superheroes") do not. His basic approach is to grant each superhero a single "miracle exception" - say, the Flash's ability to run really fast - and see how much of the portrayal of the character otherwise obeys the laws of physics. I have a better understanding of relativity and quantum mechanics after having read this book. AND it's an enjoyable read! I highly recommend this book to foolks with an interest in any of a) phsyics, b) superheroes, or c) education - the book comes from open lectures Kakalios gave at the university he teaches at.
- 11. Jhereg by Steven Brust
- (reread) After the latest Vlad Taltos book came out, I realised that, since I'd read a number of them from the library and hadn't been logging them at the time, I had no idea which ones I had and had not read. So I'm starting over and re-reading all of the Draegara novels. I think, in total, there are something like 20 of them. Reviews will probably be brief and as spoiler-free as can be. For Jhereg; meet Vlad. Charming Vlad is charming.
- 12. Yendi by Steven Brust
- Clever Vlad is clever.
- 13. Teckla by Steven Brust
- Conflicted Vlad is conflicted!
- 14. Someone Comes To Town, Someone Leaves Town by Cory Doctorow
- Definitely the weirdest Cory book I've ever read. I found the politics felt a bit pasted on to what was an otherwise interesting novel. Not that there was anything deeply wrong with the poltical unwiring and dumpster diving parts, they just didn't really fit in with the rest of the stuff.
- 15. The Supergirls by Mike Madrid
- One of those non-fiction books with a really long subtitle that I am not typing out. Madrid attempts to cover the history of women in superhero comics with a feminist viewpoint. He certainly covers the range of women in comics, and clearly knows his underwear perverts, but I think the feminist angle could use more work, and the book as a whole could use a more vigorous editorial staff. To be fair, it is put out by a small press with a bit of an agenda, so I'm inclined to forgive a certain lack of polish. I found Madrid's language was quite casual - at times, I think, a little too casual for a feminist reader. I cautiously suggest that the book could use a little more jargon. There were places where the male gaze was sort of talked around, for example. I'm also a bit annoyed that Madrid used the old saw about a woman's sexuality being a sort of power over men without pausing to deconstruct it.
I'd say The Supergirls is a book about comics with some feminism in it, instead of a feminist book about comics. It's not awful, and I'm glad I read it, but I think it needed to be about twice as long with more editing to really give the subject matter a solid exploration.
- 16. Taltos by Steven Brust
- Novice Vlad is a novice!
- 17. Phoenix by Steven Brust
- Frustrated Vlad is frustrated.
Now I just need to get the next Vlad books back from mycrazyhair, and wait for my Chapters order with the five after that to show up.
- 15. My Own Kind of Freedom by Steven Brust (ebook)
- Brust wrote a Firefly novel with someone I know written into it. Sadly, it was not amazing - once the novelty wore off, it just didn't work for me.
- 16. Captain's Fury by Jim Butcher
- Book four in the series. I know I read this some time in the past year, but couldn't find it in the booklog. The romance threads are getting too pat for my liking. Still going to read book five now that it's in paperback. Logged here so I have some record of it.
- 17. Set This House in Order by Matt Ruff
- A book about a character with dissociative identity disorder (aka multiple personalities). The premise is interesting, and the initial setup of the protagonist is interesting. Ruff gives the reader enough to set things up before moving on with the story. I thought I knew where it was going, and was only slightly right, which pleases me.
I am now out of free ebooks. Anyone have suggestions for new ones to grab? Ideally, I'm looking for ones where the author wants them distributed for free. I've gone through Cory Doctorow and Peter Watts already.
I'm also going to be through my stack of to-read non-fiction after my next book, so suggestoins there wouldn't be a bad idea either.