curgoth: (Default)
( Oct. 11th, 2012 09:26 pm)
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.

[ profile] 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.
curgoth: (Default)
( Apr. 23rd, 2012 02:13 pm)

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
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. [ profile] 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.

curgoth: (Default)
( Sep. 17th, 2008 03:47 pm)

17.Spook Country by William Gibson

Actually a good followup to Halting State. If the last Gibson you read was one of the cyberpunk novels, consider picking this one up to give him another try. I found myself repeatedly impressed with his writing, and he's come along way to addressing some of the most common criticisms of his earlier writing. I really enjoyed the book. It follows three characters - a junky linguist, a cuban-american criminal, and an ex-rock star journalist, set in the general "now" time period.

18.Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach

Roach has a really good sense of humour. Both informative and funny. It's also fairly depressing how much we don't know, in large part because we're too squeamish to fund proper research unless there's a potential viagra on the other side.

bonus.Doktor Sleepless by Warren Ellis (comics)

There are some of you for whom this is mandatory reading. One part Batman, 5 parts Crooked Little Vein, and 10 parts of Future Science Jesus/Tesla Boy Ganster. [ profile] sabotabby, [ profile] northbard and [ profile] uniquecrash5 *must* read this. Steal a baby and sell it on ebay if you have to. In the near future, a mad scientist shows up and starts stirring things up. Both unsettling and optimistic in that bizarrely Warrne Ellis way.



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