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Not For Use In Navigation (Thirteen Stories) - Iona Datt Sharma - Read this just after the collection Fen, and like Fen I essentially read this in a day. I loved both collections a lot and very much recommend. Though, this is a very different collection from Fen. More genre, in terms of science fiction and magic systems. There is a colony planet that has to accept that a sewerage system is necessary, a tarot reader who meets death, a series of space emperor stories based on tales of Indian emperor, which are particularly full of wit and warmth, and the salt magic stories, which are particularly set post war, people returning to normal lives, and the wonder of magic at same time. Sharma was talking on twitter the other day about the importance of place in writing, to a degree shorts, but also particularly for folk not doing the base standard Western POV. I understand Sharma is of Indian heritage and either lives in UK or has done, as most of the stories touch of those two bases. Their comments were about assumptions made by the reader, and having to work to get round those assumptions. This was an uplifting and engaging collection, I enjoyed a lot.

Penhallow Amidst Passing Things - Iona Datt Sharma - So much so that I bought the other material they have available - which unfortunately included the Penhallow story, which I found rang a bell after I bought it as I also spontaneously picked up a half read anthology to find that was the exact next story in the anthology. Oh well. It was a good story, smugglers and inspectors on the coast of England against a background of dying magic. Enemies having to work together, betrayals and plots. 30 odd page ebook, but like the collection, I thoroughly enjoyed.

Sooner or Later Everything Falls into The Sea - Sarah Pinsker - Like Navigation, this is another collection I had read 2 stories in, and was keen to read more. I'd read the title story, where a woman collects things that wash ashore, and one day finds a rockstar. And "And Then There Were (N-One)", which has a conference for Sarah Pinskers from a range of different worlds, and our narrator an insurance inspector becomes involved in solving the murder of Sarah Pinsker (a story which is online and very very much recommended). I'd been reading this slowly, having read her debut novel at the start of the year, particularly the story here which inspired the novel being my starting point. But July being a big month for me reading shorts, I read the bulk of it then. There are time travel stories, multiple worlds, many of the stories being quiet, understated, so they maybe don't shout for attention the same way Fen and Navigation did. But I very much enjoyed that quietness, there is a reflection, a nostalgia, but not in a bad way. A good story collection, from Small Beer, so not sure how widely available. Though, I note her novel now has a UK publisher, and that is very much a post-quarantine-how-does-music-survive novel that many of you will absolutely enjoy.

Black Helicopters - Caitlin R. Kiernan - Now being considered the 2nd of "the tinfoil dossier" novellas from Tor, a third having just been announced. I have to admit friend's review of this put me off, he didn't seem too impressed. And I had mixed feelings on Agents of Dreamland, which had worn away a little to more reflecting on the parts that I enjoyed. This is set in the same world, but from what I can remember of Dreamland, the elements from that are only barely touched on here. Again there are agencies dealing with the occult: The Egyptian is in Dublin, an agent of Y, engaging with agents of X, who have information on potentially dangerous twins, also agents of X. The action jumps around, following the search for the twins and the progress of the twins - an island off of Maine has had an event, demonic things coming out of the sea, one twin is there trying to forward her agenda. Then we are in the future, a wrecked world, men on a ship trying to piece together the past, and the remaining traces of the Woman in White. And there are dream sections that trip out. So the whole is odd, and with mixed results. Definitely some interesting material, not sure it entirely coheres enough to be fully successful.

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Ormeshadow - Priya Sharma - A tor novella. The story starts with Gideon, a pre-teen, leaving Bath by carriage to go back to his father's farm. A man of books it is revealed there has been some suggestion of a scandal, though, this is vague. The farm is half owned by Gideon's father and his uncle, and he needs to learn to make a living in a hard country life after the big city. For the most part the action is mundane, odd suggestions of tension, scandal, conflict. Though it feels a little back burner to make any of that stand out. Orme is apparently the old English for "dragon", and Gideon delights in his father's stories about the tired dragon that fell asleep here, and how over time land covered its form. The dragon reference feels like the only thing that makes it genre, not that it needs to be genre, but published by Tor, with Sharma's track record, and with those dragon references it feels like it should be. I risk getting into spoilers, but by the time anything happens it feels a bit "about time!". And even then it feels to me like an anti-climax. It is fine, well enough written, but it just didn't do a lot for me.

Hearts, Hands and Voices - Ian McDonald - I've read a lot of McDonald's work over the years and every time I do I am reminded of how good he is. This novel is from 1992, and though I haven't had it sat that long, I have had it sat for a long time. But again, with current events, I am periodically dipping into my archives. In some ways, it feels like people aren't writing science fiction like this - so that I would almost associate this more with a certain type of weird than science fiction. Though, with bio-mechanics and spirit driven spaceships, it is chock full of science fiction. The story is set in an essentially occupied country, ruled by The Emperor Across The River, a centuries old ruler. Mathembe and her family live in a village and from an early age she has taken the decision not to speak. Which isn't the same decision as her grandfather who refuses to talk New Speech, an empire language forced on them to replace Old Speech. Mathembe's family are Confessors, a religion of angels and saints and ancestors, her grandfather is dead - preserved as a talking head in a tree of heads. They get on well enough with their Proclaimer neighebours, a religion of one god, of holy days, and direct path to heaven upon death. However, tensions remain, and when someone in the village takes the decision to protect "terrorists" the whole village is punished - the culprits executed by tree, and the village burned to the ground. This sets Mathembe on the path of being a refugee, along the path her family is split, she lives in a city, then on a boat travelling through refugee camps. For much of it the cantankerous loud mouthed disembodied head of her grandfather is her only companion. This was a great book, I enjoyed it a lot - the language is really something, and there is so much texture and depth to the writing. On other hand, it is bleak, the trials of Mathembe are harrowing, and it is hard to feel at times that a happy ending could be possible. The writing feels consistent with other early works by McDonald, like his Mars novels or Necroville.

A Memory Called Empire - Arkady Martine - I've had this sitting for a little while, but with it's Hugo success I decided to bump it up reading list. The Teixcalaanli Empire is vast and sprawling, the warlike empire taking every excuse to expand out through the network of wormholes and take over new planets. Mahit Dzmare is the new Ambassador from a series of Space Stations and associated mining planets, who so far have managed to remain on the edges of the Empire, independent but cooperative. Unfortunately Mahit arrives unprepared and with little warning, it quickly becoming clear that her predecessor has most likely been murdered and was involved in dangerous conspiracies at the highest level. One has certain expectations for a novel like this - all THE EMPIRE and CONQUEST and how sometimes Space Opera can have a certain feel. But I was surprised by this, the writing is much much lighter than I expected, and with that comes a charm and wit that makes it a real pleasure to read. The cover has a quote from Ann Leckie, and Ancillary Justice seems like an obvious reference point - between the empire stuff, and the personality/identity stuff (Mahit has an implant which is anathema to the Teixcalaanli). But the language perhaps feels a bit more like Muir's Gideon The Ninth? The sense of banter and interplay? (Though, maybe that is my brain glancing to where my newly arrived copy of Harrow is sitting?) Culturally there are also parallels with Aliette de Bodard's Xuya work, given the emphasis on poetry and word games and the like. With that, like any good SF novel, you can identify parts in common/parallel, and very much appreciate it as it's own thing. Described as duology, and I am sure I have seen the 2nd up for pre-order.

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I remember liking A Memory Called Empire quite well too.

 

I am woefully behind in reading reporting, lol. Let me see if I can sort of get up to speed here…

 

Fen by Daisy Johnson — It's well written to the point it made me too uncomfortable to finish it. I think I read about 3-4 stories and then bailed. Sorry, Remote, I tried!

The Last Emperox by John Scalzi — The finishing book in the Interdependency trilogy. It was fairly satisfying, but not really anything earth shattering to write home about. The first book in the trilogy is still the best by far.

Providence by Max Barry — Humanity has met an alien species and… well, it didn't go well. So cut forward a decade or so and we follow along with the tiny crew of a massive. AI-driven battle cruiser as it takes the fight to the enemy mopping up tens of thousands of them per battle. Unfortunately, since it's all AI-driven, the crew has very little to do except try not to go insane from boredom, cue hijinks. I usually like his stuff, but this is not his strongest work. Had enough interesting twists and turns to keep me going to the end but that's about all I can say for it.

Infinite Detail by Tim Maughan — Interesting concept for a book, even if I'm not a huge fan of his writing style. I will say it got better towards the end after a rather slow start though. Basically the idea is that someone figures out a hack that pulls down the entire Internet, plunging the world back into a pseudo dark-age. This is all about living in that time and also trying to reboot some sort of network to pull us back out of it. Probably worth a read if you get a chance.

Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee — As always, she sets up a crazy complicated system of magic first and then adds characters on top of it afterwards. I did like this a lot better than Ninefox Gambit, so there's that. Still a lot more complicated than it really needed to be IMHO, but oh well, that's her style and if you like it you like it, etc.

 

And while waiting for library books to come up for check out, I've also reread Anathem and The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, as well as Lord of Light  by Roger Zelazny. All of them still stand up as classics! :)

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Fen - it was my literary side showing, and I think in someways it is supposed to make you uncomfortable, but so it goes.
Infinite Detail - As I'm sure I said at the time I was so disappointed by it, I had so many issues with it and it should have been good.
Yoon Ha Lee - I so need to catch up, I have the sequels to Ninefox Gambit sitting, but it definitely wasn't as much fun as Memory Called Empire.
Scalzi - I've still never read any of his work, I have a couple in my to be read pile, I really should get round to giving him a go!

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There was just a discussion of Scalzi on Reddit today. He tends to write science fiction romps—even when it's serious subject matter it's hip deep in jokes and humor and swashbuckling heroic types. Apparently some people don't like that, but it's a nice change of pace from time to time for me. I forgot I reread Old Man's War and Red Shirts also while I was waiting for more library books to make their way to my reserve shelf. They're both pretty fun, but definitely light.

 

And yeah Infinite Detail was an interesting idea, but it wasn't as well executed as I wanted either. I have Ghost Hardware on reserve, which is supposed to be 3 short stories from the same future. We'll see if it feels any better or not. If not, I will probably stop tracking him.

 

And speaking of tracking, I reread David R Palmer's Trackers (available on the web only and a sequel to Emergence) last night and it was quite good. (Although I really wish I could sleep instead of just reading an entire book a night!)

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22 hours ago, heavyboots said:

 

 

And yeah Infinite Detail was an interesting idea, but it wasn't as well executed as I wanted either. I have Ghost Hardware on reserve, which is supposed to be 3 short stories from the same future. We'll see if it feels any better or not. If not, I will probably stop tracking him.

 

 

his shorts tend to be decent, i've read most of them over the years and enjoyed them a lot. not sure of specific contents of ghost hardware, my impression is it is maybe 2 reprints and 1 new, or maybe just 1 reprint and 2 new. certainly read parts of it. i think the novel suffers from plot holes, and too many tangents of "this is fucked up, man!" and way too much important shit happens off page.

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The Book of Dragons edited by Jonathon Strahan — Some really strong stories in here, some that were a lot more tedious too unfortunately. A couple near the end by Michael Swanwick and Scott Lynch really stuck with me. And the ones by Anne Leckie and by Patricia A McKillip were also great.

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Harrow The Ninth - Tamsyn Muir - book 2 in The Ninth trilogy. This is not a stand alone book, I think you really need to have read Gideon to know just how disconcerting Harrow is. Harrow is an unreliable novel, everything happens and apparently makes sense, but as a reader you know of the wrong. I'm going to be careful, try and avoid spoilers as much as possible. Harrow is clearly different from Gideon, the ending of Gideon will have ensured that isn't a surprise. Though, with that Muir manages to recreate a number of the elements that defined Gideon - much of it happening in the one location, a fuck ton of skulls, hyper drama and then a line out of left field to remind you of the humour despite the drama and skulls. Like the ginger nuts, or a line like "You so rarely ate for pleasure that it was beyond imagining you would become a normal person who learnt how to make a sandwich." Actually not much else I can say - necromancers, swords, lessons to be learned, drama, betrayal, swagger. On some levels this feels like a brave novel to have written, how it throws the reader (me at least) but also drags you along for the ride. And similarly to Gideon it then hits you with all the what the fuck, once again leaving you wondering how the next book possibly follows on from this.

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Hurricane Season - Fernanda Merchor - This one should probably come with a content warning. It starts with murder of The Witch, who is probably a trans woman. The book is a series of stories or statements by people in a small Mexican town. While these can be rambling and self-involved, they come around to the point, how they know the man, and providing a part of the jigsaw that makes it clear who killed The Witch. With that the book is more about The Man than The Witch, and I'm not sure any of the reports are from reliable narrators, each coming from their own vested interests. This is a hard novel, violent, squalid, many of the characters are just inherently nasty. Part of me started to speculate on sensationalism and exploitation, I know there have been some white people writing gritty novels about Mexico. But I think, from the response it is more brutal and raw and visceral - a celebrated Mexican writer, perhaps in Irvine Welsh style. The translation is really good, feels very colloquial and like dialogue, perhaps not so much a Mexican voice, but translating so that we as readers can relate.

Tuesday Mooney Wore Black - Kate Racccula - After Hurricane Season, Tuesday Mooney was so much joy, so much. This was one of those random recommendations you see online, from a couple people, and decide to check out, and are so happy it pays off. Tuesday works as part of hospital fund raising team, researching rich people with hope that they can be converted to donors. She is working one of the events when an eccentric millionaire dies, from there his will sets up a treasure hunt based around his obsession with Edgar Allen Poe. Tuesday applies her skills as an investigator/researcher to get involved; bouncing off her young next door neighour who reminds of a younger Tuesday, and her only friend, and a flirtation with another millionaire. The building drama, character interaction and growth, the progression of the treasure hunt and the underlying tensions, betrayals and revelations that brings out, make this a good fun page turner. Looking forward to reading the sequel.

To be Taught, If Fortunate - Becky Chambers - A stand alone novella. On the whole this is a well thought out, contemporary, envionmentally conscious story of space exploration. Hits that general warm and fuzzy Chambers feel, and would almost be considered drama free in some ways. Which is actually one of the things I liked about it. There is a background of Earth collapsing, which becomes an increasing background drama providing an undercurrent. Four astronauts go on a crowd funded exploratory trip to four planets, with the book split into a quarter for each planet. Where they spend time exploring it carefully, without contaminating the environment. The planets are variable, some bring joy, some frustrate, and generally the characters get on, and that stuff is wonderful. I have mixed feelings about the ending itself, it frustrates me and I'm not happy with it, though I guess it makes sense.

Creeping Jenny - Jeff Noon - The third of Noon's Angry Robot published John Nyquist novels. Though, I suspect each can probably be read alone, this one has some very slight references to previous, but not in a way that spoils or requires reading. In each book Noon establishes a location, with a localised set of rules, then drops his PI character into that. This is the English Folk Horror novel, the location feels so much more tangible and real than the other two, which is perhaps why I also felt it to be more immersive and engaging. Something about the other two niggled with me, I liked to a point, but wanted more from Noon. Here I think he delivers. Nyquist receives a series of photographs that lead him to a remote English village: a street or two, community centre, pub, cricket ground, May pole. One of the photographs show his father, who he believes has been dead for years, and he hopes that he can get answers. But local customs interfere, becoming increasingly strange and sinister, and his arrival seems to have triggered deaths. It has much of the trappings of Folk Horror, but how it harnesses those is something the reader is particularly conscious as being a particular Noon signature. Ripped through this, great.

Convenience Store Woman - Sayaka Murata - Our narrator is different, she knows this, she doesn't understand how, but has worked out that the structure of working in a convenience store and learning to mimic her colleagues helps her pretend to be normal. Unmarried, working part time in a "dead end" job and in her mid-30s, she continues to feel pressure to be "cured". When a lazy man join the staff of the store, she recognises herself in him, but while she manages to mask herself he refuses to. This forces her to look at her life and her options. A Japanese novella that was very much readable in a day and the lead was engaging, and someone I could relate to in ways. It manages to hit various topics, like gender, equality, societal pressures to succeed, get married, have kids, and the excuses you sometimes end up making when you don't do those things.

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Ghost Hardware by Timothy Maughan — Ok, but nothing super special unfortunately. Think I'm pretty much done with him, alas. I will say that he is better in a short story format than the full novel.

 

Repo Virtual by Corey White — Set in some future Asia, in an extremely high tech city, where a chip with some mysterious goodies on it gets stolen as part of a heist and proceeds to cause higgeldy-piggeldy. Not a great book, unfortunately. There were some interesting parts, but also some *really* frustrating characters who were much more poorly drawn than they needed to be.

 

The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal — Third in the Lady Astronaut series. As usual, these books leave me super-conflicted. On the one hand, I applaud her redoing history and jumping women's equality and space exploration ahead by about 75 years. On the other hand, she tends to beat the reader about the head repeatedly and with great vigor about what a tough time the women and non-white astronauts are having. Like… to the point that I want to rebel and just. quit. reading. to make her stop. Which is sad, because by and large, they're really interesting books. Argh. So torn.

 

Afterland by Lauren Beukes — I liked this a lot better, in terms of a sort of feminist plot-flip, but had some issues with the ending. Overall though, this one is still definitely worth reading. Especially given the current pandemic situation.

 

Driving the Deep by Suzanne Palmer — The second of her Fergus Fergusson novels, this was actually even more enjoyable than the first. She has a lot of fun with her unlikely hero and the way he thrashes his way through whatever mission he's on like a bull in a china shop, lol.

 

Fantastic Hope edited by Laurell K Hamilton — This is a really good short story collection. The overarching premise is stories of hope, and during these pandemic times, it was actually a breath of fresh air to read these.

 

Nexus, Crux and Apex by Ramex Naam — A trilogy of books that are centered around the idea of a nanotech that allows humans to link mind-to-mind and the immediate issues such technology causes. First, you have the rest of humanity that is terrified of the concept and desperately trying to contain it, much like the drug wars but escalated to the point of seeing anyone "infected" with the technology as non-human anymore. Secondly, you have the hackers who want to use security flaws in the technology to control other humans, not just share memories and feelings, etc. And thirdly, you have the posthuman AI's that everyone is terrified of trying to usher the transhumans into their realm and break free of any constraints placed on them by humanity too. He deals with the possible consequences of the technology really, really well. His characters could use some—ok, a lot of work—at times, but for the most part it's readable enough and the ideas definitely dragged me along for the ride even when I was occasionally rolling my eyes at the two-dimensional characters. Highly recommended you try at least the first book if not all three.

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I've always enjoyed Tim's shorts, though that is one of the problems with that collection, it is incredibly short, and I suspect maybe 2 our of the 3 stories have appeared elsewhere. But yeah, I agree, he'll need to go some for me to bother with his next novel.

 

I'm sort of curious about Repo. On some level I deeply disliked his previous work. But this one sounds like it *should* be my cup of tea...

 

I've only read Kowal shorts, I've enjoyed the ones set in that world. Probably said before, I have the 1st two on my kindle, but not read yet.

 

I did see Afterland when I was in book shop today. But honestly I've been disappointed with her work overall, and base plot sounds like Y The Last Man on some level. And um, I probably have enough pandemic novels in my reading list already.

 

Naam is one of those ones who got a load of buzz for those are the time, I think I have 1st, and only recently reminded myself and that I really should read that. Again, suggestion should be my cup of tea.

 

My reading...

Sisters - Daisy Johnson - not for Heavyboots! 2nd novel by Johnson, which I picked up enthusiastically after enjoying her collection Fen so much. A family arrive at a remote beach house, that is collapsing in on itself (Family and House) and might be haunted (Family and House). A short book, but effective in the "something really bad has happened, you know it has happened, but you don't know yet what" and keeping me on the edge of my seat throughout. I had firm suspicions about the plot early on, though to explain why would be glaring spoilers. Even so, it still kept me thoroughly engaged and overall I enjoyed (with slightly mixed feelings on the ending).

 

Beneath the Rising - Premee Mohamed - debut novel by Premee, following a previous novella. Nick Prasad and John (Joanna) Chambers are best friends, bonded by events and inseparable over the years since. Nick, the narrator, is working shifts in a bakery, balancing taking care of his younger siblings with his mother; brown and poor, he doesn't believe he'll ever get to college. John is 17, white, rich, and a super genius, curing everything, reinventing everything, world famous for changing everything. But despite that Nick is still John's only friend. Things get weird after John invents a new power source, in a shoe box, that will end all other power systems once and for all. However, doing so opened something, attracted something, changed something. And now the pair are travelling from Canada to the middle east to track down the answers that will close the gate, or the world will end. Lots of banter and bickering and rollicking adventure, comparisons to Buffy are over done, but this perhaps does earn it with the tone and action. If there is anything wrong, it is how lost in self-reflection Nick gets during some of the tense drama - it had a purpose, but started to dominate a few times. Other than that, decent fun, adventure.

 

The Four Profound Weaves - R. B. Lemberg - Set in Lemberg's Birdverse, previous stories published as Rose Lemberg, many of which I had read leading me to look forward to this. I recommend reading the previous stories that were printed in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, one of which works as something of a prequel to this. This is pitched as a novel but it is about 180 pages, and I easily read in an afternoon. Uiziya has become old, stagnant - her aunt had promised to teach her the four profound weaves, but she only got to the 2nd before her aunt went into exile. A nameless man has come out to the desert tribes, seeking Uiziya's aunt, trying to find himself - he takes on the temporary name of nen-sasaïr. The Birdverse has a number of cultures - the kind of imperial evil emperor who collects rarities and punishes magic, the refugees who live in the city and travel trade routes and have to be careful with magic and the strict rules, and the nomadic tribes are much more care free about magic and about rules. Both characters are trans, Uiziya was able to become the woman she is thanks to the nomadic magic and acceptance of gender. Nen-sasaïr always wanted to become the man he was, but was prevented by his culture, his partners, only changing now with the death of his partner. So they have that in common, but because of the acceptance or non-acceptance they have had very different lives. But they both feel thwarted, so they travel together, being challenged to a quest, risking a quest, and exploring the fourth weave: death. The book is split into 4 sections, one for each weave, and the narrative alternates between the two characters. I enjoyed this a lot, it lived up to my hopes - the world building, the characters, the magic, the warmth in the characters. Not sure I really capture my thoughts here, but this was great.

 

The Vinyl Detective: Low Action - Andrew Cartmel - The fifth in the series, with The Vinyl Detective still being so prominent on the cover that I always have to work out later what the sub-title actually was. Also been conscious as the series goes on, the vinyl detective doesn't have a name, which feels like something of an oddity for an ongoing series of books. He is the narrator, so there is that, but he never gets introduced, or referred to by name - weird! I'm sure I said last time, these very much work to a template, and while it is obvious Cartmel still makes it work every time. At least for me. Was very conscious reading this one that this is just such comfort reading, engaging with the ever expanding cast of well written/fleshed out characters, and the trials that they experience. This time, Eric Make Loud, who was befriended in a previous investigation, brings along his new girlfriend, Helene Hilditch. Someone is trying to kill her! Explaining that he isn't *that* kind of detective, they persuade him with promise of lots of money and the bait of Helene's first album, the original version having been withdrawn and become very rare. So, search for record, pile up suspects, someone tries to kill... everyone... and it is just fun, page turning pleasure.

 

 

 

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To Sleep In A Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini — Space opera in the grandest tradition and actually quite well done! An exobiologist helping survey a new possible colonization planet accidentally gets infected with an incredibly ancient symbiotic tool left over from an alien race. Various factions and species completely freak and hijinks ensue for about 800 pages. The tool is fascinating and the cast of characters and places they end up going are also pretty interesting too. Thumbs up, worth reading if you've got the time.

 

City Under The Stars by Gardner Dozois and Michael Swanwick — I was looking for a new book by Swanwick, because I can never get enough of his stuff, and stumbled across this just being released. However, it is very different from his usual stuff since he's essentially finishing off some ideas for the collaboration he was supposed to have with Gardener before his passing. Had an extremely 70's feel to it. In parts that wasn't a bad thing, but in other parts it really dragged on me. Possibly recommended if you've read Gardner's stuff and liked it?

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Rading few new books, as I get tired easily, and I am trying to read a few Italian books to improve my Italian that have not been translated anywhere else. Those are naturally slow going. Rereading a lot, as they go easier when they click, and I feel less regrets when I abandon them. Among them the books I have of Stephen Hunt Jackal series before deciding if I go beyond number 5. The odds are I will not, as it looks as I will get stuck in the third, "The Iron Moon". In the original run I went up to the fifth, "Jack Cloudie". 

 

I am stuck in many books, however. I have left Gareth Powells Ack-Ack-Macaque stuck in the middle of the third book, "Macaque Attack!". Alternate Universes are a personal peeve. I suppose I will finish it, eventually, but I would not count on it. I even abandoned "The Neverending Story", that I got when I donated my unloved books (I am not a library person, so I donate to a NGO books to make place for new books). I han not reread it since my teens. I also got stuck very early in my rereading of Wolfe, after his death. Managed "The fifth head of Cerberus" and "Free Live Free", but got stuck both in "Peace" and "Pandora by Holly Hollander" I should proceed with the short stories, as that should go better. Finally, I left but intend to return to Andreas Wulf excellent biography of Alexander von Humboldt, "The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World"

 

On Comics, I got sucked in Geoff Darrows' "The Shaolin Cowboy". No need to read much, which may explain it. It made me appreciate Frank Miller's script in Hardboiled, but strangely, perversely fascinating. I also got the two not-Pratt Corto Maltese books, "Under the Midnight Sun" and "Equatoria", but even though graphically they are good, the story is just not it. So I do not think I will get the recently appeared third, Tarowean's Day. But I started a reread of all the Pratt books I have. which is quite a lot of words but it goes much better than conventional books.

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Darrows art is always great, but as you suggest, his writing is a a little...sparse. I read one of the Shaolin Cowboy books, it was OK, but frustrated me with that spareseness.

 

Been reading a lot of comics over the last few months. Sometimes between work and the world burning it is the level my brain can cope with. This weekend I am re-reading the Aaron/Bachalo run on Dr. Strange, which redefines magic, kills magic, and goes strange places - it is a lot of fun. Also read Doom Patrol: Weight of the World and Shade the Changing Woman - which appear to be supplementary volumes from the Young Animal inprint, after the initial two volumes. And half way through the new incarnation of Hellblazer, which at least is being written by Spurrier, who previously wrote Constantine, unlike the recent reboots who are too American/Mainstream to get it.

 

This tends to be the only thread I consistently contribute to, I should probably make more effort...

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How Music Works by David Byrne. I've had this on my wishlist for forever and it was well past time I actually read the thing. It's a really enjoyable set of essays about various aspects of music, some of which I'd read in a more abbreviated form elsewhere (the one about how architecture shapes music first appeared on BoingBoing, IIRC.) Byrne has an interesting (and very well-informed) way of looking at things, and there are some striking insights about creativity and the business of art. 

 

The Blade Artist by Irvine Welsh.  Even explaining the plot could be considered spoilery, so I'm just going to say that all the way through this I was thinking about how the protagonist was growing more and more like Hannibal Lecter. Not what I was expecting at all, and yet somehow exactly what I was expecting. On multiple occasions I found myself thinking, "oh no, he's not going to go there, is he?" And on each occasion, Welsh does.

 

Children of Artifice by Danie Ware. Danie's a friend, and I felt guilty about taking so long to get around to reading this (life getting in the way of late means that my reading rate has nosedived) but it turned out to be one of the best reads of the year. It's an entertaining gothic romp that starts somewhere between Peake's Gormenghast and Herbert's Dune (young scion of ancient house in highly claustrophobic setting, unseen forces rising against him) but at the same time Danie makes some very interesting narrative choices.  Looking forward to the follow-up.

 

The Sunken Land Begins To Rise Again by Mike Harrison. The minutiae of everyday life rendered unsettling and weird in a mostly inconclusive but occasionally disturbing way. Characters find themselves out of their depth in many different senses of the word, literally and figuratively. Delicious.

 

I am still grinding through Persepolis Rising by James S A Corey. It's book 7 of the Expanse series and feels very much like it's getting all the pieces on the board in the places that they need to be for the endgame to play out (the 9th and final book in the series Leviathan Falls comes out next year.) Done well, shuffling between the POVs of a large number of characters can be exhilarating. Here it just feels like it's getting in the way because with each shift I have to remind myself what that character was doing last time we were with them. I get that a power struggle between different factions of humanity is extremely likely given the sort of scenario that the authors have used for the series, but foregrounding it at the expense of the more engaging aspects of alien space opera that were the focus of the earlier books really doesn't appeal to me. Instead, we get lots of conversations, meetings and videoconferences, interspersed with the occasional brawl.  Worse, even the space battles are boring. 

 

So I've just started Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinaw. A jaw-dropping look at the inroads science is finally beginning to make into understanding the unconscious. I'm having a "wait, what?" moment every few pages so far. That's what I want from a science book.

Edited by Chris H
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I ran the library out of books, so just a lot of re-reading. I did purchas a copy of Stealing Worlds by Karl Schroeder for my home library though, because it's that good. Would still highly recommend it for the ideas, if nothing else (the story is decently written too).

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A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik — This was excellent. She's just a really good writer and the plot was huge fun from the very first line. It's about a school somewhat like Harry Potter's but designed by a Nazi death camp designers… each year children are gradually whittled away be the "mals" (evil creatures that survive by eating children) and the senior class "graduates" by fighting their way across an arena full of mals to the only exit to the school. Good times! Also, the lead character has an affinity for apocalyptic death magic but is fighting it scrupulously. SO MUCH FUN!

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Funny how it goes, I saw authors raving about Deadly Education on the run up to publication, then saw the reviews saying it was racist as fuck, and all the other diverse characters were cardboard thin and only there to support the main white characters. So, um, yeah. Be interesting to see how that plays out long term.

 

I went a week with barely reading anything, probably shorts, and comics, then read a load last weekend, and more shorts and comics since.

 

The Black God's Drums - P Djeli Clark - This was the debut novella by Clark, I read his 2nd one 1st, the one with the haunted tram. The tram was set in alt-history rise of steam magic/change of history/race dynamics. This one is set in a split America, after slave uprisings, etc, New Orleans is a free city, though confederate agents are plotting to get their hands on a doomsday weapon, the same weapon that was used by Haiti to decimate Napoleon's navy. I was sure I had read the first page of this and hadn't been sure, but decided to give it ago, to find it wasn't what I expected at all. Local girl, with loa connections, over hears bad guys, decides to sell info to woman captain from the free island states who she admires. This was a great adventure, read in a day, enjoyed.


Gooseberry Bluff Communty College of Magic - David J Schwartz - After the Deadly Education fuss, this was recommended as a magic school with diverse cast. Another alt-history, Crowley helped end World War II with magic, and magic became a thing with schools and bureaus of investigation, etc. Gooseberry Bluff is a respectable, but 2nd rate, community college of magic, where one of the teachers has ceased to exist, and where someone is smuggling demons. Enter Joy Wilkins, replacement teacher, and undercover agent. Competing conspiracies clash, plots for revenge interfere with well laid plans, and the end of the world is being plotted. This was a lot of fun, had expected to be a series, but appears to be one off, and from 2013!


Proper's Demon - KJ Parker - I've only read a few stories by Parker, and he has established a definite voice for his characters, which is in play here. Like Black God's Drums this is a tor novella, so again read in a day, which is probably just as well - not sure I could have taken a full novel of that voice, I was feeling the strain as was. I know folk like his writing, but too much for me. Our narrator has been born with ability to see demons and to push them from people. One demon he has had repeated run ins with gets somewhere he shouldn't, and when our ant-hero steps into sort it out it turns out to be more complicated than he expected, putting him at risk. Decent enough, works OK.

 

Piranesi - Susanna Clarke - the anticipated and buzzed about new novel from Susanna "Strange & Norrell" Clarke. A journal charting our narrators life in a world sized house, he thinks of himself as Myself and the one other person he encounters as The Other. On the top floors there are clouds and rain, on the bottom floors there are seas and the floors in between he explores - charting the tides, fishing and documenting statues. As the book goes on we realise there is more to it, particularly as someone new enters the house, to the alarm of The Other. But what will it mean for Myself, who is nicknamed Piranesi by The Other? Over 200 pages, and I sat and read it cover to cover on a Saturday. I enjoyed a lot of this, ticked so many boxes, very much satisfied. (which isn't always the case with BIG BUZZ books)


The Devil's Road - Gary Gibson - I hate when folk spend so much time comparing books to films, often feels lazy and counterproductive. On other hand, this is so clearly Death Race meets Pacific Rim. Dutch is broken out of prison by some shady billionaires, who want her to drive The Devil's Run - a lethal car race round an island nation, where a rift has opened and kaiju run free. About 150 pages, so kinda novella cusp novel, again I read this in a day - just solid, does what it sets out to do, car races, monsters, asshole sassy characters.

 

This weekend I spent a chunk of it running the entire run of Grant Morrison's New X-Men comics. Which is interesting, as I also just read volumes 1-3 of Dawn of The X-Men, so 20 years apart, what has moved forwards, what have moved back. X-Men has always been a comics benchmark for me, and when they are good I just enjoy reading them.

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Funny how it goes, I saw authors raving about Deadly Education on the run up to publication, then saw the reviews saying it was racist as fuck, and all the other diverse characters were cardboard thin and only there to support the main white characters. So, um, yeah. Be interesting to see how that plays out long term.

That's… confusing, given the main character is part Indian and most of her little buddies are Asian, Indian, etc. It's definitely a lot about class—there's much anger towards the "rich" kids who have access to all the mana they could ever want, and mention of the "maintenance" track kids who are basically working their way through… I dunno why people got so bent out of shape. It's not like Harry Party is a paragon work of diversity, lol…

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Wow… they're wound up about dreadlocks (which get mentioned in a rant by the character explaining why shaved heads or super short hair are almost the only way to go for safety purposes) and the character admitting to BO because it's too dangerous to shower often alone. I feel like the inferences they're making are on par with being wound up at Chris Pratt for not showing up at an Avengers fund raiser TBH. There's gotta be a little wiggle room or the "raising consciousness" effort is worse than the thing its trying to wipe out. Grrrrrr…

 

Thanks for the link though—at least I know how to defend it if someone starts talking about what a terrible racist book it is… 🙄

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