Read Recently — June 2009

The Unnatural Inquirer by Simon R. Green

I recently found myself questioning why I keep reading Green’s books. Not just, “why do I keep buying the new ones”. but “why do I go back and re-read the old ones”? I mean, if you’ve read one Green book you’ve read all of them–oh, the names change, and the specific targets, but still, all the same. And not, really, when you get down to it, very good. I think that the answer, or at least part of it, is in that sameness: Green isn’t a very good writer, but he’s a good storyteller, and his stories are not boring. And the fact that you know exactly what’s going to happen next makes them perfect comfort reading. You know you will never be unpleasantly surprised (neither will you be pleasantly surprised), and really, for comfort reading what more do you want?

So, this is another Simon R. Green “Nightside” book. It has the familiar characters, the same events, the oft-seen tics, and plot holes big enough to drive an armoured train through. Share and enjoy!

The Sharing Knife Volume Three Passage by Lois McMaster Bujold

As noted in regard to the last one, this world is not working for me. I like Fawn and Dag, but I don’t like the place they’re travelling through. Still, it’s Bujold, and so still better than a lot of what’s out there. I will be back for the next book, though I keep hoping each will be, you know, the last one.

Mildly recommended.

Bone Song by John Meaney

Tristopolis is a city in a world much like ours, only here the main power source is necroflux energy–the remains of the dead. Detective Donal Riordan is ordered to prevent the murder of an Opera Diva visiting the city . . . but that’s only the beginning of a twisty, noir, and dark plot. This is really interesting, albeit not for everyone. Cautiously recommended.

The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

My brother and I watched the movie of this a few years back, so during what looked like a fallow period for new fiction I picked up the book. I mean, I liked the movie, but I realised that it would be different from the novel, and I knew the original book was in Russian, which left the translation problem (the enjoyment of a book originally in a foreign language varies according to the skill of the translator). And, of course, there is an approving quote from Quentin Tarantino on the cover, and the value of that depends on whether you consider Tarantino to be a plus or a minus (I’m a minus on his ability to make movies, but a plus on his ability to find things I like–the man has taste, even if it doesn’t show in the movies he makes).

The novel is significantly different from the film, though it has the same character names and basic set-ups. It also goes on past the point where the film ends . . . which is very different in the book. Basic set-up: behind the world we know is a world of dark wonder–the Others move among us, look like us, but are creatures of magic. Vampires, wizards, shapeshifters . . . divided into two camps, the Dark and the Light. Both sides are bound by ancient treaties, and the behaviour of both sides is monitored by Watches: the Day Watch is a Dark force that monitors the Light, while the Night Watch is a Light Force that tries to protect us normals from the Dark.

Anton is a Night Watch agent, a minor wizard in the Moscow office, who mostly works on the Watch’s computer systems. Important enough in his own way, but not someone to change the world, you’d figure. But in the three interrelated stories that make up this volume, Anton keeps crossing paths with the powerful forces of both the Light and the Dark. Perhaps Anton is more than even he himself knows? Perhaps he has a destiny, one involving the powerful, doomed sorceress Svetlana, and the boy Egor?

Though the Night Watch has many similarities to “western” urban fantasy, it also has a lot of important differences. It’s an excellent read, and I highly recommend it.

You should watch the film, too.

Finding Magic by Tanya Huff

June was Tanya Huff month. Her new book came out (in hardcover) and she was at Bakka signing, so I went down and grabbed an autographed copy. Also of her last book, now out in paperback (latest/last of the “Valour” novels, and still far down the TBR pile), and a couple of others I wasn’t aware existed. Such as this one, her fourth collection of short stories, counting Stealing Magic. Some of these stories I already had in other anthologies, but this does gather them all in one place, and it’s personally autographed to me, so that’s a plus. One Valour story, one Tony Foster story (okay, it’s got Tony in it), one Keeper Story, one Magdelene story, one Terizan story, and three Valdemar stories.

Recommended.

The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff

This is the new novel. Intended as a stand-alone work, she was quick to point out.

The Gale family are powerful magic users with an interesting family history. The women cast charms of varying power, while the men . . . are a source of power. While some Gale women choose husbands from outside the family (which does not seem to affect the power levels of the children), there is also a certain amount of cousin lovin’ (which some people, outside of the book, seem to find distressing. I don’t; it isn’t like we’re talking siblings here, and the elder women (“Aunts”) ensure that things stay outside of close family bounds).

Alysha “Allie” Gale has just moved back to the family home, having recently lost her job at the ROM, and also discovered that her life-long love, Michael, is gay and thus cannot return her feelings. She’s also worried that the Aunties are going to try to tie her brother David down to a relationship he doesn’t want. So she’s already feeling vulnerable when she receives a letter from her absent, wandering and “wild” (ie–unpopular with the Aunties) Grandmother, saying that she (the Grandmother) is dead and has left her property in Calgary to Allie.

None of the Aunties believe “Gran” is dead; they’d know if she was. But everyone is wondering what she’s up to, and it gives Allie a chance to get out from underfoot, so she goes. Her beloved, somewhat wild, cousin Charlie (Charlene) will follow her, and she can call on the rest of the family if she needs help, so there shouldn’t be anything she can’t handle.

What her Grandmother turns out to have left her is a junk shop (the titular emporium), filled with yoyos and various magical artifacts, carefully hidden from the public behind charms. It also serves as a maildrop for various members of the Calgary magic community (such as a rather tall leprechaun, and a Corbae). And every morning at dawn a dragon flies overhead.

Everyone tells Allie that things are happening in Calgary. That seems to be more true than they know.

While this isn’t my favourite of Huff’s works, being my least favourite Huff still makes it better that most of the stuff on the shelves these days. Also, it’s kind of growing on me with subsequent readings (yes, I’ve read it twice since June). Really, the only thing I don’t like is the Aunties, and they kinda grow on you. So I guess, ultimately, I’m gonna call this highly recommended. But if you’re squicked by the cousin thing, pass it by.

Why I Became an Atheist: a former preacher rejects Christianity by John. W. Loftus

So, yeah, this is another one of those books. Loftus presents his arguments coherently, but if you’ve read the other books on my list than there’s little new here. Except for Loftus’ personal experiences, of course. Mildly recommended.

The Kill Bill Diary: the making of a Tarantino classic as seen through the eyes of a screen legend by David Carradine

It’s a coincidence that I was reading this just before Carradine was found dead last summer. Really. I’m actually a fan of Carradine, and I even have a couple of books by him, so picking this up was a no-brainer, once I knew it existed. It’s basically what the subtitle says it is: the story of how he got involved in making Kill Bill, and what making it was like. For him. Carradine has no problem giving credit/props to other actors and crew people, when he thinks they deserve it, but face it: he’s selling a product here, and that product isn’t Kill Bill, but David Carradine. Anyway, it’s a good read, and I recommend it.

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