So, yeah: I’m a bit behind on these. In fact, I’ve lost track of what I read when. And I left off in the middle of last year. The good news is that I haven’t been reading a lot, at least by my standards. So what I’m going to do is just do short write-ups for everything that doesn’t already have a write-up started or that I’m not reading this month; they will get their own entries. And that will bring us up to date and hopefully we can get going again. Okay? If there’s something you’d like to know about in more depth, just ask.
Also, everything will be in alphabetical order by title.
Among Thieves: a tale of the Kin by Douglas Hulick Drothe is an information broker working for a crimelord in the city of Ildrecca. He’s about to get dragged into a war between competing crimelords, while his sideline in ancient artifacts is about to bring evenmore trouble down on him. A great deal of the story is told in thieves’ cant, much of which is just dropped on us without explaination but is easily understandablein context. My write-up is a little dry, but the book is a fun read and not as dark as you’d expect. Recommended.
Blackout: a Cal Leandros novel by Rob Thurman Cal wakes up on a beach surrounded by dead monsters and can’t remember who he is. Fortunately, Niko and Robin come after him soon, and I’m sure I’m spoiling nothing to say that he recovers by the end of the book. The amnesia story, much like the unexpected sibling story, is often a sign of creative failure, and even if the series goes on it’s a good jumping-off point. In fact, it can be read as a warning to get out while you still can, which I did. Recommended for completists who haven’t already jumped off.
Bloodshot by Cherie Priest I was of two minds about buying this book. I mean, on the one hand, it’s by Cherie Priest, whose other works I have enjoyed. On the other hand, it’s about a vampire thief and a government conspiracy, both tropes that have seriously played out by now. But it turned out to be pretty good, so I’m gonna recommend it.
Bound In Blood by P. C. Hodgell A Kencyrath novel. Jame continues her education; Torisen continues trying to be the leader of his people. Both confront the problem of how their father became the man that he became, and their conflicted feelings for each other. There is a minor squicky bit of body horror with one of Jame’s classmates who has had his foot infected by the roots of a “slow willow” (which is actually, as willow trees go, darn fast) roots–the roots are working their way up his leg toward his heart, and can eat through any boot he tries to put on and sometimes try to root him to the ground. Clearly he needs help; can Jame get it for him or get him to it? This is highly recommended, but hopefully you’ll watch where you step.
The Buntline Special: a weird west tale by Mike Resnick It is 1881. The United States ends at the Mississippi River, due to the powerful magic of Geronimo and other Native wizards. The US Government, of course, is not happy with that situation, and has sent Thomas Edison out to Tombstone to study that magic, and find a way to counteract it. In the meanwhile he invents useful devices (such as elelctric lights, self-propelled stagecoaches, a kind of bulletproof brass and an artificial arm to replace his own after an assassin shoots it off) that are manufactured by one Ned Buntline (forgot to mention the clockwork prostitutes). Because of the assassin, the government hires the Earps to protect him–along with Bat Masterson (who will soon live up to his nickname) and Doc Holliday. Against crooked sherriff Johnny Behan and the Clanton Gang normal guns will suffice, but against the Thing That Used To Be Johnny Ringo, the walking corpse of an already lethally fast gunslinger (maybe faster than Doc), well, they’ll need something special.
Resnik writes well. All the characters are likeable (even the Thing That . . . Ringo is charming). I have some quibbles with the world-building, but they could be mistaken. But my big complaint is that . . . well, our heroes are working for Manifest Destiny against the actual owners of the territory; if they succeed there will be the massive massacres that happened in our history. Our heroes, in short, are the bad guys. And that makes me iffy about buying the sequels, or recommending them.
Changes: a novel of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher Harry’s old love, now part vampire, Susan, comes back into his life with the news that the two of them had a daughter, and the child is now the hostage of the Red Vampire court, who hate Harry. Our hero goes to war, even while the Red Court attacks him. By the end, many if not most of Harry’s long-standing subplots, storylines that Butcher has hitherto refused to resolve, are now resolved, and Uneel vf fubg gb qrngu ol na hafrra favcre. (Spoilers are ROT-13’d! Un-ROT-13 them at rot13.com!) I didn’t like some of the things Harry did in this story, and I’m pretty sure I won’t like a lot of what he does in future volumes, so, since this is a perfect jumping-off point, I’m jumping off. Bye, Harry.
City of Dreams & Nightmares by Ian Whates The city of Thaiburley is so massive that it is laid out in levels. The poor, of course, live at the bottom, and the rich at the top. Young gang-member Tom accepts a . . . dare? Challenge? to climb to the highest level and bring down an egg from the demons that allegedly nest there. On his way up he witnesses a murder, and flees from the man –a high-ranking academic– who committed it. Kite Guard (complete with flying cape) Tylus, an honest man, is sent after him, but he’s not Tom’s biggest problem. The kid ends up in the lowest level in an area he doesn’t know; he has to make his way home through the territory of hostile gangs. He gets help from a female street-kid named Kat, but there is something hunting the streets that even she may not be able to fight off . . .
An imaginative story, in an interesting setting, with strong characters. Highly recommended.
Con & Conjure by Lisa Shearin Continues the adventures of Raine Benaires, as she tries to rid herself of an ancient, soul-stealing magickal artifact, while also keeping it out of the hands of the beligerent Goblin and Elvish kingdoms. This time, an assassin who used to be her lover is sent after her. The plot continues to move in interesting directions. Recommended.
Denialism: how irrational thinking harms the planet and threatens our lives by Michael Specter Title really says it all. Features a chapter on vaccine denialism, which is why I bought it. Recommended.
Discord’s Apple by Carrie Vaughn This is the first non-“Kitty” novel by Vaughn that I’ve read. Graphic novel-writer Evie Walker goes home to small-town Colorado, only to learn that her family has a long history in the storage business. Mythological beings, both benign and hostile, come out of the woodwork (sometimes literally) to attack or defend her (and her family and allies). And then the world goes to hell, raqf (qba’g jbeel, bhe urebrf fheivir), n ybg bs crbcyr ner xvyyrq, naq gur onq thlf jva. Though it is written with Vaughn’s usual skill, I not only can’t recommend this one, I actively don’t recommend it.
Empire of Blue Water: Captain Morgan’s great pirate army, the epic battle for the Americas, and the catastrophe that ended the outlaws’ bloody reign by Stephan Talty It’s hard to say much about the book that isn’t said in that long, almost Robinson Crusoe-esque subtitle. Informative and interesting. Recommended.
The Last Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko; translated from the Russian by Andrew Bromfield In this final volume of the Night watch series, Anton is sent to Scotland to investigate an apparent vampire murder involving two Russian tourists. Of course, more is going on than meets the eye, and our hero once again learns deep secrets of the others. Again, highly recommended, but you want to satrt with The Night Watch.
Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire Toby’s old friend, mentor, and sometime healer Lily gets extremely ill, while at the same time one of Toby’s oldest, worst enemies returns, obviously up to something. And the local fae queen has decided to put Toby on trial for something she did in an earlier story. Never a dull moment in this series, and it continues to be highly recommended.
Manhunt: the twelve-day chase for Lincoln’s killer by James L. Swanson This book follows Booth and his allies through planning their assassinations (more than one was planned; only Booth succeeded), through to the attempts and finally to the flight. Facinating stuff. Highly recommended.
The Map That Changed The World: William Smith and the birth of modern geology by Simon Winchester Winchester writes engagingly about a subject most of us probably never think about twice: the creation of the first geological map of Britain, which gave rise to geology as we know it today. Highly recommended.
The Noise Within by Ian Whates It is the distant future. Mystery pirate starship, The Noise Within, is taking civilian ships and demonstrating maneuverability that no human ship should have. Leyton, a goverment agent with a cybernetic gun, is sent to infiltrate it and take it down. Philip Kaufman, a wealthy industrialist whose family builds starships, recognizes the basic design as one of his own company’s: the first test with a free-willed AI, a ship that fled human space long ago. Now it’s back, but is it alone? Fun space opera with some surprising twists. Recommended.
Retromancer by Robert Rankin Sequel to The Brightonomicon, which I either did not review, or did not tag with Rankin’s name. Jim Pooley wakes up one morning and finds that England lost WWII and the dominant culture is now German. And since he can remember the old world he acts a bit up and soon finds himself on the run from the local SS. Only Hugo Rune can sve him now! Funny, and recommended.
Shady Lady: A Corine Solomon novel by Ann Aguirre Third in Aguirre’s series of books named after drinks that have nothing to do with the plot. Corine takes the fight to her enemies. It ends strong (meaning that the series could end here or could continue (it continues), but it also ends stupid (meaning that I won’t be continuing with it). Not recommended.
The Skeptic’s Dictionary by Robert Todd Carroll Basically a hardcopy of selected articles from skepdic.com. Handy for when you don’t have the internet available. Recommended.
Servant of the Underworld: Obsidian and blood vol. I by Aliette de Bodard This is a murder mystery set in the pre-Columbian world of the Mexica, who we know as the Aztecs. It’s fascinating, and definately fantasy, given that our hero is a priest and communes regularely with various gods. Spells are used by most of the people involved. De Bodard has to deal with the fact that there are few records on the Mexica by the Mexica left, but I think she’s produced something fascinating and highly recommended (also of interest for those looking for Fantasy featuring characters of colour).
The Unbelievers: the evolution of modern atheism by S. T. Joshi Basically a series of short bios of people that Joshi feels have contributed to the development of modern atheism. Huxley to Hitchens, though it wouldn’t be a Joshi book without a stop by H.P. Lovecraft along the way. Mildly recommended.
Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay Kay takes a break from his usual psuedo-historical pseudo-europe, and instead takes us to the Middle Kingdom, where a gift of horses takes a man from poor scholar to a figure of influence (influence that he isn’t sure he wants) in the Imperial Court. Kay plays with his usual tropes here, including the beautiful and extremely intelligent women and a prince who hides his competence behind a shield of dissolution. Recommended.
Where In The World is Osama Bin Laden? by Morgan Spurlock You may remember Spurlock as the creator/film-maker of Supersize Me. In this case, he and his wife are about to have a child, and Spurlock is wondering how he feels about raising a child in the world that bin Laden made. So he sets off to the “Muslim world” to ask bin Laden what the hell, dude? Or, failing to find him, to talk to the local people and see what they think. He doesn’t find bin Laden, but he does talk to a lot of people. This is well-written enough, and Spurlock seems to realise when humour is inappropriate as well as when it’s otherwise. Mildly recommended (I found mine on the remainder table; the hardcover was a good deal at $5.99).
The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff Sequel to The Enchantment Emporium; this is Charlie’s book. An old friend from down east calls Charlie in to help his band win a music festival, but while she’s there she learns that something else is going on, involving offshore oil drilling and the groups opposing it, not all of whom are necessarely human. And there’s already a Gale family member involved . . . if you liked Emporium, you should like this one, but even if you’ve never read Huff before you might still enjoy it. Highly recommended.
Wolf Hunting by Jane Lindskold In the wake of the events of the last book, Firekeeper and Blind Seer are running with their own pack, long a dream of theirs. But the jaguar known as Truth, who helped them, has gone mad. Her visions suggest a way that she may be healed, but only with their help. This will involve a trip through much of the south and a completely new danger.
The World House by Guy Adams Somewhere–within the world or without it, it’s a little hard to tell–there is a mighty house that contains great secrets. It has the kind of rooms you might expect: a great library where the books write themselves and hold life stories; a room that contains a jungle with a settlement of cannibals; and a washroom that contains an ocean. And somewhere, in the centre of it all, is a room that holds an ancient prisoner. Why he’s there and what will happen once he’s freed are mysteries that hopefully we will never find out. I’m not one hundred percent sure about this one; but I’ve already bought the sequel so I guess it’s a casual recommendation.
The Zombie Survival Guide: complete protection from the living dead by Max Brooks I bought it remaindered, first off. I never would have picked it up otherwise. It was okay; far from the best zombie-related work I’ve read this year. I’m pretty sure Brooks’ virology fails, though not being a scientist I could be wrong. I did spot a definite error in his history of outbreaks chapter, in that he has the Shaolin Spade mentioned centuries before it existed as such. So I’m kinda meh on this one; if you wanna read it, you should read it. If not, skip it, and you haven’t missed anything.
Zoo City by Lauren Beukes It is the not-too distant future, and people who commit major violent crimes find themselves saddled with an accompanying animal (of no particular species). Where the animal comes from, and how it arrives, I couldn’t find in the text but I don’t think they really matter, either. Having such an animal marks you as a criminal, but it also gives you a minor psychic/magic power. If the animal dies before its person, they person is mysteriously punished (we see this happen in the course of the story and it’s really creepy). The hero of the story, one Zinzi December, lives in the titular city, South Africa. She has a sloth, and a talent for finding lost items. Normally she doesn’t do missing persons, but everyone has their price. . . very noir story. Zinzi’s a great character, the story is well told, the world well-imagined. Recommended, and notable for those seeking fantasy featuring charcters of colour.