Dark War: a Matt Richter novel by Tim Waggoner
Third and possibly final of the Richter mysteries, this one opens with Matt, the world’s only sentient zombie detective, and Devona, his half-vampire and all-pregnant wife and business partner, rescuing a parallel version of Nekropolis dealing with an infestation of Hydes (to put it another way, Dr. Jekyll’s famous formula has basically infected everybody, and Matt’s counterpart from that dimension has begged him to deliver an antidote). With that dealt with, they return to their own Nekropolis and their day-to-day lives, which now involve a reality-show cameraman following them around (though Matt suspects he might not be all that he claims to be), a flier friend who keeps getting hurt chasing Nekropolis’ invisible moon, and oh yeah, a war breaking out between two Darklords, which is something that of course our heroes have to get caught in the middle of. Specifically, Talaith, the Darklord witch queen, is accusing Varvara, the demon queen, of abducting magic users from around the city. Matt and Devona wouldn’t ignore this sort of thing in any event, but they are especially likely to get involved here since they live in Varvara’s domain. Also, Matt’s friend and (voodoo) physician, the man who keeps him mobile, Papa Chatha, is among the missing. Ending the war is secondary, in Matt’s mind, to finding him.
Among the easter eggs this time are the monsters in the zoo (many of whom are expys of big screen creatures), and the various crowds around the city, particularly in the emergency room of the hospital.
Matt’s still a great character, Devona is wonderful, and their supporting cast is great fun.
while this isn’t the last of Matt and Devona’s adventures (the book ends on a cliffhanger), I suspect it is the last of the series. Technically you don’t have to have read the first two, but you should. Things will make more sense if you do.
Shadow of the Scorpion: a novel of the Polity by Neal Asher
The secret origin of Ian Cormac! Basically, his mother was an archaeologist and his father was a soldier who died in the Prador war. His brother, a combat medic, suffered PTSD as a consequence of the things he saw and had to do. When Cormac joins the military himself after the war he gets pulled into intelligence when it turns out that one of his squadmates is a separatist and is trying to help the local committee to arm themselves. As Cormac pursues what starts as duty and ends as a personal fight he grows towards the character we met in the earlier books. He is also followed, throughout, by a combat drone shaped like a scorpion that obviously wants something from him. But what?
Oh, and we get the story, such as it is, of how he came to have the Shuriken.
Recommended, of course. And you don’t have to have read the other books first, but you should certainly read them.
Falling Upwards: how we took to the air by Richard Holmes
Holmes wrote the excellent The Age of Wonder (here). This time he looks at the more narrow issue of how balloons have been used in European history, in their golden age of the 19th century (balloons continue to be used, of course, and one story Holmes does look at is how two East German families ballooned out of the Soviet zone in the late 20thC. He also looks at the use of balloon-borne observers during the US civil war and the war against Napoleon, entertainers (sexy balloonist girls! For a 19th century version of sexy, anyway), and scientific explorers of the upper atmosphere. It’s interesting reading, well-written, and informative. Recommended.