Books I Bought in 2010
I'm afraid book reviews are on hiatus. You will find
here brief reviews of books through 2011, longer reviews through fall
of 2014, and then nothing. Sorry! I got distracted trying to
finish a game and then never got back to reviewing.
I acquired 107 books in 2010.
The prologue has an asteroid miner discovering a weakly godlike space
entity; also lots of wacky far-future tech-jargon of the sort that I
enjoy. I bought the book on those strengths, and was rapidly
disappointed by the story, which pushes the entity entirely offstage
in favor of a bunch of Italian aristocrats squabbling over a mining
colony. It's one of those "spoiled aristo gets life lesson in misery
and shreds of compassion" novels, which I hate. (Imputations about my
own social stratum are left as an exercise.) Also the POV keeps
cutting to the (now-rich, erstwhile-) asteroid miner, in a series of
plot asides that I'm pretty sure make no sense whatsoever. He's a
spoiled jerk too.
- de Pierres, Marianne
- Dark Space
Sequel to crunchy Old-European-Medieval tournament story with ghosts.
This time it's war with ghosts. I like the portrayal of a land where
buried sins can literally fester just beneath the skin of the world.
However, the author works a little too hard to keep the lord's wife
(hero's illicit love interest) tagging along to all the crises.
- Keck, David
- In a Time of Treason
Nice introduction to quantum physics, with a down-to-earth attitude
which clarified some stuff for me (and I've read a lot of
introductions to quantum physics). Warning: this book is a
conversation magnet. Be prepared to tell complete strangers why
teaching physics to a dog is a good idea.
- Orzel, Chad
- How To Teach Physics To Your Dog
Twisty political thriller in a world where a zillion little
principalities are breeding for psychic powers through regular arena
combat. Duncan inevitably spins a vast ream of weird political and
cultural institutions, crossed with details about various magical
abilities, all of which wind up being (a) vital to the plot and (b)
not a chore to read at all, because the plot is so bouncy. Not my
all-time favorite Duncan, but he's still got it.
- Duncan, Dave
- Ill Met in the Arena
A sort of Musketeer-y intrigue story, with royal assassination plots
and secret cabals of wizardry. The secret magic didn't seem to hang
together very well, though -- I felt like the author was switching
ontological tracks whenever the plot required it. The plot itself
was fine, though.
- Berg, Carol
- The Spirit Lens
Vlad learns there ain't no justice. The Empress commiserates.
- Brust, Steven
Nasty little story about caged deities running starships. Tightly
built, which means the author couldn't have avoided the grim ending
if he'd wanted too, which I bet he didn't.
- Scalzi, John
- The God Engines
Two medium-future short stories, each with bite. I miss GRRM-the-SF-writer.
- Martin, George R. R.
- Starlady; Fast-Friend
A reprint of Ashbless's longest published short story (still pretty
short) -- not updated, due to obscure intellectual property issues,
but vitriolically footnoted by Ashbless (with Powers and Blaylock
chiming in at the margins). One day the truth will be known, but only
if the authors get tired of the joke.
- Ashbless, William
- Pilot Light
Light SF thriller. Too much reliance on awesome sex as a character
- Perry, Steve
Speaking of Tim Powers, this series continues to get the urban fantasy
right. The Hound of Boston comes up against a raft of canine and
other hunting-ish mythologies.
- Ronald, Margaret
- Wild Hunt
I avoided this for a while because I liked Halting State and didn't
want to step on it. Naturally this was silly of me. The setting is
essentially not SF at all -- only a few comments about alcohol-fuelled
laptops and China decoupling from the dollar (which I think is
happening in real life anyhow). Imagine that alternate-reality gaming
were a slightly larger slice of the computer game industry, and this
plot wouldn't even be speculative. Which is to say, Williams knows his
stuff and knows how to tell it.
- Williams, Walter Jon
- This is Not a Game
This book doesn't have a plot. That is, the "Wide Green World" series
has a broad plot arc, and this book has some plots in it, but none of
them run from one end of the book to the other. Plus I didn't like the
"climactic" one much. It's fine, it's a good read, but I feel like the
whole series needed to be torn apart and rebuilt in a different number
- Bujold, Lois McMaster
- Horizon (The Sharing Knife, 4)
A survey of constructed languages, from the medieval philosophers
(trying to generate or classify all true knowledge) to Esperanto and
Lojban (trying to unite all human cultures) to Klingon (ditto, with
fricatives). Very easy reading; the author finds the interesting
history behind everything.
- Okrent, Arika
- In the Land of Invented Languages [borrowed book]
This is the second book in the Greywalker series, and I give up.
Clunky, unbalanced, coincidence-happy plotting.
- Richardson, Kat
My favorite urban fantasy of the year so far, and that's "urban" as in
"London" as in "you can practically feel the Underground schmutz
coming out of your nose". An apprentice wizard comes back from the
dead with serious pronoun troubles. Then more troubles show up; then
everyone starts taking sides.
- Griffin, Kate
- A Madness of Angels
Short, highly episodic series about the secret organization that deals
with the scary shit. (I did wind up owning the full graphic-novel set,
although I didn't seem to record buying the second part.) Some horror,
some giant monsters, some willpower porn. Good stuff. I wish they'd
done the TV series with Michelle Forbes.
- Ellis, Warren
- Global Frequency: Planet Ablaze
Second part of graphic-novel fairy tale with teenagers, elves, talking
animals, and giant adorable walking houses. The "parents in
YA-genre-fantasy" elements could use more depth, but maybe that's part
- Kibuishi, Kazu
- The Stonekeeper's Curse (Amulet 2)
Best opening ever. Rest of book not quite up to it. More "oh god
bubbling hormones" as the only motivation behind the character arcs;
too much wallowing in lust/angst/PTSD. At least they notice the
PTSD. Also, don't telegraph your deus ex machina ending in advance; it
ruins the effect.
- Meding, Kelly
- Three Days to Dead
I didn't understand this book. I mean, I understood some of it -- it's
about humans dealing with higher forms of life, lower forms of life,
and those who force their way through the boundaries. But I don't get
why any of this book was the way it was, from the weird White House
opening scene to the dark-and-angsty romance tropes to Cthulhu.
- Wolfe, Gene
- An Evil Guest
Don't remember a damn thing about this one. (Goes to find it.) Oh,
right. Whiteeyes are children born to lead -- the gods give them
straight 18s, the rest of their lives is up to them. Well,
intelligence is the dump stat, it turns out. Also they have berserker
temperaments. Not necessarily a good deal. Anyway, this is a decent
premise, but the author throws in gods and dragons and demons
and magic armor and I think mysterious wizards show up, maybe
werewolves... Oh, right, vampires. At any rate, it's too much.
- Lloyd, Tom
- The Stormcaller (The Twilight Reign, book 1)
A picture-book story, which I already had in the recent NESFA edition,
but when I saw an original edition I grabbed it. A logician lurks in
the woods, trapping people and proving they don't exist. A kindly old
sorcerer tangles with him, and triumphs, with the aid of a shuffly. I
really don't see what else you're waiting to hear, but I'll quote
anyway: "Have you ever thought that you might not exist?" "Yes, I
have thought so, but when I do, I throw myself down stairwells till
the feeling goes away."
- Bellairs, John; Fitschen, Marilyn
- The Pedant and the Shuffly
Second part of stranded-in-space-with-nanotech trilogy. This is the
tourism part of the fantasy plot: I'm sure stuff happened, but what
I remember is the baby mammoth.
- Bear, Elizabeth
Third part of giant fantasy politics trilogy. I fell off this series
after the first book -- couldn't remember most of the characters in
the second, and the problem hasn't improved. I think probably the
good guys win.
- Elliott, Kate
- Traitors' Gate
Second part of "Jame hits military school". It really would have worked
better as a single volume with To Ride a Rathorn, but I suppose the
wait would have killed us all. With that understanding, this is terrific;
it wraps up the Tentir storylines and advances the series arcs (Tori,
Kindrie, the Merikit). We have strong hints that Jame will be off to
the north in the next story.
- Hodgell, P. C.
- Bound in Blood
Conclusion of, no kidding, seven-part kids' fantasy series. (Like
Rowling, the author was structurally restricted from slopping over to
eight. Unlike Rowling, he kept the books nice and tight. You could
probably read the entire series in a weekend.) Anyway, it wraps up
with a fairly satisfying whoosh, although I sense that Nix has had
this ending packed in a box since 2003 and let it get slightly stale.
- Nix, Garth
- Lord Sunday
A traitor in the White Council! If you don't figure out who within two
sentences of the character's appearance, there's no help for you, but
that's not the point. Plotting, spying, magical ambushes, and all of
Butcher's colorful and semi-insane wizarding community at each others'
throats. Will Harry survive, dispose of his enemies, and maintain a
emotionally healthy and stable romantic relationship? Yeah, you can
probably figure that one out too.
- Butcher, Jim
- Turn Coat (Dresden Files, 11)
Very glorious Choose-Your-Own-Adventure graphic novel. I am mostly not
a fan of the CYOA form (insufficiently interactive for me) -- but this
thing pulls it off, through very tight marriage of form and content. A
boy discovers a mad scientist's laboratory containing a time machine,
a telepathy helmet, and a box that destroys all life on Earth. You
therefore wind up exploring many recursive paths (timelines,
memory-tracks) while sometimes accidentally destroying all life on
Earth. The ability to see adjacent story-paths crossing the page adds
to the experience too.
- Shiga, Jason
Odd little book: Abby Irene and vampire friend meet World War 2 (alt.)
Recall that Abby Irene is about 80 at this point. Manages to avoid
being entirely grim and regretful.
- Bear, Elizabeth
- Seven for a Secret
New story (non-arcful) in saga of teenage monster and his big brother.
They are off on the trail of an ancient Gypsy maledight. Road trip!
With werewolf pals. Nothing deep, just good fun.
- Thurman, Rob
Young princess from an outlying barbarian tribe is summoned to Court
to be named heir. None of the cliches you're now imagining apply -- or
rather, the story lets you hold onto each one just long enough to get
oriented and then replaces it with something better. Great narrator;
great collection of cranky and devious gods (or, as Brust would say,
demons; or andaat, or... yeah, it's been a theme the past few years).
Comes to a very definite end, although other books will follow in the
- Jemisin, N. K.
- The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
New Kit and Nita book! It's been too long. A fat satisfactory tangle
with ancient lost Martians. The characters, and thus the books, have
grown past the point where they need to have a showdown with the Lost
Power in the last chapter; instead, life is complicated. This is good
(perhaps overdue). The "boyfriend" word also crops up, which (maybe
this is just me) is nearly as disconcerting to me as it is to our
wizard heroes. Also, Carmela is threatening to upstage the entire
series. Rock on, Carmela.
- Duane, Diane
- A Wizard of Mars
Ex-djinn attempts to deal with evil magical threat, with the aid of
the entire human magical community. They're not winning yet.
Fireworks, earthworks, and... er... waterworks.
- Caine, Rachel
- Unknown (Outcast Season, book 2)
Lightweight but still charming story in Jones's usual vein. A young
magician inherits the house and duties of his grandfather. These
include boarders, boundaries, groundkeepers, and giant vegetables.
- Jones, Diana Wynne
- Enchanted Glass
A lexicon novel from a spinoff Doctor Who storyline. (It does not
directly involve any canonical Who characters, and the terminology is
painted over.) The history-spanning, insular, weakly godlike
civilization has run into an unnamed Enemy. This is a dictionary of
factions, technologies, personages, and adjunct factors from the War's
early years (for certain agreed-upon values of "year"). Lexicon
entries are threaded together in several ways to form several implied
narratives -- of which some are interesting and some are dull.
Nonetheless the book is a worthwhile example of a bunch of crazy
people writing something impossible.
- Miles, Lawrence (ed.)
- The Book of the War
Fourth in the Thief of Eddis series. This one concerns Sounis. Gen is
offstage for a lot of the book, which makes me sad, because I read
these pretty much for Gen to mess with my head. But it's still a good
book (and Gen still gets some licks in).
- Turner, Megan Whalen
- A Conspiracy of Kings
Behold as I wet my feet in the sea of electronic books (Bay of iPad,
iBooks Cove). Comfortable so far. Anyhow, this is the second book
about chick with annoyingly diacritical name and her team of
demon-hunting buddies. As promised, the pneumo-epidemiology gets more
interesting, and we start getting some unsubtle hints about Jayne's
own situation. I hope the author winds up taking the extra step,
though I suspect he won't. This series stays on my "would buy in ebook
but not paperback" list.
- Hanover, M. L. N.
- Darker Angels [e-book purchase]
Collection of modern verse, aimed at showing kids what the stuff is
like. Also what Optima Italic is like. I got this to replace my
original copy, which was bookplated "E. BLONG", which was unnerving
and wonderful to a young Pinkwater fan. But the poems are nice, too.
- Dunning, Stephen; Lueders, Edward; Smith, Hugh
- Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle
Second in 1995 reprint series of all the Fahfrd and Grey Mouser
stories. It turns out I haven't read many of these. The editors put
them in chronological order, possibly filing the edges to fit, and
this must be a loss -- the opening story in this volume introduces the
duo to Sheelba and Ningauble, but it can't have been written that
early. That complaint aside, this is a delightful assemblage of evil
priests, demon-possessed architecture, ghosts, and other
not-yet-cliches-and-anyhow-Leiber-did-them-better. The range of styles
and modes is surprisingly broad.
- Leiber, Fritz
- Swords Against Death
Exorcist, take three. Felix and succubus sometime-partner (not that
way) are tracking down a serial killer who refuses to stay dead.
Separately (ha ha), somebody wants custody of Felix's demon-possessed
best friend. The questions of why the ghosts started coming back, and
what else might turn up in the near future, begin to arise.
- Carey, Mike
- Dead Men's Boots [e-book purchase]
First volume (1995 reprint series). Still miscellaneous, although we
get some origin stories.
- Leiber, Fritz
- Swords and Deviltry
A Canterbury-Tales setup done with Erikson's usual grace, subtlety,
elegance, and understated optimism. By which I mean, he comes right
out and says that art is masturbation, fans and critics like are
cannibals, and fantasy is all shit. Play them off, necromancer cats.
- Erikson, Steven
- Crack'd Pot Trail
I really wish I'd liked this. The American West has dissolved into a
million-mile long psychogeographical corridor to Venus, the planet of
literal femme fatales? Stagecoaches full of interplanetary spies
rumbling through a Tombstone inhabited by louche cowboys in goth
makeup? Best setup ever! But this book is boring. The protagonist is
an annoying ten-year-old girl. Stuff maybe happens and then I think
- Calder, Richard
- The Twist
Wow, this is early Huff. Early genre; it was written in 1990 but
feels like 1980. A thief, a fighter, and a wizard go hunting for a
lost magic talisman. If I told you why the talisman was important
you'd just laugh, so I won't. As it happens, the writing is good,
nobody is stupid (except the idiots who built their capital city on
the lip of a talisman-restrained volcano, whoops, did that slip out?
But that was a long time ago) and characters are buckets of fun. (The
wizard is a teenage girl. She will kick your ass.)
- Huff, Tanya
- The Fire's Stone
The story of a boy growing up in postwar Barcelona, who discovers
(among many growing-up-like affairs) the books of obscure author
Julian Carax. Over the years he searches for Carax, and winds up in a
tangled mess of stories that you could call a spy novel (if there were
any politics at all) or a mystery (if you consider the destruction of
an author's work a crime). Very European, very recursive, mostly
tragic, not particularly fantasy. I liked it even though it's not the
kind of thing I like.
- Zafon, Carlos Ruiz
- The Shadow of the Wind
This is another divided-city book. The Darkborn catch fire if they
touch sunlight (or equivalently bright magical light); the Lightborn
melt if they leave it. Our hero is a Darkborn physician. His
flatmate (across the opaque wall) is a Lightborn court agent. One
evening a woman shows up, pregnant with twins who turn out -- perhaps
-- to be of neither race... Politics, magic, assassinations, and all
manner of entertainments promptly arise. The plot is breakneck and
alternates between several characters, all of whom I enjoyed.
- Sinclair, Alison
Huff at the other end of the timescale. Er, that is, it's a recent
fantasy. The Gales are a clan of manipulative horny incestuous witches
who keep the world safe from etc etc. This is an attempt to recapture
(or retread) Summon the Keeper, but it doesn't succeed, both because
the parallels are too close and because the characters are less
charming. Mind-control pies are more icky than funny.
- Huff, Tanya
- The Enchantment Emporium
Okay, we get it, Thurman has a thing for big-brother-little-brother
stories. This is the Cal-and-Niko story, except the point of view is
the protective older brother (although he's still the slob), and
instead of a half-demon, the younger one is a genetically enhanced
psychic assassin. Also they're scions of the Russian mob. There's
nothing wrong with this book, it rollicks appropriately, but I don't
know how many more of these I want to read.
- Thurman, Rob
Far-future space opera. The Gentian clone-clan circles the galaxy,
picking up stories and playing with their seriously incalculably
powerful tech-toys, with occasional (every 200,000 years?) reunions to
catch up. Then someone booby-traps one of their reunions. The few
survivors get to try to figure out why. The setting is fantastic but
the plot is kind of thin. I mean, there's plenty of plot and plotting
and secret conspiracies and mysteries and all that. With a gosh-wow
ending. But the mysteries aren't particularly deep, and while all of
the plot elements have their place in the plot, they don't fit
together in the plot. Everything is important once. Nothing is
revelatory. Too bad.
- Reynolds, Alastair
- House of Suns
A blacksmith SCA chick discovers Siegfried's dragon-slaying sword at a
yard sale. Or somewhere. I have serious problems with this fantasy:
all of the fantasy elements are unconvincing. Dwarves, magic swords,
runes, dragons, a blatantly-lanterned Odin in a dumpster -- the
protagonist and everybody else reacts to them with exactly the wrong
amount of amazement and wonder. Thus, so do I. Worse: all of the
mundane elements (the protagonist's job, her other job, her love
life, her friends) are all terrific -- the author gets that stuff
rock-solid. It was just, every time I got back to the dragon-slaying
parts, I fell out of the book again. Frustrating.
- Pitts, J. A.
- Black Blade Blues [e-book purchase]
The cities of Beszel and Ul Qoma exist on the same physical territory,
held apart by their inhabitants' rigid refusal to acknowledge each
other. When a body turns up in Beszel, and the weary police inspector
suspects that it might be from Ul Qoma... All the discussion about
this book seems to be whether it's SF or not. Okay: it is. It's the
"...where the science is social science" category. Would people behave
like this? No, except that if they did it wouldn't be unusual at all;
people do weirder things. But that's not my point. A friend read the
back cover and says "Oh, a metaphor for Jerusalem," and that's wrong:
the author couldn't give less of a damn about metaphor. (The narrator
explicitly disclaims Jerusalem and Cold War Berlin at one point: his
home city isn't split, only a foreigner would make that mistake.)
This book offers its setup as a reality, and lets the similes fall
where they like. That's why it's SF. ...But if you don't care about
that, then read a perfectly entertaining police-procedural that goes
- Mieville, China
- The City and the City
Morgan's writing is inevitably associated with the word "gritty". It's
an unfortunately broad term. In this case it means that if your D&D
campaign background includes a big war against the lizardfolk ten
years ago, it wouldn't be unrealistic to have some homeless veterans
in your gutters with PTSD and alcohol problems. Of course the
D&D-style setup is a ploy for fantasy expectations, and although there
are horse nomads and more-or-less-elves, the stockness is neatly pared
away piece by piece as the book goes on. (N. K. Jemisin pulled this
trick recently; I wonder if it's becoming a thing.) Anyhow, the
characters are all compulsively human -- including the half-elf -- and
I have a soft spot for a god who introduces himself by saying "Listen,
I was the thief of fire once, you goat-shagging thug.... Ah, fuck
it, never mind."
- Morgan, Richard K.
- The Steel Remains
Somewhat hit-and-miss story of a medieval fantasyland in which some
people hear voices and can ask them for miracles. The Church is not
big with this. The book starts out with the theme that magic costs
(see below) but that turns out to be lies-to-children; the theme goes
off in a weirder direction that I didn't fully get. Maybe this will
get explained in a sequel. Maybe I'll read it.
- Duncan, Dave
- Speak to the Devil
Nth "Laundry" book, and if you're into this series you've already
devoured it. Bob Howard is sent off to exorcise some historic WW2
airplanes, and -- because this is a Laundry book -- lands in deep,
deep hoodoo doodoo. Poor guy has every right to spend the next book
and a half quivering in a posttraumatic heap, but I suspect he won't
get that luxury.
- Stross, Charles
- The Fuller Memorandum
Very few books cut to what should be the most immediate metaphor of
magic: magic costs. Oh, sure, we get lots of aesthetically pleasing
fatigue and maybe even fainting, but that's it. Not in this one. Magic
costs, and while the cost is temporary, it gets you by the short
hairs: blindness, stomach cramps, fever, bruising. The best you can do
is cast a secondary spell to pick your poison. The worst you can do
is cast a spell to dump your side effects on somebody else, and that's
seriously illegal without notarized consent documents. Our hero is the
kind of lowlife PI who goes after the kind of lowlife who does that.
It's a nice setup, commendably forthright about magic as a valued
energy source with toxic waste products. Unfortunately, by the end
we're off in the land of soul-balanced lovers who are so perfectly
matched that the cost evaporates. Sigh.
- Monk, Devon
- Magic to the Bone
Cute. Works the snarky-twenty-something narrative voice for all it's
worth, and then works it until it's kind of annoying. Also, heavy on
the hormones. Despite that, this is a reasonably well-told story about
-- well, you figure it out. The author has a good eye for vivid
- Benson, Amber
- Death's Daughter
A thoroughly personable little modern-folk tale, based on a tale from
Senegal (according to this back-cover blurb). A story of people, gods,
spirits, and cooking dinner.
- Lord, Karen
- Redemption In Indigo
All I remember about this collection is that Irvine is a depressing
- Irvine, Alexander C.
- Pictures from an Expedition
Peter Beagle is not a depressing writer. He is a brilliant writer,
still, at age seventy or whatever he is now. All the stories in this
collection are great.
- Beagle, Peter S.
- We Never Talk About My Brother
I have this problem with books where N characters are spread out over
N plot threads and they almost never meet. Unlike the Kate Elliott
series, I did eventually get back into the swing of things, but it
took almost half the book. The prose is still a constant joy.
- Fox, Daniel
- Jade Man's Skin
In a fantasy world where human ethnicities are derived from insect
totems, the Wasp Empire is about to conquer the continent. (Wasps look
human, but they can fly and zap sting-fire from their hands. Ants are
telepathic, Beetles are good at tinkering -- it goes on like that.)
(There are giant beetles and so on, but they're domesticated
animals.) This is not a war novel; this is the Great-Game-ish
espionage that precedes the war. Plenty of swordfights. I had
forgotten the joy of a book where people break into some damn
swashbuckling every couple of chapters.
- Tchaikovsky, Adrian
- Empire in Black and Gold (Shadows of the Apt, book 1)
The first non-sequel book I've seen from Duane in a long, long time.
(Fine; since 2002. That's a long time.) A slightly-future online-game
company... what? You've read two such books this year already? Look,
MMOs are a thing. People write books about them. It used to be
spaceships. Let me continue. A slightly-future online-game company
comes under corporate attack, and Things Are Happening Online.
- Duane, Diane
- Omnitopia Dawn
The charm and weakness of this book (trilogy, I expect) is that it's
about a future that doesn't suck. (Have you read two books like that
this year? Sorry, that's James Nicoll's rant, not mine.) People are
investing in solid progressive politics and environmentally friendly
development, all over the country, because it's a good idea. Our hero
is the CEO of a game company who wants everybody to play, have a great
time, learn to build their own in-game worlds, and get a cut of the
profit. The company is awesome to work for, too. Okay, I want that,
but you'll notice I'm not in charge of a multi-million-dollar MMO
company. The antagonist is an old rival whose company is ascribed all
the bile ever devoted to Microsoft, Farmville, and WoW. (To be fair,
he gets a little more interesting towards the end, but there's still a
lot of spittle-flecking.) I am very nearly partisan enough on these
issues to swallow the lot... and I do recommend the book; I just
don't find anything in it challenging.
Yay, the series is over! Big-ass showdown with all the powers of
nature and so on. The author Rowlings the epilogue to make sure we
know this is it. Was it worth it? Eh, it could have been a trilogy,
honestly. Conclusion: if you have a Gary Stu character, making him an
NPC is a better storytelling model than making him the protagonist,
but you're still going to leave the readers rolling their eyes a
- Caine, Rachel
- Total Eclipse (Weather Warden, book 9)
Police officer gets involved in immigration problems.
- Sagara, Michelle
- Cast in Chaos
The war begins, with a couple of city sieges. This is turning out to
be another N-characters-with-separate-threads series, so it's a good
thing I'm reading the first three all in a row. They're good
characters, mind you.
- Tchaikovsky, Adrian
- Dragonfly Falling (Shadows of the Apt, book 2)
And the third. Politics and aerial dogfighting in the southern fringes
of the Wasp empire.
- Tchaikovsky, Adrian
- Blood of the Mantis (Shadows of the Apt, book 3)
I swore I wouldn't clutter up my bookshelves with any more Simon
Green. Then I bought an iPad. Problem solved! (Specifically, the
problem of being tempted by easily-readable fluff that will never be
worth lending to anybody.) Anyway, this is another Drood sequel. Five
preternatural badasses are invited to compete for a macguffin. Sorry,
I should have started "In this special episode of..." The Nightside's
- Green, Simon R.
- The Spy Who Haunted Me [e-book purchase]
Angel private eye gets on the trail of some demons trafficking in
angel parts. This series is fun, if not all that memorable.
- Sniegoski, Thomas E.
- Dancing on the Head of a Pin [e-book purchase]
This would be the one where the badass sergeant is thrown into a
prison camp and has to break out. It's an alien prison camp, mind you.
This adds some bits to the backstory, but also (spoilers for the blurb
of the sequel) Sgt. Kerr musters out at the end, so how can the next
book be any fun at all?
- Huff, Tanya
- Valor's Trial [e-book purchase]
More secret agents on space trains. This is a locked-train mystery,
but the train's rules make no sense whatsoever except to make various
bits of the mystery work, so just sit back and watch the spies run
around and beat each other up.
- Zahn, Timothy
- The Domino Pattern
The London elves have survived into Newton's lifetime. Now human
scientists are trying to figure out faerie-land. The proximate threat
is Halley's Comet, which is a threat because the elves made a serious
mistake 75 years ago. (Nobody told them then that the thing was
periodic.) This is a pretty cool rendition of the science-vs-magic
dialectic, but I'm really just hanging on until the sequels reach WW2.
- Brennan, Marie
- A Star Shall Fall
A mini-RPG based on the narrative model of a Cohn Brothers film: the
players construct characters, construct a grand scheme (or schemes) to
get what they want, and then roll on the "how does it all go to hell"
- Morningstar, Jason
Enormous, multi-threaded, sprawling novel set in a future India. I
haven't read McDonald for decades, and I don't remember his old books
very well. Turns out he's bloody well terrific. This has everything:
artificial intelligence, soap opera, megacorporations, crime,
marriage, politics, giant floating elephant-shaped palaces... I don't
know if this book gives an accurate sense of India, but if it doesn't,
it's good enough to make me believe.
- McDonald, Ian
- River of Gods
My long review of this is
Short review: this is an excellent introduction to Inform 7, an IF
programming language which is not like a lot of other programming
languages. It's also an excellent introduction to why IF is an
interesting art form; the author constructs a complete small game
in front of your eyes, as both a programming tutorial and a design
- Reed, Aaron A.
- Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7
Mob sorceror kicks ass in Los Angeles. (The old mob. The boss man is
Sumerian.) For some reason -- probably the smallish-trade-paper format
-- I thought this was a YA book. It's not, unless your young adult
wants to start with a flensed corpse on page one. Pretty good ride.
Also, I like that Domino Riley focusses her magic by saying apropos
literary quotes, or sometimes by Googling.
- Haley, Cameron
- Mob Rules
Teenager runs away and gets mixed up with elves. This is the YA book I
thought the previous one was. Has that classic 80s-Minneapolis faerie
vibe, but I liked it.
- Black, Holly
Second book about hapless grunt working for a society of the most
terrifyingly ruthless sorcerors imaginable. They're the good guys.
This starts to get back to our "hero"'s backstory, and also the
Society's backstory; but mostly it's about chasing a pretty blue dog.
Dog monster. These are good books.
- Connolly, Harry
- Game of Cages
Have not yet read. I know, I'm supposed to be this big adventure-game
fan, I have kilobytes of blog posts about Myst games, and I haven't
read the Myst tie-in novels? Life is just weird that way. I grabbed
this (e-book edition) so I'd have a (searchable) text for reference. I
will read it eventually.
- Miller, Rand; Miller, Robyn; Wingrove, David
- The Myst Reader [e-book purchase]
This was written before Valiant. It's clumsier, but perfectly
- Black, Holly
Tiffany Aching takes on something that really, really hates witches.
Why are you waiting?
- Pratchett, Terry
- I Shall Wear Midnight
This is one of those alternate histories where the Americas aren't
inhabited by human beings. Actually it might have been just South
America. Just to warn you. Anyhow, the book starts out as Young Ladies
in School, which was kind of painful, but rapidly turns into Young
Lady's Adventure as an aristocracy of evil mages start chasing her
across an Ice-Age-ridden Europe with evil and/or matrimony on their
minds. There are also zeppelins. I like Ice Age mages and zeppelins.
- Elliott, Kate
- Cold Magic
A collection of riddles, constrained poems, and riddles in the form
of constrained poems.
- Montfort, Nick
- Riddle & Bind
Badass sorceror, returned from Hell on his own recognizance, now kills
vampires for lousy money and complains to his decapitated head of a
roommate. (The head complains back.) If you don't find this
description immediately compelling, you're probably not cut out for
urban fantasy. Life is, at any rate, about to turn shitty for the man
who wishes they wouldn't call him Sandman Slim. Banter with Lucifer is
- Kadrey, Richard
- Kill the Dead
There is nobody in fandom whom I need to tell to read a new Vorkosigan
book. You've decided to read it or to not read it. But, since you ask,
this is minor Miles. It has a point, but the point is submerged in a
lot of things happening around Miles rather than Miles happening to
other people. (Which is why the protagonist is one of the other
people, mostly.) The question at risk: how shall we relate to our
- Bujold, Lois McMaster
Conclusion of an epic fantasy quadrilogy which deserves to become a
standard-bearer of the genre. (Only the genre has become so enormous
that it's hard for anybody to make a dent.) It's about people growing
up, people's families, politics, battles, a war, and lurking horrors
from the depths of time. It has many, many points of view -- and I
mean that at both the personal, generational, and cultural levels.
(And we get just enough of a view of the lurking horrors to realize
that they have a point of view, which I love.)
- Smith, Sherwood
- Treason's Shore
And it's mostly full of people who, when they have terrible
life-strangling romantic problems, sit down and talk sensibly about
them. Eventually. Mostly. I admit that this book has an undue number
of people who refuse to write to each other even when they're on
unlimited texting plans.
Best Culture novel since Look to Windward. (It would still be that
without the epilogue, too.) The question at risk: how shall we
interfere? Specifically, which "we"?
- Banks, Iain M.
- Surface Detail
This turns out to be a sequel, but the first book was apparently a
barely-filed-down Anabasis. This one is about the mercenary who led
his army home, only it's twenty years later and maybe he should think
about staying home now? Instead of going out on campaign every year?
Raise a few vegetables, have a lot more sex with his wife? Except this
new warleader seems to be conquering Greece (I mean, not Greece, but
it's Greek) and he's recruiting enthusiastically.
- Kearney, Paul
This is an interesting setting; there's no magic, except for a few
hundred sets of impenetrable armor floating around as family
heirlooms. There are bare hints that this is technology rather than
magic. It's not part of the plot at all; the plot is about the army
stomping its way through the city-states, and it's a fine plot with a
whole lot of excellent characters. The fat asshole is the best.
It is impossible to describe this book as anything other than
Discworld fanfic. Competent fanfic, though. It's set in an alternate
modern London, with medieval color and a lot of (Church-controlled)
magical technology. Our hero (and Gloriana's) is lounging about,
trying to avoid fame and fortune after a
more-disastrous-than-is-commonly-known expedition to Discover
Australia. Dastardly plots refuse to avoid him. The writing is
entertaining enough to support all the sight gags (e.g., the Swiss
army sword, you get the idea).
- Abnett, Dan
- Triumff: Her Majesty's Hero
See above. I had an opportunity to pick up a nice hardcover edition.
- Miller, Rand; Miller, Robyn; Wingrove, David
- Myst: The Book of Atrus
Mercedes who? This contains a young Kaylin Neya (Cast In...) story
and a prequel Domino Riley (Mob Rules) story. Both are good.
Thirteen-year-old Kaylin is not quite convincing -- she talks like
fifteen, maybe -- but watching the police department meet her is
- Lackey, Mercedes; Sagara, Michelle; Haley, Cameron
- Harvest Moon
Follow-up book, though not a direct sequel, to the land of
interestingly screwed-up deities. A blind painter finds a dying
demigod in an alley, although his only demigodly power seems to be
returning to life at dawn. Then more dead demigods start turning up
who weren't so fortunate. Dastardly plots! I liked the rendering of a
blind protagonist (who has some compensating magical talents, but it's
not a "she can see anyway" situation).
- Jemisin, N. K.
- The Broken Kingdoms
Satisfactory conclusion to this arc of the Wasp Invasion, although I
see more books are forthcoming.
- Tchaikovsky, Adrian
- Salute the Dark (Shadows of the Apt, book 4)
A collection mostly of stories I'd read online, but I was happy to
acquire hardcopy. I seem to have developed an anaphylactic reaction to
Cory Doctorow, though.
- Stross, Charles
Hello, libertopian space colony! I didn't miss you at all, you
detritus of the 1980s. Sigh. Also, the author seems to have
constructed her plot in order to justify the Baen cover (e.g.,
barely-dressed bazooms floating through space with a girl behind
them). That said, this is a reasonably entertaining space adventure,
with hovercycle chases and true love and everything.
- Hoyt, Sarah A.
- Darkship Thieves
Repairman Jack bounds onwards towards the end of the world (three
books hence). This time he's dealing with the plot that took down the
World Trade Center; the author handles it with his usual enthusiastic
lack of grace, but we forgive him.
- Wilson, F. Paul
- Ground Zero
More essays from the charming grouch of the food world. Bourdain is a
hell of a writer, actually. He personifies the "open a vein and bleed
truth on the page" form. Much of this book is "I was such a young
idiot when I wrote my first book" (Kitchen Confidential). Some of it
is about where food is going, and that comes off like science fiction
-- cooking way over my head. It's fascinating.
- Bourdain, Anthony
- Medium Raw
Speaking of food. I haven't made anything from this yet, but I like
pickling stuff. I made some terrific pickled blueberries last year.
- Alfeld, Beverly Ellen Schoonmaker
- Pickles to Relish
An odd little book from a small press. Having read it, I can see why
it wasn't picked up by Duncan's usual publishers; it's not quite up to
his standard. In a galactic sector dominated by the autocratic (but
not particularly despotic) We-Own-The-FTL Company, somebody turns up
evidence of human genetic engineering. The Company quickly assembles a
crack team of civilians (the priest, the journalist, the
industrialist, the politician) to check it out before they apply their
usual penalty of sterilizing the planet. There's a lot of tossed-off
social-biological assumptions (the engineered humanoid species must
be destroyed, because two races cannot possibly coexist, even though
it's explicit that every colony does some gene-fixing to make its
members more comfortable on their planet) and then some vaguely creepy
underage (consensual) sex. The author should have kept the priest
character and written him a better novel.
- Duncan, Dave
- Pock's World
Necromancer stays home, discovers that politics are coming for her
anyway. Also vampires. Once again I feel like Isyllt is a less
interesting character than all of her sidekicks, friends, and enemies.
(Not to mention the city and the magical scene-setting, which are
practically characters on their own right.) But you can't say she's
passive in this one.
- Downum, Amanda
- The Bone Palace
Have not yet read.
- Brown, Mike
- How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming
Have not yet read. Yeah, my book-buying got ahead of my book-reading this
- Banks, Dakota
- Dark Time [e-book purchase]
Third book about girl and her demon-hunting team. The character arcs
in this series are clearly written for the long scale (and, to be
clear, we're talking about relationships between human beings, not
demon-shagging.) Fluff plot points from the first book are now turning
out to have been fluff on the backs of approaching sharks.
Wool-sharks. Whatever. The point is, this series has upgraded from
dullish to pretty darn sharp. The protagonist realizes something that
the rest of us figured out in book 2, but there are more revelations
that I didn't see coming at all. I am now optimistic that the "extra
step" I've been imagining is in fact where the author is ultimately
- Hanover, M. L. N.
- Vicious Grace [e-book purchase]
This is a book of imaginary and/or silly design -- sort of Great
Moments in Architecture for designers. I find it tremendously funny.
The extremely-seriously-philosophical-design talk only adds to the
effect. (If the author means it seriously, so what?) The only problem
is that it's hard to satirize reality: Lukic's "Behind the Scenes
Camera" started shipping from Apple in June.
- Lukic, Branko; Katz, Barry M.
The girl with the nose attempts to get out of all the messes she's
rolled in. It almost works. This series is still good, and better if
you've visited Boston landmarks; full of creepiness and eccentric New
- Ronald, Margaret
- Soul Hunt
(Bonus favorite line: "They said that you didn't truly die until
everyone who remembered you was dead. Did it count if what they
remembered was how good you tasted?")
Have not yet read.
- Levene, Rebecca
- Cold Warriors
Have not yet finished, but oh lordy I still love McKillip's writing.
- McKillip, Patricia A.
- The Bards of Bone Plain
Have not yet read.
- Valente, Catherynne M.
- The Habitation of the Blessed
Last updated January 11, 2011.
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