dsrtao: dsr as a LEGO minifig (Default)
- *The Last Good Man*, Linda Nagata
- *In Evil Times*, Melinda Snodgrass
- *The Scorpion Rules*; *The Swan Riders*, Erin Bow
- *Kris Longknife: Emissary*, Mike Shepherd
- *Kangaroo Too*, Curtis Chen
- *Final Girls*, Mira Grant
- *Down Among the Sticks and Bones*, Seanan McGuire
- *Nothing Left to Lose*, Dan Wells
- *To Fire Called*, Nathan Lowell
- *White Hot*, Ilona Andrews

If you wish to be completely unspoiled: I liked every one of these books,
enough to recommend them (or their series) to people whom I think might
like things like that.

After this, my low-spoiler notes on what kind of things they are.


*The Last Good Man* is a near-future military thriller posing
philosophical questions about the ethics of automated weaponry and
the place of private military companies  amidst battles on four
continents. It's also about justice and revenge.

*In Evil Times* is the second book in at least a trilogy and perhaps a
longer series, set in the FTL Imperio de Humanidad, a moderately nasty
aristocracy built on a theme of human superiority and alien servitude.
In the first book, La Infanta Mercedes became the first female cadet at
the space force academy; this book chronicles the middle decades of her
life, before she presumably ascends to the throne. Youthful idealism
gives way to realpolitik and easier paths.

*The Scorpion Rules* and *The Swan Riders* are the first and second
books set in a 400-year old all-Earth empire ruled by a handful of AIs
that got the keys to an orbital laser grid. Sadly, the AIs are faster
and more observant but not wiser than humans. Their pax is based on
limited self-rule of nations guaranteed by hostages from the rulers and
the threat of laser-glazing cities. (The energy requirements do not seem
to have been calculated well.) Intriguing characters, though.

*Kris Longknife: Emissary* is the fifteenth book about the
Admiral Princess; this time she's sent to become ambassador to the
Iteeche. Remember how little is known about the Iteeche? Now we get to
find out. Shepherd is now self-publishing this series, which means about
the same level of publishing and copy editing but a schedule closer to
his natural pace -- which seems to be 2-3 books a year instead of one.
Don't start with this one; it's a milSF-space-opera popcorn series and
you should get the whole set.

*Kangaroo Too* is the sequel to Chen's hilariously funny *Waypoint
Kangaroo*, and it manages to be nearly as good. Not a trilogy, I think,
but a long-running series. It's multi-planetary espionage of the Bond
variety which takes itself seriously enough to be worth investing
your time.

*Final Girls* by Mira Grant and *Down Among the Sticks and Bones* by Seanan
McGuire are of course by the same author. Both are horror novellas;
the first in a SFnal horror-movie sense, and the second in the fantastic
multi-dimensional universe of *Every Heart A Doorway*. More blood and
gore on the SF side of the house, which would make an excellent movie.

*Nothing Left to Lose* wraps up the six volume series of Dan Wells' John Cleaver,
a teenage serial killer who restricts himself to killing demons. Luckily,
there are a bunch of demons in that world to kill.

*To Fire Called* is the second book of the second series about Ishmael Wong,
who is now trying to set up an interstellar transport company of his own.
Unfortunately... spoilers. Lots of spoilers. Lowell continues to try to
solve his characters' problems non-violently, but doesn't quite succeed
here.

*White Hot* is the second book of a romance-marketed urban fantasy /
PI-with- psychic powers series. I assume it's romance-marketed because
that sells better; there's no particular reason to categorize it
that way otherwise. Good plot twists.

Books!

Apr. 7th, 2017 12:11 pm
dsrtao: dsr as a LEGO minifig (Default)
Things I've read lately:

Seanan McGuire: Magic for Nothing (Cryptid book 6).
- in which one of the Price-Healey women runs off to join the circus.

Mishell Baker: Phantom Pains (Arcadia Project book 2).
- in which everyone gets manipulated and at least three new truths about the universe are revealed. Also features a manticore who isn't so bad once you get to know him.

John Scalzi: The Collapsing Empire
- Yep, it's non-milSF space opera, with politics and probably romance in the next book.

Matthew Quirk: Cold Barrel Zero
- a thriller in which the bad guys/good guys remain ambiguous until near the end.

Neil Gaiman: Norse Mythology
- adapted to modern sensibilities

Joe Lansdale: The Hap & Leonard series, books 1-10 or so
- in many of these books, one or both of our protagonists gain $100K or so and manages to spend or lose it before the next book. Also contains murder, assault, and righteous arson.

Annie Bellet: Dungeon Crawl (Twenty-Sided Sorceress book 8)
- in which the ramifications of past deals are revealed.

Marshall Maresca: The Holver Alley Crew (Maradaine book 5)
- in which there is a heist! in the interestingly-multi-ethnic medieval fantasy city of Maradaine

Patricia Briggs: Silence Fallen (Mercy Thompson book 10)
- in which someone explicitly acknowledges that Mercy is one of the 2-3 most powerful people in North America. Also, vampires, werewolves, and witches.

K. B. Spangler: A Girl and Her Fed series (4 Rachel Peng books, 1 Hope Blackwell book)
- in the universe next door where there were significant advances in neural interfaces, the cyborg community has the best parties. Fantasy with science-fictional trappings.
dsrtao: dsr as a LEGO minifig (current)

Is there a story or novel in which, upon attaining an age of majority, the new adults must either explicitly sign on to a formal social contract or be exiled?

It seems like the sort of thing that should have been done, but I can't think of any examples. (Several rite-of-passage novels come to mind, of course, but that's different.) It seems like obvious Prometheus Award bait...

Not quite what I'm looking for:


  • Starship Troopers (service for citizenship is not mandatory, not age-linked, they won't throw you out)

  • Coventry (participation in society is assumed, exile is an option for felons)

  • Those Who Walk Away From Omelas (almost right, but there's no explicit social contract, just a utopia powered by evil)

  • Divergent (not sure, but appears to be about cliques and conformity rather than governing rules of society)

  • anything where you have to lose or win citizenship rights rather than just agreeing with them





dsrtao: dsr as a LEGO minifig (current)
Stephenson's editor didn't. The result is the worst book with Stephenson's name on it.

The first 2/3 of this weighty tome (I assume -- mine came encoded as a very large number) is a series of technical infodumps on space technology of the early to mid 21st century, with a framing plot that destroys the Earth and more than 99.9999% of all living things in the Solar System over the course of three years. There are a couple of characters in there who recur often enough to keep their names straight. Most characters die or disappear quickly enough that job titles would do just as well. I didn't find any of the characters particularly sympathetic. Perhaps you have seen a slushpile book in which a first-time author has worked out the entire history of their fictional universe, and tries to tell that to you with the names of fifty legendary characters that you should definitely remember? This is like that. If the parts of Anathem and Dune that you really enjoyed were the glossaries and appendices, you might get more out of the first section than I did.

Then Stephenson skips 5000 years. The "Seven Eves" of the title are the seven surviving fertile human females at the end of part 1; their descendants, about 3 billion strong, are the subject of the second and far more interesting part of the book.  It's still not great: it is mostly a semi-utopian travelogue novel, where a viewpoint character visits many named places on the map and talks to people who come from the other named places. (Yes, there's a map with named places on it.)

Had I been the editor, and strong enough to say no to a heavyweight best-seller, I would have cut the entire first section and started off with the second section. SF readers are used to picking up clues about a fictional world, and doing so is actually fun for most people. This... not so much.

Books

Oct. 21st, 2012 09:23 pm
dsrtao: dsr as a LEGO minifig (Default)
_Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore_, Robin Sloan.

Neal Stephenson, but with very few infodumps, a single plot, and a real ending in a reasonable number of pages. Also: utterly charming, very geeky, and embodying a spirit of now that dooms it forever to being a period piece about 2008-2012ish.

Books

Oct. 8th, 2012 11:28 pm
dsrtao: dsr as a LEGO minifig (Default)
Iain Banks, _The Hydrogen Sonata_. An extended meditation on long life, death, memory, song, and the inadvisability of screwing around with the Culture.

Books

Jun. 8th, 2012 09:20 am
dsrtao: dsr as a LEGO minifig (Default)
_Redshirts_, John Scalzi

I started this book after we put the kids to bed last night, started laughing on the second page, and I stayed up until I had finished it. I was not disappointed.

Requires familiarity with Star Trek and US Sfnal TV programming.

Books

Jun. 7th, 2012 08:58 pm
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_Kiss the Dead_, Laurell Hamilton

This is the 21st or so book in the Anita Blake series, so if you don't know what you're in for, this is not the book for you. For everyone else, the question is "is it getting any better?" and the answer is a qualified "not yet".

Minor spoilers follow.

In this episode, Anita faces her least convincing threat ever: a group of vampire and vamp-wannabe terrorists, bent on breaking the vampire master-fledgling dominance structure. Past their introduction, there is no serious worry that she will break a nail. More property is damaged by supernatural sex than bombs.

The real focus of this book is on Anita's polyamory, with special attention to primaries, secondaries, slaves, and scheduling problems that even Google Calendar is helpless to solve. The word polyamory is defined several times, and of course there are many examples presented. Anita finally admits to being "heteroflexible", which is apparently different from "bi", because, you know, she only does females who she really really wants to do. I'm not sure if this is supposed to fool anyone except Ms. Hamilton.

We also see some repetition of scenes. For example, this happens more than once:

AB: Oh, I must have sex to feed the ardeur, lest I grow weak! Of which there is no sign.
Willing But Possibly Dominated Partner: Oh yes!
[ They do, for a chapter or so. ]
AB: That was so good, I forgot to feed the ardeur. We must do it again.
WBPDP: Yes, just let me move first, I'm beginning to chafe.
[ They do, for a chapter or so. ]

Spoiler: no place or entity named "Kiss the Dead" shows up.
dsrtao: dsr as a LEGO minifig (Default)
In a work of fiction, the author controls the vertical and the horizontal.

Still. Mark Twain said, in his critique of James Fenimore Cooper, "[the rules] require that the personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable."

In thrillers, we expect the protagonist to do things which are not ordinary accomplishments; each is perhaps feasible, but doing them all together in sequence, or being a single person with the ability to do so much: that is the miracle. Sometimes it is super-competence, or inhuman agility, resilience, or endurance. All of these are miracles which can be excused by special training, inherent toughness, and merely bending biology rather than breaking physics.

We are also subject to the law of preparation: when the protagonist is explicitly shown to make preparations -- even in flashback, even in post-action flashback -- they are allowed to harvest the natural consequences of the seeding. This is especially delicious when it is not entirely obvious to the first time reader what the preparations are, yet they are completely consistent with the reveal.

It has just come to my attention that an author's thumbs upon the scale can also be too visible in a pacifist work. When the protagonist finds himself in a dark and dismal situation filled with blackguards and ruffians, it is unreasonable for a semester or two of college tai chi (even when tutored by a master) to result in a distinct lack of injury to the protagonist and a thorough beating of his assailants... compounded by the strict lack of culpability on the protagonist's part. Yes, he is pure in spirit and did not actually throw the beasts at each other. He just stepped out of their way.

I understand that the author was trying to consistently uphold values of pacifism and nonviolent resolution of conflict. It just wasn't believable.

_Double Share_, Nathan Lowell. Not recommended as highly as the previous entries in the series.

Books

Feb. 24th, 2012 06:25 pm
dsrtao: dsr as a LEGO minifig (Default)
_The Rook_, Daniel O'Malley

Is there a more traditional opening than having the protagonist wake up with major amnesia, knowing nothing of their identity, training or abilities? Yes, there is: the protagonist is orphaned, but one day is whisked away to an odd academy. Oh, and being the One of prophesy is good, too.

Aspects of all of these happen in _The Rook_, and it's a first novel, so it should be crap. Instead, it's a tightly-written thriller along the lines of _The Bourne Identity_, only with magic instead of guns and the British Occult Defense Force (of whatever title) rather than the CIA. Oh, and it works in some of the best casual humor I've seen in a fantasy in quite a long time. I'm looking forward to O'Malley's next book, whatever it happens to be. I doubt a sequel is forthcoming: the loose ends are all tied up and snipped off here.

_The Mirage_, Matt Ruff

In a world where the United States of Arabia is the civilizing superpower, and the continent of North America is a fractured mess of fundamentalist Christian crusaders and barely competent dictators, everybody except our few focus characters has a name you should recognize from the news in the last three decades. It's an alternate universe that superficially looks good but becomes less convincing as you examine the details, and that's the hook for the real story.

This should appeal to Neal Stephenson fans; it has much of his style about it, the casually breezy explanations, the characters that come with interesting backstories, the major puzzle with the satisfying explanation... and the almost complete lack of an ending. There's something called an epilogue, but it doesn't help. Grade A right up until then, though.

_The Throne of the Crescent Moon_, Saladin Ahmed

Here's the story of the last of the great Ghul Hunters, men who wielded the magic entrusted to them by The Most High, whose robes stayed white no matter the mud or dust surrounding them. And he's not getting any younger, so when ghuls more powerful than any man living has seen start showing up, he needs the help of a sword-wielding dervish and a Bedouin were-lion, not to mention wise and powerful alchemists and perhaps the apothecary in the marketplace... it's a modern tale from the Thousand Nights and a Night. Fun.

Books

Dec. 27th, 2011 08:54 pm
dsrtao: dsr as a LEGO minifig (Default)
I'm no longer going to pretend that I'm recording all the books I'm reading. There's been another interregnum. Oh well.

_Broken Blade_, Kelly McCullough:

In a medieval fantasy world balanced between Asian and European influences, an ex-assassin decides it's OK to kill bad people if he really wants to. His fearsome shadow-dragon familiar will enable him to sneak around like a ninja, slice like a ninja, and fly like a squirrel. When he left the Goddess of Justice's employ he gave up coffee-heroin in favor of alcohol. And a beautiful lady dressed in red walks into his bar and starts him on a dangerous quest that will change the world.

Despite all that, I kept turning the pages... each time I got sucked back in. Clearly one in a series.

Books

Oct. 24th, 2011 11:07 pm
dsrtao: dsr as a LEGO minifig (Default)
Let us suppose that you are an author with a consistently hard-cover original line of action/fantasy-horror novels, a nice long backlist, and you made two mistakes. The first mistake is that you decided to join a previous series with the current series (hah, new printings!) and as a result incorporated a definite timeline for the end of the world. The second mistake is that you already wrote the end-of-the-world book in the previous series...

Did I mention that the timeline of the new series is about to crash into the end-of-the-world from the first series?

The answer, then, is to write prequels, fill-ins, and rewrite the end-of-the-world book.

_The Dark at the End_, F. Paul Wilson.

Which is the last possible book to write before _Nightworld_, the end-of-the-world book.

Books

Oct. 24th, 2011 11:07 pm
dsrtao: dsr as a LEGO minifig (Default)
Let us suppose that you are an author with a consistently hard-cover original line of action/fantasy-horror novels, a nice long backlist, and you made two mistakes. The first mistake is that you decided to join a previous series with the current series (hah, new printings!) and as a result incorporated a definite timeline for the end of the world. The second mistake is that you already wrote the end-of-the-world book in the previous series...

Did I mention that the timeline of the new series is about to crash into the end-of-the-world from the first series?

The answer, then, is to write prequels, fill-ins, and rewrite the end-of-the-world book.

_The Dark at the End_, F. Paul Wilson.

Which is the last possible book to write before _Nightworld_, the end-of-the-world book.

Books

Oct. 14th, 2011 10:36 pm
dsrtao: dsr as a LEGO minifig (Default)
Fort Freak, edited by George Martin, written by many
The Edge of Ruin, Melinda Snodgrass
Snuff, Terry Pratchett
Monster Hunter International, Larry Correia
The Children of the Sky, Vernor Vinge
The Detachment, Barry Eisler

I thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of these, mostly for different reasons. One starts a series. The others are all the latest volumes of ongoing (we hope) works.

Damn it, Vinge, it's going to take you how many years to write the next story?

Books

Oct. 14th, 2011 10:36 pm
dsrtao: dsr as a LEGO minifig (Default)
Fort Freak, edited by George Martin, written by many
The Edge of Ruin, Melinda Snodgrass
Snuff, Terry Pratchett
Monster Hunter International, Larry Correia
The Children of the Sky, Vernor Vinge
The Detachment, Barry Eisler

I thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of these, mostly for different reasons. One starts a series. The others are all the latest volumes of ongoing (we hope) works.

Damn it, Vinge, it's going to take you how many years to write the next story?

books

Sep. 28th, 2011 09:33 pm
dsrtao: dsr as a LEGO minifig (Default)
_reaMdE_, Neal Stephenson
_The Affair_, Lee Child


REAmDe has an actual satisfying ending. It has many characters, a prodigious plot, and large chunks of it appear to be an exercise in making the most addictive reading possible. Insofar as it is SF, the sciences being fictionalized are semiotics and psychology. No laws of physics seem to be bent, although there are some coincidences on the scale that one expects in entertaining fiction. If you read slower than I do, be prepared to enjoy many hours of not wanting to put it down.

_The Affair_ is the sixteenth book about Jack Reacher, and it chronicles the events that happen just prior to the first book. If you are a fan of Reacher, you will like this one. Otherwise, don't start here.

books

Sep. 28th, 2011 09:33 pm
dsrtao: dsr as a LEGO minifig (Default)
_reaMdE_, Neal Stephenson
_The Affair_, Lee Child


REAmDe has an actual satisfying ending. It has many characters, a prodigious plot, and large chunks of it appear to be an exercise in making the most addictive reading possible. Insofar as it is SF, the sciences being fictionalized are semiotics and psychology. No laws of physics seem to be bent, although there are some coincidences on the scale that one expects in entertaining fiction. If you read slower than I do, be prepared to enjoy many hours of not wanting to put it down.

_The Affair_ is the sixteenth book about Jack Reacher, and it chronicles the events that happen just prior to the first book. If you are a fan of Reacher, you will like this one. Otherwise, don't start here.

books

Sep. 21st, 2011 10:28 pm
dsrtao: dsr as a LEGO minifig (Default)
_Carte Blanche_, Jeffery Deaver for the Fleming estate
_Empire in Black and Gold_, Adrian Tchaikovsky
_Outies_, J.E. Pournelle with permission of Niven and J. Pournelle


The literary chronicles of James Bond did not end with Ian Fleming's death; several other novelists have given it a shot with the Fleming estate's permission. Jeffery Deaver went a bit further than the others by rebooting Bond. Rather than ignore the contradiction of Bond fighting ex-Nazis and Smersh just post-WWII and still being spry and nimble today, he reinvents Bond as an RN vet of Afghanistan now working for a non-MI6 deniable agency. The gadgets are kept to a minimum, women appear as more than just toys and temptresses, and the villain plots are slightly less farfetched.

And as long as I am on the subject of authorized sequelae, Jerry Pournelle's daughter decided to continue the storyline from _The Mote in God's Eye_ (and _The Gripping Hand_) with a book which starts slowly, then turns out to be much better written in almost all respects than the N+P sequel. I'm still not sure about the evolutionary relationship of the Apes and the Moties, and the pronoun gimmick was obvious after the first page or so, but otherwise very well done. If you found yourself reading _The Gripping Hand_ and just barely finishing it, this might be for you.

Finally, Adrian Tchaikovsky is apparently turning out more novels in this series (Shadows of the Apt) at a rate likely to devastate forests. It's a steampunk-with-magic book set in a world where entomology and ancestry have gotten really strangely confused; humans are separated into tribe/races which derive powers and characteristics from various insects. It's weird, but also weirdly compelling. Expect war and treachery.

books

Sep. 21st, 2011 10:28 pm
dsrtao: dsr as a LEGO minifig (Default)
_Carte Blanche_, Jeffery Deaver for the Fleming estate
_Empire in Black and Gold_, Adrian Tchaikovsky
_Outies_, J.E. Pournelle with permission of Niven and J. Pournelle


The literary chronicles of James Bond did not end with Ian Fleming's death; several other novelists have given it a shot with the Fleming estate's permission. Jeffery Deaver went a bit further than the others by rebooting Bond. Rather than ignore the contradiction of Bond fighting ex-Nazis and Smersh just post-WWII and still being spry and nimble today, he reinvents Bond as an RN vet of Afghanistan now working for a non-MI6 deniable agency. The gadgets are kept to a minimum, women appear as more than just toys and temptresses, and the villain plots are slightly less farfetched.

And as long as I am on the subject of authorized sequelae, Jerry Pournelle's daughter decided to continue the storyline from _The Mote in God's Eye_ (and _The Gripping Hand_) with a book which starts slowly, then turns out to be much better written in almost all respects than the N+P sequel. I'm still not sure about the evolutionary relationship of the Apes and the Moties, and the pronoun gimmick was obvious after the first page or so, but otherwise very well done. If you found yourself reading _The Gripping Hand_ and just barely finishing it, this might be for you.

Finally, Adrian Tchaikovsky is apparently turning out more novels in this series (Shadows of the Apt) at a rate likely to devastate forests. It's a steampunk-with-magic book set in a world where entomology and ancestry have gotten really strangely confused; humans are separated into tribe/races which derive powers and characteristics from various insects. It's weird, but also weirdly compelling. Expect war and treachery.
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