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I voted in several more categories, but eg in long form dramatic presentation, I didn't have a lot to say so I'm not going to try to recap it here.

Novellas

Ballard of Black Tom was a very moving Lovecraft inspired story, from the perspective of a black new yorker, it paints a great portrait of his day to day life in 1920s (?) NY, and his initially minor dealings in mythos stuff. It was quite creepy once it started, but I've still to read the more lovecraftian ending of the story.

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe was *also* a very good Lovecraft inspired story, set in the dreamlands, and the travels of a professor at the newest university college, the women's only college, through strange parts of dream, weird gods, and eventually maybe the waking world.

Penric and the Shaman is enjoyable in all the ways you'd expect it to be if you've read other Chalion stories by Bujold. It says a little about shaman/demon interactions which was only incidentally touched on before, and has slightly more of a role for a Father-worshipping figure. But it doesn't add a lot new.

A Taste of Honey, I still need to read, but the cover is *gorgeous* and there's some good male/male flirting on the first page. I'm not sure how that's going to turn out.

This Census-Taker. Interesting worldbuilding, I'm not sure where it's going, I still need to finish it.

Best Novelette

“The Art of Space Travel” about a small cast of characters living and working near Heathrow, against a backdrop of a second Mars colony mission, 30 years after the first tragic failed attempt. I loved the character stuff, and background matter-of-fact look at a possible mars mission, although I wished they'd tied together more closely: I wanted to know more about the disaster, and the next mission. The title refers to the name of a textbook.

“The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon. All of her stories are pretty good, although I didn't love this as much as some of her others, despite being pretty good.

“Touring with the Alien”, an odd-job woman ends up with the role of taking reclusive alien visitors on a road trip to see some of earth. Interesting musings on free will etc even though I wasn't convinced where they ended up. Again, I loved the day-to-day interaction of the protagonist and the other characters.

“The Jewel and Her Lapidary”, interesting worldbuilding, but I need to see how this finishes up. Jewels were nobility of a hidden kingdom, who kept it secret safe and stable with various supernatural powers granted to them by gems, but could only be bestowed by Lapidary servants.

You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay” by Alyssa Wong. Something about a desert? It looked good but I couldn't get into it at all (sorry).
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Every Heart a Doorway tells the story of a school for the recovery of children who've been subject to portal fantasy stuff, specifically people wanted to stay but were cast out for some reason. It's pretty good; I felt it could have embraced the premise *better*, but it still did a pretty good job.

I have lots of different thoughts about this.

Returning from portal fantasy

One of the biggest is probably that, it's written as if people being cast out is a central feature of secondary worlds, whereas originally I think it's more like, the authors didn't think about it much either way, they just tacked on a happy ending even if it didn't really make sense in the book.

But as liv points out, many people found portal fantasies incredibly moving as children because they wanted to escape somewhere else from where they were, and returning was horrible, and this story serves very very well as an emphatic rejection of that trope.

Funnily enough that was never me. Lots of my friends overcame a lot of childhood problems, but though I was nerdy and bad at making friends, my parents were great, and I never wanted to get away from here, even if I was drawn to the idea of going somewhere where my strengths could blossom. I got some of that by going into maths and programming.

Flaws

I enjoyed this more than most of the other Seanan Mcguire I've read, even the Mira Grant. I think the strengths were similar, but the bits where "the characters go where the plot says, completely disregarding logic, common sense, emotion, characterisation, survival, or physical possibility" were much less prominent.

At least to me -- I know some people didn't find that a problem in any of her books, and some people were bothered by it in this one. But there are going to be *some* rants in the spoiler section.

I wasn't bothered by some things that bothered other people. To me, the variety of sexualities etc didn't feel shoehorned in, except occasionally (and I was pleased it was there). I wasn't bothered by shifts in narration from tight third to omniscient (I actually quite like little omniscient asides).

Strengths

The diversity of characters. The description of the secondary worlds: the harsh "high logic" faerielands; the "high nonsense" nonsense worlds; the ones with rhymes, the underworlds, etc etc. It is all very memorable.

Random thoughts

I know I can be too optimistic here, and it can be impossible to stop bullying, but I also just despair at how it's taken for granted in so many situations fictional and real. Here there's a fairly small group of children, with several adults present full time. Can't they at least TRY to prevent at least physical attacks? And ideally violent threats?

Spoilers )
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Subnautica

This falls into what I'm starting to recognise as a category, computer games that are incredibly beautiful in multiple ways, but I play for five minutes and decide I don't have time to play properly. You crashland on an ocean planet, and oh my gosh, the water is so WET it practically comes out of your monitor. And warm and clear and inviting, with tropical reefs stretching endlessly.

The actual game is a bit like minecraft, find the right materials to feed into an emergency fabber to make more complicated tools to get more useful materials and components, until you eventually repair a distress beacon. (I don't know if that's all or if there's also underwater aliens or whatever).

Avatar on Wii

Rachel bought some old-ish games and it's been lovely to have something fun but simple-ish we can play together occasionally. One person controlling and one person kibitzing works surprisingly well, a lot is "what now" where having the trigger finger isn't the important thing.

It looks great, very avatar-y. It's not set at any particular point in the chronology but has a feel of an avatar well-respected but also young and unpracticed well. And your abilities work like that too: you have quite powerful abilities but you have to unlock them by levelling up, and they have cooldowns, so you feel powerful, but also like you can only succeed by being skillful, which fits the tone very well.

I have a few quibbles. The wolves appear intelligent to manufacture, or at least habitually carry, headbands of +2 armor, and yet not intelligent enough to avoid spontaneously attacking the most powerful humanoid bender on the planet. The avatar indiscriminately slaughtering wolves and taking their stuff seems tonally inconsistent on multiple levels. But that's computer games.

Also, Zuko can jump down behind Kitara and grab her and she's suddenly unable to fight back? Why didn't he try that on all the OTHER waterbenders there?

Flintstones comic

So... there's a gritty flintstones reboot. Except it's not *very* gritty. Not like gratuitous gore. But it deals with consumerism. And colonialism. And PTSD. And so on. I've no idea how this came about, but it works really quite surprisingly well. A few panels are incredibly biting. I loved the animals-used-as-appliances talking to each other, and calling the pet dinosaur a traitor.

On other occasions, it does veer a bit puerile, making simplistic jokes and criticisms of modern life that aren't especially telling. But worth reading some of.

Irredeemable

About a superteam where the most powerful superman-like member goes rogue and starts killing people, and everyone else has to figure out what they can do from there.

The worldbuilding and characters are pretty good -- it feels really LIKE famous superteams, while all the individual members are not knock-offs of specific characters from a single team, but embodying the *sort* of iconic characters that usually exist.

It's mostly about the characters, and what they do and their relationships with each other. There are quite a lot of *further* story developments of one sort or another, it doesn't just dwell on the premise forever with nothing evolving.

I've some quibbles. Things would drag on a lot less if people stopped going back and forth on when to try to contain someone and when it was necessary to kill them. And it's not a *lot* of sexism, but there's some.
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“That Game We Played During the War”, by Carrie Vaughn (Tor.com, March 2016)

Chess, two countries slowly developing a peace after a long war, two people from opposite sides tentatively renewing a friendship formed during the war, and one side is entirely telepaths. Generally pretty interesting. More thoughts below.

“A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers”, by Alyssa Wong (Tor.com, March 2016)

Two sisters with magical abilities over the weather and alternate histories.

“Seasons of Glass and Iron”, by Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales, Saga Press)

Two fairytale protagonists rebel against their allotted labours and help each other escape.

“The City Born Great”, by N. K. Jemisin (Tor.com, September 2016)

A struggle to allow, or prevent, New York to become a living city. Really evocative, but I found it hard to get into.

“Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies”, by Brooke Bolander (Uncanny Magazine, November 2016)

Likewise, doing something good but I find it hard to describe.

The john c wright one

In general, I'll vote any spam entries no award and not feel obliged to read them, but I checked some reviews. It talks about things I genuinely find interesting, like the relationships between asimovian robots and theology. But in rather horrible ways.

Some spoilers )
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I've entered votes for everything apart from the novellas. There's quite a few I wish I had to spend more time on: ideally I'd read more by the Campbell authors, and some of the short stories I'd like to read again, and some other things.

But I'd also like to talk about what I enjoyed, and see what other people thought, so I'm working my way through some of the categories this week. The deadline for finishing voting is 8am Sunday morning BST (I think).

A few years ago I didn't follow any graphic novels at all, I only recognised entries which were webcomics I knew. But a combination of random drift, me following some authors online, reading some of the earlier graphic novels (especially Ms Marvel and Saga) and having other things recommended to me, and of just getting into the habit of reading comics on the tablet at all, have made me recognise enough of the ballot to have an opinion on the category and want to see the entries I didn't already know.

Most of them had enough in the hugo packet to make a good decision, a first issue or first collected volume, which is pretty good. Although I wouldn't have time to read them all.

Vision was really interesting. It's about the artificial magical humanoid from the avengers I only know from the recent avengers film, but enjoyed there. I don't usually read comics from large continuities even if I like the characters, because it feels like they're too constrained by stuff I don't know. But I really enjoyed this; Vision and family lose their memories (or the emotional component of their memories) and try to fit into human society again by living in a house in the suburbs and sending the teenagers to high school. It hits a lot of interesting "learning to understand human interaction" things. Although there looks to be a fair amount of gratuitous death coming up.

Black Panther is about the prince of Wakanda fighting... a bunch of mystical stuff. It covers lots of worthwhile themes, of power and racism and so on and is very well done. I got confused because I was trying to skim and that didn't really work, but I definitely want to read it more slowly, and rated it pretty highly

Monstress, I'd like help forming an opinion about. I read the first issue a while back without knowing much about it, but my impression was, it was absolutely gorgeous, both in visuals and in tone, all about some mystical battle of enslaved people and spirits against someone, and lots of people being captured and bravely escaping; but it felt very male-gazey and I assumed it was going to be "interesting, but not developing the interesting themes further and getting hard to read". But what everyone else said about it was gorgeous, amazing worldbuilding, feminist themes, so it sounded like my first impression did completely underestimated it, and it was all the things I'd love. But I've not actually read any more to be able to form my own opinion about. Has anyone else read it more (or even just read the first issue more slowly?)

I postponed the saga and ms marvel entries. I assume they're good, but about as good as the previous series was, so I will take the risk of voting on that basis. (If either was exceptionally more standout than the rest of the series, let me know). And I will vote most of the other entries first, because I'm more excited by *new* series, even as I want the ones I like to continue.

Papergirls is about three teenage girls who deliver newspapers discovering some alien invasion or something... the write-up sounded interesting, but I couldn't get into the first couple of pages. I expect it's fairly good, but I'll see if I go back to it or not.

Has anyone else read any of the ones I've partly read and have helpful opinions?
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Community. Rewatched first two series. Got bored in series three. I think there was still a lot of good things after that, but I wasn't as excited by each episode.

Rewatching s1 of west wing. Still very good. See twitter for running commentary. It's strange that WW made so many things famous you can't look up if they're true or not, you just find they were in the WW.

When I was being excited by Natural History of Dragons #3, I forgot to say, they investigate translating an ancient syllabary language. made me think of rochvelleth :)

Watched Doctor Who "Veritas". Some things are tedious: that's not how computers work, and that's not how random numbers work. It's almost the opposite. But overall I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Read the latest wild cards. Weird that it just happens to be set in Taraz (Talas) in Kazakhstan when ghoti et al are visiting that country. Although it unfortunately doesn't include much actually specific to Kazakhstan.

There's so many things that are really interesting about the wild card books. Partly that lots of famous authors show up writing a really different style of thing to what they usually write, often more straightforwardly engaging. Partly that main characters in one story thread show up as minor characters in other story thread, and you get a good triangulation on them, how they think of themselves vs how different people see them -- often with no Word-of-God on which is more accurate.

Books etc

Jun. 11th, 2017 10:10 pm
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Villains, Inc

Second in the series of Wearing the Cape superhero novels. Does a better job than most of building a world where superheroes make sense. I like the second one more in some ways, where the protagonist has grown a bit and is a lot more proactive. Although I don't remember much else.

I was interested to realise, "Villains Inc" was not just a catchy name but a reference to Murder Inc, the name given by the press to the organisation that span out of various crime families in the american mafia handling a majority of their contract killing[1].

[1] Also see: http://www.anarchogeekreview.com/history/so-a-nazi-walks-into-an-iron-bar-the-meyer-lansky-story

Hanging Tree (Rivers of London #5)

I liked this more than almost any of the previous ones. The humour is firing on all cylinders. We stop discovering whole new tracts of supernatural beings surely SOMEONE would have mentioned by now, and return to the strongest topics, Peter's family, the rivers, Nightingale and the other magicians. There's almost none of Peter being an arse about women. We're still waiting to find out more about what happened to you-know-who, but we find out *something* about it.

Magnificent Seven remake

This was... ok. It had a few good moments.

The first 30 minutes of the Magnificent Seven were one of the best films ever made. An underwear salesman is trying to pay for the funeral of a guy who died in the street, but the funeral director won't take his money because no-one wants a black guy buried in the cemetery, even though it's full of disreputable people, murders, criminals, etc. The protagonists volunteer because why not, everyone watching chips in to pay for the wagon if necessary, for the spectacle more than out of the goodness of their hearts. There's an extended scene while they drive to the graveyard, shooting a variety of people who take potshots at them. Everything about it is just great. It's entertaining and tense. Even the minor characters are very memorable. It cements two of the major characters for you.

And the rest was ok, but not especially memorable. Writing is HARD, because you want EVERY PART of your story to blow people away, and it's really hard to say what makes that happen. And the same for the sequel. Nothing especially is wrong, it just all happens how you'd expect, and I never felt "Wow".

Stealing Light

The galaxy is de-facto ruled by the Shoal, the only species to have FTL. Humanity lives in the region of stars allocated to them. Now a human faction may have discovered an ancient pre-Shoal FTL ship.

I didn't really get into the book itself, but I really wanted to find out about the history and which races had FTL and how they interacted. I probably won't re-read it, but I may read the sequel.
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I saw this recommended online somewhere and the premise was v my sort of thing so I gave it a go.

Bob is a hacker who gets lucky rich, signs up for cryogenic suspension, and at some point in the future is scanned and turned into an AI in a semi-theocratic-dystopian future. This is before that tech becomes reliable or cheap, so it's only used where an AI is needed and the subject doesn't have much choice, specifically running a space probe.

The generally comedic tone allows a lot of interesting premises to be examined which I've rarely seen in other books, like automatically using multiple copies of the most effective uploaded personality, instead of using each once each.

There's a bunch of space exploration which is solid and pleasingly up-to-date, but not otherwise spectacular.

Bob is an example of the sardonic-witty low-self-esteem hacker who shows up in lots of books. An archetype I like, but have got sick of. The sexist comments are fewer than The Martian, but still not zero.

If you like this sort of thing, you will probably enjoy it a lot, but if you don't, it probably won't persuade you.
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This has so much I love.

An interesting space empire, full of detailed calendrical minutae, customs, etc, etc.

A mathematically gifted protagonist struggling to serve loyally as a minor officer in the infantry.

A legendary rogueish maybe-monster.

The empire is built on basically mathematically-based magic, following particular social codes (both on an "infantry formation scale" and a "society as a whole" scale) allows various exotic technologies to work that wouldn't otherwise, including more powerful weapons and other tech that enables the empire to function at all.

I had some reservations too, which may contain spoilers, so will be moved into a follow-up post. Please make any comments which contain spoilers on that post too.
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http://ghoti.livejournal.com/804124.html

Ghoti started a book swap. The idea is, like a secret Santa, but you post your favorite book (or one of them) to a randomly chosen recipient. It would be cool if more people signed up.

Extra people who don't already know everyone on the list would be good :) Probably most people well be UK, but people from any country are welcome (I think?)

Deadline us tomorrow-ish (?)
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The Intuitionist

At some point, I realised I had a similar problem reading these two very different books.

The Intuitionist is very interesting. It's set in something like an alt-history New York. There is a powerful guild of elevator inspectors, who have made building skyscrapers possible at all. (I think that's parallel but different to the real history?)

It has a lot to say about integration, about the protagonist is one of the few female inspectors and the second black inspector. In fact, I'm pretty sure it has a lot *more* to say than I was able to follow at the time.

However, I think the important themes were initially obscured to me because they are presented via a front of a factional schism between two schools of elevator inspectorate, the intuitionists and the empiricists. Intuitionists ride an elevator and intuit the state of any problems. Empiricists use instruments for everything. And I think this is probably a metaphor for something important I don't get yet.

But I'm rather hung up on the fact that I know pretty well which works in the real world. There are failure modes of both too much process and too little process. And times when too much process is a big problem, and guiding intuition is much more valuable. But when it comes to safety inspection, methodical measurement is really good, and intuition is really bad.

So I'm really not sure, but I think "intuitionists" are supposed to be "some progressive, successful but controversial faction" but it took me a while to realise that, because what they SAID rang really false to me.

And that split ALSO has a lot to say about racial equality, and I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be reading that into the book as well. In moderation, empirical tests are good for equality. If you have a test related to actually doing the job, focusing on that, not gut feeling, can be very effective for levelling the playing field. cf. orchestras which do auditions with the performer behind a screen. Higher levels of supposedly objective tests are often an impediment to equality though -- see every employer who doesn't SAY "we want someone from an upper-middle-class caucasian background, preferable straight male", but DOES say "do you have qualification X which is expensive but not really directly helpful". However, "gut feeling" is generally ATROCIOUS here. Occasionally it's really good, when someone actively wants to hire under-appreciated talent. But normally "gut feeling" means "I can give free reign to all my prejudices and deny it if I'm called out".

Fifty Shades of Grey

If you ignore the bondage aspects, Fifty Shades of Grey follows a fairly traditional romance outline. It has some parts that bother me a lot, like "omg stalking and controlling behaviour are so sexy". But those are actually really common in many romance novels. I think those are a bad model for a relationship, and it's bad that stories tend to DEFAULT to having them. But also, it's something lots of people fantasise about, and I think it's important that "fantasising about romance, even if it isn't a healthy model for reality" is accepted as much as many many many other books which contain ok-for-fiction-but-bad-for-reality things eg. crime, death, etc.

I think some bits are clearly intended as fantasy. Most people want to *imagine* being stalked by a millionaire, but want that to actually *happen* only in careful moderation. Although the less familiar you are with that as a common romance fantasy, the more you're like "but that would actually be horrible".

Other bits are intended as mostly realistic. She drinks coffee. If she drank bleach every morning, all the readers would legitimately say "WTF? Why is that in your book??" And "it's fiction, I can do what I want" isn't really a helpful answer.

But the bondage stuff is somewhere between. I think to some people, it's clearly supposed to be fantasy. No-one would EVER do ANYTHING remotely like that in real life, right? So it doesn't matter if it's a random mix of mostly-safe-for-beginner stuff, and physically-safe-but-a-big-red-flag stuff, and really unwise stuff. It's all just "let's pretend". But to many people, they don't want to be tied up ACTUALLY against their will. But they DO like being tied up, and that's something lots of people actually DO. And it's not UNREALISTIC that the only person the protagonist's met who's openly into bondage is a dangerous control freak bully with unhealthy relationship habits and no idea of the difference between safe and dangerous, but it's UNREPRESENTATIVE, and it's irresponsible to say "this is what bondage is", when some people will read that and say, "that's obviously dangerous, lets ban it" and other people will say, "that seems fun, lets try it".

And the author could have gone in either direction. Grey could have kidnapped the protagonist -- then everyone knows that even if it's hot in fantasy, it's not a good model for real life. Or he could have had a passing familiarity with how to ACTUALLY do bdsm, even if he departed from it. That would make a lot of sense for the story, if he was known as a bdsm top who didn't care much about consent. And sure, for many people, that's the ONLY sort of BDSM-er they've met or can imagine. But it's still a problem to say that that's all there is ANYWHERE.

But the book bypasses all that. It's like, "deep dark secret, check", obviously we don't need to care about the legal or physical safety of any of the REAL WORLD PEOPLE that "dark secret" applies to, because it's just their for my titillation, right? :(

Other books

And I think that might stand out in other books. There's things which the author thought they could gloss over, which really stand out to me. And sometimes, once I learn what to ignore, I see the strengths of the rest of the book. And sometimes, they're unavoidably central to *most* people, but the minority who can ignore them really love the rest of the book.

But I suspect the same probably applies to big themes too. That there's books where the big theme is obscured by something that stood out *to me*. Or vice versa. But I'm not sure what examples would be.
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A Dangerous Energy, by John Whitbourne

Recommended via cjwatson iirc. An alternate history where magic exists, but is subsumed into a practical/academic discipline by the catholic church, from which England never successfully split. I think it's set now, but the politics and technology feel a way before that?

I love stories about the study of thaumaturgy. The main character grows up into quite a sociopathic man, but the journey of his researches, his friends, his sins is very interesting.

Lamentably, stories about the nature of the soul/magic/afterlife are doomed to be disappointing in the end when it is not ultimately revealed; this does better than most.

We are all completely beside ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler

See woodpijn's brief review here: http://woodpijn.livejournal.com/104297.html

The protagonist is now at university, but lost touch with her sister and her brother when she was about five, and isn't sure which of her memories of what happened are accurate. But it's not deliberate abuse, nor deliberately false memories, it all arose quite naturally out of what actually happened.

And it doesn't dwell only on the negative, she fills in her life experiences at various points, and it's really interesting to hear how she grew up.

I don't have a lot to add, there's an important twist a quarter of the way through, which didn't feel contrived, but I don't want to talk about in case people want to read it.

Justice League Unlimited

This animated series is a pretty good introduction to many of the DC heroes. Especially the 3rd episode where Superman, Batman, Wonderwoman and Green Lantern are turned into younger versions of themselves.

It kind of annoyed me by being 80% really good messages, but kind of annoying in the remainder. Message of "give peace a chance, don't fight for no reason" is good. Portraying anonymous eastern-european countries as prone to fighting for no reason until american heros help them, maybe problematic. Having multiple prominent female characters treated as equal, good. Having them all have lots of cleavage, maybe problematic. etc.
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Genrenauts (Michael R Underwood)

Short novel about a comedian who joins a covert organisation which travels to secondary worlds themed around fictional genres. The first one is resolving a major plot derailment in Wild West World.

I love the playing with genre. The characters and plot are quite good. I would have liked a lot more, more explanation of the rules, more playing with the possibilities, but it was really fun.

I liked the sound of several of his other series too (popular-culture-mancers, superhero-meets-epic-fantasy etc) but I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy reading them or not. I will maybe look them up now.

I basically love the concept of any book with "-nauts" in, although they don't always live up to it :)

Throne of Glass

About an assassin condemned to slave mines a year ago age seventeen, now plucked from imprisonment to compete in a tournament to find a King's Champion. And also resolve various mystical threats, and form close friendships/romances with the King's heir and his captain of the guard who proposed her for the tournament.

It had a lot of good ideas I liked, but I quailed a bit at the worldbuilding -- if she's been raised by an isolated sect of reclusive assassins, where did she get romantic ideas in order to reject them? How exactly do the assassins support themselves? Does the king want a warrior or a poisoner, possibly he should pick one or the other?

Great Way, Harry Connelly

Harry Connelly wrote the Twenty Palaces series which had a lot of good stuff but somehow never gelled as a whole, and the standalone "Key, Egg, Unfortunate Remark" an urban fantasy about a mostly-pacifist aunt who keeps the peace without seducing or slaying anyone :)

Great Way is epic fantasy series. There are lots of good ideas. The empire at the heart of books, sharing an uncomfortable relationship with partially absorbed hinterland regions, maintains control partly by military might, but really, by a monopoly on magician-provided logistics. Rather than an unbounded number of spells, a ceremony every fifty (?) years connects the capital through a portal to a mysterious elf-like race, who watch a great ceremony in their honor, and in return gift a magic spell. There's about twenty of these total, each with some number of painstakingly researched variants. But being able to -- at all -- conjure stone to build fortresses, or create flying carts, etc makes an unmatchable long-term military advantage.

But -- shock -- this year, instead of semi-creepy but valuable elf ambassadors, the portal opens to an giant army of mutant demons, the centre of the empire falls, and the rest of the characters scramble around trying to ensure their personal survival, figure out what happened magic-wise, and if there's any way of knitting together the splinters of disintegrating empire into a concerted resistance.

I like the way the characters grow into themselves: the king's son is initially a bit of a populist wastrel, but rises to the occasion when heroism and leadership is needed; the grizzled captain of the guard learns to work with the young nobles; noble-children hostages friends of the king's son experience conflicted loyalties.

Something still feels a bit missing but I'm not sure what. I will go on to read the other 2/3 of the series.

Books

Apr. 20th, 2016 03:41 pm
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Borderline, by Mishell Baker

An urban fantasy with a protagonist who had borderline personality disorder and amputated legs. She walks straight from a residential clinic into an agency that deals with contact between our world and a secondary Fae world.

Apparently the author has BPD too, and it reads like a matter-of-fact journal of how she copes, rather than a romanticisation, so I don't know if the borderline personality disorder is accurate but it's not obviously bad and I'd like to hear from someone who would know better than me.

The fantasy worldbuilding is reasonably well done, it establishes some simple ideas about human/fey relations and how that bring creativity to the human and abstract thought to the fey, and develops them. I felt like it all wrapped up a bit quick, but what there was was quite interesting.

Warning that the protagonist had a relationship with a college professor which may have been abusive, and had a suicide attempt, before the book starts, but are brought up often, if that is likely to make it difficult to read for you.

Just City, by Jo Walton

Greek Gods Athena and Apollo pull hundreds of volunteers from all over time to participate in an experiment to create Plato's vision of a perfect society (Utopia) in reality. And several of the characters are historical figures who've written on Plato (who I hadn't heard of, but if you follow this sort of thing you will hopefully be excited about).

It does most of the things you'd hope from that premise, it examines what's right and what's tragically wrong in Plato's ideas, and how people from different cultures cope with the ideas differently, and has people living lives with a blend of civic responsibility and philosophical discourse. Near the end there's an important philosophical debate between one of the philosophers and Athena.

Again, warning, that a major theme is different relationships between men and women, and why some cultures don't really have an understanding why rape is bad, and in a few places it gets quite graphic. It's not endorsing or condoning anything, but it's likely to be difficult to read for many people.

More books

Apr. 13th, 2016 02:22 pm
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Quantum Prophecy (Michael Carroll)

Another interesting YA superhero novel. Superheroes all disappeared or lost their powers mysteriously 13 years ago. Now the next generation are just starting to get their powers, which is a good excuse for why there's infrastructure for superheroes but the young ones are important.

The title refers to a prophecy by a superhero called Quantum, which is a bit of a cheat but probably better than trying to justify why it's quantum :) This bit is quite ominous, one of the powerful, good, but eccentric heroes had visions about some disaster involving one of the new generation, which underlies all the events.

But the main characters aren't very memorable, and it was ok but not great.

Conspiracy of Angels (Michelle Belanger)

Urban Fantasy about different orders of angels living on Earth, and the fallout of events from 1000 years ago. Great premise, but I wasn't interested enough to seek out sequels.

A Prospect of Vengeance (Penultimate Anthony Price)

I can't remember the title, but I think I read my way almost up to date with everything he wrote.

I love his books where minor characters are updated to viewpoint characters, and we get to see previous characters from the outside. But I find it hard to get into the books about completely new characters, like this one.

And it's true, I'd rather he'd kept writing about cold war books, even if that wasn't the real world, than try to cope with transitioning to a post-cold-war spy agency.

Girl Genius #11

Always fun, but this one was especially funny too.

Don't tell my parents I'm a supervillain (Richard Roberts)

Another reasonably good YA superhero novel. It handles people gaining powers in interesting ways, it makes explicit the "mad scientist" thing the hero does builds awesome one-offs which have to be re-purposed to the situation at hand. But it feels a bit pointless that being a supervillain is mostly just a name, there's not really anything "bad" about it.

(Edited to add authors)
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Lock in, John Scalzi

A disease put people in comas, now they communicate partly through a VR system, partly through tele-presence androids. Fairly good world-building, it's never just "ok", there's perennially ongoing battles for "who should pay for this" and "can you afford a decent chassis, or do you have to put up with something suboptimal", etc, etc.

The tech has moments of bullshit but not more than most stories which involve people jacking-in to things.

The plot was reasonably good, but I didn't find it especially memorable.

Given that there's almost NO fiction with a paralysed protagonist, this is a fairly good one to read, but it didn't blow me away other than that.

Johannes Cabal #4

Scientific necromancer anti-hero Johannes Cabal blunders into a new political/necromantic disaster that ties up some of the plot threads from the previous books, and finally, finally finds some progress on his true question for permanent resurrection.

Lockwood #2

Teenage rapier-wielding ghost hunter agency survives another book without going bankrupt.

Locksley Exploit

"The Circle", combined shadowy government agency and reincarnations of the knights of the round table, continue in a second book. Continues the things I like, the ongoing balance between host and ally personalities, the constant story-blindness "oops, how did we not notice AGAIN we were reinacting this story". But it bursts from secrecy into a countrywide insurrection, which is a delicate balancing act to maintain plausibility.

Boy with the porcelain blade

Ambiguous fantasy kingdom with some great worldbuilding, half-a-dozen children of various ages in ambiguous position at court, all sporting some power and/or deformity, forbidden from metal swords and ostracised by court but simultaneously groomed for great things. Feels a bit like a cross between a secondary-world court-politics novel and Gormenghast. But goes off the rails a bit trying to straddle the difference.

Fire and thorns

Promising excepts about a sidelined princess marrying for politics and then turning her book-reading into military and political strategy. But turns into too much "and then fate did it, but isn't it inspiring that fat people can be competent too"?

Cuckoo's Calling, by Robert Galbraith (aka J K Rowling)

The first of her detective novels. The mystery was reasonably well done, as were the characters. The main character is a PTSD-ridden ex-military-police big beat-up private detective, recently divorced from his beautiful society wife he had a messed up relationship with. And his sidekick is a young woman doing temp work while applying for permanent jobs, but would really love to be a private detective.

Lots of little things ring really true, like her fiance's unfortunate oblivious contempt for her job, and Strike's difficult relationship with his wife. But I felt like I didn't have enough reason to actually read it.
jack: (Default)
I sometimes think of things I enjoy doing, just like things I need to be able to do, as skills. Not that the main enjoyment of reading a book is the challenge, but I think *some* of it is. I enjoy reading books where I DO have to work to follow what's going on, even though I enjoy that less often than I enjoy reading books that aren't as hard work.

But that partly means, I'm always slowly getting bored with the sort of books I used to like. Because if you can read the first few pages and say, "right, I bet the tough protagonist talks like an asshole but actually always does the right thing and the female lead flirts with him for some reason and the morally ambiguous manipulators switch sides several times but end up essentially working with the protagonist in the climax even if he doesn't like it", and all that happens, the only bits I'm really experiencing are the bits that *don't* fit into that mold.

And it also means, reading books in a different genre can be *difficult*, I need to consciously practice in order to follow when much more of the book is new to me. But rewarding, because a bit of practice can open up a lot of other books.

And it also means, "how much do you like this book" can vary a lot, "it's good, but only if you're familiar with that sort of thing" or "it's good, but you may have read it all before", can be the norm, not the exception.
jack: (Default)
Fourth in the Johannes Cabal series of straight-faced comic fantasy.

Prior to the first book, Johannes Cabal became a necromancer, aimed not at raising armies of the dead, but to scientifically find a method a true resurrection. I love the scientist persona, even as he's a total bastard about caring about the lives of people who he thinks are less clever than him (ie. almost everyone).

In Johannes Cabal, Necromancer he enters into a wager with Satan to run a carnival for a year and entrap 100 souls, in order to regain his previously-sold soul. In the following books, his conscience grows back by inches, just enough to make it bearable to read, but not enough to suggest he was especially empathic before he sold his soul in the first place.

In Johannes Cabal, Detective, he becomes tangled up in the politics of a fictional eastern-european nation, flies in Airships and Entomoptors (insect-winged planes), and reluctantly solves a murder.

In The Fear Institute, he travels to the land of dreams, and closes off some plot threads from the first book.

In Brothers Cabal, he gets tangled up in different Eastern-european politics, a different non-damned Entomopter circus, resolves several plot threads from the previous two books and maybe, maybe, finds a first solid lead about true resurrection.

There are also several short stories where he invariably does something heroic under protest.