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Liz
Books 2012: 270-278


270. Mary Douglas, Natural Symbols. Routledge Classics, 2003. (First edition 1970.)

Douglas is both old-fashioned and her ultimate thesis is difficult for me to follow. Something something grid and group something something symbols something something value judgement.


271-2. Chris Anne Wolfe, Shadows of Aggar and Fires of Aggar. Ebooks.

When I am anxious, in the last couple of years, I go looking for lesbian SFF romance. These are pretty good examples of the subgenre, with what seems like a deep influence from the Marion Zimmer Bradley end of planetary opera.


273. Sarah Ettritch, The Salbine Sisters. Ebook.

More lesbian fantasy romance! Not particularly good, but less terrible than I was expecting.


274-5. Jean Johnston, A Soldier's Duty and An Officer's Duty. Ebooks, Ace.

Space opera with a Very Special Protagonist. But entertaining for all that.


276-7. Isabel Cooper, No Proper Lady and Lessons After Dark. Ebooks.

So... that happened. Moving on.


278. Juliet Rossetti, The Escape Diaries. Ebook.

Heard of this one via @eilatan on Twitter. Is mad, in a good way, I suppose?




Today was Visit A Relative Day. I hate the holidays. Can it be done with now?

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Liz
20 December 2012 @ 09:38 pm
Until I came home to check my email, at least. My Postgraduate Funding Progress Report is due by January 31, and if it is found unsatisfactory, reimbursement of moneys will be sought.

This is the last thing my anxiety needed to hear.

Although I bought holiday gifts and went to the gym - at last - so up until then, it was a pretty good day. Managed some exercise biking - 5K - and a stagger on the treadmill, which turned to be pathetic intervals: my wind is gone, and it was as much as I could manage to cover 2 miles in 29 minutes. (Fifteen minute miles. Goddamn, I could hike faster than that. Or I used to be able to.)

Benchpressed 10kg plus the bar, though, without the Smith cage. So that feels good.




Books 2012: 266-269


266. Jennifer Crusie, Faking It. Ebook from Kobo.

So, that happened. Funny quirky comedy-of-errors romance. I enjoyed it surprisingly well.


267. Marie Lu, Legend. Publication details not to hand.

YA dystopia, well-written if a touch slight. High angst quotient. People who like this sort of thing (which sometimes includes me) will like this.


268. James P. Blaylock, The Aylesford Skull. Titan Books, 2012. Review copy from Titan Books.

Longer review forthcoming from Tor.com, eventually in internet time and shortly in real-life time. A novel in the mode of eighties steampunk, languorous of pace, involving a nemesis in the mode of Professor Moriarty with cameos from Arthur Conan Doyle. It didn't hit my kinks, but it's not a bad book.

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Liz
Books 2012: 259-265


259. Saara Lilja, The Treatment of Odours in the Poetry of Antiquity. Societas Scientiarum Fennica, Helsinki-Helsingfors, 1972.

Exactly as it says, it is a discussion of how odours were treated of in ancient poetry. As it doesn't include prose, it is not everything I could wish: but it's an interesting and worthwhile read.


260. Courtney Milan, The Duchess War. Ebook, purchased from Kobo.

I heard of this from Radish Reviews, and since it was selling for $3.99, thought I'd give it a shot. How well I liked it may be intuited from what follows -


261-265. Courtney Milan, Unveiled, Unclaimed, Unravelled, Proof By Seduction and Trial By Desire. Ebooks, from Kobo.

Yes. I went and got the author's entire backlist. They're imperfect by my standards: while Milan has an eye for the historical dimension of interpersonal power-dynamics, she has watered them down. Also, I've never been able to whole-heartedly enjoy romance as a genre. However, the characters here are kind of brilliant. (Although Proof and Seduction are rather weak, comparatively.)

And in my Night of DOOM, I read six books. Actually, eight, but I'd prefer not to talk about the last two. *g*

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Liz
14 December 2012 @ 07:03 am
Books 2012: 258


258. Melanie Rawn, Touchstone. Jo Fletcher Books, 2012. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

And I will probably end up reviewing it more thoroughly elsewhere. The short version: Rawn returns to second-world fantasy with her old talent for writing character and interaction, but a meandering narrative and a protagonist who, while interesting, is never quite likable. And since we spend most of the time in his POV...

I don't discommend it - it's definitely worth a look - but I'm not ragingly enthusiastic, either.




Haven't slept tonight. Still too keyed-up from HOBBIT. Sometimes I think I should be taken out and shot as No Use To Myself, honestly.

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Liz
Books 2012: 250-257


250. Marie Brennan, A Natural History of Dragons. Tor, 2013. ARC courtesy of Tor.com.

I really like this book. I mean, I think it's fucking brilliant, mostly because of the voice and the fact that the protagonist is believable as a respectable-pseudo-Victorian lady. Someone (whose name I redact) pointed out in conversation that several pieces of plot progression rely on remarkable coincidences, but with that marvellous voice? I still think it's brilliant. GIVE ME MORE.

Also, the illustrations are also fucking brilliant.


251. Elizabeth Bear, Shattered Pillars. Tor, 2013. ARC courtesy of Tor.com.

It doesn't quite live up to the awesome that was Range of Ghosts - which would hard, as Range of Ghosts was The Best Thing Ever - and I confess I find the Edene... thing... quite confusing at this point in time. (Was I paying enough attention, from within my Cloud Of Woe? Or some elements of Middle Book Diffusion, perhaps?) But very pretty, stunning use of imagery, and the Lung Demon plague was a)horrifying, b)kind of fantastic, and c)did I mention horrifying?

Recommended.


252. Kristin Cashore, Bitterblue. Gollancz, 2012.

I hear someone was complaining over the number of gay people in this book. Well, there's one couple with on-screen interaction, one couple mostly off-screen with a few lines, and one couple mentioned - all of once - as being deceased. This does not seem like a large number for a universe that's never been explicitly defined as homophobic. Particularly since none of these characters are pivotal in any way.

So, about the book itself. It's a fantastic piece of Young Adult fantasy, and deserves to see wide recognition. It does have a distinctly modern sensibility, and I suspect will resonate far more with fourteen-year-olds than it does with me - but I like it lots.


253. Tina Connolly, Ironskin. Tor, 2012. Copy courtesy of Tor.com.

The cover copy makes it sound like a pallid homage to Jane Eyre, with fey magic. It is a homage, but a far more interesting and intelligent one than the cover copy makes it sound. Connolly's debut is a very promising one, and her fey are extremely creepy.


254. Kelly McCullough, Crossed Blades. Ace, 2012.

Another entertaining installment in McCullough's Blade series. An old friend re-enters Aral's life in search of help. Death and betrayal follow...


255-257. Ilona Andrews, Fate's Edge, Bayou Moon, Steel's Edge. Ace, various dates.

The latter a review copy courtesy of Tor.com, the former acquired and read for context - so I may judge that Steel's Edge, which I kind of like but won't rave about, is definitely the best of the lot. The other two are fairly formulaic romancey, with insufferable asses as the love interests.

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Liz
Books 2012: 248-249


248. Carole Blackwell, Tradition and Society in Turmenistan: Gender, Oral Culture and Song. Routledge, 2001.

A study of the women of contemporary Turkmenistan, particularly the relationship of folksongs to culture. Absolutely fascinating, and immensely readable: I owe thanks to alankria for the recommendation.


249. Malinda Lo, Adaptation. Little, Brown & Co, 2012.

This is one for the award lists. I'm serious: it has the kick of Cory Doctorow's Little Brother with none of the wooden proselytising, and Lo's teenagers are far more real. Also, conspiracy theories! Aliens! Teenager lust!

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Liz
02 December 2012 @ 09:21 pm
Books 2012: 247


247. Claude Lévi-Strauss, Myth and Meaning. Routledge Classics, 2001.

I feel almost embarrassed counting this as a book. It is very short, ~50 pages, from a series of radio talks which Lévi-Strauss gave. Brief interesting anthropological tidbit.

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Liz
01 December 2012 @ 05:08 pm
Books 2012: 243-246


243. Sherwood Smith, Revenant Eve. DAW, 2012.

A third volume in Smith's Ruritanian romance, this one involves magical ghostly time-travelling on the part of the protagonist Kim: as a ghostly observer, she witnesses the youth of her ancestress Aurelie in the 1790s and early 1800s, and must act as a spirit guide. This makes for a novel very weird in terms of structure and emphasis, although the historical parts seem very solid: I hold out hopes that Smith will write a straight (or nearly so) historical some day.


244-246. John Marsden, While I Live, Incurable, and Circle of Flight.

More terrible but cracky YA, sequels to the Tomorrow series.

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Liz
Books 2012: 232-242


232. Ben Macallan, Pandaemonium. Solaris, 2012.

A sequel of sorts to desperance's Desdaemona. A riveting fantasy set in modern England: a fantasy both urban and rural, but not the urban fantasy cliché, despite the fact that this time out our first-person protagonist is Desdaemona, a young woman whose past returns to haunt her - in more ways than one.

Excellent, inventive, and avoids the potential for falling into stale UF handily. I look forward exceedingly to what comes next.


233. Tanya Huff, The Wild Ways. DAW, 2011. This paperback 2012.

Another modern fantasy that avoids the staleness of most urban fantasy. Charlie Gale, cousin to the Allie Gale of The Enchantment Emporium, is on the Canadian Atlantic coast to play with a band. While there, she thwarts an evil oil company, helps a bunch of selkies, and has a run-in with a troll. Lots of fun, recommended.


234-239. John Marsden, The Dead of Night; The Third Day, The Frost; Darkness Be My Friend; Burning For Revenge; The Night Is For Hunting and The Other Side of Dawn. 1994-1999. Ebooks, via a friend.

Australian YA, sequels to Tomorrow, When The War Began. Not particularly brilliant, but made of crack, particularly when one cannot sleep. Kudos to Quercus Books for bringing them out in the UK.


240-241. Sheri Lewis Wohl, Crimson Vengeance and Burgundy Betrayal.

Baaaaaad lesbian urban fantasy romance. No. Bad.


242. Meghan O'Brien, The Three.

So, um. That happened. (Lesbian poly postapocalyptic erotica. I did not realise the erotica part until it was too late.

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Liz
23 November 2012 @ 11:54 pm
Books 2012: 231


231. Barbara Ann Wright, The Pyramid Waltz. Bold Strokes Books, 2012.

In my search for bad lesbian fantasy romance, I have discovered that rare treasure: good romantic fantasy (subtype, lesbian). Inevitable? Or unlikely? You decide!

This is Wright's debut novel, although Crossed Genres has published two of her short stories. It has some of the usual debut novel flaws: occasional worldbuilding oddness/lack of elucidating incluing, a couple of developments emerging without the expected amount of build-up (although this could as equally be a flaw of marrying a romantic storyline to an action plot), and a climax a little on the rushed side.

(Yes, Virginia. You are allowed to take more than three short chapters for the Big Demon Showdown. I encourage it, in fact!)

Those caveats aside, however: this is a reasonably solid fantasy novel* that shows definite promise. The young woman Starbride** has come to the royal court in the kingdom of Farraday because her mother expects her to snare a husband whose influence would be useful back home in Allusia. But Starbride doesn't want a husband: instead, she wants to learn Farradain law and use it to Allusia's advantage. A chance encounter with Princess Katya Nar Umbriel, the royal family's second child, leads to entanglement in affairs of the heart, of the state, and of magic.

In public, Katya plays the bored rakish princess. In private, she heads a secret society dedicated to defending the throne and protecting the royal family's secrets, including the most important one: the whole royal family is part "Fiend" (a kind of demon) and must participate in a ritual every few years to keep a far more terrible demon imprisoned. But there's treachery on the loose, and someone's determined to upset the royal family's image - and perhaps the ritual too.

It's in this context that Katya and Starbride's tentative friendship blossoms into romance, in one of the better romantic storylines I've read. (The misunderstanding here aren't stupid ones: for the most part they're justified.) Starbride's gradual education in the ways of court and in Katya's secret world is reasonably well done, and Katya's slow learning-to-trust is believable.

(Both of our protagonists seem just a little too competent for eighteen- and nineteen-year-olds, but damn do I love wish-fulfillment: this would go down quite well with teenagers, as well, I think.)

Wright's prose is competent at the sentence-level, showing flashes of more. (And that competent may seen like faint praise, but most books have merely competent prose - and Wright's is several giant steps above the tolerable-to-laughably-bad I've come to expect from BSB's SFF offerings (those where the prose is slightly better than slushpile quality, the worldbuilding is at best naive, at worst completely broken (and yes, I know I'm doing the nest digressions thing)) - and competent prose is what the genre's built on.) Wright has a good touch with dialogue, though: there're moments of sparkling banter here.

With a good editor, I expect Wright could improve immeasurably. As it stands? This is a good book, and although it ends with some matters unresolved, I'm given to understand that a sequel is anticipated next summer.

So I recommend it, particularly to anyone feeling a dearth of (queer) women in their fantasy.


*I find it hard to say better than this about any romance story. The romantic element remains stubbornly predictable.

**Let's say that I found the name a little ridiculous until the cultural worldbuilding behind it was revealed, at which point it became amusing.

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Liz
23 November 2012 @ 10:39 pm
Books 2012: 230


230. M.C. Planck, The Kassa Gambit. Tor, 2013. ARC courtesy of Tor.

Probably end up reviewing this for Ideo in the spring, if the reviews editor gives the okay, so the short version: promising debut novel, interesting characters, a just-different-enough-to-be-interesting SFnal space opera setup, potential aliens, political plots.

The slightly longer version: employs a little too much sexual threat directed at Prudence Falling, our female protag. Which is so common as to be beyond notice, it's the pool we're all swimming in, and yet some pools are toxic. So marks down there.

But overall, this is the kind of SF I like to read, and want to see more of.

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Liz
23 November 2012 @ 10:32 pm
Books 2012: 224-229


224-228. Dorothy Gilman, The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax, A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax, Mrs. Pollifax On Safari, Mrs. Pollifax on the China Station and Mrs. Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha. Fawcett, 1970s-1985.

Novels about the elderly Mrs. Pollifax (I say elderly, but she's only a few years older than my mum, how attitudes to age have changed) who's taken up a late career as a spy. These are slightly delightful, slightly faily books - but the sense of humour works perfectly for me most of the time.


229. John Marsden, Tomorrow, When The War Began. Ebook.

Not particularly good YA. But it seems like it would be like crack to its intended audience.

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Liz
17 November 2012 @ 06:29 pm
Books 2012: 220-223


220. Tanya Huff, The Silvered. DAW, 2012. Copy courtesy of DAW Books.

This is an excellent novel. High magic and desperate adventure, a honourable enemy, a young woman growing into her own power, women who weren't trained to fight being heroic in their own ways.

I'll be talking more about it around January (I hope) in the Tor.com column. For now, I recommend it quite highly.


221. Tanya Huff, The Enchantment Emporium. DAW, 2012. Copy courtesy of DAW Books.

Another one to talk more about later. Huff combines the humorous with the bizarre in an excellent piece of urban fantasy.


222. Beth Bernobich, Passion Play. Tor, 2010.

I'm reading this out of order, months after I read its sequel, Queen's Hunt. A well-studied, painful, excellent character study in loss and intrigue. It unfolds slowly, but proves well worth one's patience.


223. Sarah Diemer, The Dark Wife. 2011, Ebook.

A lovely retelling of the Hades-Persephone myth which casts Hades as a woman and Zeus as... just as much of a villain as any feminist reading of the myths reveals. Recommended.




Read one other terrible thing I'm not admitting to in public. Because I approve of lesbian fantasy romance, and don't want to point and laugh too much even at the most deserving specimen. Except in private.

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Liz
14 November 2012 @ 11:39 pm
Books 2012: 218-219


218. Laura E. Reeve, Pathfinder. Roc, 2010.

Space opera, satisfying to my tastes. Will talk more a post on Tor.com in coming weeks.


219. Andrzej Sapkowski, The Last Wish. Gollancz, 2007. Translated from the Polish by Danusia Stok.

First published in Poland in 1993, the series begun in this novel has enjoyed global success, including two videogames, although - thanks to complicated rights issues, I believe - it is little-known in English.

Good points: the style is interesting, the translation fluid, the narrative a set of loosely-linked episodes riffing off well-known fairy or folktales, which works well.

Bad points: treatment of women. Honestly? Honestly?

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Liz
07 November 2012 @ 08:30 pm
Books 2012: 215-217


215. Alain Corbin, The Foul and The Fragrant: Odour and the Social Imagination. Papermac, London, 1996.

It would be wrong to accuse Corbin's magnificent work on the role of the sense of smell in 18th and 19th century French of being easily read: but it is, however, fascinating, detailed, and absorbing, and more than rewards the effort expended in its reading. I recommend it very highly, and wish I didn't have to give my copy back to the library.


216. R.M. Meluch, Jerusalem Fire. 1985.

A moderately interesting SF novel. I wave my hands at it, not necessarily in a good way. See a forthcoming Tor.com column for more details.


217. Lois McMaster Bujold, Captain Vorpatril's Alliance. Baen, 2012.

Oh. Oh. Sweet godless heavens, this is so much better that Diplomatic Immunity and Cryoburn. It's a happy adventure story, true, but Bujold does that excellently well, and Ivan's day in the sun is not nearly as slight or lopsided as the last two Miles outings.

I do think Bujold could stand to avoid epilogues, however.

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Liz
04 November 2012 @ 10:12 pm
Books 2012: 214


214. Chaz Brenchley, House of Bells. Severn House, 2012.

A gothic, horror-esque, deeply affecting novel. Look out for review in winter Ideomancer, but in the meanwhile, I recommend it highly.

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Liz
28 October 2012 @ 05:19 pm
Autumn came on suddenly this year. Or perhaps I failed to notice it properly, until these last few days in chill and dank and early darkness, the trees all changed and windblown leaves humped damply at the roadsides.

So the seasons pass, and change, and we go towards the death of the year.




Books 2012: 205-213


205. Deborah Coates, Wide Open. Tor, 2012.

I'd been avoiding this book. It didn't sound like my thing. But turns out that it is.

Sergeant Hallie Michaels returns to South Dakota from Afghanistan on ten days' compassionate leave for her sister's funeral. Dell Michaels' ghost is waiting for her at the airport. The sheriff's office says Dell's death was suicide, but Hallie is convinced there's more to it. Unfortunately, the only person who seems to share her suspicions is sheriff's deputy Boyd Davies. Then Hallie starts collecting other ghosts - women who disappeared - and she begins to suspect that Uku-Weber, where Dell was working, has something to do with the matters surrounding her death, and the deaths of the other ghosts.

Wide Open is a solidly-written, lively book, and Hallie is a vividly real character. But where Coates really comes into her own is in sense of place. Coates' South Dakota doesn't feel generic or two-dimensional: instead the landscape is itself almost a character in the text.

I really enjoyed this, but it does have a small flaw. While the opening atmosphere has the odd creepiness of a ghost story, horror-esque and baffling, the tone shifts rapidly to the acceptance-of-the-weird common to "urban" fantasy - although Wide Open cannot be characterised as urban, but rather modern, rural fantasy. Still, I recommend it highly.


206. Ysabeau Wilce, Flora Segunda. Scholastic, 2007.

I believe I purchased this shortly after its publication, but after growing disillusioned with the first chapter I left it on the shelf until just recently. Turns out that given some more patience, it proves a worthy and inventive YA novel with interesting characters.


207. Chris Wooding, The Fade. Gollancz, 2008.

Oddly-structured, interesting, fantastically inventive, depressing. Wooding, not for happy-fun-times endings.


208. Dorothy Gilman, The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax. Fawcett, 1970.

Mrs. Pollifax, who has taken up a second career for the CIA in her retirement, goes to Turkey. A delightful romp after the tone of a cosy mystery, but with spies. Some discomfort after the manner of Amerocentrism, but one is not reading for enlightened geopolitics, but for the vision of a sixty-three-year-old housewife being seven different kinds of amazing.


209-2012. Colin Cotterill, The Curse of the Pogo Stick, The Merry Misogynist,, Long Songs from a Shallow Grave, and Slash and Burn. Quercus, 2008-2012.

The more recent four books of Cotterill's Dr. Siri mysteries. They are mostly fun and fluffy. However. The Merry Misogynist and Love Songs from a Shallow Grave both contain gender-related fail: in the first, the villain is intersex and damaged by it; the second, it's all a plot by an obsessed stalker to ruin the life of the man who wouldn't love her. Also there are things floating around that lead one to believe Cotterill is not at all comfortable with homosexuality.

Still.


2013. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, Necessity's Child. Baen, 2013. E-ARC for sale from Baen Ebooks.

This feels younger than any of Lee & Miller's books bar Balance of Trade. It's entertaining and fun, but ultimately unsatisfying: I am in particular disturbed by a ham-handed deployment of magical emotional healing for our fourteen-year-old protagonist, Syl Vor. It's cheating and a lie, and I disapprove.




Nine books in three days. Now, I suppose, I should attempt Greek, while the fire beside me refuses to burn with good flame despite all my best efforts.

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Liz
Books 2012: 202-204


202. Marie Brennan, Lies and Prophecy. The Book View Café, 2012. Ebook.

An entertaining, if lightweight, quasi-urban college fantasy. Were it not that it comes from Brennan, I would praise it more highly - but when Brennan's on top of her game, she makes her material shine so much more brightly than this, so that what from many others would be a laudable effort seems instead on the disappointing side.

Merely a good book, where I expected a better one. But recommended, nonetheless.


203. Kelly McCullough, Bared Blade. Ace, 2012.

Thieves and spies and assassins do politics! In a fantasy city. Sequel to Broken Blade: undemanding light entertainment in one of my preferred fantasy modes.


204. K.J. Parker, Sharps. Orbit, 2012. Review copy courtesy of Vector.

An interesting book, and a competent one, but one which - it is my feeling - tries too hard to have too many twisty complicated things going at once, and does not signal well enough which of the complicated things are resolved or recomplicated by which actions.

I enjoyed it while reading it, but I am middling-eh about it now. Should think more before writing it up proper.




So, Hunted. Have I mentioned it to you before? It is a most excellent, understated, brilliantly shot BBC/American collaboration directed by SJ Clarkson and starring Melissa George. I've watched the first three episodes, and it is the best damn espionage television I've seen to date. Better than Spooks. Better than the first season of the new Nikita, which I loved. Better than The Fixer, with which it shares an understated, almost poetic grace of visual expression. Acres better than Alias or Undercovers or Homeland. It is gorgeously shot, and superbly directed - long, slow stretches of mounting quiet tension erupt into brief flashes of visceral, physically real violence; emotional tension isn't angsty, isn't diffuse; the visual palette is beautiful; the acting is understated and affecting. George is astonishingly believable in the role of Sam Hunter, and the rest of the casting is perfectly apt.

I ordered the DVD boxset on the strength of the first episode. I never do that. It's brilliant. Go and watch it. Seriously.

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Liz
19 October 2012 @ 09:00 pm
Books 2012: 201

Not-201: Christopher L. Bennett, Only Superhuman. Tor, 2012. e-ARC courtesy of the publishers, via NetGalley.

I bailed on this after fifty pages. Science fiction with superheroes. All the flaws of the superhero genre and few of the benefits. Excruciatingly infodumpy, contains far too much male gaze, general feeling after thirty pages is: Why should I care about your brittle emotionally-stunted superhuman of a girl protagonist? and after forty: Shit, only complete fuckups of Irish parentage would call their daughter Emerald.

Maybe it picks up from there, but I can't be arsed to find out. Not recommended.


201. Lori Selke and Djibril al-Ayad, ed.s, Outlaw Bodies: a speculative fiction anthology. Future Fire Publishing, 2012. e-ARC courtesy of the publishers.

I'm not usually much for short stuff. It's not what I read by preference or habit. And this collection I read last night in the throes of angry sleeplessness, so I wasn't exactly feeling the happy.

That said, this is an interesting collection. Two of its constituent pieces, one of the strongest and (by me) one of the weakest, previously appeared elsewhere: the others appear for the first time in print. It is, naturally enough, uneven: Vylar Kaftan's "She Called Me Baby," (first published 2005 in Strange Horizons) is perhaps the most vivid piece, about the uncomfortable reconciliation of a daughter and a mother. Other strong contenders include Jo Thomas's "Good Form," an interesting and uncomfortable piece; "Millie," by Anna Caro, whose protagonist doesn't have a body, not in the normal sense of the word; and Tracie Welser's "Her Bones, Those Of The Dead," which has a striking central image and concerns itself with its protagonist's choice of self-determination, of abnegation of the fleshly body in favour of a machine one. Stacy Sinclair's "Winds: NW 20km/hr" is an interesting and compelling look at pregnancy and strangeness, and I'd rate it second behind Kaftan's story, out of the whole collection.

Fabio Fernandes' "The Remaker" has an interesting conceit, but lacks power in the conclusion. M. Svairini's "Mouth" posits an interesting division of genders but is far, far too involved with sex what is so Not My Kink for me to have an opinion other than Not My Kink. "Elmer Bank," by Emily Capettini is... odd, and seems like a second-wave-feminism War Of The Sexes story. And Lori Selke's "Frankenstein Unravelled" appears to concern itself primarily with the bureaucracy of the American (lack of) healthcare system, and really doesn't work for me.

The collection is weighted towards science fiction. There is an argument to be made for reading "Winds: NW 2okm/hr" and "Elmer Bank" as modern fantasy, but they could as easily be read SFnally. Of these, two are post-apocalyptic underground-civilisation, and more than one of the remainder has a dystopic flavour.

There's not a single unambiguously fantastical story in the bunch, which is, I think, a sad loss in a collection titled Outlaw Bodies. Still, it's interesting reading, and if you like short stuff more than I do, worth checking out.

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Liz
19 October 2012 @ 06:55 pm
Books 2012: 200

200. Max Gladstone, Three Parts Dead. Tor, 2012. e-ARC courtesy of the publishers, via NetGalley.

Lads. Lads, this book. THIS BOOK.

I started reading it on a whim last night, due to being unable to sleep. Ten pages in, my impression was weird, intriguing, interesting. A hundred pages after that, I was all but bouncing gleefully on my seat.

Three Parts Dead is Gladstone's debut novel. It doesn't read like a debut. It reads like a book from a writer confident in their skill, with the burnish that comes from practice. Gladstone builds an intriguing world, a second-world fantasy that's both recognisably modern and imaginatively, invigoratingly magical. And does so skillfully, incluing rather than infodumping, revealing the depth of background naturally in service to the story.

And in that world he sets a tricksy and tense and compelling story in the mode of the legal thriller, involving dead gods, necromancy, politics, murder, and power.

All that, however, is as nothing besides the characters. They are excellent characters, strongly-drawn, interesting, complex. Tara Abernathy, recently-employed associate of Elayne Kevarian of the necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrect and Ao, brought to the city of Alt Coulumb to assist in the resurrection of the dead god Kos Ever-Burning. Abelard, a junior priest in the service of said god who's undergoing a wee bit of a crisis of faith. Cat, an officer in the service of Justice - a dead god resurrected into something much less than the previous living deity - whose communion with the god while she's on duty leaves her with a burning addiction when she's not. Kevarian herself, cold and calculating and fascinating and occasionally strangely principled.

And the Stone Men, and their relationship with the god from which Justice was made. And the way everything builds towards a climax that had me going: "!" and, Did not see that coming.

It works, is what I'm saying. It's the best debut I've read since Above. (And Above was the best I'd read since The Drowning City.) It's fresh and hectic and several different kinds of brilliant, and lads, I want the next one.

Now.

(I also want a hardcopy of this. But even now that I have funding I must be careful with it, and wait for the paperback.)

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Liz
Books 2012: 197-199

197-199. Colin Cotterill, Thirty-Three Teeth, Disco for the Departed, and Anarchy and Old Dogs. Quercus, 2005-2008.

The second, third and fourth volumes of the magical-realist Dr Siri mysteries. Delightful - although if Cotterill's knowledge of Laos is as accurate as his throwaway line about an Irish missionary (protip: Coleraine is not a county, and I have yet to meet any Irish Catholic priest ever called Fred...) then I suspect it takes place in an alternate dimension.

But they're still delightful wee stories.




I climbed today, very badly, with a pleasant young man from Spain. As a consequence, my back hurts. Now I hang around college and hope I survive long enough to go to the interestingly-titled evening lecture. I am beginning to think I might not.

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Liz
Books 2012: 195-196


195. Samit Basu, Turbulence. Titan Books, 2012.

Samit Basu is apparently already established in India as a writer of talent and promise. And judging by the quality of Turbulence, his first UK publication, his reputation is well-deserved.

I'm not much of a fan of superhero stories. Mostly I find them shallow, cartoonish - a slick film of banter and cool shit covering a fundamentally unimaginative take on this too-often fascistic subgenre. But Basu is neither unimaginative nor shallow: his accidental superheroes, victims of something mysterious on their flight from Britain to India, are cleverly-drawn, sharp and believeable. Also, they're all Indian - apart from Uzma, who is British-Pakistani. Finally, a superhero story without Americans.

Fast, pacey, with a sly wit and things to say, Turbulence has all of a superhero story's good points with very few of the flaws. (So I find the fighty parts the least interesting ones. Sue me.) Well-characterised, too. I look forward to seeing what Basu does next - I believe we may expect a sequel.


196. Dorothy Gilman, The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax. Fawcett, 1998. First published 1966.

A remarkably entertaining adventure. Mrs Pollifax decides, at the age of sixty-three, that she's going to start a new career. Turning up at the offices of the CIA, she volunteers to serve her country as a spy - and through a misunderstanding, is given a mission as a tourist in Mexico City. This is the start of an adventure involving Chinese communists, abduction to Albania, and perilous escapes.

Light-hearted, funny, and somehow ineffably cosy, despite being very dated in its attitudes, I found it very comforting reading last night when I couldn't sleep.

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Liz
15 October 2012 @ 04:18 am
Can't sleep. Clowns will eat me.

Also, good article on Elementary.


Books 2012: 193-194


193-4. Pierre Pevel, The Alchemist in the Shadows and The Dragon Arcana. Gollancz, 2010-2011. Translated from the French by Tom Clegg.

More swashbuckling magical 1600s France, now with extra draconic plot. The sequels to Pevel's The Cardinal's Blades are compelling and readable, brisk, with a fluid translation that keeps the Frenchness of their diction and a vivid descriptive style that had me imagining televisual adaptations. I personally did not find them as satisfying or as enjoyable as The Cardinal's Blades, but I can't deny Pevel's accomplishment - and I hope more of his work finds its way into English translation.

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Liz
14 October 2012 @ 05:32 pm
The sickness is passing off, but I remain limp as wet noodles, weak as a week-old kitten. I managed to walk 500 metres today (in the course of which I was eyeballed by a giant, fat and fearless rat, ah, seaside living) but the last twenty metres were leaning on my mother's arm.

Books 2012: 192


192. T. Aaron Payton, The Constantine Affliction. Night Shade Books, 2012. Ebook.

I gave up waiting for the review copy to arrive (clearly the postal system bears a grudge) and resorted to buying the ebook via Baen. Preliminary thoughts on the first book from Tim Pratt's latest alter ego: Oh god so good - Victorian mad science! Holmesian detective! Intrepid lady reporter! Squint and it looks like steampunk! Frankenstein's monster! A sex-changing disease! Lovecraftian monsters!

It's several different flavours of brilliant, is what it is. Go out and read it, so that by the time my review proper appears at Strange Horizons, you know what I'm making squeeful noises about.

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Liz
13 October 2012 @ 06:30 pm
I am coughing less. But I am weak as an old woman, and will take days to regain my strength. This is most inconvenient.

(No, seriously. Brief walk needed far too many pauses. I want a walking stick.)

Books 2012: 191


191. David Weber, Shadow of Freedom. Baen, 2013. ARC, ebook.

The fact that Weber can still write interesting plotty military shit - as proven here - makes the disappointment all the more acute when he doesn't. But at least this proved both undemanding and distracting while I was coughing my throat up last night.

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