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07 January 2014 @ 06:09 pm
Although, to be perfectly honest, I don't entirely remember everything from December. I re-read David Drake's entire RCN series, and probably some other things, but that does not quite count for the purpose of keeping count.

Books 197-201

197. Faith Hunter, Death's Rival. Roc, 2012.

Fun violent urban fantasy.

198-199. Sharon Shinn, The Shape of Desire and Still Life With Shapeshifter. Ace, 2013.

Not exactly interesting romance with minimal point to the fantastic content.

200. Libby McGugan, Eidolon. Solaris, 2013.

Reviewed for Vector. Oy, how boring and irritating was this book.

201. Michelle Sagara, Touch. DAW, 2014. ARC courtesy of DAW.

An excellent sequel to the excellent Silence. I should be reviewing it for shortly.

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20 November 2013 @ 09:10 pm
Books 2013: 192-196

192. Nicola Griffith, Hild. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2013.

HILD HILD HILD HILD. This is the best book. The best book. I am incoherent with praise, wordless with delighted satisfaction. Read this book.

193. Josephine Tey, A Shilling for Candles. Arrow reprint, originally published 1936.

Nice mystery. Lovely prose at points. Horrible anti-Semitism and racism. Just nasty shit.

194. Laurell K. Hamilton, Affliction.

These books are still a trainwreck. Sometimes it is entertaining to read a trainwreck, as long as one doesn't have to pay money for the privilege.

195. Sharon Shinn, Royal Airs. Ace, 2013.

Light, fluffy, pretty fun.


196. Susan P. Mattern, The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013.

An excellent biography, revealing both about its subject and about the Roman world.

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Books 2013: 181-191

181. Judith Tarr, Alamut. Ebook.

I don't think I remembered to include this in the last couple of lists. Medieval Outremer high romance, with fantasy. Interesting, but it did not incline me strongly towards picking up the sequel.

182. Barbara Hambly, The Kindred of Darkness. eARC, Severn House, forthcoming 2014.

Another excellent Hambly vampire novel. I will review this at length elsewhere.

183. Sharon Lee, Carousel Sun. eARC, Baen, forthcoming 2014.

Urban fantasy. Not as tight a novel as its predecessor, the first book in the series, Carousel Tides - a little bit fragmentary and episodic - but an entertaining read.

184. Sharon Shinn, Troubled Waters. Ace, 2011.

A solid, compelling fantasy with interesting, believable characters and a well-done central romance. GIVE ME NEXT BOOK PLEASE.

185. Mark Charan Newton, Drakenfeld. Tor, 2013.

Locked-room murder mystery in a fantasy world. Mostly solid; characterisation and prose a bit flat, but I like mysteries, and I also like fantasy novels where not everyone is particularly good at or enthusiastic about violence. I will be looking out for sequels.

186. Josephine Tey, The Man In The Queue. Arrow reprint, originally published 1929.

That could have been more racist. Lovely prose, interesting mystery, but OY RACISM. Like being slapped about the face with a wet and rotting fish in the middle of a nice dinner.

187. Katharine Kerr, License to Ensorcell. DAW, 2011.

What does one call a guy who bullies a woman about her eating habits, insists on staying in her apartment to "protect" her, gets his own keys cut from her keys without permission, and assumes she's going to move countries to live with him after they've had sex once?

This might have been an entertaining urban fantasy, save that the Israeli Interpol agent positioned as the partner/love interest type was CONTROLLING ASSHOLE RED FLAG RED FLAG GIANT WARNING, and the text treating his boundary-crossing behaviour as an irritating but slightly endearing personality quirk I mean really WTF?

188. Stephanie Saulter, Gemsigns. Jo Fletcher Books, 2013.

Reviewed at Strange Horizons. Good stuff.

189. Greer Gilman, Cry Murder! In A Small Voice. Small Beer Press, 2013.

Review forthcoming at Strange Horizons. Very shiny novella.

190-191. Faith Hunter, Mercy Blade and Raven Cursed. Ace, 2011-2012.

Solidly entertaining urban fantasy novels with vampires and werecreatures and witches and things going BOOM in interesting configurations.

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Books 2013: 161-180

161. Glenda Larke, The Last Stormlord. Orbit, 2009.

Epic fantasy. Interesting world-building, but the characterisation is inconsistent or occasionally odd, and the narrative drive and tension are not driving enough to make up for it. It isn't doing enough with the space it has, which makes it feel slack and rather aimless at times.

162-165. Jeannie Lin, The Dragon and the Pearl, The Lotus Palace, Butterfly Swords and My Fair Concubine. Ebooks, various recent years.

These are entertaining romances set mostly in Tang dynasty China. Fun, really good incluing technique - as necessary in historical work as the genres of the fantastic - and the romance did not make me want to stab anyone in the face. Rather the opposite, in fact.

166-167. Sophia Kell Hagin, Whatever Gods May Be and Shadows of Something Real. Ebooks, various recent years.

Near-future stories starring a lesbian main character. The first is a war story, and the second less easily categorised. They're surprisingly good, with real confidence in the prose.

168. C.S. Friedman, In Conquest Born. DAW, 1986, 2001 reprint.

Science fiction. Empires. Psychics. Space battles. Disturbing, unpleasant; depiction of a culture where male-on-female rape is normal, practically a requirement; characters all on the antihero end of the spectrum. Not My Cup Of Tea At All.

169-170. Jacqueline Carey, Dark Currents and Autumn Bones. Roc, 2012 and 2013.

Delightful, entertaining, interesting urban fantasy set in a small American town. More like this, please.

171. Tamora Pierce, Battle Magic. Scholastic, 2013.

Once again Pierce delivers a grand adventure involving young people. Although her not-Tibet and not-China has me side-eyeing a bit: the strokes are a little too broad, and the war is a little too easily won.

172-173. Lesley Davis, Dark Wings Descending and Pale Wings Protecting. Ebooks, recent dates.

Bad lesbian romance, with a side-order of cops and angels and demons.

174. Mira Grant, Parasite. Orbit, 2013.

Seanan McGuire really likes mad science, biological apocalypses, conspiracies, and simple organisms. I mean, really really really likes.

I'm going to need some time to think about this novel, really. There is a shit-tonne of info-dumping (through various methods, but a lot through excerpts from news sources and autobiographies), and the voice doesn't seem particularly distinct from the rest of McGuire's oeuvre, Discount Armageddon and sequel aside. On the other hand, I rather like the soft apocalypse conceit.

It's not mind-blowing. It's rather like John Scalzi's novels - moderately interesting concepts, middle-of-the-road execution - which clearly isn't exactly a niche market. I would like it to excite me more than it does. But it's also very... American? It nests itself within - or perhaps it nests within itself - so many assumptions about how the world works, and how central America is to the world, that it creates in me a sense of disconnect and alienation.


175. Gail Simone, Batgirl Vol. 1. DC, 2013.

So I am converted to the idea of comics as an interesting medium now. Also Gail Simone is awesome.

176-177. Greg Rucka, Private Wars and The Last Run. Bantam, 2005 and 2010.

Rucka writes the best spy thrillers. No, really. The best. And I'm not just saying that because I would kill to see his Queen and Country stuff made into a good television series.

178-180. Greg Rucka and various artists, Queen and Country, collected volumes one through three. Oni Press.

I am extra converted to the idea of comics as an interesting medium. Rucka's facility with writing flawed, ethically compromised, yet immensely compelling characters is brilliantly on display. Fantastic work.

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02 October 2013 @ 02:51 pm
I just know I will have forgotten some.

Books 2013: 139-160

139. Timothy Zahn, Star Wars: Scoundrels. Del Rey, 2013.

I have always loved Zahn's Star Wars novels. Scoundrel is Star Wars meets Ocean's 11, with Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian the only original trilogy characters really appearing - and with Han in the role of the man organising the Grand Heist. It takes place some time before the Battle for Hoth, between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back.

(A couple of my favourite extended universe characters - Kell and Winter - also appear here.)

It is a really well done heist narrative, with complications and recomplications, although I think one of the withholding-information tricks Zahn used in order to work another familiar character in did not, in final analysis, actually pay off.

Still really fun.

140. Martha Wells, Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion: Razor's Edge. Del Rey, 2013.

Another novel set after A New Hope and before Empire Strikes Back. Wells is an excellent writer and tells a good story - but for a novel purporting to focus on Leia, her character carries nearly none of the story's emotional freight. So that was a little disappointing.

Not disappointing at all, however, is how filled with interesting female characters Wells' vision of Star Wars is.

141. Nalo Hopkinson, Sister Mine. Grand Central, 2013.

A delightful urban fantasy with weird gods and weirder family dynamics set in Toronto. Well recommended.

142. D.B. Jackson, Thieves' Quarry. Tor, 2013.

Urban fantasy set in Boston in the 1770s. Entertaining, but not especially my cup of tea. Characters felt a bit flat, and the central mystery felt more People Running Around At Cross Purposes than actively compelling.

143. Diane Duane, Star Trek: The Wounded Sky. Titan, 1989.

Duane's Star Trek novels are always interesting space opera.

144. Kelly McCullough, Blade Reforged. Ace, 2013.

Entertaining second-world urban fantasy with assassins and a coup and Deeply Laid Plots. Fourth in series. Recommended.

145. Jeanne Lin, The Sword Dancer. Ebook.

Romance set in historic China. A bit odd (but that is a function of it being a romance), at points a bit slow, but entertaining.

146-147. Helen Lowe, The Heir of Night and The Gathering of the Lost. Orbit, 2010-2012.

Oh dear sweet overblown Grand Epic Fantasy. These books have serious structural problems and occasional line of direction fail. And yet. I would have loved these when I was thirteen, and they still curled into the Fond Of Overblown Destiny and COOL SHIT corner of my heart.

148. Madeleine E. Robins, Sold For Endless Rue. Forge, 2013.

Historical novel based on the bones of a Rapunzel story. I am a sucker for female doctors and Salerno, but I don't think the structure worked as well as it might have. Still, very good book.

149-150. Alex Bledsoe, The Hum and the Shiver and Wisp of a Thing. Tor, 2011-2013.

One of these is a very good book: The Hum and the Shiver is an excellent work of small-town fantasy, playing up its liminality and strangeness. It does not resolve all its threads, but it resolves many...

Wisp of a Thing, on the other hand, is full of manpain, has some dodgy SPECIALNESS, and resolves with an extra dodgy nod at a happy ending which SKEEVED ME THE FUCK OUT, okay. Thanks for ruining The Hum and the Shiver for me, Wisp of a Thing.

151-153. Andi Marquette, Friends in High Places, A Matter of Blood, and Edge of Rebellion. Ebooks.

Fun, pulpy, not excessively well-written (but on the other hand far from terrible) space opera. With lesbians. That is not a lesbian romance in terms of its focus. With a feel somewhere between Star Wars and Firefly.

154-155. Gaie Sebold, Babylon Steel and Dangerous Gifts. Solaris, 2011-2012.

I do not know how to talk about these books. I love them a lot: they are like a cross between noir and sword-and-sorcery in the Conan mould - except centering women. It is sword-and-sorcery for the girl who wanted to grow up to be Conan (except better), and I'm very happy with that.

156. Elizabeth Bear, Book of Iron. Subterranean Press, 2013.

A brilliant standalone novella in the same world as Bear's Range of Ghosts and Bone and Jewel Creatures. Read it.

157. Robert Graves, The White Goddess. Review copy, 2013 reprint.

I want those hours of my life back.


158. Charlotte Delbo, Auschwitz and After.

Which I spoke of here.

159. Pál Engel, The Realm of St. Stephen: A History of Medieval Hungary 895-1526. English translation by Andrew Ayton. I.B. Tauris, 2005.

Which I spoke of here.

160. Daniela Dueck, Hugh Lindsay, and Sarah Pothecary, Strabo's Cultural Geography: the making of a kolossourgia. Cambridge University Press, 2005.

An interesting collection of papers on Strabo's work.

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Pál Engel, The Realm of St. Stephen: A History of Medieval Hungary 895-1526. English translation by Andrew Ayton. I.B. Tauris, 2005.

For a change of pace, I like to have at least one history book on the go that has nothing to do with what I'm supposed to be reading. For several months between spring and late August, this 400-pages-plus tome by Pál Engel, alleged to be the standard introductory work in English on medieval Hungary, was the history in question.

Its twenty chapters present a chronological progression from the pre-Christian Hungary of the 8th century through to the Jagiellonian kings at the end of the Middle Ages and the kingdom of Hungary's eventual division between the Holy Roman and Ottoman Empires. Accounts of political events are interleaved with chapters which focus more thoroughly on the social and economic background. Its level of detail increases as it progresses forward in time, but Engel does - to my eye, at least - a decent job of laying out the problems, silences, and biases of the sources. Bear in mind, however, that while my impression is one of good faith history, I can't speak to its accuracy, since it is very far from those periods on which I've done any serious reading.

Europe east of Vienna and north of Byzantium is the disregarded younger sibling of European medieval history. (Or, perhaps, the disregarded great-aunt you forget lives in the attic until she thumps the floor and the ceiling-plaster in the living-room cracks.) Only when one begins to investigate it does one realise how little do the Balkans, the Carpathian basin, or the Polish plains influence our view of the European medieval world. Even though, for example, the kingdom of Hungary was a major exporter of gold and horseflesh, and the Hungarian crown was at times deeply involved in the politics and succession disputes not only of its neighbours, but of kingdoms further afield as well. The feudal organisation of the medieval Hungarian kingdom looks rather different to the English or French model, for example. It's eye-opening to see a different sort of hierarchy, when it comes to the gradations in status between people not part of the "magnate" class of nobility.

It's a good, well-structured overview, and I can see why it would be offered up at the standard introduction on the topic.

From here let me segue to a brief excursus on history, Europe's Pannonian Plain, and fantasy. It has troubled me for a while that Parts East of Vienna seem to be fair game for invented nations (Sherwood Smith, this year's Gene Wolfe novel, others), but something that's prodded my mind as a particular cause of unease recently is the Lackey/Flint/Freer alt-hist fantasy collaboration The Shadow of the Lion. Set in Venice, it's pretty much a coming-of-age fantasy with a whole bunch of youthful protagonists doing their coming-of-age among intrigue and magic and danger.

Which would be fair enough, but I went to reread it lately - I hadn't, I don't think, read it since 2003 or 2004 - only to be confronted with a baffling and rather offensive piece of worldbuilding and characterisation. For one of the princes of Europe is inhumanly, demonically evil, where all the others are merely humanly flawed. This ruler is not a Spaniard or a Frank or an Englishman, nor even an Italian or a German or a Greek; rather it is one Jagiellon, Grand Duke of Poland and Lithuania.

Is it the bias of my sources? Or is it that when deciding upon villains, a writer is that much more inclined to portray people from the lands beyond the former Iron Curtain, or from the "barbaric" (cough), "fierce" (cough cough), "inscrutable" (choke), "exotic" (choke choke), "decadent" (cough) [check as applies] East, as wicked beyond reason or redemption?

When it comes to the eastern bits of Europe and their apparent fantasy counterparts, it is American writers who do this par excellence. And I'm just a little pissed about it.

(The historical Jagiellonowie rulers of Poland were interesting. They deserve better than to be cast as incarnate devils.)

Right. Cold-med-fueled ranting over. I should do some real work.

*wanders off, distracted*

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16 September 2013 @ 07:39 pm
Normally, I get distracted by books whose narrative arc ends in triumph. Pick up and read, carried along by prose and arc until the denouement returns me to myself and I realise how much time has passed: until the moment of triumph brings me back to all the work I should have done.

Delbo's tripartite memoir allows of no such literary catharsis.

I bought Auschwitz and After once I had read Elizabeth Wein's novel Rose Under Fire, spurred by a half-remembered fragment of prose - and by the realisation that it had been years since I read an account of the enormity of suffering that is fast passing out of living memory. "Try to look," Delbo writes. "Just try and see."

A corpse. The left eye devoured by a rat. The other open with its fringe of lashes.

Try to look. Just try and see.

There is no bearing witness to horror that seems ghoulish now but was everyday reality for tens - hundreds - of thousands as they died. All that can be done to honour those dead is to hold the words of the survivors a while longer.

To try and see, and remember.

Not one of us will return is the title of the first part of Delbo's memoir. Stark. That's one word for it. Vignettes and poems. Snapshots and images, their bleak brutality transmuted by Delbo's pen into a lasting literary testament that nonetheless bears a searing kind of beauty.

Delbo finishes one such vignette with, "And now I am sitting in a café, writing this text."

One has the sense that no real return is possible.

The Measure of Our Days is relentless in revealing how very far one has to come, how very different life becomes, in the aftermath of such an enormity. "I do not know," Delbo writes, in a poetry made all the more savagely affecting by its plainness:

"I do not know
if you can still
make something of me
If you have the courage to try..."

Of the three books that comprise Auschwitz and After it is this last, this after, that is the hardest to read.

At one point, Delbo describes her pubic hair as "matted with diarrhoea," after seventy-seven days without washing.

It is only then that I realise I haven't even begun to comprehend.

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25 August 2013 @ 11:11 pm
I will be forgetting books, probably. Because I haven't updated in a month.

Books 2013: 118-138

118-119. Roberta Gellis, Bone of Contention and Chains of Folly.

Medieval murder mysteries. Not half bad.

120. Rae Carson, The Bitter Kingdom. Greenwillow, 2013., surprisingly, hasn't published the review I sent in. I should follow that up. Good conclusion to the trilogy.

121. Mary Renault, The King Must Die. Arrow, first 1958.

Already wrote this one up.

122. Carrie Vaughn, Kitty Rocks The House. Tor, 2013.

Not Kitty's best outing. But moderately entertaining nonetheless.

123. Julian Griffith, Love Continuance and Increasing. Ebook. 2013.

Historical poly romance. Pretty good, actually.

124-125. Lilith Saintcrow, The Iron Wyrm Affair and The Red Plague Affair. Orbit, 2012-2013.

Steampunk weird history that is perhaps a little too concerned with rushing through the plot than filling out the hints and implications of its characterisation and asides. Entertaining nonetheless.

126. Maureen Johnson, Devilish. Gift of jennygadget.

Demonic bargains in a US Catholic girls' school. Not actually as interesting as that makes it sound, but still entertaining.

127. Jean Johnson, Hellfire. Roc, 2013.

Third in series. Johnson hasn't quite got the hang of making her narrative an arc with actual development: I'm okay with training montage, which the first two books had a lot of. They also had climax, a bit. But here the narrative is far too bitty and episodic, as if Johnson had a checklist she was determined to knock off rather than make an organic whole.

128. Cat Hellisen, When The Sea Is Rising Red. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2013.

Pretty good fantasy that fails to stick its dismount. Still, an excellent debut.

129. Django Wexler, The Thousand Names. Ace, 2013.

Excellent gunpowder/military fantasy with a whole bunch of women in. Do recommend. GIVE ME NEXT ONE NOW.

130. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, Trade Secret. Baen, ARC, 2013.

Good next installment. Safe book. Very much a series book. May discuss in column eventually.

131-132. Nahoko Uehashi, Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit and Moribito: Guardian of the Darkness. Scholastic, 2008-2009.

Why have the rest of this series not been translated already? WHY? Excellent if YA-ish Japanese fantasy series. The anime Moribito is based on the first book.

133. Jim C. Hines, Codex Born. DAW, 2013.

Not as good as the first book but still pretty damn fun.

134. Roz Kaveney, Rituals: Rhapsody of Blood. Plus One Press, 2012.

This book is AMAZEBALLS and you all should read it now. It is awesome and full of BOOM and LESBIANS and QUEERNESS and MAGIC and ANCIENT GODS and WOMEN and QUEERNESS and BOOM. Also, someone should snap up the television rights and make a series. Because AMAZEBALLS. It is CRACK FOR LIZES.


135. Daniella Dueck, Geography in Classical Antiquity. Cambridge, 2012.

Part of the Key Themes in Ancient History series. General overview of ancient geography as a discipline. Short and sweet.

136. Michael Scott, Space and Society in the Greek and Roman Worlds. Cambridge, 2013.

Part of the Key Themes in Ancient History series. Overview. What it says on the tin. Brief and not entirely comprehensive, but useful.

137. Lisa C. Nevett, Domestic Space in Classical Antiquity. Cambridge, 2010. 2011 reprint.

As above.

138. Peter Garnsey, Food and Society in Classical Antiquity. Cambridge, 1999. 2002 reprint.

As above. Really interesting.

If there is anything else, I have forgotten it.

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13 August 2013 @ 11:51 pm
As promised. (Although I've had to change up the order of things.)

Mary Renault's The King Must Die is the first novel by Mary Renault I've ever read. A re-imagining of the youth of Theseus, it's a work of stunning power and mythic scope. Renault's imagining of gods and of sacrifice is vital, present, humane, and full of the power of divine immanence. And I wouldn't be surprised to find that Renault has influenced many other writers in her time: I was put very much in mind of the tone and some of the thematic resonances - at least with reaction to divinity at work in mortal lives - of Jacqueline Carey's first Kushiel trilogy as I read. Renault's language and sense of rhythm is beautiful; her craft is masterful.

Her historical chronology and her ability to write female characters is not so great.

For all that The King Must Die is billed as a historical novel, it is necessary to read it as a fantasy. For once you pause to consider the impossibility of the Cretan elements existing contemporary to the mainland elements, the entire thing falls apart. The mainland - Troezen, the Corinthia, the Isthmus, Attica - has what seems to be the material culture of early Geometric/"Dark Age"/Homeric Greece, but with extra added literacy.

(While Linear B writes the Greek language, it falls out of use with the crisis and destructions at the end of the Bronze Age, and there is a gap of some three hundred years and more before Greek is written again, this time in alphabetic script. "Dark Age" Greece was illiterate. The first examples of writing in the Greek alphabet are from the cup known as the Cup of Nestor from Pithekoussai, Ischia, Italy, and the Dipylon inscription, from the area of the Kerameikos in Athens. Both of these examples date from no earlier than 750 BCE, which makes them Late Geometric in period. At this time, Euboea and Corinth were the economic powerhouses of Greece, with Athens beginning to rise in pre-eminence, and there is evidence for extensive trade with Italy, Phoenicia, and Asia Minor. Although not, contra Renault, with "Hyperborea." Renault appears to labour under the apprehension that the stone henges were raised contemporary with the Greek "Dark Age." Rather than being at least 1000 years older...)

I base the assumption of "roughly Geometric" as the intended time period in part from the depicted culture, both material culture and the depiction of the warbands, and in part from Renault's depiction of Theseus as beginning the synoikismos of Athens and Attica. While Athens is one of the few sites to have evidence for continued settlement across the divide of the collapse/crisis/depopulation/migrations at the end of the Bronze Age into the Geometric period, it did not during the early and middle Geometric periods rival Euboea for economic activity, and it does not appear - to me, at least - that a movement for Attic synoikismos can really be said to take place much before the 8th century itself.

It might be possible to see the culture of the Greek mainland as plausibly Submycenaean, were it not for the fact that, as we know from the Linear B translations, the Mycenaeans spoke Greek (the work of Chadwick, Kober, and Ventris had already proven this by 1956) and Renault's characters speak of a "Hellene" invasion as having occurred within far fewer generations than it would seem necessary to fit these into an archaeologically-possible chronology. Unless the "Hellene" invasion can be seen as coterminous with the Dorian migrations, but while Classical sources talk about the "Dorian" invasion, it's been impossible to pin down satisfactorily. However, this wouldn't square well with the narrative reality implied by Renault's non-Hellene "indigenous" people, the "Shore People," which she casts as matriarchal and practically autochthonous, and which she connects strongly to the rituals of the Eleusinian mysteries and to the worship of Demeter...

It's confusing.

All that aside, the society of the mainland may work as plausibly Homeric, with some handwaving. But it doesn't work at all as something that could have existed contemporary with "palace"* society on Crete, even in the Late Minoan IIIA-IIIC period, when we have evidence for Mycenaean presence at Knossos and the use of the palace site as a centre for Mycenaean-style administration in the form of Linear B tablets. Bull-leaping (the "Bull Dance," as Renault terms it) is a significant part of The King Must Die's Cretan narrative, but known bull-leaping depictions don't date from later than LM IIIB. Ca. 1200-1100 BCE, all the remaining major centres of Crete suffered destruction events, the population went into decline, and during the Subminoan period, sites are in the main characterised by their small size and defensibility.

After the Bronze Age destructions, Knossos once again grew into a significant centre in the Cretan Iron Age, but by then most of the cities of Crete laid claim to Dorian Greekness. And the Knossos palace complex was long since destroyed. So chronologically that doesn't work too well either, unless Theseus is a time-traveller.

Historicity aside, I'm not really hot on the fact that most of the named women are either manipulative and out for power or passive and happy to be led by a man... but that seems to be Renault's modus operandi. And in characterising "civilised" men as effete and "mincing"... Yeah.

In conclusion: a brilliantly-written Aegean ahistorical fantasy, with a bunch of problematic shit. On the whole, I'm rather glad I read it.

*Several archaeologists prefer the term "court-centred complex" to palace, since it makes fewer assumptions about the function and nature of the structures. But "palace" is the more widespread term.

Further reading on bull-leaping (.pdf):


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22 July 2013 @ 04:00 pm
Books 2013: 86 - 117

86-91. Katherine V. Forrest, The Beverly Malibu (Naiad Press, US, 1989/1994); Murder By Tradition (Naiad Press, US, 1991/1998); Liberty Square (Berkeley Prime Crime, US, 1996/2000); Apparition Alley (Berkeley Prime Crime, US, 1997/2000); Sleeping Bones (Berkeley Prime Crime, US, 1999); and Hancock Park (Berkeley Prime Crime, US, 2004).

Murder mysteries starring a lesbian cop. Some good, some very good.

92-100. Greg Rucka, Keeper (Bantam, US, 1996); Finder (Bantam, US, 1997/1998); Smoker (Bantam, US, 1998/1999); Shooting at Midnight (Bantam, US, 1999); Critical Space (Bantam, US, 2001/2003); Patriot Acts (Bantam, US, 2007/2008); Walking Dead (Bantam, US, 2009/2010); A Gentleman's Game (Bantam, US, 2004/2005).

Really good thrillers.

101. Charles Stross, Neptune's Brood. Ace, 2013.

Solid SFnal thriller. Reviewed at

102-106. Roberta Gellis, The Kent Heiress; Fortune's Bride; A Woman's Estate; Fires of Winter; and The Rope Dancer. Ebooks

Romances. Not terrible.

107-108. Roberta Gellis, A Mortal Bane and A Personal Devil. Ebooks.

Medieval murder mysteries. Pretty entertaining.

109. Courtney Milan, The Heiress Effect. Ebooks.

Romance. A lot of fun.

110-112. Mercedes Lackey, The Wizard of London; Steadfast; and Home from the Sea. DAW. Ebooks.

Pah. Why did I read these again? Special, special angst.

113. Jaime Lee Moyer, Delia's Shadow. Tor, 2013. Forthcoming.

Review forthcoming from Ideomancer.

114. Beth Bernobich, Allegiance. Tor, 2013. Forthcoming.

Review forthcoming from Ideomancer.

115. Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice. Orbit, 2013. Forthcoming.

THIS BOOK. I make noises about it. READ THIS BOOK.

(I will talk more about it in future.)


116. Robin Osborne, The History Written On The Classical Greek Body. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Interesting, but not saying anything especially groundbreaking.

117. G.W. Bowersock, Throne of Adulis: Red Sea Wars on the Eve of Islam. Oxford University Press, 2013.

Disappointing. Will talk more about it later.

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Books 2013: 78-85

78. Seanan McGuire, Ashes of Honor. DAW, 2012. Copy courtesy of DAW.

It's a fun series, but HELL PEOPLE. I'm getting really really tired of "Irish" being shorthand for "sensitive to weird-ass made-up mythological shit." (Also, I have never in my life heard of "Bess" being a nickname for Bridget. Really? 'Cause I've always thought of Bess as a peculiarly English shorthand for Elizabeth.) Seriously. Any more of this "Irish" - ahem - bullshit is really going to ruin my generally happy feelings about this series.

79. Ilona Andrews, Magic Rises. Ace, 2013. ARC via

Review to appear on Perfectly cromulent series installment, no real surprises.

80-82. Roberta Gellis, The English Heiress, The Cornish Heiress and Siren Song. Ebooks.

Historic romance from an elder generation - although one would probably be more correct to call them romantic family sagas. Entertaining.

83-85. Ali Vali, The Devil Inside, The Devil Unleashed, and Deal With the Devil. Ebooks.

Lesbian mobsters. Yes, I will read almost anything.

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20 May 2013 @ 05:51 pm
Books 2013: 66-77

Reading has been decidedly difficult for me lately: I lack some level of emotional energy necessary to involve myself in demanding texts at the same rate as heretofore.


66. Melissa Scott, Star Trek DS9: Proud Helios. Ebook.

67. Jean Lorrah, Star Trek Next Generation: Survivors. Ebook.

68. Diane Duane, Star Trek: Sand and Stars. Ebook.

So, these are all actually pretty good light entertainment, although Lorrah's is a bit squicky and problematic.

69-70. Katherine V. Forrest, Amateur City and Murder at the Nightwood Bar. Ebooks.

Murder mysteries from the 1980s, starring a lesbian detective with the LAPD. Pretty excellent stuff, actually: I'd really like to get my hands on the other books in the series. I MEAN IT. THESE BOOKS ARE AWESOME. ACE. GIVE THEM TO ME I NEED THEM.

(I know their names, even if I don't know what order they go in or WHERE TO GET HOLD OF THEM. Liberty Square. The Beverly Malibu. Apparition Alley. Sleeping Bones. Hancock Park. Murder By Tradition. GIVE ME THEM! LET ME FIND EBOOK (non-Amazon) EDITIONS OR SOMETHING.)

Ahem. This is because of a certain someone Who Knows Who She Is. Who sent me a box of delightful books (which I am slowly working my way through), but among them was Daughters of a Coral Dawn, which reminded me that Forrest had written murder mysteries, which led me to the discovery I could get the first two as ebooks.


71-72. Claire McNab, Death by Death and Murder at Random. Gifts.

Lesbians. Spies. Whee? Whee!

(Everything's better with lesbians.)

73. Ali Vali, Blues Skies. Ebook.

Lesbian fighter pilots. Rah military is boring. But everything is better with lesbians.

74. Sara Marx, Decoded. Ebook.

Serial killer thrillers are usually boring. But everything is better with lesbians.

75. Kim Baldwin and Xenia Alexiou, The Gemini Deception. Ebook.

Lesbian romance with espionage/thriller entanglements. Unbelievable setup! But - sing it with me now - EVERYTHING IS BETTER WITH LESBIANS.

76. Lauren Beukes, The Shining Girls. ARC.

Reviewed for I did not like it.

77. China Miéville, Railsea. Review copy.

Reviewed for Vector. I LOVED IT.

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So let's get the short stuff off the to-do list.

Books 2013: 62-65

62. Rachel Hartman, Seraphina. Corgi, 2013.

So Foz Meadows praised this and Aliette de Bodard criticised it. It sounded interesting. It turns out that me, I think it's pretty bland, a fluffy faux-medieval arabesque that soft-pedals its more difficult questions and ultimately favours the conventional over the provocative. (In the thought-provoking or any other sense.) Enjoyable YA, but it doesn't live up to its praise, and the specialness of its protagonist is rather irritatingly predictable. (Magical half-breeds, sigh.)

63. Sherri L. Smith, Orleans. Putnam, 2013.

This, on the other hand, is a book I really enjoyed. YA, playing with a similar sense of mood and character to The Hunger Games, although the secondary protagonist is a little too much cipher, a little too little person (a consequence, I feel, of privileging aesthetic over consistency, which all YA does at times). Its worldbuilding feels vivid, if not always entirely solid, and the emotional tones and driving desires of our protagonist Fen are very well-sketched. Good pacing, and good writing: Smith deploys dialect in narrative with a sure-handed deftness.

The conclusion leaves something to be desired as a conclusion, but since I've no idea whether or not there's to be a sequel, I'll place my money on a continuance. This is the kind of book that makes me eager to see a) what else the author's written, and b) what she may write next.

64. Alex Lidell, The Cadet of Tildor. Penguin Dial, 2013.

Another YA, and one which I fear I may be too generous towards, for it reminds me of much that is good in both Sherwood Smith and Tamora Pierce. (Such things I am inclined to enjoy.) Lidell is a debut author, possessed of one of those gender-neutral names. The author bio claimed for her a female pronoun, up to which point I had been rather uncertain - but Cadet Renee de Winter is too much an adolescent girl to have been written by someone who wasn't intimately familiar with having been one.

A bunch of the worldbuilding and details annoyed my suspension of disbelief. On the whole I'm inclined to give benefit of the doubt, and call it worthwhile and entertaining, though.

65. Violette Malan, Path of the Sun. DAW, 2010. Copy courtesy of DAW.

I really, really like Malan's Dhulyn and Parno novels. They're just fun, in a sword-and-sorcery, epic-ish fantasy sort of way: implausibly competent, decent heroes Thwart Bad People and Have Excellent Fights. (If this is not a genre, it ought to be one.)

I read nothing while away - well, finished nothing. Since coming back, I have finished a book that needs to be reviewed ASAP. So I will get on that. ASAP.

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03 April 2013 @ 11:26 pm
Books 2013: 59-61

59-60. Sandy Mitchell, Warhammer 40K: The Emperor's Finest and Warhammer 40K: The Last Ditch. Black Library, 2012 and 2013.

The Emperor's Finest is probably the weakest installment in Mitchell's Ciaphas Cain series, lacking the usual vibrancy and humour, and dogged by a very poor secondary character in the form of the lady aristocrat Mira. The Last Ditch makes up for this with rollicking battle action.

One of the things that strike me most about the Cain books is that, while never rising above the level of crunchy popcorn entertainment, Mitchell takes the (clichéd) darkness of the Warhammer 40K setting, acknowledges it, and then goes on to populate it with relatively well-adjusted, well-adapted people. With fully-developed senses of humour.

61. Jaine Fenn, Queen of Nowhere. Gollancz, 2013. Review copy courtesy of Strange Horizons -

- Where it will be reviewed. Preliminary thoughts: interesting SF, interesting world, not sure how satisfied I am with the pacing or the ending.

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Books 2013: 48-58

48. Martha Wells, Emilie and the Hollow World. Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry, 2013. Copy courtesy of the publishers.

A delightful YA novel from one of my favourite authors. Further details should follow at

49. Karen Lord, The Best of All Possible Worlds. Ballantine/Del Rey (US), Jo Fletcher (UK), 2013.

A novel interesting on multiple levels, combining literary and SFnal approaches to worldbuilding and relationships. Perhaps not entirely successful, but interesting. Review forthcoming in summer Ideomancer.

50. Martha Wells, City of Bones. Republished by the author.

An excellent book, with excellent world-building and characterisation, which I really enjoyed. Right up until the very last page, which had to go all emotionally-complicated and very true to character but was not what I wanted to read just then.

51. Barbara Ann Wright, For Want of a Fiend. Bold Strokes Books, 2013. Epub. Copy courtesy of the publisher.

Lesbian relationships as normative within a fantasy novel that, while a little rough around the edges, is not noticeably rougher than most of the midlist. I recommend this, and expect to be talking more about it on the column.

52-53. Ankaret Wells, The Maker's Mask and The Hawkwood War. Self-published; second book epub copy courtesy of the author.

A bit rocky getting started, but in general a delightful, well-characterised romp through weird and wacky tech and politics. It has a sense of humour. Oh, god, do you know how many stories don't? Or substitute bitter snark and snappy one-liners? I will be speaking of this more later.

54. Andrea K. Höst, And All The Stars. Self-published. Epub.

A strongly enjoyable alien-invasion story, focused on a group of teenagers in Sydney. Well recommended.

55. Seanan McGuire, Midnight Blue-Light Special. DAW, 2013.

Another novel with a sense of humour. A lot of fun.

56-58. Seanan McGuire, An Artificial Knight, Late Eclipses, and One Salt Sea. DAW, various dates. Copies courtesy of the publishers.

McGuire's Toby Daye novels make a lot more sense - and are a lot more fun - when you read them as second-world fantasies that just happen to take place in the same general area as a modern US city, and not as urban fantasy. I bounced off the second a while back, but the third is like popcorn. And so are the next two.

Popcorn. With hot butter and salt. I will be speaking more on them later, probably elseweb.

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19 March 2013 @ 12:14 am
Books 2013: 47

not-47. Weston Ochse, Seal Team 666. Titan Books, 2013. Copy courtesy of Titan Books.

A book whose prologue begins with a thinly-disguised fantasy fictionalisation of Seal Team 6's assassination of Osama bin Laden, in which the unnamed bin Laden figure is portrayed as sincerely and knowingly in league with demonic forces.

Me, personally, I found this immensely disrespectful towards any understanding of Islam. Look, lads. Leaguing with demons? Charged by Protestants against Catholics and vice versa. But there are no demons in Islam. The only power a "devil" has is to lead men and djinni away from the straight path:

He said: "Give me respite till the day they are raised up."
(Allah) said: "Be thou among those who have respite."
He said: "Because thou hast thrown me out of the way, lo! I will lie in wait for them on thy straight way:
"Then will I assault them from before them and behind them, from their right and their left: Nor wilt thou find, in most of them, gratitude (for thy mercies)."
(Allah) said: "Get out from this, disgraced and expelled."
(Sura 7, Al-A'raf.)

And when continuing on from that in the next chapter, there was no attempt at explaining why there'd be demons involved, and it also proved rather dull - well, I have a lot of things to read. A lot.

47. Jon Courtenay Grimwood, The Outcast Blade. Orbit, 2012.

I may rag on "grimdark" fantasy a lot, but I like a good bit of gritty darkness as much as the next person - as long as it's leavened with moments of emotional warmth and somewhat ethical choices. In The Outcast Blade, sequel to The Fallen Blade, JCG continues the story of Tycho, ex-slave turned knight, trained assassin, who craves blood under the moon, the sixteen-year-old noblewoman Giulietta, widow, key political pawn - or player - and the dark and troubled Venice of this alternate, fantastical, 16th-century Venice. Caught between the Holy Roman Empire's army and the Byzantine fleet, with scions of both empires offering for Giulietta's hand in marriage, Venice, Tycho, and Giulietta are all in an uncomfortable position. One made more complicated by the dangerous rivalry between the regents for the mad/idiot Duke Marco: his mother, Alexa, aunt to the Mongol khan, and his uncle Alonzo. Tragedy, treachery, and international politics collide...

It is a very good, very tightly written book. It never forgets the agency of its women, and its Venice is home to a wide range of people - Mongols and Mamlukes, rabbis and gravediggers, noblewomen and street children. I enjoyed it a lot, and I anticipate its soon-to-be-published sequel with some eagerness.

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Books 2013: 43-46

43. Kathleen Tierney (Caitlín R. Kiernan), Blood Oranges. Roc, 2013.

This is a gallows-black humorously subversive take on the urban fantasy genre. Nineteen year-old junkie werepire serial killer? Unreliable narrator? Let's do this thing.

44. Evie Manieri, Blood's Pride. Tor, 2013. (Original, Jo Fletcher Books, 2012.) Copy courtesy of Tor Books.

This book deserves more consideration from me than it's going to get in this space. Blood's Pride is a book that feels like it belongs with the Australian school of Big Fantasy. It shares a certain mood with the work of Jennifer Fallon and Trudi Canavan: light on detailed worldbuilding, long on character. It partakes of the epic sense without the bloat of Jordan, the grimness of Martin, Michelle West's touch of horror, or the baroque invention and detail of Sarah Monette, Steven Erikson, or Elizabeth Bear. It is, on the whole, easier to define Blood's Pride in terms of what it fails to do than in what it succeeds in doing. Character choices and development are not wholly predictable, but feel safe rather than radical. Without being wholly mediocre, it's structurally slack - and it takes itself a touch too seriously.

That makes it sound like I disliked the book. Not so: but I'm not blown away. I read it in two settings: there is promise here, and glimmers of invention. But Blood's Pride falls prey to the over-eager "AND THE KITCHEN SINK TOO" approach to narrative incidents typical of debuts, while not giving its cast of characters - I count six with POV: by contrast, I believe there are four POVs in Jordan's first WOT novel, of which one predominates - the time and space to develop as characters, to develop their arcs and to permit the reader to development emotional investment in their trials. Too many incidents arise too abruptly: closer attention to structure and theme, and fewer POV characters, would have made a tighter, more compelling read.

That said, it's not a bad book. It goes on the keeper shelf, and I look forward to seeing if Manieri improves her game in books to come.

45. Lisa Soem and Sunny Moiraine, Line and Orbit. Samhain Publishing, 2013. Ebook.

Belonging to that peculiar subset of science fiction better referred to as science fantasy, Line and Orbit is both a space adventure and a queer romance (between men). I did not fall in love with it, but nonetheless it is entertaining. With weird science. And magic.

46. Jacqueline Koyanagi, Ascension. Prime/Masque Books, 2013 (forthcoming August, I believe). Galley courtesy of the publisher.

Official disclaimer: I read slush for Masque, in the hopes of crushing authorial dreams. Didn't see this until I received the galley review copy, though.

LESBIANS. POLYAMOUROUS LESBIANS. IN SPAAAAAAAAAACE. The main character has an invisible disability. But it's not an issue book. Or a romance - the thematic freight is about family and belonging. In mood it reminds me of Firefly, or the dingy Mos Eisley scenes of Star Wars: A New Hope. Writing possesses solid turns of phrase, occasional vivid description. Mark your calendars, people. This is good shit, and I look forward to talking about it the next time I bring up lesbians in skiffy in the column.

I watched Argo recently. It is a very good spy film, apart from the ludicrous airport runway chase scene at the very end. (Oh, Hollywood.) Sharp dialogue. Immensely good performances. Very low-key, very claustrophobic, very tense. Passes the Bechdel test, if barely: can't call it feminist on its face but doesn't other women, either. Recommend it.

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Books 2013: 39-42

39. Barbara Hambly, Good Man Friday. Severn House, 2013.

Another excellent installment in the Benjamin Janvier series. If you have not yet read the Benjamin Janvier mysteries, do so. They are seven different kinds of brilliant.

40. M.J. Locke, Up Against It. Tor, 2011. Copy courtesy of

READ THIS BOOK. Seriously. This is one of the best works of "hard" science fiction I've read. It's fully as good as anything else in the field - better than most, with well-developed, fully rounded characters, interestingly plausible science, and a smashing thriller plot. What I don't understand is why it's flown under the radar. It seems like a Terrible Oversight.

So go read it. Seriously. Probably you will like it, if you like Stross's less futureshocky SF, or Chris Moriarty, or, I think, Bear's Dust. Near-future near-space asteroid SF!

41. Steven L. Kent, The Clone Republic. Titan Books, 2013. (First published 2006.) Copy courtesy of Titan Books.

Oy. This book. This book is so bad. And so blind to its clueless white-guy misogyny and thoughtless colonialism. And tedious! I am composing a review. It may take some time, for I read this in search of light entertainment - the pull-quote-blurb compares it favourably to Jack Campbell - and instead come away feeling soiled and dehumanised.

Do not recommend.


42. Elaine Showalter, The Female Malady: Women, Madness, and English Culture, 1830-1980. Virago, 1987.

Like any work of history that carries its narrative up to within a decade of its writing, its latter chapters and conclusion are doomed to age poorly. But the greater proportion of this book is a lucid, solid - at times brilliant - social history of women and madness in English culture.

Well recommended.

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27 February 2013 @ 12:01 am
I am immensely behind in logging my reading.

Books 2013: 32-38

32. Thomas J. Csordas, The Sacred Self: A Cultural Phenomenology of Charismatic Healing. University of California Press, 1997.

Charismatic healing among Catholic Charismatics in the USA in the 1980s. Cultural phenomenology. Interesting theoretical frameworks. If this is your thing, you will like this book. If it is not, you will bang your head against the nearest table and moan.

I enjoyed it after I got used to it. And left it full of sticky notes.

33. Thomas J. Csordas, ed., Embodiment and Experience: the existential ground of culture and self. Cambridge Studies in Medical Anthropology, Cambridge University Press, 1994.

A collection of interesting papers, some of them baffling, some of them working from referents with which I'm not familiar. But some of them really fascinating. Likewise full of sticky notes.

34. Kerry Greenwood, Unnatural Habits. Poisoned Pen Press, 2012.

The latest entry in the Phryne Fisher series. Hilarious and bitingly upfront about horrendous bits of 1920s society by turns: a much tighter entry in the series in terms of the logic of its scattered mystery-plot than the previous entry.

35. C.L. Anderson, Bitter Angels. Spectra, 2009.

Anderson is an open pseud for Sarah Zettel, and this is an interesting, complex work of science fiction. Brilliant characterisation and fascinating set-up, but it loses track of its loose ends a little too much to come off as a wholly good book: would've been, perhaps, better as a somewhat longer work with more room to breathe and develop (a trilogy, perhaps).

An interesting failure, though, and well worth reading.

36-38. Cathy Pegau, Rulebreaker, Caught in Amber, and Deep Deception. Ebooks, courtesy of the author.

Will probably end up talking about Rulebreaker and Deep Deception as lesbian skiffy romance elsewhere. Pegau writes decent (if short) romance. Unfortunately, lacking in each of these stories is the eyeball-kick feel of science fiction: change a handful of references, and the basics of the background plot could carry on in any time during the second half of the 20th century. There's not nearly enough what-if: it doesn't feel nearly as science-fictional as the shit that pops up as news in my daily life. ("Natural nuclear reactor on Mars," for example.) If one is going to take some science-fictional setting in which to set one's romance plot, it helps an awful lot with the SF part if the skiffy is both integral and frontloaded, not just set dressing. SF is metal and flash and bang and futureshock.

More lesbians, please, but more flash and BOOM and (sod it though I hate the term) "sensawunda," too.

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14 February 2013 @ 04:08 pm
Books 2013: 30-31

30. Deborah Coates, Deep Down. Tor, 2013. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Coates marries the chill of a proper ghost story to vivid characterisation and deeply-felt landscape. Contemporary fantasy, sequel to Wide Open. Great voice. Although Wide Open was very good, this is better. I strongly recommend both of them.

(Longer review on submission elseweb.)

31. Karen Healey, When We Wake. Little, Brown & Co., 2013. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Excellent YA meets brilliant science fiction. I am inarticulate in its regard: I am trying, still, to disentangle the things that I admire about it now, as a work of literature that appeals to me as an adult, from the things that should make it work for its target audience, and I think it comes down to voice. Healey really nails voice: her own authorial voice, and the voice of When We Wake's protagonist, Tegan.

It appears that the good folks at Galactic Suburbia like the work I've been doing in the column. Since I appear on the shortlist for their Galactic Suburbia award. (Around minute 30.)

This is baffling, and weird, and altogether marvelously validating.

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Books 2013: 27-29

not-27. Rod Rees, The Shadow Wars. (The Demi-Monde: Spring in the UK.) HarperCollins, 2013. ARC via

There were bare breasts. That jiggled charmingly. And then the previous book's kickass character turned into some kind of goddess-demon. And I dunno, man, I JUST COULDN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE.

Verdict: throw this book at your nearest wall. By page eight.

27. Cherie Priest, The Inexplicables. Tor, 2012. Copy courtesy of

I've figured out why I didn't love Dreadnought and Ganymede half so much as Boneshaker. Priest's poisoned Seattle, with its yellow gas and its rotters, its decay and peril and strangeness, is a compelling character in its own right.

Here our viewpoint character is Rector Sherman, petty crook, small-time addict, who enters the city because he's no other place to go. Soon he finds himself in the middle of a struggle for control, and has to pick sides.

There is also a sasquatch. It's really pretty good.

28. Peter Higgins, Wolfhound Century. Orbit, 2013. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

This? This is fluently-written, numinous, complex, promising debut. But ultimately somewhat disappointing: I expected more climactic resolution, even from the first book in a new series.

Still recommend it, though. Higgins makes very pretty sentences.

Longer, more detailed review hopefully forthcoming elseweb.


29. Janet Brennan Croft, ed., Lois McMaster Bujold: Essays on a Modern Master of Science Fiction and Fantasy. McFarland Press, 2013. e-ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Review forthcoming from Strange Horizons. Short version: there are one or two good papers in here, but my overall feeling is that this is a bloody awful mess of a collection. And most of the papers wouldn't pass muster for critical engagement with anyone whose opinions I respect.

I continue to fail sleeping at night and engaging with my thesis. Healthy work habits, I no can has? Sigh.

Also, can my whole extended family just get some fucking therapy, rather than indulging in passive-aggressive relational styles, narcissism, and meanness?

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26 January 2013 @ 04:43 pm
Books 2013:25-26

25-26. Kerry Greenwood, Murder on a Midsummer Night (2008) and Dead Man's Chest (2010).

Another pair of lovely, funny mysteries starring Phryne Fisher. The plots do not make with the logic and there are bunches of loose ends, but I don't really care.

Today's interesting links:

Colour photography of early 1900s Paris.

Amazons of the Ukraine.

Lesbian SFF Romance.

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23 January 2013 @ 08:21 pm
Log: 12km exercise bike in 30:30, benchpress 3x10 @20kg, bicep curl 4x5 @10kg/arm, back extensions 3x10, lat raises 3x12 @5kg/arm, faily attempt at chin-ups (perhaps one whole wobbly chinner, not sure), treadmill 1 mile in 14 minutes, intervals (pathetic, will have to relearn how to run), six minutes crosstrainer, 500m rowing machine.

Mass: 102.7-103.4kg.

Books 2013: 12-24

12-22. Kerry Greenwood, Blood And Circuses (1994), Ruddy Gore (1995), Urn Burial (1996), Raisins and Almonds (1997), Death Before Wicket (1999), Away With the Fairies (2001), Murder in Montparnasse (2002), The Castlemaine Murders (2003), Queen of the Flowers (2004), Death By Water (2005), Murder in the Dark (2006). Ebooks.

Cosy mysteries starring the Hon. Phryne Fisher. Readable, undemanding, pleasantly period and wish-fulfillment.

23. Deb Taber, Necessary Ill. Aqueduct Press, 2013. Forthcoming, copy courtesy of Aqueduct Press.

Review forthcoming, I hope, from An interesting if somewhat odd science-fictional novel.

24. Aliette de Bodard, On a Red Station, Drifting. Immersion Press, 2012.

Marvelous, delightful space opera novelette. Dear world: please read this and put it on awards ballots, kthnx.

If I read anything else, I've forgotten. Have an interesting link:

Everything Is Nice on "A Worm In The Well".

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Books 2013: 9-11

9. John Scalzi, Redshirts. Tor, 2012. Review copy from Vector.

A shallow, disappointing novel far too in love with its own meta and conceit.

10. Angélica Gorodischer, Trafalgar. Small Beer Press, 2013. Translated from the Spanish by Amalia Gladhart. Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Luminous. Delightful. Magical realism for science fiction. Short incidents related conversationally, linked by the character of Trafalgar Medrano. Fantastic. Go read it.

11. Arthur Kleinman, M.D., The Illness Narratives: Suffering, Healing, & the Human Condition. Basic Books, 1988.

Read for research. A very readable book on chronic illness, life-worlds of the patient, and the physician-patient relationship. Most interesting and quite applicable.

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