September 16th, 2011


Books read, early September.

This fortnight came with more library books that I couldn't finish than usual, and also with a manuscript, and I don't comment on unpublished manuscripts. So.

Daniel Abraham, Leviathan Wept and Other Stories. The first story, "The Cambist and Lord Iron," was my favorite, but I generally liked this collection. I tend to do better with single-author collections than with anthologies, and I'm not sure why that is, because I can easily list an anthology worth of authors whose single-author collections I like, even now that Mike Ford and Octavia Butler are gone. Anyway, this collection is worth the price of admission.

Kurt Busiek, Astro City: Local Heroes. The library only had the first one and this one. By this one, the writers had settled much more into their conceit and were actually doing things with Astro City rather than just postulating it. I enjoyed this.

Ally Carter, Only the Good Spy Young. Cliffhanger ending, oof! This series is bubbly and fun, like a well-written pop song. Let me emphasize well-written: I made the mistake of trying to pick up another teen spy novel, and, um. Ick. Ick. Ally Carter does not mistake "light teen read" for "not worth doing right."

Robert Darnton, The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History. Darnton can rant, I will say this. Unfortunately, I feel that he spends more of this book grumping and ranting than telling interesting anecdotes from Ancien Regime France. Each illuminating incident is grumped out of proportion by what other historians, folklorists, or general scholars have gotten wrongety wrong wrong about it, and while I understand the impulse, it made for not as good a read as I had hoped.

Debra Doyle and Jim Macdonald, A Working of Stars and Knight's Wyrd. The first of these two is the first of the Mageworlds books I've found and read. It went smoothly and quickly, but I think I'd want to start elsewhere. The latter is my new favorite Doyle/Macdonald book. It's a YA, and it also was a smooth, fast read, but it had higher contrast than a lot of books: darker dark bits and brighter goodness. More...chivalric is not quite it, although it is more chivalric than almost any YA I can think of.

James Patrick Kelly, Burn. Kindle. This one was almost all setting. It felt to me like the plot was rather default for its setting, and the characters never rose above types for me. Transcendental planet has two obvious endings to its obvious plot, and Kelly gets points for choosing the marginally less obvious one. But not huge points.

Patrick O'Brian, Joseph Banks: A Life. I fear that O'Brian bought into the priorities of his subject or at least his subject's time. He spent a great deal of time on ancestors and land ownership and all of those whos and whats that were a 19th century preoccupation. He spent not nearly enough time on flora and fauna. Informative but not awesome.

Edward Paice, World War I: The African Front: An Imperial War on the African Continent. Oh dear, was this ever bought into colonialism. There was hardly any representation of any non-white perspectives. In a book. About Africa. If you're interested in European troop movements in this subset of this conflict, this is a very useful book, but as for the broader topic of what effects this had on Africa and African people, it was completely null.

Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor. If no reason comes up for me to read more Palahniuk, this'll be the last one, at least for awhile; I found it gimmicky, and the genre conventions of symbolism trumping sense were bugging me.

Arturo Perez-Reverte, The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet. This may well be the best in this series so far. I have the next one on my pile and will probably try to get to it soon, so he may just be getting better. But there is swashing and buckling and an event that has been long foreshadowed and very many other things of not inconsiderable interest.

Laurence Yep, City of Fire. Here's where it becomes really obvious that I'm a middle-book person. I started reading this series when Tor sent me a review copy of the second book, City of Ice. And okay, yes, me and ice. But still: I was happier just diving into the middle of these people than having their stories explained. Not that this was a bad middle-grade alternate history fantasy. I just liked the middle one better. I'll still read the third one when it's available.