Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Books read, late June

It seems like a good time to reiterate what my book posts do not cover. They don't cover unpublished work (ARCs count as published, to my method of reckoning: if I mention something I've read in ARC, you will soon have a chance to read it, too). They don't cover short work that isn't collected in a specific book -- so if I read one of your short stories on the internet, it's not listed here. Same deal for magazines -- even if I read them cover to cover, I'm not mentioning it here. (I do read several magazines cover to cover, and maybe you'd be interested in my thoughts on this week's New Scientist, but I'm not particularly interested in giving them, so there you have that.) And I don't write about books I didn't finish reading.

Joan Aiken, The Cuckoo Tree. This one returns to England, and about time, too: the pattern of the others was getting pretty specifically repetitive, and I'm interested in seeing what else she's up to when the series is not following that pattern over again. The Hanoverians are always involved with the bad guys, but one grows to expect that in this sort of series. Sometimes I wish the Hanoverians and the Stuart loyalists could team up against the Mafia or the Sidhe Death Bunnies or whatever. Well. Maybe in the next book.

Margery Allingham, Cargo of Eagles and The Tiger in the Smoke. I think I might have had something particular to say about these Campion mysteries when I read them, but it's sort of gone now. They were parts of a series. They entertained me. They went back to the library.

Elizabeth Bear (matociquala), Dust. markgritter has talked about how this reminds him of Zelazny but in space, and I can see that, a bit, though it didn't strike me nearly so strongly that way. The smell of the setting is probably what struck me the most strongly. I had the ship in my nostrils for the whole book. This is always a good sign. Will want the next.

Marie Brennan (swan_tower), Midnight Never Come. Okay, so when I read swan_tower's last two books, I said that they weren't quite political enough for me. I now feel a bit constrained in what I say about this one, lest it come out with a vengeance in the next thing; while I know that swan_tower didn't chuckle grimly and say, "More political, eh? I think we can just about manage that," it sort of feels that way. Because oh my, the political. Oh my my. (I like political. Lots.) I did not have the problem with this book that I have with a lot of Tudor fantasies, where I know enough about the period to be able to spot which four books the author used for research and which seven or eight more he/she should have; swan_tower is better than that. I disagreed with a few of the implications of religious stuff in Elizabethan England, but it was very clearly honest disagreement rather than swan_tower not knowing what she's talking about. So if you are not allergic to Elizabethan faerie books, this'll be a good one. And if you are, it still might be. I am, and it was.

Jim Butcher, Small Favor. Well, Mouse and Murphy had another adventure, and there were some other characters with them, and I guess it was okay to have some other characters with them. I guessed completely wrong with where the twist in the middle was going, and I kind of like my direction better, but not enough to ruin the actual book for me. I'm hoping that this is building towards an actual climax rather than just inflating and inflating, but we'll see.

Peter Dickinson, King and Joker and Skeleton in Waiting. It's so very odd when I read alternate history that's only doing one thing with the alternate history. Having read both of these, it really read to me like the only reason it was alternate history is that Dickinson wanted a different royal family to play with -- that he wanted to do a couple of mystery-ish things around a modern British royal family without dealing with the baggage of writing about the modern British royal family. I sympathize with this; I have some concerns about using real, living people as characters, and I think it would have undermined great chunks of what he was trying to do here if he'd done so. Still, it was extremely odd to have that be the only thing the alternate history was doing. I kept looking for other small changes, for it to be science fiction alternate history. And it...just wasn't. Good fun and worth the time. Definitely alternate history. Definitely not, to my way of thinking, science fiction; certainly not the way Farthing et sequelae are. There was this sort of unintended flatness, like I'd thought I was looking at a sculpture and tried to walk around the back only to find it was a bas-relief.

Edward Eager, Magic By the Lake. I liked this as a kid, and I liked it as an adult, but the "utter boredom of adulthood" theme poked back up again and bothered me.

Elise Matthesen (elisem), Glass Bead Games. Anthology. Good stuff. Some of it I'd already read before, much not. I particularly like the different Orms. It is a secret Vikingish high fantasy fondness of mine, having characters with names of the form X the Y. Such a silly thing to love in a story -- in a book -- with much bigger things than that. And yet, well. The Orms. I have a feeling I will be getting this out at odd life intervals.

Jaclyn Moriarty, The Spell Book of Listen Taylor. This very slight for its length. So very very slight. And the series of coincidences -- it was like the opposite of magical realism. Pragmatic unrealism? No, I think that sounds better than this actually was. I don't know. I made the decision early on to keep reading it despite its overuse of the exclamation mark, and this may have been a bad decision, because I can't really think what in it was worth that. I thought there might be something, but meh.

Matt Beynon Rees, The Collaborator of Bethlehem. I would be very curious to have someone who knows more about ethnic Palestinians in the modern state of Israel read this book and see if I'm missing things. To me it read like a murder mystery among the Muslims and Christians in a heavily ethnically Palestinian area, and to me it did not read as though any religious or ethnic group was being cast in a negative light. It was a book that focused fairly strongly on how unscrupulous people use political unrest for personal ends, and how in the real world, proof is not always the thing that matters most, but proof that the people around you will accept and act upon. But I'm not sure whether there were dog-whistles in this and I was just missing them. It read to me as though more moderate Muslims were being portrayed as the victims of violent people in their own community, but as I say, I just don't know enough about the situation to say whether I was missing some additional political message or assumption there. Which was both interesting and odd, as a reading experience.

Ruth Rendell, The Tree of Hands. Creepy. And mostly just, but not traditionally just. Oof. Twisty stuff. Possibly to be read with care by parents of small children, for the buttons that might well get pushed.

David J. Schwartz (snurri), Superpowers. If I say that this is a compassionate book, I think that might make it sound like Dave was soft on the characters, like everything came out easy in the end. And that's not what I mean by it at all. What I mean is that the characters cared about each other, and were made comprehensible to the reader, as people, and not as heroes; their flaws were not excused or swept past but also were not obsessed on. For a book about superheroes, character was extremely organic: there was no supervillain, so the plot grew out of the people a great deal more gently than it does with crashing mountains of Kryptonite. Other things I wanted to say about this book: when you notice the timing of the setting (summer and early fall of '01), you will think, "This can't be accidental," and you are correct, and then you think, "Is he going to screw this up and do something lame and awful?", and while I can't swear to it, I'm pretty sure your answer will be no. I think he stuck the landing. (A bit odd, though, reading through the crack in one's fingers thinking, "Oh, please don't do something with this timing that will make me look at you the next time we have tea together and think, noooooooooo, but whyyyyyyy?." There will be no noooooing during tea. All is well.) Oh, and one more thing: this is such a very Upper Midwestern book. Oh so very. The speech patterns, the details, just the characters, who they were...if you're from here, you know these people. They are Upper Midwestern types but not Upper Midwestern stereotypes. And frankly, we can do with some superheroes of our own. I don't think Upper Midwesterners are the only ones who will like this book any more than New Yorkers are the only ones who can like Superman. But I think if you're from here, you'll get just a tiny bit more out of this book.

Elizabeth Wein (eegatland), The Lion Hunter. This is half a story. I'm not sure I'm going to read the second half. I've read all the bits that come before, but...I just sort of found myself at the end of the book asking myself whether I was going to want to read the rest, and I just don't know. I can't think of anything she's done wrong that I should say so. I think I'm just disappointed in where the premise has gone, that it feels like it's losing particularity to me, or else that my long-extended suspension of disbelief is slipping, and I can't really put my finger on why. I may yet change my mind. Strange, though.
Tags: bookses precious
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