Well, everything else in the world is kind of going nuts right now, so here's some book reviews if you need a brief distraction.
Ann Leckie — Ancillary Mercy
Jan 21, 2016
This is exactly what I was hoping for from the series finale — it re-engaged the conflicts that drove Justice, integrated Sword's complications into those, and generally brought things to a chaotic and satisfying close.
Please read this series, it rules.
Also! I really liked the two new significant characters, but even just saying their names would be too spoilery, ha. They are great, and I would read a sequel just about them horsing around and causing havoc.
Ursula K. LeGuin — The Tombs of Atuan
Feb 1, 2016
I read A Wizard of Earthsea ages ago, but never followed up on the sequels until now.
Wow, this was an entirely other thing, wasn't it? Wizard was a book that moved in effortless wire-fu leaps, treetop to treetop; Tombs drags and taunts.
I don't know if I can say I enjoyed it, per se. But I can see how it was the right and proper follow-up to Wizard. It was satisfying, regardless of whether it was fun.
Chad Orzel — How to Explain Relativity to Your Dog
Feb 6, 2016
I learned a lot from this and I'm glad I read it! The rhythm of the writing wasn't quite to my taste and the repeated dog comedy bits got old, but the physics explanations were top notch, helping make sense of some things I've never been able to grasp before. This is some of the highest quality popular science writing I've seen.
It was also timely, because they announced the first gravity wave detection at LIGO pretty much as soon as I finished it and I was totally equipped to understand the news. 🙌🏼
Anarket Wells - The Maker's Mask
Nov. something., 2015
I spent a lot of this book wondering whether I liked it. It's honestly a bit of a baffler! I think my answer is yes, but it's the first part of a duology, so maybe check back in a few months.
This takes place in a feudal society on a planet whose terraforming process might have been partially aborted. Political power is centered around beached starship hulks that now serve as habitats and fabrication plants. Maybe 1/5 of the story is about that global situation. The bulk is about feudal intrigues, teenagers getting WAY over their heads in ill-advised romantic entanglements, and swashbuckling.
Here's a thing I went WAY back and forth on: There are some genetically engineered intersex/nonbinary characters who are assigned the pronoun "it." NO, FUCKING, I KNOW, RIGHT? But I can't just shut it down for that, because:
- The story treats them with about as much human dignity as you generally get in a feudal swashbuckler. They're described in physically positive terms, they have their own agendas, etc. One of them is a very sympathetic character with some interesting history, the other's a psycho assassin, and that's about on-par with everybody else in the book.
- There's a bunch of societal prejudice against them, but it varies depending on where you are in the social ladder and which starship arcology you're in. So the dehumanization of "it" seems to come out of the society they're embedded in, not out of The Author Not Thinking For Five Seconds.
- The ones we see were all purposely engineered in what seems to be a fucked-up indentured servitude arrangement with one particular arcology that uses its fabber for advanced bio-engineering, so their bosses see them as more tools than people.
So...??????? IDK, it gave me a gross twinge every time but I do think it made sense in-universe.
Richard Stark - The Man With the Getaway Face
Dec. 30, 2015
More Parker! The Wave has been good to me, so I've got a stash of these waiting to be read.
This one happens between The Hunter and The Outfit, which surprised me because those seemed to be butted right up against each other with nothing particularly eventful in between. And yup, this book consisted of Parker attempting to evade the fallout from Hunter and failing back to status quo ante.
Which is fine, because that's not really the point of it: Parker is about process, not outcomes.
Richard Stark — The Mourner
Jan 29, 2016
More Parker! I'll just leave it at that. This was a pretty solid one. Uh... maybe a little more misogyny than usual? (These are crime novels from the '60s, so the level is always going to be pretty high.)