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11.3 books - Qualified Perceptions
firstfrost
firstfrost
11.3 books
# are ebooks, * are audiobooks. It's particularly ebooky this time around; I must get back to some paper books for a bit.
Graceling (by Kristin Cashore)
I think one thing that distinguishes YA that interests me from that which doesn't is nuance. Hunger Games was straightforward as far as the fighty plot went, but the romance was... "it's complicated". Anyway, Graceling has a few places where it loses nuance (equating "you didn't tell me" with "you lied to me" always irks me a little), but in other places there's interesting depth. The Big Bad is just flat bad, but the Little Bad, the unjust king, is more like disproportional. When people mildly wrong him, he sends his magical thug to flatten them in return, and he doesn't care about bad things happening outside his kingdom, but he doesn't seem to go out of his way to be villainous just for the sake of villainy. Several of the Amazon reviews comment on the "author's anti-marriage propaganda", which means that the main character does not want to get married and does not want to have kids, and by the end of the book she has not realized that she only needed the right person to change her mind (and, in fact, the guy who assures her that once she starts having babies she'll love them because all women do, is not portrayed as right). Three and a half stars.

Sixty-One Nails (by Mike Shevdon)
"A Neverwhere for the next generation" says the cover. It's funny how similar this is to a previous cover quote, "A Neverwhere for the digital age" (that was A Madness of Angels) - Neverwhere is an archetype now, not just a book. This book also featured one of those moments where I concluded that a particular bit of the fictional world was just too implausible, and must be actually true in real life too. (Last time it was science fiction, two moons of Saturn which keep swapping orbits; this time is the formal selling of a bit of London real estate for six horseshoes and sixty-one nails, plus two knives (one sharp and one dull) which are ritually tested.) I am pleased to have "truth is stranger than fiction" as a sense mode instead of just an aphorism, though it is not good for much. Anyway, I generally enjoyed the book, though it was not great. The main character comes into his magic a little too easily, and I think there weren't quite enough bad guys to make it properly tense, but those are reasonably minor quibbles. Three and a half stars.

# Timepiece (by Heather Albano)
Another 99-cent ebook, probably the best of the ones I've read yet. Giant robots and monsters and time travel, it's generally fun, though it ends at a semi-cliffhanger and requires another book to be written. Three stars
# Taming Fire (by Aaron Pogue)
Another 99-cent ebook. Inexplicably, the reviews on Amazon compare the author to George R. R. Martin and Brent Weeks. Really? It does have a strong start, with some interesting grey morality, but it drifts downwards from there - the villains plot their villainy openly in rooms with doors left ajar for the main character to wander into, and seem unbearably stupid. Hint: When you are the villain, and you have taken the hero prisoner, do not, on the basis of five minutes of persuasion, send him off alone to assassinate your target. If you are considering doing so, and then you hear him telling the girl how he's going to warn the target and then return to rescue her, do not assume that it must be a ruse to keep her from escaping while he fulfills your nefarious plan. Not to mention, "Don't escape, that's too dangerous for a girl - just stay here in the tent and wait for me to come back and rescue you" irritates me. Two stars.

# Wool (by Hugh Howey)
This was a particularly interesting reading experience. It's a very good post-apocalyptic short story; I bought it and sent it to my pony, and then by the time I got around to reading it, I had completely forgotten what it was about or that it was so short. The author is releasing sequels pretty quickly, and I also particularly like the conceit of the titles (Wool 2: Proper Gauge, Wool 3: Casting Off).

* The Half-Made World (by Felix Gilman)
Interesting, very unusual, and a bit slow-moving. An adventure story set in the shadow of a great conflict between the Engines of the Line, and the Agents of the Gun. I liked the portrayal of Credmoor, the not-very-loyal, not-very-good, but ironic and polite Agent of the Gun. I liked the 1984-ish Engine faction (and Lowry's final end was extraordinarily appropriate). I didn't as much like Liv, the main character, who is confident, but rarely very effective. "We did not come to the service of the Gun because we wanted to enjoy victory, but because we wanted to lose magnificently." Three and three quarters stars - imperfect but compelling.

# After the Funeral (by Agatha Christie)
I really like Agatha Christie. This isn't one of the greats, but it's quite good. Lots of actual investigating, and even a subcontractor private investigator (!) generating data, so there are tons of red herrings to add to the clues for Poirot to think about. While it is all about the puzzle, I enjoy the characters too, even if they're kind of caricatures. They're not bland, certainly. Three and a half well-crafted stars.

# Song of Ice and Fire (by George R. R. Martin)
I re-read the first three, and read the last two. There's really no point in me reviewing it, I can't imagine anyone on the fence about whether or not to read it is going to be swayed by me now. But I did think it was funny that the "Other People's Highlights" feature on the Kindle highlighted aphorisms and grand statements in the first book, but by book five, the highlights were for clues about Jon Snow's mother and prophecies to remember for later.

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Comments
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: February 1st, 2012 12:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
The "truth is stranger than fiction" sense mode would be really handy as a contestant on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me.
rifmeister From: rifmeister Date: February 1st, 2012 02:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
If you're onto cheap e-books, I will again recommend "What Ho, Automaton." Very silly but very fun.
greenlily From: greenlily Date: February 1st, 2012 03:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I tried really hard to like Sixty-One Nails, mostly because of the Neverwhere comparison, but I got bored. Sigh. I did enjoy Graceling, though.
ricedog From: ricedog Date: February 1st, 2012 06:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Is The Half-Made World related to Thunderer?
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: February 1st, 2012 07:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't think it's related - I haven't read Thunderer, but it seems like a different setting. Half-Made World is kind of Wild-West in tone, there's no mention of an Ararat or flying boats. But I couldn't swear they weren't in different parts of the same world. :)
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: February 2nd, 2012 04:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
I haven't read Hunger Games but according to Wikipedia Stephen King thought that overall the book was 'addictive' but the romance was 'standard for the genre'. Not sure what the disparity means. Maybe you've led such a sheltered life that a cookie-cutter love triangle strikes you as very very complicated? :-)

The "anti-marriage propaganda" reminded me of some stuff my six-year-old niece let me know: first that she has a boyfriend (Reese), then later she mentioned that she's going to marry her best friend Anna (I didn't ask her what the point of the boyfriend was given these plans), and then out of the blue informing me that girls don't have to have kids when they grow up if they don't want them. I was very proud of her. :-)
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: February 2nd, 2012 04:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, I haven't read a lot of romances, but I thought that "Boy says on TV he's in love with girl because that gives them a Plot Hook to make them cool for the TV viewers, but he's actually really in love with girl. Girl plays up being in love with boy for the TV viewers to get them rescue loots. She finds herself becoming fond of him, but not as in love as she's playing for TV, and not as in love as he is, and he's hurt when he thinks she's just pretending for the TV and she CAN'T DEAL WITH ANGST PLOTS RIGHT NOW WHEN THERE ARE ACTUAL DEATH PLOTS TO WORRY ABOUT and feels somewhat put upon by the angst" was interestingly complicated. It had nothing to do with the triangle.

But Stephen King probably finds everything in the Running Man genre more standard than I do.
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