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Ten books (most of which I liked a lot, one of which I did not). - Qualified Perceptions
firstfrost
firstfrost
Ten books (most of which I liked a lot, one of which I did not).
*Shadow Ops: Control Point (by Myke Cole)
Howard Tayler (the author/artist for Shlock Mercenary) really liked this book, so I really wanted to like it too. I always want to like things that people I like liked. :) But... gah! It started out iffy, but then I switched to taking ranting notes, which is never a good sign. So, the whole "people get dangerous wild magical powers, how hard should we crack down on them?" theme is a fine one. Marvel has been mining it for as long as I've been consuming fiction. But it works best, most interestingly, when you can see some sympathy to both sides. You can simplify it, have one side just be the bad guys, and that's okay too. But when neither side is sympathetic, you're doing something wrong as an author. One the one side here, you have the military, which is scooping up all the extra-dangerous mages and giving them the choice of "join the black ops team or die", and randomly invading another dimension for no reason ever explained. Fine, they're the bad guys. But on the other hand... so, the book opens with the protagonist, before he gets his illegal mage powers, as part of a military strike force going into a school where two teenagers have manifested and have basically started setting other kids on fire, and they have to be taken down. (The protagonist angsts about the whole killing kids thing, but also angsts about the setting kids on fire thing. Fair enough, both of those are pretty terrible.) One of the rogues ends up in the secret mage black ops base, where the protagonist ends up later after he also manifests, and he (protagonist) thinks she (rogue) has gone over to The Man a little too easily. He gives her a hard time, including "You woke up one morning with a power you didn't ask for. You decided that you might want to take a second to play with it before someone else stepped in and told you how to run your life. That's your big crime?" No, for God's sake, her big crime was SETTING HER CLASSMATES ON FIRE UNTIL THEY DIED. (She calls him on this, though "I killed people! I damaged property!" seems to have a weird equality of priorities, and I also seem to recall that the special ops team kind of blew up the school themselves...) I'm good with defending the territory of "you shouldn't be locked up for having powers" but this is going way way over to loopytown. Even the libertarianest of libertarians are usually not going to defend our freedom to set each other on fire. Anyway, our hero spends all book waffling between Flee For Freedom and Join the Man, but every time he waffles into Flee For Freedom, he gets people killed. He feels vaguely bad about it afterwards, but doesn't seem to take this as any sort of lesson for the future. I do not like our hero. Let's see, what else? There is the minor Doctor Mengele character, who is also fat and Cheetoh-swilling and video-game playing, because I guess we don't find evil doctors scary enough and some other stereotypes have to be stuck on. Though I admit that a video-game-playing Cheetoh-swilling doctor in the middle of the active war zone seemed a little implausible, but bad guys will be bad guys and must manifest their evil characteristics or the reader will get confused. There is the love interest, who is beautiful and has nice hair and is pretty and has very nice curves. Oh, and the teenage rogue, who will definitely be a beauty when she's older, especially as she's started to lose some weight in boot camp. You know, I took some more notes, like on the wise-but-childlike aboriginal natives of the magic dimension, but I'm just going to stop here. One and a half stars.

Angelmaker (by Nick Harkaway)
You remember Nick Harkaway? He wrote The Gone-Away World, which I talked about here. I pre-ordered this book, so that the hardcover was sent to me the day it came out. I do not normally buy hardcovers. Heck, I do not normally even buy physical books any more. But then - aieee - when I started to read it, it was too soon after reading Infernal Devices, which also had clockmakers and strange not-quite-humans and things that I mercifully no longer remember, but in any event, I kept getting the two stories confused, and muddling the story I didn't like with one I was fully expecting to love. Like having too much cherry cough syrup and then having a cherry dessert and thinking "this would probably be good if the cook would just leave out the menthol." So I put Angelmaker away for close to a year, and then brought it to read on the cruise, and wow, is the menthol gone and it's perfect cherries all the way down. This is an easier book to describe than Gone-Away World - it's about spies and clockmakers and the old glory days and dashing criminal rogues and nemeses and horror and elephants and righteous blazing fury at governmental torture and St. John the Maker and undertakers and awesome lawyers - okay, maybe it isn't easier. Let's just say it's a closer genre to the real world, post-steampunk modernism. But it's about the writing. Harkaway writes in fireworks. Bright and flowering and explosive and colorfully brilliant. At the finale, he kind of starts setting them all off at once, as one does with fireworks, and it gets loud and overboard, but... well, that's what fireworks finales do. But also, he writes full of wit and snark and truth and everything that speaks to me in the voice I wish I had if I shone three times as brightly. I could open the book anywhere and find a sentence or a paragraph I want to share; this is the one that I made Jerry read, because it reminded me of "a run full of Monkeys tries to explain to Takanata how exactly the elephant ended up on top of the Golden Spire" (and I'm sorry if you have no idea what I mean there, but somehow Harkaway also always reminds me of role-playing games).
Relative calm; this means there are no guns. All the same, Amanda Baines [the submarine captain] is doing a great deal of shouting. The reason for this is that her upper turret has a number of holes in it (holes are considered a Bad Thing in the submariner trade) and Edie was supposed to run a covert intrusion and appears instead to have declared war on a minor principality and reduced it to rubble. Worse, she has failed to kill or capture the offended party, which is apparently very important when you launch a de facto surprise attack on a foreign nation. The Cuparah [the submarine] is presently going at one-third ahead towards the open ocean, and no one seriously expects there to be anything between her and that ocean, because the last attempt to block her way is still burning. More than that, it is burning in a somewhat emphatic way which is the product of Amanda Baines completely losing her temper. It is burning in such a manner as to suggest that other ships constructed in the same place or around the same time may also be burning out of sheer sympathy.
Go read this book (er, unless you don't like violence, or a somewhat disturbing 1984-ish torture interlude). Or borrow the hardcover from me. Why haven't you already read it? It's been out for a year! Six stars.

Petrodor, Tracato, Haven (by Joel Shepherd)
This is the rest of the four book series starting with Sasha, which I covered last time. This is a very interesting series - it combines some standard fantasy tropes (plucky martial heroine, war, elves (sort of) ) and some very non-standard bits. Violent revolutions that are worse than what they overthrow. Different ways that xenophobia alters different cultures. A thing that Jerry hasn't been able to help me figure out the term for, when your country gets war declared on it, and you win, and then you go in and redo the government more to your liking so it won't do that again. (Reconstruction? Occupation? Partitioning? All the examples I can think of are particular rather than general). Ends and means in politics and war and when you have to draw the line. Feudalism versus not. The other thing the series has (more so these three books than the first one) is play-by-play tactical war. I admit my eyes kind of glazed over some of it, but if that's your thing, then there's a lot of it here. Maybe down to three and three quarters stars, but only because I'm not a wargamer.

Six-Gun Snow White (by Catherynne M Valente)
Huh. This was exactly what the title suggests, quite short, beautifully written, oddly frustrating, poetic, and has shtick a mile wide and a WTF ending.
Flush and jangle with silver and possessed of a powerful tooth for both spending and procuring more of whatever glittered under the ground, Mr. H traveled to the Montana Territory on a horse so new and fine her tail squeaked.
I swear that I heard the entire thing narrated in my head by Nathan Fillion in his Mal Reynolds accent. Four stars, but watch out for the ending.

American Elsewhere (by Robert Jackson Bennett)
A lovely example of Gothic (I guess, according to Amazon?) horror. There are shades of Lovecraft, and shades of Donnie Darko (why are people-rabbits so creepy?), and a small town where everything is just too nice to be true... all in all, I really enjoyed it. You can kind of roughly divide horror into two camps - the kind where the scary thing is a monster bashing your head against the wall, and the kind where the scary thing is you bashing your head against the wall. This is the second kind. (Heck, the monsters are kind of just as broken as the people, which makes them almost sympathetic. But also still creepy as all get out.) And there are really a lot of different sides for a horror book. Not for anyone who has... really, any sort of triggers at all. Four stars for everyone else.

Great North Road (by Peter F Hamilton)
I am kind of a Peter F Hamilton fangirl, so when other have people have complained that this is a VERY LONG BOOK (plus has a bunch of boring police procedural at the beginning), well, I just say "ooh, forty hours of audiobook!" and I kind of like police procedurals. The mystery was moderately interesting. The second mystery was a lot more compelling. The scary alien was nicely scary, and the survival horror parts reminded me of Dan Simmons' The Terror which was one of the more terrifying things ever. (Less scurvy here, though). I don't quite like the resolution of the alien plot, but it almost works. Hamilton is a British author, and the book is set in England when on Earth, so it's of course a British narrator - but I do find the slightly-off American accents for a few characters to be weirdly hilarious. Anyway, four stars from me, but if you thought Judas Unchained had too much about trains, this one is also probably too rambly for you. :)

A Face Like Glass (by Frances Hardinge)
Okay, so this is technically a children's book (and so I must allow it some stronger suspension of disbelief about the premise). But it was kind of adorable, and surprisingly clever. The main character... well, really, she reminded me of nothing so much as early Lijuan.
"Look! Monkey!
"Er, no, Neverfell, that is just a short servant with a stoop."
"That man's moustache is fake yellow!"
"How nice. Now, Neverfell, if you come with--"
"Why do the houses look like they're covered in sugar?"
"Because they... Neverfell, I do not think you are supposed to climb those. No -- no, Neverfell! No licking the walls! This way."
And also really nice turns of phrase: "Some say the favour of the Grand Steward is double-edged. They are wrong. It is all edge and everybody knows it, and still all the courtiers spend their every waking moment clutching at it and bleeding." Or a lovely definition of kleptomancy, divination by theft. "Fnd something that is important, something on which you suspect many plans rely, and remove it. Then sit and watch." And it has rampaging cheeses! How could I not love it?

The Scorpio Races (by Maggie Stiefvater)
Creepy Celtic water-horse races, on a hardscrabble fishing/water-horse island; orphans trying to survive, family, loving the dangerous and difficult, and perserverance. A really nice sense of place; the capall uisce races were the big suspension of disbelief for the book (can a little island horse race really keep going when it kills so many of the people who race every year?), but it's not like it's less plausible than rampaging cheeses, so perhaps I should not complain. Four stars.

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Comments
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: April 1st, 2013 06:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Why haven't you already read it? It's been out for a year! Six stars.

Because I don't keep up with what's being released and had no idea it existed? <looks guilty>
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: April 1st, 2013 02:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
No, no, that's not supposed to be a *real* gulit trip. It's been out for a year and I only just read it! :)
marcusmarcusrc From: marcusmarcusrc Date: April 1st, 2013 03:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Really, we should be blaming you. How are we supposed to know what good books are out there until you tell us about them????

(speaking of which, thanks for the recommendations for the Jemisin Dreamblood duology which I just finished, and the James S.A. Corey Expanse duology, of which I just started the 2nd book... they are definitely both top-notch entertainment!)
arcanology From: arcanology Date: April 1st, 2013 11:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I definitely join in the firstfrost-blaming.

I was about to just go get it for kindle but kindle was more expensive than paperback, which is demented, so I didn't.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: April 1st, 2013 11:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
At some point I decided to confine my outrage for inexplicable price schemes to airplane tickets
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: April 2nd, 2013 08:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I believe there's a federal law requiring that no two passengers on a flight are allowed to have paid the same amount.
arcanology From: arcanology Date: April 4th, 2013 09:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Somehow this one gets me.

But now the paperback is more expensive than the kindle which hasn't changed... so I should buy it... er... wait...

I think actually it's more that the $12 price point seems a bit much for a kindle book somehow. Why? Dunno.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: April 4th, 2013 09:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I do understand the principal for the outrage. But the difference between the price I vaguely think a book should be ("What it was when I first started buying them! How dare prices go up!") and what it is, is sort of in the "I'd pay that for a foofy coffee drink" range, and I can't be bothered to let it annoy me.

Plus... I kind of have to admit, that right now I want the ebook more than the paperback book, so it has more value *to me*. Yes, it costs them less, but the (inexplicable) market should care about both.
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: April 1st, 2013 03:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Not very guilty, and mostly about not keeping up with reading at all. :}
chenoameg From: chenoameg Date: April 1st, 2013 02:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I had the same problems with Shadow Ops.

Since I think I like Lijuan possibly more than anyone else (including Lijuan's player) MUST READ "A Face Like Glass"!

ironrat From: ironrat Date: April 21st, 2013 04:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

The Ladies of Grace Adieu

Susanna Clark has a collection of short stories I really liked, much in the style of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It's called "The Ladies of Grace Adieu". I recommend it!
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