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Fifteen books - Qualified Perceptions
firstfrost
firstfrost
Fifteen books
Killing Gravity (by Corey J White)
I wonder when I started thinking of 176 pages as not a full length book. But Amazon seems to think it's a novella / "single" too, so I guess I'm not completely confused. A woman who has been given telekinesis ("voidwitch") powers by an evil corporation has escaped. It does have a bit of a Firefly flavor, and the characters are solid, but it's fading pretty fast from memory. Three stars.

 

Brother's Ruin (by Emma Newman)
A steampunk-magic story, and also clearly the first part of a series. All people with magical power are required to be enrolled in (sold to) one of the mages' societies. If you don't register, then the Authorities will kick in your doors, capture you, and arrest your family for keeping you secret. If you try to register but are not powerful enough to pass the tests, then your family will be arrested or subject to crushing fines for false reporting. Given that magical power can be pretty subtle and hard to confirm, this is awfully damned-if-you-do damned-if-you-don't. I'm also a little dubious about the romance-ish subplot. Hmm. Also three stars, though I do like the main character.

 

Luminous (by Greg Egan)
-c help recommended Greg Egan as really good mathematical science fiction, so I picked up the collection. I didn't get around to reading it until a while later, at which point I had forgotten it was short stories, so I was really confused by the transition from the first chapter to the second. (Was the second chapter a flashback? How did the character make the transition from a geneticist to a mercenary, anyway?). Anyway, for most short story collections I tend to enjoy about half of them - this one was nearly 100%. Egan plays around with the borders between computation and consciousness, physics, math; sometimes I was a little lazy and let the hard thinky stuff flow by rather than digging in, and sometimes I thought; either way was enjoyable. Four and a half stars.

 

Snapshot (by Brandon Sanderson)
Another novella. The technical premise is a little suspect, but the plot is snappy and the twists are nicely done. It fell in the same sort of niche as John Scalzi's The Dispatcher, which I didn't log because I wasn't mentioning novellas at the time. Four stars.

 

Sailing to Sarantium (by Guy Gavriel Kay)
I read this partway through and gave up, when it was first published; I remembered not liking it because it was slow. I've gotten more of a taste for slow (but well written) books, especially on audiobook - it's a different sort of escapism than reading something where I want to know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. Instead, it's like vacationing somewhere else, where there's not much going on but it's lovely to be - like lying in a hammock by the river. Unfortunately, it annoyed me for different reasons this time. I think *all* of the significant women use their Seductive Wiles on the main character in one way or another, and while I don't necessarily object to a patriarchal setting, I want my women to be more than one-note. Game of Thrones is pretty darned misogynist, but it gave us Brienne of Tarth nevertheless. Sailing to Sarantium doesn't dislike its women, but it's the kind of feminism that demonstrates that its main character is a good guy by having him treat the slave/whore in the inn with decency. Of course, it's a twenty-year-old book, and it *has* significant women. Twenty years ago, the thing I minded was that it was slow. (Also, I could done with a couple dozen fewer times of flashing back to the zubir.)

 

Stone's Fall (by Iain Pears)
Long ago, rif recommended An Instance of the Fingerpost by this author; I no longer remember the plot, but the structure was four different narrators chronicling the same events; I think it went in order from the most unreliable of the narrators who understood things least well (but nevertheless constructed a coherent narrative), to the most reliable, so things kept getting re-cast and re-explained as the story got more layers. Stone's Fall is a three part story, and it progresses backwards, starting from a slightly-suspicious death (John Stone has fallen out a window, hence the title, which has as many layers of meaning as the rest of the book) and "find my lost heir" investigation and revealing ever more backstory. Pears has also written a series of lighter, more "normal" mysteries, combining art history and detective work, but he seems to be more well known for this sort of multilayered story. I really enjoyed it; Pears writes thoughtfully and well, and the unfolding layers feel reasonably natural. Oddly, while it has some parallels with the female characters as Sailing to Sarantium did, I didn't really notice (until I was writing this) or mind, because the women are much more complex and generally agency-having. Four stars.
I thus existed in two worlds, for journalism is as class-conscious as any other part of society. Reporters are the manual labourers; most begin as clerks or office boys, or work on provincial papers before coming to London. They are trusted with facts, but not with their interpretation, which is the prerogative of the middle classes, the editorial writers, whose facility at opinion is assisted by their perfect ignorance of events.

 

The Refrigerator Monologues (by Catherynne M Valente)
This is exactly what the title suggests, episodic stories of the "women in refrigerators" in the superhero genre. There is enough repainting that the characters aren't copyright infringment - more like comics from an alternate Earth - but Gwen Stacy, Jean Grey, Mera, Harley Quinn, and the original woman in refrigerator Alexandra DeWitt (who I only know from her existence as the Trope Namer, which in a way seems even more sad) are all obvious. Anyhow, if this is the sort of thing that appeals to you from a description, it's exactly what you're looking for. It's well written, by someone with way more KS: Comics than me; it's also kind of depressing. Four and a half sacrificial stars.

 

The Penric and Desdemona series (by Lois McMaster Bujold)
A series of novellas; I don't know how many more there will be, but there are five now. I love these. Novellas are not normally my favorite size story, but here they are compact without being truncated (except one pair is basically a two-part story). I adore Penric, who is generally (but not always) sensible, and pretty much always a good and decent person. I really like the dynamic between Penric and Desdemona (the multi-personalitied demon who semi-possesses him). I like the religion, especially how it ties to the culture. I think people who objected to the wildly improbable coincidences of the Vorkosigan series (cough cough mjperson) will not find these stories as annoying; I find them entirely charming, myself. Five stars.

 

The Red series (The Red, The Trials, and Going Dark) by Linda Nagata
I don't read a ton of milSF that isn't over in the border with space opera. It doesn't appeal to me for many of the same reasons that role playing games that are principally about the combats don't appeal to me as much (though I do like XCom!). I picked these up for a bunch of reasons - Amazon kept suggesting them, they have good recommendations, and I had the theory that milSF by a female author might be in a slightly different ballpark. Also "read more women" because as a lazy SF/fantasy reader I will tend towards about 75% men. I guess I can't say how much of a different ballpark it was, not being very immersed in the subgenre, but it was interestingly thoughtful, and delves a lot into themes of manipulation and AIs whose goals are orthogonal to human goals, as well as having a lot of combat and explosions. The relationship of the main character to the AI is an interesting combination of ally and enemy. The nickname of "dead sisters" for the powered battle armor is deeply creepy (because when your teammate dies on the field, you might have to sister their armor to yours to walk the armor and the body out). It's still not quite my genre, but I did read the whole series, and I did want to know how it all turned out. I highlighted this bit as what I thought was non-standard milSF.
One of the most impressive aspects of human psychology is our proficiency with bullshit. Specifically, the way we use it to reduce violence in the world. I don't want to kick my way inside the facility, and I don't want to directly challenge John, but I need him to know who's making the rules. So I play the concerned and cautious commanding officer. "That's fine, Mr. Parker, but we'll need to check things out first. I'll send my lieutenant in to look around. Logan, take Roman with you."
Three and a half stars for me, but maybe more for others.
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