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A Bunch of Books - Qualified Perceptions
firstfrost
firstfrost
A Bunch of Books
So, I did a lot of reading on the trip to California. Here, I'm catching up:

The Disappeared (by Kristine Kathryn Rusch)
This is the first book in the "Retrieval Artist" series. Amusingly, the back cover blurb starts out: "Retrieval Artists help the lost find their way back home... whether they like it or not. Specialized private detectives, they investigate the most unusual crimes in the galaxy. But Miles Flint isn't a Retrieval Artist. He's just a cop, trying to do his job." So, the advertisement text leaves the reader entirely confused as to what retrieval artists have to do with anything. (Short answer: it's an origin story). A little bit of a police procedural with aliens, and a little bit of a Hegemonic Scout Excercise in alien relations. Four stars - I'm deducting half a star for a little too much moralizing, and half a star for a bit more running about in random directions than seemed necessary.

The second and third: Extremes and Consequences. Less aliens than the first, which was a shame. Both of them have an interesting take on the police procedural - multiple threads of investigation that aren't really talking to each other. So different characters discover the same facts via different methods, and step on each others' toes. Particularly in Extremes. I found that interestingly novel, enough to make up for the lack of aliens. There were a few more mis-steps than in the first book - one stupid mistake an editor should have caught, and what seemed to me to be an assumption that the Moon only has low gravity in the places where it has no atmosphere. There's no mention of artificial gravity in the domed cities, or even gravity changes, but people only seem to have trouble with the gravity "outside". Still hovering at four stars, though if book four doesn't have any aliens, I'm going to have to dock it half a star.

A Sorcerer's Treason (by Sarah Zettel)
This book starts with a fairly common genre: mysterious stranger from a fantasy place comes to Earth to bring back the Important Plot-Related Person to Save the World. Then it turns it on its head: the mysterious stranger isn't the good guy. That alone makes the book Worthy. The politics is interestingly muddled - everyone is shades of grey rather than Good and Evil, though there's darker and lighter greys. The magic system is odd and novel, and there's an interesting example of a character who is pretending to be a mage but isn't really. The combination of human politics and Russian folklore was a little odd - the major players are (kinda) countries corresponding to Russia, China, Araby, (rebellious province) Mongolia, and the Fox Spirits. Baba Yaga makes a cameo appearance or two, for reasons I'm not quite sure of, and the Firebird is the Important MacGuffin. Now, the Fox Spirits were my favorite faction - the verbal cleverness is very nice - but they do have a "one of these things is not like the other" feel. Despite being 500+ pages (albeit of not very dense typsetting), it still felt like a light read. The first in a trilogy, but really, most of the plots are wrapped up. Four stars.

Sisters of the Raven (by Barbara Hambly)
This was very nice. The women's names (even if Oppressive) were remarkably evocative - the Summer Concubine, the Red Silk Lady, Foxfire Girl, and so on. The king is something of an Arabian Nights Oscar Wilde - fat and witty and debauched, but smart and a good king. Not at all a traditional fantasy king, but well-written and fun to read. The Evil Things Going On make sense, once revealed, and are properly Nasty and Evil. I don't really have anything at all to complain about here, which, admittedly, makes for a not very interesting review. Oh, wait - two of the mages have names that start with A, and so I confused them sometimes. That's all I can think of. Five stars.

Shadow, Pattern, and Memory (by K. J. Parker)
I really like the covers of these books. In fact, that's one of the principal reasons I finally bought them (okay, silly reason).
Start with an amnesiac. Add a story, and dreams, and maybe-memories, and historical documents, each chapter of which adds a little bit to who he is and what he's done. I was expecting a jigsaw puzzle, but it's not a puzzle, it doesn't fit together so perfectly. Instead, it's more like a mosaic, with the stones able to fit more than one place, and where you put them determines the image. And then, as the books progress, new stones are overlaid over the old ones, until the image has changed several times. (Book two is different than one and three, and a little bit more of a jigsaw puzzle and less of a mosaic). It's not perfect - I think the author cheats a little more than I wanted - but it's strangely compelling to read. (Because of the mosaic-replacement nature of the story, I'm not sure how well the story will stand up to a re-read - anyone want to borrow them?). Four and a half stars.
The Shanghai Murders (by David Rotenberg)
The writing was interesting. Tying it all in, thematically, to the production of Twelfth Night was interesting. The scene-setting in China worked well for me. The mystery wasn't really a mystery, though, and the resolution isn't much of a resolution. Also, it rubbed me the wrong way that the stage-director character seemed so blatantly an inclusion of the author (who is, according to the author bio, a renowned Canadian acting coach who uses the same techniques and put on an acclaimed production of Twelfth Night in China). I know you're supposed to write about what you know, but somehow he seemed to cross a line between familiarity and advertisement that I didn't want crossed. Three stars.

(1, 4, and 5 are borrowable. 2 and 3 were from the MITSFS)

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Comments
chenoameg From: chenoameg Date: April 14th, 2005 09:40 am (UTC) (Link)
I'd like to borrow Shadow, Pattern & Memory.
desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: April 14th, 2005 09:50 am (UTC) (Link)

Borrowing books

Oo, oo, can I borrow your books? :) (The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th items in your list here all sound particularly cool.)
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: April 14th, 2005 09:55 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Borrowing books

2 and 3 are borrowed (and overdue) from the MITSFS, so I was hoping to return them this afternoon. And chenoameg has dibsed 4. Woe, you are thwarted! But presumably she can swap them to you as she finishes them.

(Here, I'll find some other good books that I actually own and bring them this evening).
desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: April 14th, 2005 10:05 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Borrowing books

OK!

(hooray for books! :) )
chenoameg From: chenoameg Date: May 7th, 2005 09:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I just finished the Parker books. My goodness.
It makes me wish I knew more literature, because I feel like many of the themes are taken from other things.
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