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Six books - Qualified Perceptions
Six books
None of these were really stellar, nor were any of them amusingly horrible enough to rant about. Ah well.
Capacity (by Tony Ballantyne)
Very nice cover (I'd include a picture, but the Amazon version is oddly dark). :) The cover also quotes a reviewer who thinks Ballantyne has joined the likes of Hamilton, Reynolds, and Banks. Well, those three map out pretty well the space opera genre I like, so off I went. Now, reading Peter F. Hamilton in particular is for me like seating myself in a roller coaster - off the plot goes at high velocity, careening wildly from idea to idea. Capacity started that way: whoosh, the societal implications of duplicating your personality on a computer; whoosh, Schrodinger boxes; whoosh, AIs smart enough to manipulate humanity via conversational psychology; whoosh, creepy alien planets; whoosh, creepy serial personality killer! But then we got to the chocolate/sex/mind-control part, and by a few pages, my roller coaster car had gone off the rails and hit a wall. All my velocity gone, and I'm staring at the book saying "what the heck is going on here?" The scene wasn't that long, and then the plot started picking up again, but now I'm walking along by the side of the tracks; walk walk walk Von Neumann plants; walk walk walk Black Velvet Bands; walk walk walk, more obsession about virginity (I don't know what was up with that. I really don't see virginity as a total failure to connect with the rest of humanity...). Anyway, at a walk, the book is still interesting, but not nearly as fun a ride. I am most grievously annoyed by getting to the end of the book and reading an advertisement for "the third in Ballantyne's trilogy", when nowhere else is there any suggestion that this was the second in a trilogy. "By the author of Recursion" does not count. (As far as I can tell, it's perfectly stand-alone, though I wonder if the first book explicitly defined "venumb". This is the flaw with buying books at a bookstore instead of from Amazon...) Three stars, but it would have been higher if not for that chocolate stuff.

Blood Bound (by Patricia Briggs)
It's the sequel to Moon Called, which I also liked (basically urban fantasy in the werewolf/vampire semi-romance genre). This is a perfectly competent followup, but if you weren't motivated to read the first book from my review, there's probably no reason to read this one. Three and a half stars. :)

Last Guardian of Everness and Mists of Everness (by John C Wright)
It's very obviously by the same author as the Titans of Chaos trilogy (he knows the names of all four winds, and he's not afraid to use them!) but not nearly as much sheer fun. It's a battle between Good and Evil, Reality and Dreaming, with magic items and creepy legendary figures. I found that there were a lot of Really Nice bits, studded into an otherwise overly convoluted and verbose adventure. I really liked the selkie, and the dynamics of an (evil) society in which anyone can take over anyone else's life by killing and skinning them. "We live in cold and bitter waters that taste the taste of human tears. I think my seal-wife is not the same woman I married long ago." There's poetry to that, but the book is perhaps a little too poetic for me - I haven't ever read Paradise Lost either, another major source for this series. I liked the touches of American mythos, and I really liked the Oberon/Titania dialogue, starting with "Ill-met by moonlight, proud Titania" but concerning an entirely different grievance than the original. But the magical battles were a little tedious; when everything depends on the exact ritual interpration of things, the clashes seem annoyingly like semantic or legal arguments, neither of which is classically Epic. And Wendy is just too childish by the end. Anyway, these two were apparently the first books Wright wrote (he got the Golden Age published, and then went back to publish some of his earlier books). Three stars, due to some five-star bits in a two-and-a-half star story.

Ill Wind (by Rachel Caine)
The first of the Weather Warden series, which has been one of those sets of books I keep encountering at the bookstore starting at book three or so. The anticipation proved better than the actual read, though. On the plus side, the action (and the romance) are written with some nice snap to them, and the ending was pleasantly unexpected. And it gets bonus points for making the main character clearly a relative of mine. On the minus side, it's mostly a very long chase scene interspersed with flashbacks, so there's not enough time to really flesh out the characters, and while the main character's plan kind of falls apart at first contact with the enemy, she keeps doing it anyway. It's also very much an Origin Story, so maybe the next book has a better idea what it's doing, but I'm not too driven to pick it up to see. Two and a half stars.

Talk to the Hand (by Lynne Truss)
This is by the author of Eats, Shoots, and Leaves; this one is a rant about rudeness instead of about lack of grammar. As such, it's similarly amusing, but I found that I disagreed with her quite a bit more. Firstly, all right-thinking people put their apostrophes in the same place (or, at least, aspire to); all right-thinking people do not have exactly the same brand of polite manners. One person's acceptable behavior is another person's pet peeve - and triggering a peeve is not rude, exasperating as it might be. For example, I do not accept "Here you go" (said by a waiter) as rude (Casual, yes. Rude, no.). She argues "Where are we going? We're not going anywhere!" as a somewhat pointless riposte to "Here you go", but English idiom is often beyond understanding. The polite response to "How do you do?" is "How do you do?", rather than a description of how anything or anyone is being done. Similarly, "No problem" in response to "Thank you" is just a modern instantiation of "Think nothing of it, my good chap!" The second thing that makes the book a little less unquestionable than ESaL is that she is sometimes admittedly on the wrong side: the English apparently take great pride in booing umpires and celebrities. She takes a bit of shamefaced glee in this, and doesn't try to defend it as Not Rude. As someone who's never booed anyone in my life, I found this a little disconcerting.

Finally, I don't know how much I really believe that both grammar and manners have gone to the dogs since a generation ago. I am pretty confident that people have been saying manners have been going downhill for hundreds of years, but I still find people being pleasant and polite to me. And, after having proofread some hundred-year-old books for Project Gutenberg now, I can definitely say that they had some trouble with "its" versus "it's" back then too. Still, it's a fun read, and a fast one. Three and a half stars.


5 comments or Leave a comment
mjperson From: mjperson Date: May 14th, 2007 01:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
In what way is the main character of "Ill Wind" a relative of yours?
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: May 14th, 2007 01:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Her name is Joanne Baldwin. My mom's name was Joan Baldwin before she became an Armistead, and my step-mom's name is JoAnn Baldwin. So really, the main character of "Ill Wind" is probably my mother of some kind, but that seemed a little excessive to claim. :)
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: May 15th, 2007 08:11 am (UTC) (Link)
As I recall, Miss Manners defends booing when the performance calls for it, and says distressed things about everything, good or bad, getting the same polite tepid applause. The audience does get to offer actual feedback (at appropriate points).
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: May 15th, 2007 02:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think booing is only Miss-Manners-sanctioned at the opera (perhaps it was grandfathered in), and not at performances in general. I don't recall if she's mentioned booing umpires, though.
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: May 15th, 2007 07:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
The writeup is certainly specifically about the opera, and about the opera as a not-so-refined passtime back in the day. I'm not sure what it would be fair to generalize to. I'm not sure what classes of events she'd approve of generalizing to, but sporting events seem like they have some of the same atmosphere of the audience being allowed and/or encouraged to express themselves loudly (as long as they don't throw beer bottles).

That might be a question justifying a letter. :)
5 comments or Leave a comment