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Six Books - Qualified Perceptions
Six Books
The Retrieval Artist and Other Stories (by Kristine Kathryn Rusch)
Like pretty much every other short story collection in the world, it's a mixed bag. There's some more puttering around in the Retrieval Artist universe, which is an interesting, if harsh, setting. One bit seems to me badly flawed, though - if you're going to play around with concepts of human and alien, then it throws a wrench into the works when one of your humans behaves in a way that just seems alien. I can accept a bad-guy human deciding "frame the aliens, so we have an excuse to genocide them, take their stuff, and Profit!" That's human, if unpleasant. But when that includes "Don't stop my village's children from accidentally killing each other, because then I can frame the aliens for it!" as the first step, that's no longer standard human psychology for me.
My favorite of the stories was the one that had disposable clones (kind of like the Spares from the same-named book); the twist is that these clones ("flowers") are very fast-aging and thus short-lived, and they're used by tabloids to get "real" photographs of celebrities in compromising situations. Disquieting but novel. Three stars, mostly on the basis of one four-star story.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds (by Cherie Priest)
A Southern Gothic ghost story, with a lovely cover and many recommendations by other authors. Alas, I didn't care for it so much, though. The main character wasn't really scared of anything except for a short side plot at the beginning, and consequently, neither was I, which takes the bite out of the horror for me. The spooky/swampy atmosphere is quite well done, but the plot is sort of confusing and muddly; the main character spends the course of the book tracking down her familial backstory and why she's haunted, but as a mystery it's unsubstantial because it's mostly unopposed, and as a horror story there's not enough scariness happening to her. (It would probably make a very good adventure game; the settings are quite evocative, and traipsing around on your own finding clues is traditional). Two stars.

Empire of Ivory (by Naomi Novik)
Book four in the Temeraire series, which picks up from the strategic cliffhanger of the previous book, adventures around, and leaves off in a much tighter, nearly tactical, cliffhanger. It's still fun reading, but I really wish she would break the books differently. Four stars, probably because I still really like the dragon points of view.

Fantasy Gone Wrong (collection)
Another collection of short stories. Several were quite clever; probably my favorite, Goblin Lullaby by Jim C. Hines was both fun and interesting (if a bit heavy on scatalogical humor, but, well, goblins...). On the other side of things, I'm starting to actively resent Janny Wurts for taking up space that could be better served by some other author, any other author, or even by being left blank. (I'll point you at my rant about To Ride Hell's Chasm, and just say here that I like neither her writing style, which here had a sense of being translated from some other language via Babelfish, nor her plot, which had odd pointless detours...). Maybe three-ish stars for the collection as a whole.

Karma Girl (by Jennifer Estep)
Sigh. I was hoping for something as clever and funny as Soon I Will Be Invincible. Instead, I got tacky chick lit with an annoyingly stupid heroine. (Rule of thumb: the more that the only characteristic of the sex is that it is OMG the Absolute Best Ever, the less redeeming the rest of the book is going to be). One and a half stars. I was going to say, I need to find a book with guns, testosterone, and explosions to balance this out, but I realize I also read

Th1rte3n (by Richard K Morgan)
(Darned title. I can never put the 3 in the right place. I have the same problem with Se7en...). This is probably my favorite of Morgan's books in a while. I like the dynamic between the genetically tweaked alpha-male action hero, and the "feminized" culture that makes a good attempt to solve problems by talking (plus then the corporate entities which are back to being amoral) without saying that obviously one side is right and one is wrong. I liked that the main character was an ass sometimes, but in characteristic ways. I appreciated the twists in the main plot of chasing the renegade, though the cast got a little large for me to keep track of everyone's names (which, admittedly, I'm pretty bad at.) I liked the side digressions into random future stuff. Um, yeah, I mostly just liked it. :) Four and a half stars.

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