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Four and a half books - Qualified Perceptions
Four and a half books
The Crown Jewels (by Walter Jon Williams)
I seem to have missed this whole series by Walter Jon Williams, the first one written twenty years ago, about an Approved Burglar in an alien-culture-flavored future. I spent a little while trying to come up with the way to describe the book ("clever, witty goofs"), but wikipedia has helpfully reminded me of the word "farce", in its proper literary sense. I pause here to mention how much I appreciate authors who write in more than one sort of genre. There's a butler, there's people being mistaken for other people, there's going in and out of various doors - it's just like a drawing room comedy, but with science fiction paint. The dialogue is snappy, and the digressions are witty. One such, an excerpt which sort of explains the main premise:
"High Custom allowed a person to steal for a living, provided he followed certain rules: he must do the job by himself; the person from whom he steals has to be able to afford the loss; there can be no serious violence -- bopping the odd guard over the head is allowed, but crushing his skull is not. The object stolen had to be of artistic, sensational, or piquant interest (no large quantities of cash or uncut stones, say, although there was nothing in the rules against pocketing same if they happened to be in the same vault as the Costikyan Emerald); the stolen objects had to remain in the burglar's possession through the midnight of the day following the crime; and the burglar must never deny what it is he does for a living -- if he is going to steal, he must let everyone know it, and carry his card when working."
The book zips along, finishing at about 250 pages, and I found myself slowing down towards the end, just to savor it. Four and a half sparkly stars.

Another Day, Another Dungeon (by Greg Costikyan)
I had to read this one because of the mention above of the Costikyan Emerald, but didn't finish. It isn't stupid, it's just not very smart, and I want my comedy to be smart (The Crown Jewels was smart). It starts as a transcription of a D&D run, and has some amusing bits. Kind of faint praise, but there you have it.

Farthing (by Jo Walton)
An English country house murder set in an alternate history in which America doesn't enter WWII, and Germany conquers the continent but not Britain. And it's sort of about that, and it's sort of about the rise of authoritarianism when you have someone to demonize, clearly meant to evoke present-day politics. It's very well done - I very much liked the parallel chapters between the two narrators (the perky young lady and the detective inspector, both classic staples of the country house murder, reworked for the setting), each of them with different subsets of the facts of the mystery. And it's very unsettling. I only have one fairly minor objection, which is the density of gay/bi characters; with the spectre of death camps, yellow stars and pink triangles, then having so much of the cast be gay jars for me with the original theme (like playing Othello with an all-black cast; it says something, but I'm not sure what). In this case, it's no longer demonizing the minority Them for the power of the Us; it's demonizing the Us-that-we-hide. Which is a different story, just as plausible and possibly more unsettling as the one being told, but it doesn't work for me to try to tell the second one en passant to the first. Four stars nevertheless; I would have given it four and a half, but I deducted half a star for a bit of the ending.

Magic Bites (by Ilona Andrews)
Another urban-fantasy-with-kick-ass-heroine-plus-vampires-plus-werewolves, which could probably be shortened to "Anita Blake genre". This one has some nice tweaks - the werewolves are of all species, so the Beast Lord is a lion rather than a wolf, and the vampires are very different. The plot has some good creepiness and a nice pace, but there's a bit too much snarky posturing between the various PCs for me, and too many women in refrigerators strewn around as decoration. I admire coming out and saying "rattle the principals until someone tries to kill me" as your investigative technique, even as I'd prefer a more clever plan. All in all, it's not a bad entry to the genre (and thankfully with less Amazing Sex than most), but it's not at the very top of the list. Two and three quarters stars.

Between, Georgia (by Joshilyn Jackson)
The second novel by the Woman Who Pinches. She's another one of those people that I have to think "Wow, writers can really write" for, especially given the difference between her blog voice and her book voice. The story is about someone trying to mediate in a small-town Southern feud, but it's also about love and family and fierceness and stubbornness and various sorts of crazy. And I spent about four hours reading it this evening and wouldn't go to bed until I was done. Why is no one borrowing these books from me? Do you all have your own copies? Four and three quarters non-genre stars.

Current Mood: productive productive

7 comments or Leave a comment
chenoameg From: chenoameg Date: February 8th, 2008 04:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
Is "The Crown Jewels" available for borrowing?
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: February 8th, 2008 04:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yup! (I also have the third in the series, but PBS hasn't sent me the second yet. :) )
desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: February 8th, 2008 04:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
OK, I have to protest against quartering your rating stars. :)

I wonder if Between, Georgia is that book I was browsing in the bookstore in fall while hanging about with my in-laws... I'd be happy to borrow it, or for that matter the other two that you actually liked (having read through all the fiction I got for xmas and then, I'm not sure why, most of my old Agatha Christies, and still being at the job where I get to read while waiting for the phone to ring...). :)
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: February 8th, 2008 04:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
chenoameg has dibsed Crown Jewels already, but I'll bring over Farthing and Between, Georgia tonight, and throw in gods in Alabama if you like. :)
desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: February 8th, 2008 04:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sure! Thanks!
jdbakermn From: jdbakermn Date: February 9th, 2008 12:50 am (UTC) (Link)


I really must post more reviews so that I can share my books with others (and hopefully find them good homes in the process).
marcusmarcusrc From: marcusmarcusrc Date: February 11th, 2008 05:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Could I get into the Between, Georgia queue?
(Crown Jewels was fun, I just read a mitsfs copy)
7 comments or Leave a comment