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Three Books plus One Trilogy - Qualified Perceptions
Three Books plus One Trilogy
Bloom (by Wil McCarthy)
A space adventure set in a solar system in which Mars and inward has been taken over by nanotech; the main adventure is reasonably interesting, and there's a lot of interesting ideas, some throwaway, some less so. There's the "tickle capacitor," basically described as an implanted sense of humor for someone who had none and wanted to be more likable, which was fascinating. Then, I had to watch the stage directions for the character - and yes, the humor does make him more likeable. But it kept coming up (and sometimes verging on malfunction), so I really expected there to be a Catastrophic Tickle Capacitor Failure eventually, since the gun had been so obviously hung on the wall in the first act, and the characters kept wandering by it remarking on the interestingness of the gun. But it never did. Anyway, it was a fine book - nothing broken enough to rant about, nothing compelling enough to make me go find all of McCarthy's books and read them all. Three stars.
Reflex (by Steven Gould)
This is the sequel to Jumper, about the guy who can teleport (or, in this case, it's more about his wife). A little less suspense, a little more creepiness, but a nice kicky action SF story. Four uncomplicated stars.
Voyage of the Shadowmoon (by Sean McMullen)
Shadowmoon was the first McMullen I read, before the Greatwinter trilogy, and it hooked me on him. I read it again, now that I have the other two books in the trilogy. It's confusing, complicated, funny, dramatic, epic, and filled with an assassin game's worth of side plots and clever betrayals. The title is almost entirely wrong - it's more like Some People Voyage on the Shadowmoon, and then Other People Voyage Other Places on the Shadowmoon, while Some of the First People Voyage in Different Directions, New People Voyage Hither and Yon, Some of the Old People Encounter Some of the New People, and More Voyages Occur. Though I can see why he might not have wanted to use that as a title. Nevertheless, while there is a lot of travel, it is not a travelogue; it is all about the (very many) things that happen. Now, in Souls in the Great Machine, I was mystified by the inclusion of the very small North America plot; in Shadowmoon, I am mystified by why one of the subplots uses the in-another-dimention Earth as a plot widget. Four stars.
Glass Dragons (second in the series)
Really seriously not as good as the first. I generally like McMullen's voice; there's a bit here where he seems to be trying to use Terry Pratchett's voice, but he doesn't do it as well as Pratchett does, so it's a lose all round. Strangely, Glass Dragons isn't that different from Shadowmoon; it just shades the funny more into sophomoric, shades the epic more into arcane than human, and shades clever betrayal into casual mockery. Not very much different from the first book, but nearly all the differences are in ways I don't like as much. I almost gave up at the point at which one character's penis is magically replaced with a dragon, and I'll leave it at that. Two and a half stars.
Voidfarer (third in the series)
Well, this one has a more coherent plot - War of the Worlds. That's a plus. On the other hand, there's still more of an inexplicable obsession with turning penises into other things than I'd like (where the amount I'd like is admittedly zero.) The Electorating plot is kind of amusing, the War of the Worlds plot is pretty good, and the odd cameo appearance of Time Travel is better than the cameo appearance of Earth Is Another Dimension in Shadowmoon, but the intense single-minded fussing over who is sleeping with who gets a little much. (I wonder whether Mr. McMullen had an unfaithful lover who he is vicariously punishing in some of these characters?) Three-ish stars.
The Graveyard Book (by Neil Gaiman)
A lovely little story, a homage to the Jungle Book where the main character is raised by ghosts instead of wolves. Also a bit of The 13 Clocks (though less poetical) and One for the Morning Glory, though less deconstructed. Like 13 Clocks, this is a book that ought to be read to other people - though in lieu of a live reader, the internet also has recordings of Neil Gaiman reading all the chapters out loud on his book tour. Four and a half stars.


5 comments or Leave a comment
arcanology From: arcanology Date: October 24th, 2008 02:11 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm sorry, you should know that you had a parallel universe incursion in the middle there from the universe in which people get books published in which people's genitals are turned into fantasy creatures. I'm pretty sure that's not a real functioning universe, it must be some sort of parasite. You should call the reality police.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: October 24th, 2008 03:22 am (UTC) (Link)
I think I'm more disturbed by the idea that there's a whole parasite universe full of these things, than that it's just a single, probably non-advantageous, mutation.
From: desireearmfeldt Date: October 24th, 2008 01:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
I keep thinking I ought to have a 13 Clocks Bedtime Storyreading event some day...

(I also bought a czech translation of it in Prague, figuring I might be more able to limp my way through an entirely unknown language if it was a book I already knew. But it turns out that's still pretty hard. :) )
dzm From: dzm Date: October 24th, 2008 01:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
I haven't read it in a while, but I remember the Moonworlds trilogy as getting into this rut where there happens to be this stash of very powerful magic items lying around such that it's possible to write three consecutive books in each of which it's very straightforward to actually destroy the world. The third serious-if-naieve attempt to actually seriously totally for real destroy the world got a little old for me.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: October 24th, 2008 02:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, book 1 was Powerful Magic Item Could Destroy the World. Book 2 was Powerful Archaelogical Installation Could Destroy the World. Book 3 was a little different, in that it was Powerful Aliens From Another Moon could destroy the world; they at least hadn't been lying around on the ground for anyone to pick up. :)
5 comments or Leave a comment