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Six Books, Mixed Bag - Qualified Perceptions
Six Books, Mixed Bag
The Hydrogen Murder (by Camille Minichino)
Hm. The Periodic Table Murders really should have started with Hydrogen, rather than Lithium and Beryllium. Or maybe they did. The cover says this is a stunning debut; how can there be previous books, then? Very puzzling. The mystery was okay. It was trying to be a Real Science backstory, but I am pretty sure that 10*-26 + 10^32 is not 10^6. Maybe the copy editor "fixed" it; the blurb says the author is a retired physicist.

The Third Claw of God (by Adam-Troy Castro)
This is the sequel to Emissaries from the Dead. The first one was a good science-fiction/mystery crossover, and the second one is better; it's a take on the classic isolated-house mystery mostly set in a traveling cabin on a space elevator. I had gotten accustomed to the series' convention of saying "Other characters have noticed a clue but don't tell you what it is" in one way or another, and it always resolved acceptably rather than irritatingly. Creepy and interesting and well done. One bit that made me think: There is a process called "cylinking" (introduced in the first book), which joins two people's minds essentially completely and telepathically. The characters who did this are lovers, but as close as they are, there are the little lies and the things you don't say and the different points of view separating you. Cylinking erases all that to the extent that you are really just one person in two bodies, a blend of the two original personalities - but now that you are one person, that one person is alone and lonely again. Sniff. Again, four and a half stars.

Death in Holy Orders (by P. D. James)
"Dalgliesh saw that Father John was addicted to the women writers of the Golden Age: Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, and Ngaio Marsh." I always want to put P. D. James in this group (and it's odd that Agatha Christie is left out), but she's really much later, in addition to being not dead and still writing at age 89. She does have the knack for the classic Isolated Place mystery (here, a small seminary on the remote coast) with the lone Scotland Yard detective, though the book is much longer than the Golden Age classics. Still, it kind of confused my time sense to read. One of the characters had a son in the Army who was killed - I immediately thought of it as having happened in World War II, but no, it was by the IRA in the 90s, because it's present day. Also interesting to notice the ranking of Badness - murder is at the top, of course, but stealing a communion wafer appears to be worse than molesting members of the choir. Still, an enjoyable comfort read; three and a half stars.

Blood and Iron (by Elizabeth Bear)
I gave up on this one early. Some books hook you on the characters early and give you hints and dribs and drabs about what's really going on in the plot. This book gives you the plot up front, but only gives you dribs and drabs of why you should care about the characters, which was insufficient to pull me in. There was one remarkable thing early on - the first meeting with one of the main characters, she is described as beautiful and black, in a way that I had never encountered before in a random SF/fantasy book (which, I admit, is most of what I read). Let me see if I can figure out what I mean - not black and happens-to-be-beautiful, or beautiful and happens-to-be-black, but beautiful with a rhetoric that describes black physical characteristics as explicitly positively beautiful, the way other fiction might play up emerald eyes, or porcelain skin.
"The musician's face seared itself in Seeker's vision: a mask impassive as an Egyptian empress', lips blooming fat and sensual as orchids beneath the flat, aristocratic nose; skin red-black as the famous bust of Queen Tiy; hair braided in a thousand beaded Medusa serpents."
Anyway. I couldn't recall reading something like that before, and I also realize that I hadn't noticed that I hadn't. So, owning my privilege.

House of Suns (by Alastair Reynolds)
Listened to this on audiobook (which means I can't loan it out, another flaw of DRM type systems, alas. On the other hand, if I read it at MITSFS, that would also be true.) One odd bit - the narrator does different voices for many characters, some of which are other variants of his British accent (one seems more Irish or Welsh or something). But they're all clones (some genderswapped) of one grown woman and have been part of a homogeneous-ish clan since then (albeit with lots of travelling to other cultures) so the idea that they would have different accents was a little odd, not to mention that they were all varied UK accents, in the year ten million... On the other hand, you probably want that in an audiobook to tell who is speaking. Anyway, I really enjoyed it. It has a nice mix of the Sweeping Galactic-Timescale Slow and the Personal. The things that made me think, it didn't beat me over the head with. The tense bits were nicely tense, and the hanging of camouflaged plots on the wall for later use was very well done. I do wonder about a few questions that felt like they should have had answers but didn't, though. Four stars.

Angry Lead Skies (by Glen Cook)
I have really liked this series in the past, but book ten seems to be considered by Amazon reviewers to be phoned in with not much care. Sadly for me, they were pretty much right. I didn't finish it.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (by Jane Austen and Seth Graham-Smith)
I went in willing to like it as an amusing popcorn book (and I have no objections to "ripping off Jane Austen" as some will have it), but it skidded too far towards sophomoric, when I wanted Sean of the Dead clever. The addition of zombies was amusing. The addition of kung fu was also amusing (and it's kind of gratifying to have Elizabeth, when presented with the evidence that Darcy has squashed Jane and Bingley's romance, to have her just declare that she's going to go and kill Darcy...). The addition of uncontrollable bodily functions I could have done without, and the addition of extra bonus sex just did not work. (Wickham leaving bastards in addition to gambling debts was pushing it; Mrs. Gardner having a lover clashes badly with the Regency tendency to go into hysterics about illicit sex.) I kind of got the feeling that the rest of the additions were just so that there wouldn't be more than a few pages without changes. Enh, even on the scale of stupid to goofy but fun.


6 comments or Leave a comment
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: September 25th, 2009 03:49 am (UTC) (Link)
10*-26 + 10^32

firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: September 25th, 2009 04:02 am (UTC) (Link)
oops, should be 10^-26+10^32 there.
Okay, I don't get to complain about the author's math glitch, I guess.
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: September 25th, 2009 06:02 am (UTC) (Link)
No, go ahead. I make lots of mistakes but I still get to complain about other people's mistakes, too.

10-26+1032 instead of 10-26*1032, then?
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: September 25th, 2009 06:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah. They explained several times that the data fudging involved sneakily adding a constant (10^32) to the real number (10^-26) to make it come out to what they wanted (10^6). It seems like there would be better (and less obvious) ways to fudge your data, and just using the word "multiply" instead would have made the math right.
lillibet From: lillibet Date: September 25th, 2009 05:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I do wonder about a few questions that felt like they should have had answers but didn't, though.

Like what?

Have you read much of Reynolds work?
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: September 25th, 2009 06:04 am (UTC) (Link)


Like, what actually happened to Dr. Meninx? Did Hesperus kill him or did he really accidentally die? Did the rivalry with the little boy continue? The boy's *house* became a line, I think, but was that the boy himself? (Was the rivalry thus maybe a secondary motive behind the ambush?) The wiping out of the ghost soldiers in Palatial foreshadowed the wiping out of the first machines - was that actually because Palatial sunk its hooks deep enough in Gentian to still influence them? Was someone behind Palatial being brainwashing? It seemed like it *ought* to have been someone's nefarious plot.

I've read most of Reynolds' novels (not his collected short stories). Pushing Ice and Century Rain recently enough that I wrote
reviews of them and thus remember them; the Revelation Space books longer ago, so I only remember liking them sufficiently to keep picking the author up. :)
6 comments or Leave a comment