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Four Books - Qualified Perceptions
Four Books
(I note, somewhat belatedly, that my bad html lj-cut tags made it look like I gave high marks to Magic Time, when they were meant for Passages... hopefully nobody will go read Magic Time on that recommendation.)
Serpent's Tooth (Diana Paxson)
I think I will have to place Diana Paxson with C J Cherryh in writers who I intellectually know are good, but I don't really appreciate properly. This particular book was a retelling of King Lear, and it managed to make the initial premise plausible. Individual scenes were good, and the characters were frequently well-rounded, but I had a hard time bothering to finish. Or maybe it's that I don't like King Lear, except for Shakespeare's language. Three out of five stars.
Magic Time (Barbara Hambly, Marc Scott Zicree)
Like the Rules Senior Partner, I was tricked into reading this book by the inclusion of Barbara Hambly among the authors. Well, it wasn't bad. It seemed a lot like the pilot of a TV series - here are the characters, here are the plots they're going to follow, here are the unlikely coincidences that bring them together. The plots won't get resolved, just introduced. Plot resolution is for later in the season, if the show gets picked up after the pilot. The fact that one of the main characters spends all book on a quest for the Important Notes (which prove to be illegibly smudged), at the behest of the President (who is killed before we see him again), I found particularly annoying. Maybe the notes will turn out to be non-useless in the rest of the season series, but I'm not putting the effort in to find out. Two out of five stars.
Passages (Connie Willis)
Like most of Connie Willis's books, I liked it a bunch. Like many of them, I found the description of academia a little over-the-top; I sometimes get the feeling that Willis used to be a university professor but found the paperwork too much for her, and has been forever traumatized by it. I really liked the atmosphere of dread that lurked in the most innocuous of details at the beginning of the book. While the mystery was still developing, I was having a grand time. Alas, as the mystery began to resolve, I started having a difficult time suspending my disbelief. For some reason, I was irritated by the introduction of fake-scientific-research-data that "proved" the conclusion, finding it hard to suspend my disbelief. I don't know why I can swallow "The nanotech evolves sentience" without batting an eye, but I find "Studies of near-death experiences all seem to have these [made up bits] in common" implausible. On the other hand, the "Finux Operating System" in Cryptonomicon drove me up the wall - I guess it must be things that are close enough to confuse with real, but aren't, which bother me. The ending didn't do much for me, though. Killing the main character was something I wasn't quite expecting, and I liked the reactions to it, but continuing with her point of view just became too surreal for me, like when 2001 starts to veer out of science fiction and into... whatever it was at the end. Four out of five stars. Five out of five for the first third.
Complete Ivory (Doris Egan)
This is a trilogy (of which I accidentally also bought the second book - more MITSFS donations here!). The first one, Gates of Ivory, I wholeheartedly enjoyed. The plot focuses on the character's reactions to interesting politics, rather than the politics themselves, and on her relationships with particular people in the alien culture she's in, with a hint of comedy-of-manners thrown in. The funny bits were really very funny. I might have liked to see a little bit more about what was actually going on with the politics that caused so much trouble, but I did like the relationships. It reminded me a lot of the Jaran books by Kate Elliott, which I think have a similar focus. The second two weren't quite as much of a romp, in part because I knew more what to expect, in part because the main character isn't encountering everything for the first time. And I also thought that if I spent the first book learning how to use a really cool precognition tarot deck, I'd use it a lot more in the second two books. But precog makes for difficult plots, as I'm sure tirinian knows. Four and a half out of five for the first book, four for the second two.

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