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Seven Books - Qualified Perceptions
Seven Books
Impulse (by Steven Gould)
This is the third(*) in the "Jumper" series - the first one came out in 1993, so it's a kind of slow series (though there is supposed to be a sequel to Impulse out any time now). But it's not really a series that requires there to be a next book - Jumper stands alone pretty well, and Reflex is a fine (darker) sequel that finishes perfectly well, and Impulse is again a fine standalone story (though you'd want to have read the previous books; it's not quite that standalone). Impulse in particular is the story of the next generation of teleporter, so the setting is keeping up with the time that's passed in real life. (Cell phones! :) ) And it's back to the less-dark of the original Jumper. Anyway, I think that these books do a good job of the genre of what-if-you-get-superpowers, which (for the most part) do not turn into putting on a superhero costume. I particularly like the use of teleportation for famine relief - it's not glamorous or epic, but would probably be a lot more realistically helpful than punching a bank robber. I really enjoy this series, but start at the beginning. Four stars for the series.
*: There is also a fourth book: "Jumper: Griffin's Story" which goes with the movie, and is in a different canon than these three. I haven't read that one, though.

On a Red Station, Drifting (by Aliette de Bodard)
Novellas are not really my length of choice, but ebooks make them easier to pick up. This one is interesting - it's sort of Ancient Vietnamese Culture in Space, set on a space station overseen by the failing "Honored Ancestress" AI. It's thoughtful and sad and does a nice job of showing both sides of a dispute; two opposing people each get their own POV scenes and they make perfect sense in describing how annoying and presumptious the other side is. I have one complaint with the key action in the middle of the story, that the betrayal was too clear to be as accidentally done as it was, so I kept waiting for a hint that it was influenced into existence by the AI or something, but it didn't seem to have been. It mostly made me keep thinking "hmm....". But overall definitely interesting. Three and a half stars.

Stasis (by Kim Fielding)
An indie Kindle book for a dollar, and apparently this was the author's NaNoWriMo project. I might have been a little disappointed in it as a full price book, but it was more than worth a dollar. Younger royal disappointment son gets embroiled in some creepy magical politics and one of the better done versions of angsty gay romance that Amazon has decided I prefer. The characterization is solid, and nicely supported by Example Scenes. I approve of this; rather than have characters remark to each other about how the protagonist is a good and clever guy, have scenes in which he is good and clever. Yay. But there's one bit which really just seems to be "Bad guy is extra bad because he's the bad guy", and the protagonist seems to miss what I thought was the obvious solution until the end of the book, but the blind spot might well be in character. Three stars, but that's thirty-three cents per star, which is nearly free!

Mélusine (by Sarah Monette)
I stopped reading this 200 pages in. Various reviews tell me it picks up after the two main characters link up, but they hadn't yet (other reviews say that it gets less interesting, so mileage clearly varies). The book alternates between the two protagonists, and the author does a good job of giving them very different voices. Mildmay the Fox, the street thief, is really pretty entertaining to read, but the book starts by brutalizing and breaking Felix, and he stays as a broken item card that various other people stuff in mailboxes or carry about for, well, at least the first half of the book. I couldn't take it any more.

Ancillary Justice (by Ann Leckie)
This a space opera, but with less blowing things up than the genre might suggest. (Though there is an Epic Gun, and some spaceships that blow up). There's a plot, and it's a reasonably interesting one, but a large part of the interest of the book comes from the underlying world-building. Three things. Thing the first: The characters are human, but the language that most of the characters speak does not in most cases distinguish by gender. So everyone is referred to with female pronouns, though there are a couple of instances which make it clear in passing (for example, a different language being used) that some of the characters are physically male. I found it very easy to just think of everyone as female, but it in no way felt like a Society With Only Women In It, if that makes any sense. It was that everyone was the default, and the default happened to be female. I would be curious what guys reading this book think of it - how much does the "Oh, men won't like books with no male characters" theory actually hold? Thing the second: The main character is an ancillary, which (if I understand correctly - there was not a lot of "As you know, Bob" exposition) is a human body that has had a template personality put onto it, that template of which is linked with the AI of the ship that it serves in, in groups. (The use of prisoners for ancillaries is a plot point). So "I" means "I, the ship Justice of Toren or "I, the company of twenty ancillaries One Esk who are all linked together" or "I, the particular One Esk ancillary who happens to be standing here right now". (I did not quite figure out what distinguishes the different ancillary companies on a ship, either One Esk from One Var or One Esk from Two Esk, though I have theories.) Thing the third: tea is very important. In addition to being about guns and things blowing up, it's about the dynamic relationships between people, and following orders, and ideals, and classism, and a lot of other thoughtful topics. It took me a while to get into it, but by the end I really liked it. Four stars.

Steelheart (by Brandon Sanderson)
Okay, this is Brandon Sanderson's version of a Champions run. (Actually, I think it would be a really fun Champions setting). It's also a very good puzzle story - there are a bunch of different things going on which are nicely clued so that the reader can have a personal "a-hah" moment before the reveal happens, but the clues are deft, so you don't feel beaten over the head by them. (Cleverer readers than me would probably figure everything out; I think I was at about 50%. It is a YA book, and I am not one of those readers who takes careful notes). The plot wraps up pretty solidly, but there will be a sequel, being written in Sanderson's copious free time. Four and a half stars; I have a soft spot for Champions.

And now, for everyone who was in Oath, I give you the best part of the book.

"It's okay," I said. "I feel like a brick made of porridge."
She looked at me, brow scrunching up. The van's cab fell silent. Then Megan started to laugh.
"No, no," I said. "It makes sense! Listen. A brick is supposed to be strong, right? But if one were secretly made of porridge, and all of the other bricks didn't know, he'd sit around worrying that he'd be weak when the rest of them were strong. He'd get smooshed when he was placed in the wall, you see, maybe get some of his porridge mixed with that stuff they stick between bricks."
Megan was laughing even harder now, so hard she was actually gasping for breath. I tried to keep explaining but found myself smiling. I don't think I'd ever heard her laugh, really laugh. Not chuckle, not part her lips in wry mockery, but truly laugh. She was almost in tears by the time she got control of herself. I think we were fortunate she didn't crash into a post or something.
"David," she said between gasps, "I think that is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard anyone say. The most outlandishly, audaciously ridiculous."
"Sparks," she said, exhaling. "I needed that."
"You did?"
She nodded.
"Can we ... pretend that's why I said it, then?" She looked at me, smiling, eyes sparkling. The tension was still there, but it had retreated somewhat. "Sure," she said. "I mean, bad puns are something of an art, right? So why not bad metaphors?"
"And if they're an art, you are a master painter."
"Well, actually," I said, "that won't work, you see, because the metaphor makes too much sense. I'd have to be, like, the ace pilot or something."

Next time: Everything by Neal Asher. It'll be a thing.
4 comments or Leave a comment
lillibet From: lillibet Date: October 22nd, 2013 12:37 am (UTC) (Link)
I've just bought Ancillary Justice--thanks!
From: desireearmfeldt Date: October 22nd, 2013 01:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Hee hee hee hee hee
From: tirinian Date: October 22nd, 2013 02:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Ok, yeah, that scene is just *perfect* for Oath. You should poke baronet with it, I dunno how much he reads LJ anymore.

Also, if you want to give me Ancillary Justice, I'd get around to reading it soonish, probably.
From: tirinian Date: December 27th, 2013 07:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ok, I read Ancillary Justice, and I enjoyed it. The gender thing is confusing, as it's not just that "she" is the default pronoun for unknown people, it's that most of the time it's the *only* pronoun, so even the people explicitly identified as male at some point still get referred to as "she." I am not one of the people who builds a strong image of what someone looks like in my head when reading a book, so to a certain extent I just didn't worry about what gender anyone was. It did definitely color my opinion to being that most of the characters were female-ish, though. And yeah, it was a pretty good story, if someone unresolved at the end.

Unrelatedly, my nephew gave me a copy of steelheart for Xmas.
4 comments or Leave a comment