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Ten books - Qualified Perceptions
Ten books
Quillifer (by Walter Jon Williams)
An odd book. It's a fantasy novel, following the somewhat meandering adventures of a lawyer's apprentice who mostly doesn't do any lawyering, does a lot of philandering, and mostly fails his politics rolls. It's not badly written, but I was really unclear where it was going and what the point was. Not all my books have to be Canonical Campbellian Hero's Journeys, but there was something to the amorphous episodic nature of the plot that... well, it's probably a lot like real life. But that's not why I read fiction. Dunno. I guess part of the point is that he matures and gets better at things; I found the book more interesting as it went along, but it took a good fifty percent of the page count for him to go from 'hapless flotsam' to 'protagonist'. I liked the second half, but I nearly gave up before getting there.

The other bone I have to pick with the book is that there is a running conceit of the main character making up words. I think it was supposed to be funny, but I kind of wanted to solve the puzzle that the words were clues towards.

"Then there is no need to plead for mercy," I said. "The charge is baseless."
"Base-less?" Dacket mouthed the word as if he were tasting something foul.
"It's a new word. I invented it." Which, for the record, I had.
"We have a perfectly fine phrase, 'without foundation,' which will serve---and if it won't, we have as well 'unfounded,' 'unsubstantiated,' 'unproven.' There is no need for this base-less." Dacket gave me an austere look. "I advise you not to use these neologisms before a judge."
He also makes up "monotonize" and "crepuscular". (He doesn't make up "smaragds" though it was not clear until many chapters later that this was a real word. Well, not a real word, but a word that other characters in the book think is a real word.) Amazon reviewers were much more enthusiastic about this book than I was; two and a half stars from me.


The Prey of Gods (by Nicky Drayden)
It's a little bit of a hot mess - sort of like if you took American Gods (though it's South African Gods in this case) and mashed it with a robot apocalypse. I kept finding myself wanting a little more coherence to the weird shit system, like adding 10% Brandon Sanderson. Still, the characters are compelling and the plot gallops along, if in puzzling directions some of the time. It's a first book, and interestingly different from the usual fantasy, so I'll keep an eye out for other books by the author. Three and a half stars.


Clockwork Boys (by T Kingfisher / Ursula Vernon)
Half of a duology. It had a bit of the feel of an computer-rpg party, and the afterword indicated that it kind of was inspired by NWN2 and Dragon Age party dynamics, so I thought that was funny. I continue to love Vernon, and continue to think that she comes closer to filling the Terry Pratchett-shaped hole in my world than anyone else I read. She is funny, but more importantly, she writes things that are true, or should be true, or are so true that they hurt, not because they are sad or bitter truths but because they go straight into your heart and force it to be a little bit bigger to encompass them. Clockwork Boys is the first half of a story of a mismatched team (magically drafted into service) on a suicide mission to investigate the clockwork-ish abominations on the other side of the war. It's mostly about the party dynamics, though there is some good adventuring too. It was cut into two books, and has more of a stopping place than an ending, so might be better suited to read when the second book comes out next spring. Still, five stars.


Soonish (by Kelly and Zach Weinersmith)
"Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything". By the cartoonist who does Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and his PhD-holding ecologist/parasitologist wife. They ran around and interviewed a lot of people about a lot of interesting technologies, starting big with "Cheap access to space" down through augmented reality and robotic construction and ending small with bioprinting and brain-computer interfaces. So it's an interesting overview of a bunch of up and coming technology subjects, put together for the layman with a bunch of analogies (some funnier than others). Neat, and fun to read. Possibly I should have treated it like ten articles to be read over time, and not like a book to be read in one fell swoop. Thirty percent of this book is footnotes. :) Call it four stars.


Technically Wrong (by Sara Wachter-Boettcher)
"Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech". Marleigh recommended this, having gone to a talk by the author. I was hoping for more examples from the "unexplored biased assumptions" side of things and fewer from the "obvious visible misogynist crap really sucks" side, not because I don't believe in the latter, but (I hope) I'm a lot worse at the former than the latter and need more practice there. I certainly do have a lot of the "meritocracy! yay!" mindset that comes from most of a lifetime in the MIT culture, and she does spend a chapter taking aim at that. Worth reading, but depressing.


All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault (by James Alan Gardner)
A fun superhero romp. Whee. The team is women + nonbinary, and nicely written in the "Here is a story about people" paradigm rather than "Here is a story about that strange alien species, the female", so credit to the author there. The lampshading of superhero tropes is nicely done, and the plot is fun. Four stars.


The Harbors of the Sun (by Marthan Wells)
The conclusion of the Raksura series, I think, and a conclusion to the cliffhanger of the previous book. I have consistently enjoyed this series a lot; I may need to reread the whole thing now that it's done. Five stars for the series as a whole; four and a half for this book, mostly because I had forgotten a lot of the events of the previous book and they were kind of relevant. :) .


The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky (by N. K. Jemisin)
The rest of the Broken Earth trilogy, following The Fifth Season, which I mentioned here. The first book blew me away; the second two are still really good but I did not like quite as much. I was a little too unsympathetic to one of the new main characters, and the genre shifts slightly in a way that I never quite got used to (this is a peculiarity of mine - if there are elves at the beginning of the book, I'm fine with it. Introducing elves two thirds of the way into a book is Just Wrong and I will find it utterly implausible. Not that there are elves here, it was just an analogy.) Surprisingly, the story does not end up as badly as is foreshadowed. Four and a half stars.


The Almost Sisters: A Novel (by Joshilyn Jackson, narrated by Joshilyn Jackson)
I wish Joshilyn Jackson still blogged, but I guess novelling pays better. :) I have always found her books as a sympathetic and insightful view into a very different world than my own, so it was surprising to have this one be a crossover between Small Town Southern and Nerd Comicdom Culture. Previous books have been white small town poor Southern; this one bites a lot harder into race as well as class. I loved the book, as always, but I am am not sure I would like the main character's graphic novel. Five stars.
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