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Twelve books - Qualified Perceptions
firstfrost
firstfrost
Twelve books
Agent of Change by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
I actually got about two thirds of the way through the second book as well, Carpe Diem, but it started to feel like homework. They weren't bad books, but I had gotten far enough that I wanted a little more exposition to understand the setup. It's something like a fifteen book universe, so I was optimistic, but I guess it's not quite for me.

The Delirium Brief (by Charles Stross)
Book Eight of the Laundry Files. An Amazon reviewer notes that the plot ends at a place that the Laundry will have a hard time rescuing Britain from - but that's the point. Stross writes about the Singularity, and the Laundry is the story of the Lovecraftian Singularity. The whole point of the singularity is that it's impossible to go back to how things were before. I admit that I would like the books a little better if they didn't focus so much on the bureaucracy (though the Annihilation Score was worst in that respect, because it involves creating a department in excruciating detail, as opposed to just being in one), but I'll keep listening to them. This installment ratchets up the horror (the tongue-eating parasites have gotten ickier) and the bureacratic carnage, and there is also a particularly interesting aside - that the Big Bad in this book has come to try to get Britain because the US was already under the sway of something even scarier. Four stars.

Persephone Falling (by Skyler Grant)
[personal profile] mjperson recommended this series to me very enthusiastically, and with a note that the author had written several series; some Mike liked because they were Mike books, but this series he thought I would like. He was mistaken. One, the author is way too excited about rape, rape threats, and commentary on how the main character has nice tits. (From this I deduced that the author is male, despite an ambiguous name.) Two, it failed my "implausible settings only get suspension of disbelief if introduced at the beginning" check, which I concede is a personal stumbling block and not necessarily a general one. Three (something which I only noticed after switching from audiobook to amazon-unlimited Kindle, and Mike never noticed due to being audiobook only), the author cannot punctuate his way out of a paper bag. When I was ranting about this to Mike, he tested it out by opening to a random page and looking at a random sentence. Which had a comma splice. As did the sentence above it, and the sentence below it. One an a half stars.

An Oath of Dogs (by Wendy Wagner)
This reminded me a little bit of Sheri S. Tepper, back before I gave up on her - Grass or one of the other ones with humans on an alien planet who seriously underestimate the ecosystem by assuming it's like Earth. Or Speaker for the Dead, before I stopped reading Card. Anyway, the atmosphere is interestingly creepy, the ecosystem is interesting, the Bad Corporation is a little over the top, the biology was a bit hmm-ish, the main character is interesting (and has a mental health companion dog!), and the cover is really nice. That sounds a bit of a mixed bag, I suppose, but I pretty much kept wanting to know how it turned out, so overall: some flaws but definitely readable. Three and a half stars.

Arcadia (by Iain Pears)
A little bit of cold war spy thriller, a little bit of Connie Willis time travel, a scoop of Narnia, a chunk of dystopian future, a smudge of Shakespeare, not to mention a Stoppard reference... Iain Pears has always been a master of nonlinear narrative, but this takes it to another level. It starts slow, as it spins up the multiple parallel storylines, but once I've seen a character a few times I start to warm to them. About a third of the way in things start connecting, and after that I could not put it down (and stayed up way too late because of it). The mystery isn't very hard if you're paying attention, but there are plenty of places where the click as dangling plotline A is connected to missing plot hole Q surprised me. Hilariously, there is an iOS app to let you follow each thread. :) It's more about the connections, like a carefully designed Celtic knot, and not really about the depth, but I enjoyed it a lot. Five stars.

River of Teeth (by Sarah Gailey)
An alternate Western(ish), with hippo riders instead of horse riders. Fun and action-packed and very diversity-friendly, but it inhabits the genre of Action (Western) Movie where people betray other people not because there is a clear character reason, but because it is an exciting plot twist. (I'm looking at you, all you spy movies where the boss is the bad guy...) I kind of expect it in movies, but I seem to have a higher bar for books. Three and a half stars for me, but "Hippo-riding western" is your thing, you will love this.

Artemis (by Andy Weir) (Some mediumish spoilers)
Apparently the conventional wisdom on this book (young smuggler comes of age in the only Lunar city) is "OMG the main character is immature and terrible" or "OMG Andy Weir hits it out of the park again". I started out in the first category and nearly gave up, but I wonder if the other reviewers in that category also gave up, because she does improve a lot. I was deeply worried that entirety of the plot was going to be "Jazz tries to save the world from the apocalyptic result of her own bad choices", but it wasn't. There are some bad choices, but the apocalytpic stuff is mostly not her fault, and that which is her fault is both accidental and something she goes above and beyond to fix. (A character who I was really worried would be a supervillain - and was even lampshaded that way - becomes much more reasonable once he turns up dead.) Now, much of the theme of the plot is Jazz's evolution from a horrible selfish person into a much more altruistic good guy - but I think there's a little bit of authorial shenanigans going on, because several of the ways in which she is most hatefully selfish at the beginning are carefully described in a way to leave out the important ways that they are actually much more sympathetic. It doesn't count as character growth if it was there all along but hidden from us by the writing - that's like the early mysteries in which the clues are kept offscreen so that the reader can't figure out the answer before the brilliant detective. Pretty much all the characters have a thirteen-year-old voice about sex (not just the main character) which makes me wonder a bit. Anyway, it's a bit of a mixed bag, but I mostly enjoyed it after I got through the initial stages of "show us how selfish Jazz is" to give her somewhere to start from. Three stars.

The Wonder Engine (by T. Kingfisher / Ursula Vernon)
The second half of the Clockwork War duology (part 1 here). I alternated between reading it as fast as possible, including on the T in the morning when I would usually be playing mindless phone games, and putting it aside so that it would not be done quite as quickly. I loved it to bits, the thing I was dreading happened and made me cry, and it goes in my list of (very rare) reread-every-so-often books. I want to quibble with the resolution of one minor subplot ([redacted] doesn't work that way) but still marvelous. Five and a half stars for the pair.

City of Bones (by Martha Wells)
One of her earlier books; the name is familiar so I may have read it when it first came out, but I didn't remember it. The sense of place for the setting is very strong - a tiered desert city on the edge of the Wastes, enmeshed in digging out antiquities from the fallen great civilization that it lives in the bones of. Lovely character dynamics, interesting and rounded characters, The plot goes forward without being driven by a great arc; the main character in particular is just trying to get by and make a living and keep his friends safe, but forces from the higher tiers find him useful so his strings get pulled and drag him into the next thing. There's a semi-antagonist that does a lot of showing up at dramatic moments that I was iffy about, but in the end it ties together. And, as with all the Wells books, my sort of humor.
"Create a diversion?" Sagai objected. "If I'm going to be a criminal, I want to be in the thick of things, not waiting outside. It'll be a fine thing when we're brought before the High Justices and all I can say is 'I created a diversion.' I might as well be at home."
Maybe not my favorite from this author, but still worthwhile. Four stars.

The Abyss Surrounds Us and The Edge of the Abyss (by Emily Skrutskie)
In the future, the US (and probably other countries) have fragmented into smaller territories in part due to climate change, and sea shipping is protected from pirates by the people who breed/control GIANT SEA MONSTERS. That's the setting for a story about a young woman who, I kind of had to think, makes a lot of bad life choices. She does read as what I vaguely recall of my late teens and early twenties, changing my mind and my emotions kind of swiftly and overwhelmingly. Now, it makes me feel old. Still, the action is fun and the giant sea monsters are... strangely compelling. Maybe three stars for me, but more if you're into YA and/or kaiju.

Jade City (by Fonda Lee)
A sort of Hong Kong-esque ganster magic story. The characters are really nicely three-dimensional for such a genre-ified description; the author has the knack that I also see in things like The Expanse where I can easily fall into the point of view of whichever character the narration is focused on at the moment. It also does a good job of empowered women in a sexist setting. Four stars. (comments disabled on LJ; enabled on DW) https://firstfrost.dreamwidth.org/248138.html

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