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Belated Book Reviews - Qualified Perceptions
Belated Book Reviews
Two new, that I didn't like, and two old, that I did.
Shadows on the Cost of Maine (Lea Wait)
She was nominated for an Agatha Award? For this series? Gosh. Every mystery series has to have a shtick - in this case, the detective is a dealer in antique prints. This allows the author, who is a dealer in antique prints, to tap into a number of incredibly dull details about antique prints, to flavor the book. Well, maybe if I liked antique print dealership, I'd enjoy it more - I'm certainly amused by the mystery novels whose shtick is cooking and recipes. But the details of when Winslow Homer made his prints and what they were of, leave me cold. Plus, the characters are all remarkably blase about the carnage taking place around them; personally, I think I might cancel my dinner date the evening that a body has been discovered in the back yard, someone has tried to burn the house down, and someone else has had their brake lines cut. But maybe I'm overly nervous. Two stars.
Fitzpatrick's War (Theodore Judson)
The premise is sort of intriguing. The future history of a revered leader, written by a colleague who has come to regret his part in that history, as footnoted much by a "scholar" who buys into the revered-leader bit. It's a bit of a complicated frame for what I have found something of a plodding story. The footnote effect could be fun, but is written with too strong a buy-in. For example, the story takes the main character to India, to build Secret Military Bases at the direction of Fitzpatrick, the Revered Leader (at that time the son of the real Leader). The footnote: "Another slander against Fitzpatrick's memory. Building the military bases in India would have been against the elder Fitpatrick's wishes, and thus the son could not have done it. Scholars today agree the Indians must have built the air bases themselves..." Yes, yes, I know, real people can be that blithely accepting (WMDs and Iraq being behind 9/11 rant rant rant), but hundreds of footnotes in that style become tedious. The fact that the 2300s looks just like the colonial British Empire is a little peculiar, (due to portable EMP weapons which caused electricity to fall into disuse) - like Honor Harrington except not in space - but I didn't mind the convention in Firefly so perhaps I can't complain too much here. Two stars at the point at which I stopped reading in vague ennui.

I also find that I never posted these, though it's no longer a summer afternoon...

Wrapt in Crystal (Sharon Shinn)
A murder mystery, in a soft science fiction setting. As such, it falls into a common failing of people from other genres who write mysteries (and many actual mystery authors, as well) - the final explanation fits the clues, but the rationale for the bad guy to have pursued the particular course of action that he did, rather than something much more straightforward, is a little fuzzy. The two religions are pleasant enough to read about. The minor characters are nicely detailed - I was briefly tricked into thinking that one of them must be the culprit, because they were too interesting to be a throwaway B plot, and was pleased to be wrong. Three and a half stars - good light reading for a summer afternoon
Pandora's Star (Peter F. Hamilton)
I was utterly blown away by this book. It's eight hundred and eighty-one pages (and these are serious pages full of stuff going on, not your Harry Potter pages!), and I still finished it in a weekend. Now, as an 881 page book, there are several full-scale novels embedded in it. There's a Robert Ludlum spy thriller, and a Honor Harrington space war, and then a traditional fantasy travelogue with orphan sidekick (I didn't like that one as much) and The Mote In God's Eye and a creepy little science-horror trope that completely turns around by the end, and a bit of Real Genius and I haven't even gotten to talking about the politics. The beginning of the novel is one of the best examples I've ever seen of "Show, not tell" for exposition, covering the two biggest scientific advances posited for the setting (wormhole jumpgates, and virtual immortality through memory storage and rejuv) - and the characters used for the exposition scenes are relevant through the rest of the book. I would have given Pandora's Star six stars out of five, except that it's one book out of a duology and the second isn't out yet. And I wasn't so fond of the fantasy travelogue novel - but with five other novels there, how can I complain? Five and a half out of five, still.
(Book 1 is borrowable until I purge my mystery section, though you probably don't want to. The rest were MITSFS)

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