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Six books. Well, I've been at home sick, what else would I do? - Qualified Perceptions
Six books. Well, I've been at home sick, what else would I do?
Look to Windward (by Iain M. Banks)
The back of the book suggests that this is, in fact, Brightness Falls from the Air, which I like very much. (All you people who take my book recommendations should consider that very highly rated as well. Heroes Die, too, while I'm at it. And Death of the Necromancer. Ask to borrow them too. But back to this book.) It isn't, of course, but it's really darned good. The back of the book also says "Hailed by SFX Magazine as 'an excellent hopping-on point if you've never read a Banks SF novel before'", which really seems like damning with faint praise (and gives me the excuse to put three punctuation marks next to each other). It's not only really darned good, but an excellent hopping-point too. I love Banks' dialogue. It's witty, and plausible. It sounds like clever people sitting around together being very amusing, instead of just people who the author has set up the perfect straight lines for. His aliens (at least the ones in the Culture) aren't really alien, they're all people. Clever people, furry people, strange finny people, AI people - I'm not sure there were any humans in the book with more than a few lines, but they're all people-flavored. Aliens are all very well to read about too, but it's hard to have good solid character drama with things you can't empathize with. Also, I think his Culture deliberately harkens back to the golden era of SF, when humans were perky and clever and unexpectedly resilient and optimistic and good. It's post-gritty, retro-cheery, something like that. Five faraway tragically exploding stars.
The Hidden Queen (by Lynn Flewelling)
This is the sequel to Bone Doll's Twin, and gets to slightly more of a stopping point than the previous book, though the story still isn't finished. As others mentioned, it's more epic and less personal than the previous book, but it's still quite good. Strangely, it seems a shorter book, but first books often seem to carry more weight with me. Less horror flavor, more fantasy flavor. Four stars.
Ghosts in the Snow (by Tamara Siler Jones)
A serial killer psych thriller -- set in something like the Ars Magica universe. (I say this, having never played in Ars Magica, because magic is pretty rare, and the setting is a big castle with lots and lots of servants and it goes into great detail about which servants do what and who can use what privies...) Anyway, it does an okay job with the is-it-him-or-not with the main suspect. Less of a good job with looking into the mind of the villain. As a forensic mystery, the detective spends too much time going to the scene of each new body and finding absolutely no clues. The romance plot (between the Sweet and Innocent Servant Girl and the Main Suspect) is angstified by the ridiculously contrived debt law posited for a nearby country: If I put you in my debt, by, for example, buying you lunch, you have to pay me back immediately. If you cannot pay me back in coin immediately, then I get to rape you. If I won't rape you or kill you, then you are honor bound to kill yourself immediately. An unscrupulous noble could wipe out whole peasant villages this way! I at least think that a country with these laws would have a better way to refuse gifts. Two stars.
The Gumshoe, the Witch, and the Virtual Corpse (by Keith Hartman)
I read this again, after a bunch of other people also read it, and it's still good. It almost seems set in the Conflux world, what with the kitchen sink of things going on, especially Native American weird shit. It's really a lot of fun, the setup a little more so than the resolution. The big clash between the religious right and gay rights certainly isn't any less relevant now than it was when the book was published. My biggest nitpick: there is someone credited (unusually!), on the copyright page, with "proofreading and copy editing". I would be ashamed to be so credited, for this book. It appears that it has been spell-checked, in that all the mistakes are real words ("a hoard of demons"), but there are still a lot of them. Of course, maybe that means that Hartman is a really bad speller, and the proofreader did a huge and thankless task but a few slipped through. (Hmm. Meisha Merlin is the small press that put out To Ride Hell's Chasm, about which I had minor production complaints, as well). Four and a half stars.
Africa Zero (by Neal Asher)
I went and bought the other several books by the author of The Skinner, but this one doesn't impress me nearly so much. There's some of the same themes of immortality and vast power, but this time the setting is a future post-post-apocalypse Africa. I kept thinking it should be a Mike Resnick book, since he staked out the claim of SF Africa in my head long ago. The book is actually two linked novelettes, chock full of high-tech explosions, but the main character, The Collector, doesn't have enough of a personality to be compelling, and reading just for the explosions isn't so much my thing. Two and a half stars.
gods in Alabama (by Joshilyn Jackson)
A while ago, merastra gave a link to this author's web log, where she posted about her ninja husband catching a mouse. And I really like her exuberant hysterical writing style, so I've been reading more of her. One of my favorites is antics with new pets ("[Tadpoles] are not FOREVER PETS like WAFFLES"). Anyway, I bought her book. It doesn't have nearly as much hyperactive capitalization, but that's probably good, if this is her BOOK VOICE and not her BLOG VOICE (now I'm doing it...). It's a little bit of a mystery and a little bit of a character study and a whole lot of Southern. "There are gods in Alabama: Jack Daniel's, high school quarterbacks, trucks, big tits, and also Jesus. I left one back there myself, back in Possett. I kicked it under the kudzu and left it to the roaches." I'm no good with accents, but I can nearly hear one in the print anyway. Anyway, I enjoyed it a lot, and recommend both it and Faster than Kudzu (in which she also makes completely gratuitious analogies to Lord of the Rings, just like me!). Four and a half stars, but that last half a star is really secretly for Faster than Kudzu.

These are all mine and borrowable, though Ghosts in the Snow will get to find a nice home at MITSFS next time I'm there.

Current Mood: sick coughy

12 comments or Leave a comment
arcanology From: arcanology Date: October 13th, 2005 11:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow, I don't usually vigorously disagree with everyone, but the Gumshoe etc. was for me a train wreck of a book. Admittedly, some of that was because it pushed some buttons, but there was plenty left over. I'll be avoiding that author in future.

As far as Look to Windward, however, you're spot on. ;)
From: desireearmfeldt Date: October 13th, 2005 11:16 pm (UTC) (Link)

Look to Windward

May I borrow this one?

(I would be intrigued to read a modern writer writing in the style of classic SF, as I have problems reading actual classic SF because of things like the attitudes towards women, so I can never tell what I think about the genre itself... Also, I haven't yet completed my research project on how your reactions to books relate to mine. :) )
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: October 13th, 2005 11:19 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Look to Windward

Sure. :)

(It isn't quite as far as "in the style of classic SF", so much as "deliberately reminiscent of classic SF", if that distinction makes any sense. That is, I wouldn't necessarily expect what you think of Banks to map directly to what you think of classic SF minus the annoying bits.)
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: October 14th, 2005 01:18 am (UTC) (Link)
I'd love to borrow anything by Banks. I've only read "Inversions".
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: October 14th, 2005 02:09 am (UTC) (Link)
desireearmfeldt gets first dibs on Look to Windward but you can have it after. I also have Against a Dark Background, which I think I liked okay, and A Song of Stone which I remember not liking much (and is not a Culture book).
ricedog From: ricedog Date: October 14th, 2005 02:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Banks writes SF as Iain M. Banks and non-SF as Iain Banks. The two groups of books don't have an awful lot in common, so your opinions about one group probably have no correlation with the other group. Of the non-M (of which A Song of Stone is), I recommend The Wasp Factory for those willing to be disgusted, and Complicity for some confusing grammar.
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: October 14th, 2005 03:53 am (UTC) (Link)
I'd like to borrow Against a Dark Background. And a key! I can also loan you Inversions if you like.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: October 18th, 2005 01:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've read Inversions, but can loan you Against A Dark Background. But what is the key for? :)
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: October 19th, 2005 05:08 am (UTC) (Link)
A prop for MWoW. Or at least, you said you might have a suitable key in the curio cabinet, though I suppose you didn't actually say I could make off with it.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: October 19th, 2005 01:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ahah! Right! I will put the key with the book in the Things To Give To Other People pile. :)
ricedog From: ricedog Date: October 14th, 2005 02:51 am (UTC) (Link)
And Death of the Necromancer

I completely agree. This book is awesome.
greenlily From: greenlily Date: October 14th, 2005 05:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I didn't like Ghosts In The Snow either.
12 comments or Leave a comment