Finished Gideon the Ninth. It took several tries to get past the first 50 pages or so, but then it was an engrossing read. Having finished, I feel ambivalent. It was very well written, with excellent world building. And I didn’t see the end coming until just before it happened. The ending is what I’m ambivalent about, but I can’t really explain why without spoilers. Enough to say that I wish I had read the ending first, because my mindset about the whole book and characters would have been somewhat different.
Tag Archives: sff
Book I read last week that I loved: Novik’s latest Temeraire book, Crucible of Gold
Several years and books ago, Novik hinted about the alternate history of the New World as a result of the existence of dragons, and in this book readers get to learn more. But better than that, the dull, dragging narrative and clunky pacing of the last book have vanished. While I understand intellectually that Tongues of Serpents was a set up book, it needed better editing and pacing. (Like the second and third books, which felt like a single long book chopped in two for marketing/business purposes, I wondered a little if it would have been better off coupled with either Victory of Eagles or Crucible for better pacing and plotting because it was a disappointment on its own — that seems to be the general consensus among the readers I know.)
Anyway, I love the way the Inca and Tswana dragons and their view of their human families are a foil for the European mindset about dragon ownership, and yet at the same time highlight the possessive natures of the dragons in Temeraire’s coterie.
One particular part left me goggle-eyed and startled, because I did NOT see that coming. Not shocked or offended in any manner and it sort of fits in retrospect, but just startled. Sort of the way I felt when JK Rowling casually announced that Dumbledore was gay.
And the ending was good, circling back perhaps to clear up some dangling threads in the next book.
The book I liked well enough: Fair Game by Patricia Briggs
I liked but didn’t love this book and I haven’t quite figured out why beyond a few general quibbles. First, Anna’s development from cowering and fearful in the first book of the series to organizing and managing in this third book. Told not shown, and not particularly believable to me given how hard Briggs worked to present her as hesitant, self-doubting and reticent. Second, in the early books, Anna’s delicacy and short stature were made much of IIRC but in this book she is average height or taller. Did she suddenly have a growth spurt after maturity? Lastly, I’m growing uncomfortable with serial killers and rapists in urban fantasy and Briggs’ use of rape and/or threatened sexual assault to the female narrators and characters in her books in particular. It’s all down to personal taste and YMMV, obviously, since a lot of other readers really loved this book.
The meh book: Scandalous Women: The Lives and Loves of History’s Most Notorious Women by Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
Some of the entries in this short survey are obvious (Joan of Arc); others are less so (Carry Nation); and still others are original and inspiring (Ida B. Wells). The tone and style are extremely casual and informal, with the author making comparisons to Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, etc. — very pop culture referential, as if the author felt she had to equate each woman It’s hard to condense the history of a complex character like Eleanor of Aquitaine to 15 pages or less, and the difficulty is very apparent here; in many of the biographies, the emphasis is on the trivial and the titillating rather than substance, which is an unfortunate waste of an opportunity. There’s no significant analysis and the approach is not serious , and the bibliography and citations are somewhat lacking IMO. Perhaps I’m the wrong audience; maybe a 20 year old who knows very little about history would be fascinated by this introduction to the wild women of days gone by. Or maybe they could find the same information at Wikipedia for free.
Today’s SBD: A Game of Thrones. High fantasy.
In case you’ve missed it, HBO is currently airing a miniseries based on George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. I haven’t been watching, but I have seen all of the chatter on the InterTubes about the series, as well as screen caps of favorite actors and characters. So I picked up a copy of the book — due to the miniseries, there were no used copies to be found, but plenty of reissues at B&N.
It’s 800 pages. Which would be fine if it told the whole story. But no. The series (originally envisioned as a trilogy) is going to be seven books, of which only four are currently published. In fact, the last book is actually half of one book, split because it was deemed too large. Apparently Martin fans have been unhappy with him because he keeps pushing the publication date back.
I get that a lot of people love this series; it’s won awards. But I am not joining the legions of fans. I trudged through the 800 pages and all could think for the vast majority of them was FFS, drop the puck, Martin. And become less enthralled with your own voice. Too many POVs, too slow yet simultaneously too busy. One note characters for the most part. By the end of the first installment, I wanted everyone except Arya Stark and Jon Snow to just die already. Not prepared to invest any more time in the series, or even to watch it on HBO, despite the pretty pretty eye candy.
Title: Island of Icarus
Author: Christine Danse (new to me)
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: November 29, 2010
Source: Net Galley
Field Journal of Jonathan Orms, 1893
En route to polite exile in the Galapagos Islands (field work, to quote the dean of my university), I have found myself marooned on a deserted tropical paradise. Deserted, that is, except for my savior, a mysterious American called Marcus. He is an inventor—and the proof of his greatness is the marvelous new clockwork arm he has created to replace the unsightly one that was ruined in my shipboard mishap.
Marcus has a truly brilliant mind and the gentlest hands, which cause me to quiver in an unfamiliar but rather pleasant way. Surely it is only my craving for human companionship that draws me to this man, nothing more? He says a ship will pass this way in a few months, but I am welcome to stay as long as I like. The thought of leaving Marcus becomes more untenable with each passing day, though staying would be fatal to my career…
Why this book? I was browsing at Net Galley by publisher and ran across this one. I’ve had good luck with the Carina Press books I’ve read so far, so it’s one of the publishers I make sure to check periodically. The "steampunk" subject also caught my eye — I’m new to steampunk romance but have enjoyed the little I’ve read so far. Make it m/m steampunk romance and I’m sold!
What did I think of the book? On the whole, I enjoyed it. Was predisposed to doing so, given the category.
The story opens with our narrator, a biologist at an English university who has recently lost both his fiancee and an arm, being sent off on sabbatical to the Galapagos Islands. At the end of an unremarkable journey, a storm blows up; venturing above decks unwisely, Jonathan is washed overboard and wakes on an island north of the Galapagos. His rescuer, Marcus, is an American surgeon and engineer. Once the survivor of a shipwreck, Marcus is now the lone occupant of the island by choice. Marcus’s specialty is prosthetics (how serendipitous!) and he is able to repair and improve Jonathan’s prosthetic arm, which had been damaged at sea. Marcus’s obsession is flight — so many things can be mechanized, why not human flight? Surely if he can design proper wings and the proper engine, he’ll be able to fly. Jonathan is anxious to be rescued by a passing ship — they call in periodically and Marcus trades with them — but also intrigued by Marcus’s experiments.
Since this is a romance novel, you can probably imagine what happens as they live together on the island with only each other as company. The relationship development is slightly complicated by the fact that they are men: part of Marcus’s self-imposed exile is his frustration with societal attitudes about homosexuality, while Jonathan has never really acknowledged that he is gay or at least bisexual. In fact, one of the most irritating lines of the book is one of his musings that he "was a ruined man, destroyed by [his] affections for a woman." Readers later learn that he lost his arm because he was distracted by his fiancee’s desertion and got caught in a "library difference engine", which might explain that comment. But it smacks of self-pity and blame-shifting since Jonathan later admits that he neglected her, avoided her presence and hurt her, and that leaving him was the only thing she could do.
The steampunk elements in the book were limited primarily to Jonathan’s prosthetic arm and Marcus’s inventions. The library difference engine and Langley’s aerodrome are also mentioned, however it’s not clear that whatever industrial or mechanical or social changes that are usually inherent with steampunk exist in this setting. There’s the Panama Canal (real); Darwin’s journey on The Beagle (real); shadowgraph (which sounds like an x-ray in context, also real). Is that standard? [The little steampunk I’ve read to date has taken a culture or society and completely changed it via the steampunk elements, which is why I’m wondering.]
Would I read this author again? Certainly.
Keep or pass on? This was an eARC from NetGalley, so I can’t do either. But if I’d purchased a copy, I certainly would keep it.
Related only generally, take a look here for some gorgeous steampunk cakes.