redbyrd_sgfic (redbyrd_sgfic) wrote,

  • Location:
  • Music:

Books and more books, Part 2 (2008 year to date)

And now, books for this year.   I'm actually finding it helpful to write down my impressions because a) I remember the books better, and b) it forces me to stop and analyze just what I like and don't and why.  Is anyone surprised if I say it's all about structure?  (No, I didn't think so.) 

Brother to Shadows Andre Norton

This oddly suffered less from the late-Norton tendency to outline rather than write a completed novel, but was longer and rather disjointed. I have to wonder if the publisher at the time might not have wanted a higher word-count and she therefore put the material for two stories together...I liked the background for the main character, but the story gets spread out across the map and the ultimate resolution is unforeshadowed and rather unsatisfying.

They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie

If I'd read this before, I don't recall it. It's another stellar example of Christie's gift for introducing and making a large cast of character's memorable. However I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't figured out the gimmick the moment it appeared. Who knows? Maybe I did read it before and that's why I figured it out so fast. But still not one of her best efforts.

The Black Dove by Steve Hockensmith

The Maltese Falcon meets Sherlock Holmes meets cowboy humor. Steve Hockensmith has not only written another excellent story, but one completely different than his two prior books. Run, do not walk to the nearest bookstore!

Knitting Rules by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Unlike her other books, this one intersperses practical advice in between the humorous anecdotes. Very funny and enjoyable, but also useful as the techniques described fall into the category of 'general ways to do things' rather than actual patterns. A good guide to how to invent things on your own.

The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi

A loose sequel to Old Man's War, this is entertaining and readable military SF. It would be easily readable as a standalone. Good but not brilliant- Like the last one, I'd have liked to see some of the idea-content actually explored, rather than left as background.. I'll definitely read the next one, though.

Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer

Another classically Sawyeresque near-future tale, full of ideas. The story was interesting enough to keep me reading despite weak plotting, and some rather despicable behavior on the part of the viewpoint character. Thoughtful and readable, but not his best work.

Moon Called by Andre Norton

Typical late Norton, this reads like an outline for a novel, with interesting characters and cool visuals, but with much of the world, background and plot left undeveloped.

Beast Master's Circus by Andre Norton and Lyn McConchie

Working in the universe of a well-known author has to be a particularly thankless task. On the one hand, you struggle with incorporating the canon while writing a new and original story. On the other you inevitably choose to emphasize or explore things other than those the readers would have chosen.

This is one of the more successful returns to an earlier Norton setting, in part I think because the main character is original and the other characters are seen in supporting roles. The language is nearly right. In the places it is least Norton-like it explains the world more thoroughly than is strictly needed. It also makes some random point of view changes within scenes- a practice I generally deplore. However it captures some of the flavor of Arzor, and has a story to tell. There are things I would have done differently- mainly that the main character could have been more active in advancing the plot and resolving the conflict. However it was a pleasant enough tale, and draws gracefully on its source material.

The Outskirter's Secret by Rosemary Kirstein

An interesting if leisurely paced SF novel, with some good anthropological and ecological worldbuilding. This is apparently the middle book of three, and while the prior material is adequately covered, the characters' motivations might have seemed stronger had I read that one first. I'll be looking for it, and the likely sequel however.

The Buchanan Campaign by Rick Shelley

This was adequate military SF, but rather formulaic. It was weakened by having three viewpoints, one of which seemed to serve little purpose in the story. The pacing was fair and several of the characters engaging, but I wouldn't go out my way to seek it out again.

Yarn Harlot by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

A collection of stories about yarn and knitting- mostly hilarious but a couple very touching. A must read for any crafter who has ever fondled fiber. My mother enjoyed it as much as I did.

New World by Gillian Cross

Another YA, this time by a mystery writer. This was okay, though not especially compelling. It had elements of horror or suspense, but the 'virtual game world' as a key plot element (which I'm sure seemed newer and more innovative in 1994 than it does today) is simplistic and not especially compelling. The character's issues are well-drawn, but the pacing was a bit slow and I would have preferred to see more of the consequences of the character's decisions.

Children of Time by Barbara Moulton
Warning- this contains spoilers- I couldn't help it.

If I were going to nominate a children's book for 'most likely to scar fragile young psyches for life' this would be the one. Warning, spoilers ahead.

This book takes many children's fears, and makes them all real. And there is no happy ending. The children are kidnapped from their parents. They are held prisoner by psychotic kidnappers, beaten and tortured. Many of them are killed. The parents search relentlessly for their lost kids. Now this would be the time for the ingenious kids to escape, or the brave parents to rescue them, right? Nope. All escape attempts fail, the kids are brutally punished. Then they are put into cold sleep- the world they know is destroyed, their parents die of old age, civilization per se ceases to exist. They can never go back to the homes they remember.

About the only good thing that happens is the psychotic kidnappers are defeated. As a book, this is a downer. As a children's book? Therapists will have guaranteed employment for life.

Battle on Mercury by Erik von Lhin

A rare example of the 'man against nature' theme in a classic SF setting. Solidly written and enjoyable.

Legend of the Duelist by Rutledge Etheridge

This had bits of three different stories mashed together, but none of them were developed. Events happen but with little sense of cause and effect. Incoherent and pointless.

Dreaming in Code Scott Rosenberg (nonfiction)

This is a story of a software project. Conceived as a modern-day version of Kidder's Soul of a New Machine, Rosenberg falls short of Kidder's beautiful writing. But he does a fair job of answering the question, 'why is software development hard' and of explaining the process to the uninitiated. In the process are a number of laugh-out-loud descriptions of the quirks of developers and development. Possibly most interesting to people with some acquaintance with the development process. For them, however, highly recommended.

White Night by Jim Butcher

Another solid and entertaining entry to Butcher's Harry Dresden series. If you liked the previous ones, you'll enjoy this. If you haven't read the series, start at the beginning.

So far this year, I've read a lot of good books!  Or at least a greater proportion of good to bad.  I did bite the bullet and after scanning the first few pages of a bunch of the more dubious-looking entries on the to-be-read shelf, I transferred them to the 'book donation box' without actually reading them.  Radical for me, but I think I was traumatized by The Brain Stealers.  At any rate, I'm trying to be more selective these days.

(And whee- the pouring rain this weekend that has kept me in?  Has also inspired me to do a bunch of computer-related organizing and other stuff on my to-do list.)
Tags: books, reviews.
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
  • 1 comment