The Book Thread - April 2017

Been reading a whole lot of stuff but keep not getting around to posting about it. Some examples include:

All Bad Things by Stephen Blackmoore. A Wasteland 2 novella I got for backing the Kickstarter. Not too bright strong man with weaselly pal/minder stumbles into an apocalyptic televangelist’s bunker with working power and equipment, watches the guy’s tapes and discovers that he inadvertently correctly predicted the apocalypse that led to the Wasteland 2 setting being what it is, and takes this as a sign that he was right about all of his preaching. So he starts a cult and kills or recruits everyone in his path until he hits the Hollywood community and they end up in a stalemated war for years. Of course, his buddy doesn’t believe any of it, just sees an opportunity for power and wealth. And Hollywood’s got a bit more brainpower than either of them And so of course, things don’t go well for, well, anyone. Not too shabby for game fiction. Not having gotten to California in my play of the game I have no idea if this story is relevant to it at all.

The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley. Fascinatingly original, grimy, grotesque biotech SF with an all female cast. Since the protagonist is amnesiac at the start, and discovering what’s going on is of course one of the central themes of the book, I won’t say much more, but it’s real good.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. I am pretty sure that I read this as a child but very little in the way of details survived into my adult years and I don’t think I was especially impressed back then. Now I was, though. McKinley’s writing is just magnetic. I definitely didn’t remember it feeling kind of British Raj-inspired with the protagonist being a unmarried sister of a colonial military officer, lodging with the local diplomat since she has no income or property and it’s a place for her to stay. And the bulk of the book involving her growing to love the customs and culture of the local nomadic hill folk (and, it turns out, having their magic in her blood as well) before a final confrontation with a marauding northern force that isn’t quite human.

Midnight Cursed by Melissa F. Olson. After a trilogy detour into a new character (“Lex” Luther, boundary witch) Olson returns to her first protagonist, Scarlett Bernard, who’s confronting a serious threat to her vampire friend Molly (and learning more about her in the process). With a bit of help from Lex, since she’s met both Scarlett and her cop friend Jesse in her trilogy. Like all the books I’ve read by Olson, quite good. but obviously not the place to start if you’re not already into her stuff.

Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor. A followup to her lovelly novella Binti, about a young tribal girl leaving Earth to attend the most prestigious college in the galaxy despite the disapproval of everyone back home, and ending up witness to a massacre by the alien race the Meduse, but managing nonetheless to befriend one of them and make real peace with their race. In Home, she’s suffering from PTSD from that massacre as well as unaccustomed wellings of rage, so she goes home to go on pilgrimage to try and resolve some of these issues. Life has other plans for her, though. Unfortunately, while I still enjoyed this novella, where Binti was functionally a standalone story, Home ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. And the next one (which must be coming) is not here yet. So, grr.

Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay. I am in love with Kay’s writing all over again, but where he usually does either historical fantasy, thinly veiled historical fantasy, or mythically inspired fantasy, here it’s actually contemporary fantasy, with a photographer’s son stumbling into an age-old conflict in Provence - not between factions of supernatural critters, but between two men who return again and again to compete for the love of an equally eternal woman. Which would probably bother no one who wasn’t already involved, except for the fact that this woman incarnates in someone’s body. I’m not quite done, but it’s excellent so far.


Marcher by Chris Beckett, an odd mix of social commentary and inter dimensional travel. It was ok but didn’t really live up to the premise for me. The author is a social worker and that definitely came across. However the writing was a bit patchy, going from moments of brilliance to periods of tedium. All in all, a reasonable read but nothing here to prompt me into reading anything else he’s done.

the Gilded Cage by Vic James. Billed as young adult / adult cross over, and being someone that has read no YA stuff since he was a YA, I’d have to say this is not a crossover. The writing is too simplistic for it to be considered anything other than YA fare. It’s a fairly decent setup, about a contemporary Britain that has definite Victorian leanings towards class and status, and with mandatory 10 year slave “conscription” for all citizens who are not of the upper class. However the characters are rather 2D, and writing utterly failed to grab me as it seemed so wholeheartedly aimed at mid-teens. There are 2 more books to come in this series and I swung from being very interested to utterly meh by the end.

Now Reading

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich. Oh my goodness. After those 2 books where the authors were plainly getting to grips with things, this is just something else. I can not believe this is a debut novel. The writing is off the chain. So artistic but not in a gruelling, intellectual manner. The book has a dreamlike, ethereal feel to it in the first 75 pages and I can not wait to see where it goes. However because of this it is a slow read, best absorbed a bit a time rather than rabidly consumed.

the Grind by Barry Svrluga. A baseball book to get me in the mood for the baseball season. It’s ok.

This Wired article that appeared a few days ago talks about that novel, so it might interest you.

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi. I’ve read several Scalzi books, and I always come away with the same impression. I find them boring. To me they seem weak writing. I guess I got sucked in by the motif of a collapsing empire, but it was just more of the same. Boring characters talking about boring things, with not much interesting happening, and when something does happen, it just isn’t interesting. I had to move to clean my mind of this written form of pollution with…

Neuromancer by William Gibson. I am sure all of us have read this before. This book is probably the best of the trilogy for me. It kind of reminds me of the modern videogame, where a linear path is laid out for the player and he is forced to go along with it, manipulated by the powers that be.

Count Zero by William Gibson. The same story as the previous novel, just not as interesting to me.

Finished Ysabel and it was indeed good all the way through.

Then read Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining that Stephen King wrote a few years back. Like a lot of his post-alcohol writing it’s…fine? I enjoyed it well enough and I’m not averse to finding out what happened to Danny Torrance next, but it felt kind of…toothless. There’s various intimations of terrible things to come but then terrible things by and large resolutely fail to happen, even when they probably should have. It certainly isn’t scary on any level. And it’s nothing like the utter classic that The Shining is. But then that was probably a bit much to ask.

Working on the first Penric novella by Lois McMaster Bujold now. It’s very Bujold, so I’m enjoying it.

Finished Assail, my first trip back to Malazan in awhile. Still enjoy the world.

Started Vanished, the 3rd David Raker mystery.

American War - 60 years in the future a second American civil war is happening, this book follows one family as they become refugees, and goes into politics of war, terrorism, etc. I liked it. Fantastic protagonist.

From the way this ended, I’m trying to figure out where the author goes in the next three books!!

Book 8 is finished just waiting on a release date. He has also started 9. The thing I like about the books is they are all different and look at things from different perspectives. it’s not like 7 books of find someone via A, B and C.

I am listening to Pandora’s Star which at 37 hours + is my longest ever audio book but am really enjoying it.

I am also half way through the new Charlie Parker (John Connolly novel) A Game of Ghosts and it is as excellent as ever. I hate reading these as I know it’s another years wait for the next and it’s over all too quickly. I have re read the series twice over the years as it’s so good.

If he is going on 9 books,the end of Vanished must have been a red herring…

I don’t know why I gave up on Charlie Parker’s series. I liked them but I think one was just too weird and confusing to continue.

Finally finished Middlemarch. Now taking a crack at Tristram Shandy. Goddamn does that book have digressions. Its digressions’ digressions have digressions.

I recently heard an On Point interview with Annie Jacobson about her new “Phenomena: The Secret History of the U.S. Government’s Investigation Into Extrasensory Perception and Psychokinesis”, and while I am skeptical about this sort of thing I found the interview intriguing and may order a copy.

At one point she talked about experiments that US spooks were conducting that had the “eight martini effect.” That the results of the experiment was so disturbing that the spook went and had eight martinis afterward to get over what they experienced.

So a little while back, I began reading Casino Royale, the first James Bond novel and…wow…I had such a hard time with it. Not just the way it was written – which does jump around a bit – but with Bond being such an…asshole.

So I put that on hold and started another book a billion people have told me to read: American Gods. So far it’s amazing and I am loving it. Loving. I wanna be Shadow when I grow up.

Sped through For We Are Many, the second book in Dennis Taylor’s series that began with My Name is Legion; My Name is Bob.

It was quite good, but I didn’t find myself grinning all the way through like I did with the first book. This second one picks up right after the first one and continues the story with many of the same (good) beats as the first one. It ends on a cliff-hanger, as you might expect. If you loved the first one, you’ll really like this one. The worst thing I can say about it is that it’s REALLY quite short. The audionbook is just shy nine hours.

[details=Not really spoilers but something I’d like to discuss once others have read the book.]I was fairly disappointed that the multitude of Bobs don’t seem to be as jealous of their status as I think I would be in their place. The author seems to sort of imply that no other human has the mental/emotional wherewithal to become a space-going Replicant, but we the audience know that’s not true and now that they’ve seen all the Bobs, you’d think that the squabbling nations would be scrambling to get their own people into space along side BobNet.

So if I were Bobs, I would pretty much immediately lock down space-travel to only myselves. The rest of humanity is welcome to travel between the stars… but only on my/our terms. I kept kind of waiting for the Bobs to come to this conclusion all through this book, but I’m not sure the author is going there, and that’d be a shame if he didn’t explore the “Sky God” aspect.[/details]

DeviantArt poster got published by Chaosium -

It’s pretty cool, so I ordered it.

I’ve been plowing through the Lisa Gardner D.D. Warren serried. I’m on the 5th one I think.

I’ve played much Mass Effect and read little, but:

Babylon’s Ashes, book six of the Expanse. I liked it well, but it is not in the top three of the series. It deals with the fallout of the previous book and ties up some of the threads quite nicely. The limited use of some of extra viewpoint characters worked well. All in all it felt like a necessary plateau after the previous two novels had some serious escalations of the plot.

The Hanging Tree, book six of the Rivers of London series. One of the annoying things with this series is that I often feel the next book in the series doesn’t really deal with the end of the previous book. Foxglove Summer started by not really dealing with Broken Homes and then ended quite abruptly. At the start it seemed like this patterned continued, but luckily this books quickly goes into the main plot threads of the series so far and really and truly advances them. Finally! If you also felt a bit disenchanted with the series after Foxglovem, this one might change that. It feels like the series is back on track now.

I guess I now have to find another book six of a series I’ve not read yet…

The first two books were fairly promising, but “disenchanted” is a great way to summarize my feelings about that series. I understand when an author breaks through, you want to maximize the gravy train, but my god the last few books were dull. I’m sat on The Hanging Tree for a while, but I’ll check it out now.


The Son, by Philipp Meyer, belongs with The Years of Rice and Salt as one of my favorite multi-generational epics (I suppose I should also add The Pillars of the Earth to that list). It’s mostly a historical Western, but in all it covers Texas from the mid 1800’s to the present day. I have to say, I don’t believe he sticks the ending. But the journey is terrific, and the research and care with which Meyer portrays the setting transports me as few books have done. Highly recommended.

The Library At Mount Char - I adored this book. I’m hard pressed to compare it to much of anything, and it starts pretty unsettling and weird, and doesn’t reveal its humor and charm until a little way in - but absolutely one of my favorite books of the past few years. Reminded me a little bit of American Elsewhere (also excellent).

Dog Walker
I read this, and loved it. My wife also loved it.

It’s sort of David Wong-like (John Dies at the End) - and involves Shiba Inu Murder Dogs, Japanese luchadores, a Tengu cult, an ancient evil fisherman, and crab magic.

It’s not overlong - probably long-novella length

Shill alert - I ended up narrating for this (because I loved it). So if you would like an audiobook copy, I’ve got a pile of keys around here somewhere.

Just read this, I thought it was excellent. I started it because ‘library’, and while it is certainly important in the book nothing else went like I expected. Very dark too.