Books (Fiction) I Have Not Yet Finished Reading

Some of which I may never finish.


Zachary Jernigan, No Return. Night Shade Books, 2013.

Fifty pages in, this is a very interesting SFnal fantasy novel which is a)very much not my cup of tea, and b)has debut novel problems with line of direction and voice. I do not disrecommend it, but as for myself I may not finish it for a long time yet: I like to feel a strong pull, and I’m just not feeling any urgency here.

Started it when I was deathly sick, though. That might have something to do with it.

Stephanie Saulter, Gemsigns. JFB, 2013.

I’m twenty pages in. I have to read and review it for Strange Horizons. Already it tends towards the self-indulgent in terms of prose, a little bit too in love with saying the same thing in three different ways or the too-clever sentence or image. (I’m starting to think that JFB’s vision as an imprint and my idea of what I’d prefer to read, in terms of style – and also on occasion in terms of content, although that’s too early to say here – are strongly divergent.) On the other hand, already flashes of interesting character. I make see-saw hands.

And I have to finish it anyway.

Max Gladstone, Two Serpents Rise. Tor, ARC, 2013.

About sixty pages in. I love Gladstone’s debut. This would be a great book for me if I had more reason to care about the characters: it feels sufficiently like a debut novel here that I have begun to wonder if Gladstone didn’t write this one first.

ETA: Muddled the title, folks. Sorry. SERPENTS, not DEAD.

Francis Knight, Fade to Black. Orbit, 2013.

Forty pages in. I feel no connection to the main character, and without that the setting details on their own don’t really hold me. It probably doesn’t help that it has a quasi-noir voice, and I have ever found most kinds of noir predictably boring.

N.K. Jemisin, The Killing Moon. Orbit, 2012.

Fifty pages in. Setting is fascinating. Have encountered three viewpoint characters, though, and am bored by two of them. Prose is not gorgeous enough to keep me constant until the two lads start (I hope) becoming interesting. Will probably finish, eventually, but feel no particular urgency.

Karen Traviss, Halo: Glasslands. Tor, 2011.

Fifty pages in. Have appreciated Traviss’s SFnal military tie-intales before, but this novel has failed to do good characterisation on the opener, and I don’t have any investment in the Halo universe to carry me through in the absence of someone fun to hang out with. Cast of dozens: not open for newbies.


Rachel Bach, Fortune’s Pawn. Orbit, ARC, 2013.

Forty-five pages in. Tone so far is at right angles to the Military Space Opera Type Boom promised by the cover copy: not so much with the boom, lots with the lusting after pretty boys with Mysteries Attached. Tonally, reminds me a lot of Generic Urban Fantasy but In Space: the Only Girl, who is Super Competent At Killing, has Smart Mouth, and Doesn’t Have A Lot Of Friends – it’s a type, okay? And our protag is basically a Space Mercenary instantiation of the type, within Standard Deviations of Bland, which doesn’t fill me with warm fuzzy optimism about how well the rest of the novel is going to go.

I’ll probably finish it, at some point, but only to see if I’m right when I call every single move in advance.

(This makes me sad. I wanted Proper Boom with Female Protagonist. Instead forty pages of Lusting Over Pretty Cook Boy.)


Possibly I’ve begun to suffer from the Critic’s Disease. You read enough, it gets harder and harder to find stuff that stands out as appealing, because even Good Things Of Their Kind start feeling stale and predictable because you’ve read (and attempted to analyse) so many Things Of Their Kind. Only the truly excellent – or the strange and experimental – becomes capable of kicking your interest up a notch…

…And thus the critic’s tastes fall farther and farther out of step with the tastes of the Average (so-called average) Reader.

Anyway. What do you think?

7 thoughts on “Books (Fiction) I Have Not Yet Finished Reading

  1. I enjoyed Bach’s (Aaron’s?) book, but much like the first book in her first series it was a bit… cartoonish? Over the top? It is not a once in a life time book, but as a Warhammer fan I saw it as a WH4K book with better characters.

  2. Lots of stuff on here I’ve read and finished. And I totally get what you’re feeling about critics syndrome. I think I enjoyed FORTUNE’S PAWN because I don’t read UF almost at all, so I didn’t get terribly bogged down in the “seen this before.” TOTALLY agree on Glasslands. It’s like that all the way through. I read it because I wanted to read Traviss. I had similar feelings on FADE TO BLACK. It’s good, but very noir and the world is more interesting that the characters. If you’re not feeling the world, check out.

    You’re blowing it with THE KILLING MOON and NO RETURN. Get a Red Bull and get it done.

  3. @Nathan:

    The only WH40K books I’ve read are Sandy Mitchell’s. I’ve read a shitload of both UF and space opera, and my tolerance for characters within Standard Deviations is really at an all-time low lately. Formulaic narratives are *fine*. But if the character has no voice, I’m really not there.

    @Justin:

    NO RETURN? So far, so really not my cuppa. (It’s sort of like with Caitlín Kiernan [except not quite as stylistically good]: I see why other people would like it, it just doesn’t work for me.)

    As for KILLING MOON… The setting is wonderful. It has many many possibilities. But two of the three viewpoint characters seem far too fantasy-generic to me, and while I have Roz Kaveney’s next book and some more Nalo Hopkinson on my shelf, I’m not really in any hurry to push on until I get to the good bits, you know? If it hasn’t gripped me or hit any of my narrative kinks by page fifty, it’s probably going to be more effort than I really want to expend on a novel I’m not required to review while I have a thesis going on.

    (PS: If you haven’t read Roz Kaveney’s Rituals yet, you’re blowing it. *g*)

  4. I’ve got a copy of FORTUNE’S PAWN, but have not decided whether to read it…leaning no at this point. But THE KILLING MOON is worth reading to the end. I hear good things about FADE TO BLACK as well, though I haven’t read it.

  5. I’m not a critic, nor do I read anywhere near as much genre stuff as you seem to, but it’s funny that I had a similar (but not quite) experience with The Killing Moon, in that I joust couldn’t help reading it in direct comparison to other stuff. There’s not that much Egyptian inspired high fantasy around, so all I had to reference it to was Pratchett’s Pyramids and Small Gods. And because Jemisin plays it very, very straight, it was a bit like trying to watch a Roger Moore era bond right after Austin Powers. I’ll still echo Justin though, it’s worth persevering with.

    As for the Critics’ Disease, well.. occupational hazard, I guess. If it’s any consolation, I think there’s a difference between criticism and review, and being out of step with the ‘average’ reader is less of a potential problem in the former than the latter.

    And fwiw, I’ve had Neal Stephenson’s Reamde on indefinite hold for about two years now. Paused at about page 300, which is significant in and of itself…

  6. In The Killing Moon, when one of the male leads starts going crazy, you might find yourself more interested. I just toss this spoiler in here in case it prompts you to finish the book, which I definitely think is worth finishing. Also, I actually preferred the second book, and suspect you might, too.

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