Books in brief: Hay, Campbell, Carey, Levene, Wheeler, Bedford, Walton, King, Herrin

Mavis Doriel Hay, Death On The Cherwell and Murder Underground. British Library Crime Classics, reprinted 2014.

Had I read Murder Underground before Death On The Cherwell, and not the other way around, I would have been inclined to dismiss Hay’s scant handful of 1930s murder mysteries as tedious and possessed of little redeeming value. Yet for all the back-and-forth boredom of Murder Underground, Death On The Cherwell is a minor delight: it breathes the Oxford of its setting, and Hay here possesses more in the way of sympathy and humour for her characters. And yet neither are mysteries in the usual sense, being more concerned with the lives of the characters than the resolution of the murder. But that makes them interesting in a different fashion.

Jack Campbell, The Lost Stars: Imperfect Sword. Ace, 2014. Copy via Tor.com.

Read for review for Tor.com. Very similar to all previous Campbell books.

Jacqueline Carey, Poison Fruit. Roc, 2014. Copy via Tor.com.

Read for review for Tor.com. Satisfactory conclusion to trilogy.

Rebecca Levene, Smiler’s Fair. Hodder, 2014. Copy courtesy of publisher.

Read for review for Strange Horizons. Three quarters of the book is prologue, and I’m none too satisfied with the rest, either.

S.M. Wheeler, Sea Change. Tor, 2013. Copy courtesy of publisher.

Read for column. Reminds me in many ways of The Last Unicorn, though its emotional beats affect me more.

Jacey Bedford, Empire of Dust. DAW, 2014. Galley copy courtesy of publisher.

Read for review. Strikingly old-fashioned space opera. Psionics. Telepathy. Women who take their husbands’ names on marriage as a matter of course. I had only just reread Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword, mind you, so its failures of imagination were clearer by comparison. Perfectly readable adventure, nothing particular about it to make it stand out.

Jo Walton, The Just City. Tor, 2015. Copy courtesy of publisher.

Read for review for Vector. A peculiar book, and less self-indulgent than it seems at first glance – though Walton takes a rather more charitable view towards both Apollo and Sokrates than I ever would. It is immensely readable, and its major thematic arguments emerge slyly from the narrative (although it actually states up front on the first page what it is going to be). In many ways, this is a book about consent, and the abuses thereof: informed consent, consent after the fact, refusal of consent, the power to compel – cunning concealed under explicit arguments about justice and arete.

It is also, at times, rather like reading one of the more enjoyable Sokratic dialogues.

Appropriately so.

Laurie R. King, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, A Letter of Mary, The Moor, and A Grave Talent. 1993-1998 variously, Allison & Busby and Picador.

Excellent mystery novels. All of them.

Judith Herrin, Unrivaled Influence. Princeton University Press, 2013.

Collection of essays on women in the Byzantine empire from throughout Herrin’s (long) career. Very interesting.

A collection of links for your entertainment

The making of Pacific Rim – 30 minute documentary.

Re-making the Real Middle Ages.

“Fists in the Mouth of the Beast”: On Irish Folklore. I don’t agree with the author completely, but on the folklore and the Other Ireland? Oh, yeah. That thing right there.

xkcd: Future Self. Oh, I love this one. (Dear past self: why did you leave so many square brackets? Why?)

Roman fort uncovered at Gernsheim. Via Bread and Circuses.

“We need citizens, not just taxpayers and bookkeepers.” Canadian, but widely applicable.

Reviews department reorganisation at Strange Horizons.

“What We’re Afraid To Say About Ebola.” Sobering editorial.

The One-Sex Body On Trial reviewed at the BMCR.

Elizabeth Bear on her Least Favorite Trope. Yeah, that’s one of mine, too.

And here’s a random kitten picture, via @fadeaccompli:

Books arrived!

The world is full of books.

The world is full of books.

That’s Tina Connolly’s COPPERHEAD (Tor), Tanya Huff’s THE FUTURE FALLS (DAW), Jacqueline Carey’s POISON FRUIT (Ace), Steven Erikson’s FORGE OF DARKNESS (Tor), Jack Campbell’s THE LOST STARS: IMPERFECT SWORD (Ace), Jacey Bedford’s EMPIRE OF DUST (DAW) and Julie E. Czerneda’s A PLAY OF SHADOWS (Daw).

Sometimes the height of Mt. TBR gets a little daunting.

Review copies in the last while: Bennett, Brennan, and Leckie

I am a bit slow about doing stuff lately.

No, very slow.

Slower than that.

But at least there are pictures.

Books by Robert Jackson Bennett, Ann Leckie, and Sarah Rees Brennan.

Books by Robert Jackson Bennett, Ann Leckie, and Sarah Rees Brennan.

That’s Robert Jackson Bennett’s CITY OF STAIRS, Ann Leckie’s ANCILLARY SWORD (EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE) and Sarah Rees Brennan’s UNMADE.

That’s how the light gets in

So yesterday evening I was invited to a book launch for this book:

Ruth Frances Long's A CRACK IN EVERYTHING.

Ruth Frances Long’s A CRACK IN EVERYTHING.

A CRACK IN EVERYTHING, by Ruth Frances Long, at The Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar. I went, because I’d met Ruth at LonCon and she seemed like good people. And I was curious: the only book launch I’d ever been to before was for an academic book, at which there was much tedious speechifying and no copies of the book for interested parties to acquire. (I think they rather missed the point of a launch, there.)

I came home with the book, because there were cupcakes. (Delicious cupcakes.) And an interesting first chapter. Although it is entirely possible that I was primarily seduced by the cupcakes. Make of this what you will!

Books in brief: Bear, King, Galenorn, Redwine

Yasmine Galenorn, Bone Magic and Harvest Hunting. Berkley, 2010.

Oh, the terribleness of these books. Such terribleness. Such angst. Such faerie/werewolf/magic/vampire/poly/queer sex. It’s kind of glorious, in an utterly terrible all-the-urban-fantasy-clichĂ©s way.

C.J. Redwine, Defiance. Atom, 2012.

Can’t remember who told me I should read this. They weren’t exactly right. Bog-standard YA dystopia narrative, clearly drawing on John’s Apocalypse/millenarian reified symbols for its setting (not as imaginatively as Faith Hunter’s debut trilogy, alas), with a little too much illogical specialness thrown in. Not my sort of book, but probably appeals to the Divergent readership.

Elizabeth Bear, One-Eyed Jack. Prime, 2014.

An excellent urban fantasy set in 2002 Las Vegas, that plays with metafictionality while never breaking the fourth wall. Well recommended.

Laurie R. King, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, or, On the Segregation of the Queen. St. Martin’s Press, 1994. This edition Picador 2014.

Why did no one ever hit me over the head with the amazingness that is this book before? IT IS BRILLIANT GIVE ME ALL THE SEQUELS NOW.


In conclusion, Elizabeth Bear and Laurie R. King write damn good books.