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.

Review copies since last time

Six here.

Six here

That’s Brian McClellan’s THE CRIMSON CAMPAIGN, Trudi Canavan’s THIEF’S MAGIC, Charlie Fletcher’s OVERSIGHT, Adam Christopher’s THE BURNING DARK, Stella Gemmell’s THE CITY, and Elizabeth Moon’s CROWN OF RENEWAL.

And four here.

And four here.

Followed by Kristen Britain’s MIRROR SIGHT, Ursula K. LeGuin’s THE UNREAL AND THE REAL VOLUME ONE, S.M. Wheeler’s SEA CHANGE, and Kameron Hurley’s THE MIRROR EMPIRE.