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30 October 2013 @ 01:03 pm
Books: What i've been reading lately  
naye recently posted a long (and rather negative) review of the first book in the Kingkiller Chronicle, which, along with the fact that i've actually read a number of books recently, has prompted me to post some reviews as well. Though my reviews are all more favorable than hers was. (Spoilers! I liked all the books below =)

Jack Campbell (John G Hemry) - The Lost Stars: Perilous Shield (audiobook)

This is the second book in the second spin-off of the Lost Fleet series. I loved the original Lost Fleet series and was quite happy that he decided to do some spin-offs when it reached its logical conclusion. One of the things i really like about these books is that the physics is 95% right. (The remaining 5% still makes me grit my teeth a little, but it's still better than most other books that try to deal with relativity in relation to space combat.)

The only downside to this book is that it covers some of the same events that were covered in the previous book in the first spin-off, but from the other point of view. It's interesting to get a different perspective on the events, but it does suck a little of the drama out of things when you already know what's going to happen. But about halfway through the book the viewpoints split and we get an entirely new story. I want to say that the ending is a bit overly melodramatic, except it pretty much just confirms a suspicion that i've had for awhile (albeit not in exactly the right details) so i'm not sure it's fair to complain about him following through on something that was so clearly set up.

James S. A. Corey (Daniel Abraham & Ty Franck) - Abaddon's Gate (audiobook)

The third book in the Expanse series, which if you haven't read the first book, Leviathan's Wake, is a space opera of the "we don't have interstellar travel yet but pretty much have free run of the Solar system" variety. I won't go into the exact setup for this book, since it involved pretty serious spoilers for the first two books, but in general it carried on in the same tradition as those earlier books. A reasonable amount of humor, a reasonable amount of character development, a reasonable amount of action. Possible a little more "characters you like getting killed off" than the previous books, except i didn't keep an exact headcount from the previous books so i can't be sure. (Also, in a couple of those cases the meaning of "killed off" is a bit ambiguous.) I'm very curious to find out if there are going to be more books in the series or not. They certainly ended at a reasonable demarcation point, and if they do continue it seems like future books ought to have a very different character than the previous ones.

Brandon Sanderson - Steelheart (audiobook)

A near-ish future dystopia. Sometime in the very near future some thing shows up in the night sky (opinions differ on whether it's a comet, some kind of satellite, or something else entirely) and shortly thereafter random people start developing super powers. These people are referred to as "Epics", and it quickly becomes apparent that either only really nasty people get the super power, or something about getting super powers turns you nasty, because earth ends up with a lot of super villains and no super heroes. Fast-forward another decade or so and pretty much all the human governments are collapsed and the world is divided up into fiefdoms controlled by the local Epics. Steelheart is one of the most powerful and notorious of the Epics, and has taken over Chicago. The protagonist's father was killed by Steelheart, so he's vowed revenge and wants to team up with the underground group of Epic-fighters.

This was a little short and simple, and also a little predictable, but i thought it was fun. And i do seem to have a weakness for books that deconstruct superhero tropes. (And to be fair, when i say "predictable" i mean that when i was about 1/4th or so of the way into the book i said "either X, Y or Z" to myself, and 1.5 of those things turned out to be true. If you make a lot of guesses it's not hard to get some of them right =) This is supposedly the first in a new series and i'll definitely be checking out the next one.

Karen Lord - The Best of All Possible Worlds (audiobook)

There are these psychics, and they control a large part of the galactic government, but then their planet gets destroyed (in an only loosely described manner) and the off-planet survivors have to find someplace to live. A government official on a planet that has a history of adopting bands of refugees, including some from said psychic planet in the past, gets assigned as liaison to a group of them to help them settle in and search the planet for any distant cousins that they can co-opt to widen their now very limited gene pool. This is mainly a romance story, which is something i don't mind in general, and i did like the book. However i felt that a lot of the backstory to the universe was vague, improbable, or both, which was a little frustrating to me. It reminded me a bit of Catharine Asaro's Skolian Empire books.

CS Friedman - This Alien Shore (audiobook)

An older book that i first read when it originally came out. The setup is a rather large gimme. Humanity is (so far at least) alone in the universe, except the first interstellar drive developed resulted in significant mutations in everyone who used it. Which itself isn't a stretch, but the mutations seem to have overwhelmingly be of the nature of gross physical changes rather than subtle metabolic changes that prevent you from digesting food or give you early cancer or anything like that. And furthermore everyone who travels to the same star system ends up with the same mutation so that the colonists are cross-fertile. It took on the order of 20 years to figure out this was a problem during which apparently hundreds of worlds were colonized. Then all interstellar travel was ceased for x-hundred years until one of the abandoned colonies found an alternate means of interstellar travel.

Once you get past that setup everything is pretty straightforward. The main themes of the book are mental health (the mutation of the Variants who rediscovered interstellar travel is that every one of them expresses mental traits that would have been classified as a mental illness on Terra) and network security (the new method of interstellar travel allowed the creation of a galactic internet, and someone has let loose a nasty virus on that internet.)

I like most of CS Friedman books, and i thought this one was worth picking up again over a decade after it first came out, so that should tell you something.

Chuck Wendig - Blackbirds (paper book)

This is a book about a girl who sees in detail when and how someone is going to die the first time she touches them. Which is already sucky enough, but she also can't seem to do anything to change what she sees. It's the usual precog no-win "if you do nothing it just happens and if you try to stop it you actually cause it to happen by mistake" situation. She hasn't really adjusted to this well and the book is rather dark and gritty. Not so much that i couldn't enjoy it, but... yeah. There is a sequel (and the afterword hints there may be more books after that) which i'll definitely check out at some point, but i'm not eager to jump into the next one immediately. Not unless it cheers up a lot at least.

Seanan McGuire - Chimes at Midnight (paper book)

The seventh October Daye book. For those not familiar with the series this is the best urban faerie series that i know of. To be fair, the only other urban faerie books i'm familiar with are the Meredith Gentry books and the Serrated Edge books, but despite the relatively low bar i think these books are pretty darn good. And in addition to just being good books, Seanan McGuire has put a lot of research into actual faerie folklore. As for this individual book, as usual Toby gets herself into trouble at the start of the book, and has mostly bailed herself out by the end with equal parts style and chaos.
Laura Parkinson: Pretty Wordsstormfeather on October 30th, 2013 11:34 pm (UTC)
Ooo, another Toby Daye fan?
DonAithnen: Glasses - MLPdonaithnen on October 31st, 2013 05:18 am (UTC)
Of course! After all, _i_ was a fan of Seanan McGuire back when she was "only" a filk artist! *puts on nerd-hipster glasses* ;)
Laura Parkinsonstormfeather on October 31st, 2013 02:23 pm (UTC)
Ooo la la!