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- 9. Zero History by William Gibson
- Gibson continues to be amazing. Wrapping up the Bigend/Blue Ant
trilogy, Zero History focusses on the world of fashion in a very weird
way. In addition to some interesting points about men's fashion and
its relationship to the military, he covers camera drones, weird
darts, and Gurkha martial arts.
This trilogy really only gets filed as science fiction because it's
Gibson; none of the not-quite-real stuff in the books is all that
strange, and I'd have to check to confirm what is and is not
technically possible with today's tech.
The key part, though, is that Gibson is a brilliant writer. His prose
trigger synaesthetic visions of cold blue and grey and flat techno
like the Dust Brothers' Fight Club sound track. Which isn't really a
review useful to anyone but me, but there it is.
- 10. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
- An ancient, corrupt aristocracy that has several gods on leashes
as a result of an ancient divine war that left One True God ruling
Then a young girl, daughter of a princess, dark of skin and hair, gets
tossed in the middle of a battle for succession, and gets pulled into
the plans of the captive gods.
It's like Anne Bishop's Dark Jewels books, but with less rape and more
agency for the heroine. Which is really what made this book for me;
Yeine (the protag) really does drive the story by making choices.
- 11. Soulless by Gail Carriger
- At first, I was afraid that this book was going to be a period
romance with werewolves, vampires, and cogs glued on to things to make
it look steampunk. And there's a bit of that going on.
What saves this book, and made it intensely enjoyable, is the sense of
humour; it doesn't take itself seriously, and is, moreover,
hilarious. I had to keep stopping in the middle of a paragraph to
laugh, and then read the line out to whoever else was in the room.
- 12. Sex At Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern
Sexuality by Christopher Ryan, Cacilda Jetha
- Again, I have this problem with non-fiction where I worry that I
think it is brilliant and insightful in direct proportion to how much
it agrees with the ideas I had going into it.
That said, I though Sex At Dawn was brilliant and
insightful. It takes as its central idea questioning of monogamy as
the "default", "normal" or "natural" state for humans. The evidence
supporting the idea that humans are no more hard-wired to exclusive
pair-binding than bonobos or chimps is fairly compelling.
The authors devote a fair bit of time to (with some occasional snark)
examining the published works of other researchers' claims; much like
Cordelia Fine's Delusions of Gender, there's a lot of
researchers bending over backwards to try to force the data to support
their preconcieved ideas. In a number of cases, the researchers seem
to go as far as to say something like "but that would imply that
humans aren't monogamous, and we are, so it must be wrong".
The information on primate sexual biology and societies were new and
interesting to me (as a layperson), and the writing was clever and
entertaining. I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in sex or
- 13. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
- I confess that I had seen this book around, and parsed the title
as "The Lay Of Loch Lamora", and hence categorized it as some possibly
Outlander-ish Kilts-and-Claymores romance.
This is not that sort of book.
The Lies of Locke Lamora is a caper book of the first order;
the titular Locke Lamora is a thief and a con man, who operates in a
magic-fueled Not!Venice. If you like White Collar and Leverage, odds
are you'll like this.
- 14. The Broken Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
- The follow-up to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Also good,
also concerned with a mortal-god romance, but with a different god and
a different mortal. mycrazyhair points out that she found
the ending of this a lot more bleak than I did.
- 15. Pattern Scars by Caitlin Sweet
- This book reminds me of Ian Tregillis' Bitter Seeds. Both
books are concerned with knowledge of the future, and both books are
unflinchingly tragedies. In the classic Shakespearean "then everyone
is miserable or dead, the end" mode.
My brain kept wanting to read Pattern Scars as a standard
heroic epic fantasy; it has the markers, a young girl with magic
powers (ability to see the future, in this case), a sneering villain,
warring kingdoms. But Sweet doesn't follow the heroic model.
The protagonist, Nola, starts out dirt poor and miserable, until her
powers manifest, and she's taken to a better place and finds people
who care for her. Then all of that is taken from her, and we get to
watch her being abused for eight years. I kept waiting for her to find
a way to use her power to fight back and free herself, defeat the
villain and get a happy ending. This does not occur. There is even a
moment where, reading, I saw an opening for her to use her power
against her abuser, hoping for a "and then she realised that hers was
the greater power!" moment. A few pages later, Nola berates herself,
having missed her chance, not having seen the opening until it was too
late. She never really gets a chance to fight back. She never really
has any choice or ability to affect the outcome of events.
Pattern Scars is certainly a well-written book, and one that is
aware of the tropes of the genre while playing with them. It is also a
bleak tragedy that never extends hope without then crushing it.
- 16. Tiassa by Steven Brust
- Vlad! Now with alternate POVs, including the ever-lovable Paarfi
of Roundwood. I even liked the Cawti section.