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At Thanksgiving, I picked up three books without reading the back blurb or looking at the cover art. I picked them up because all three authors were folks who seem to be highly regarded by folks I like, and authors I had never read a novel by. Scalzi's Old Man's War was the first of the three.

29. Escapement by Jay Lake

I wanted to like this book. Steampunk! Submarines! Airships! It just didn't work for me, though. I found that I didn't connect with any of the characters. I didn't buy into the setting (a world where literal clockwork makes everything go, and a giant wall divides the north and south hemispheres concealing much of Earth's gears etc.). In some settings, magic gets turned into technology (Mieville's New Crobuzon, Brust's Dragaera, Butcher's Alera), and that really works for me. Here, Lake does the opposite - technology gets abstracted into magic (and not in a Clarke-ian way, either), and I found it irritating. The female characters spent what seemed like an unreasonable amount of time self-consciously examining the injustice of the patriarchy to a degree that felt anachronistic.

30. Bone Dance by Emma Bull

I think Emma Bull is getting adopted into my list of "My People" authors. She was already on the nomination list for her work on Shadow Unit, but I think Bone Dance may have cinched it. "My People" authors write characters who feel like people I could know and get along with, who react in a way that I expect people to react in. In the set of three new authors, Bull is the clear winner. I will be buying more of her books. And reading the rest of Shadow Unit S2 if I have to convert it to ebook format myself.

31. Spook by Mary Roach

Mary Roach, a skeptic, looks into spiritualism and evidence for life after death. I'll be honest - if Mary Roach wrote a book called "Toast", I would read it, and probably enjoy it. She's an indrebily engaging author. Spook wasn't quite as rivetting as Bonk, but it was still pretty good.

32. Princeps' Fury by Jim Butcher

SQUEE. Book 5 in the Codex Alera. This round brings out a lot of the best stuff in the series. I am fighting to hold to my policy of not buying hardcovers. But book 5 came out in paperback the same day book 6 came out in hardcover. I am not sure how long I can wait to read book 6 (which ends the series).

33. Makers by Cory Doctorow (ebook)

Wow. While Cory's previous books didn't suck, this one shows some major technical skills. Makers solves some of the issues I had with previous Doctorow books - like Spider Robinson, a lot of Doctorow's work is just too fundamentally optimistic about the human condition. Makers is certianly not a a mope-fest, but the way the characters evolve and act feels a lot more real. The characters make mistakes, and sometimes they just can't fix things. Sometimes things that don't make sense happen, but they feel like the way things don't make sense in the real world. Unlike Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, the Disney love in Makers didn't bug me. Defintely worth reading, and, in my opinon, Doctorow's best work so far.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 16th, 2009 06:32 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting these -- gives me a list to take to the library the next time I run out of reading material. :)
Dec. 16th, 2009 08:31 pm (UTC)
NB: The booklog tag will take you back as far as 2005. :)
Dec. 17th, 2009 03:39 am (UTC)
Did you find Down and Out overly optimistic about the human condition? Or just disturbingly cloying with the Disney fetish?
Dec. 18th, 2009 01:50 pm (UTC)
My recollection is that, yeah, it was still on the too-cheery side. But the disney fetish was defintely way too much for me.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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