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 heaven.
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 relationships.
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.