hawkwing_lb: (No dumping dead bodies)
Books 2011: 201


201. K.D. Wentworth and Eric Flint, The Crucible of Empire.

I remember enjoying Course of Empire. Course of Empire is still entertaining. But I am become a Cranky Humourless Feminist who's not so hot on "What These People Aliens Need Is A Honky Fine Upstanding American" stories, in my advancing old age.

(Truth! Justice! The American Way! - have you ever noticed how the future is populated by Americans? Because I'm damned tired of that, too.)

I'm also really really tired with Eric Flint's hillbilly obsession.

*complains*
hawkwing_lb: (It can't get any worse... today)
Books 2011: 200


nonfiction

200. Aeschylus, The Oresteia: Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Eumenides. Penguin Classics, London, 1979. First edition 1966. Translated by Robert Fagles, with an introduction and notes in collaboration with W.B. Stanford.

The introduction is in love with its own clever enthusiasm and lit'rary analysis. (And not long on basic historical detail.) But the translation is clear and lyric, reaching to the poetic, and Fagle does a strong chorus line.

Agamemnon is the strongest of the plays, and certainly the strongest of the translations. If you're only reading one, read it. After it follow in order of decreasing power The Libation Bearers and The Eumenides, though I suspect The Eumenides would have meant much more to an Athenien audience.




200 books the year, not including re-reads. This is a record. And the year's not over yet.
hawkwing_lb: (Bear CM beyond limit the of their bond a)
Books 2011: 195-198


195-198. David Drake, When the Tide Rises, In the Stormy Red Sky, What Distant Deeps and The Road of Danger (eARC).

All read as ebooks from Baen's Webscriptions. I'd been saving the recent space-battle adventures of Daniel Leary, a talented officer of the Republic of Cinnabar Navy, and Adele Mundy, librarian and intelligence agent extraordinaire, of whom it may be said,

It would no doubt do her good to interact socially with strangers. It was the sort of thing that human beings did regularly. She needed the practice, because she generally thought of herself as a species not dissimilar to humanity but certainly not the same.

What Distant Deeps, 2010.


I have an ongoing argument with much of Drake's work, but whatever I may think of his ethical pessimism and civilisation/barbarism oppositions, he writes very entertaining space opera.
hawkwing_lb: (DA2  title screen)
Books 2011: 191-192


191. Courtney Schafer, The Whitefire Crossing.

Magic, mages, smuggling, mountain-climbing. It's been a long time since I read a book which revolved so utterly around the relationship between two men, both of whom were straight. A interesting book, but it could have done with a little more closure to its conclusion.


192. Anne McCaffrey, Dragonsdawn.

A lot of things have changed since I was twelve. My ability to love this book is one of them. I remembered it as one of the better Pern books, which is why I resolved to purchase it and reread it in honour of the author.

Has the world really changed that much since I was twelve, or is it just me? Or has the world really changed that much since 1988 that all the little assumptions which really get my goat leap up in all their discommoding obviousness to clobber me over the head?

O hai thar, Sexism Fairy! So not nice to see you again.
hawkwing_lb: (DA2  title screen)
Books 2011: 184-190


184. Susan R. Matthews, Angel of Destruction.

One of the books in Matthews' Jurisdiction universe that does not focus on Andrej Kosciusko. Instead, this book focuses on Bench specialist Garol Vogel and his attempt to preserve the amnesty offered to the Langsarik pirates despite all the many pressures against him, and them. An excellent book.


185. Elizabeth C. Bunce, Liar's Moon.

YA. Second book about Digger, sixteen-year-old sneakthief and forger. In this outing, she's pressured into trying to save a nobleman from the block - Lord Durrel Decath is accused to murdering his wife, and not even his own family seem to be able to help. Excellent book, pacey and tight, whose protagonist has a sense of humour. Can stand alone reasonably well, but small cliffhanger at the very, very last page. Otherwise, entirely excellent.


186. Delia Sherman, The Freedom Maze.

I have [livejournal.com profile] britmandelo's review at Tor.com to thank for getting me to go out in search of this book. And I do thank her extremely, because The Freedom Maze is one of the best books I have read all year - well up in the top ten, second only after Range of Ghosts.

Sophie Fairchild is sent back in time from the 1950s to the antebellum south of her family's plantation, where she is taken for a slave bastard and set to work for her ancestors. "A fascinating rendition of the archetypal Hero's Journey, complete with the part at the end where the hero returns home with new knowledge that renders them out of joint," [livejournal.com profile] fadethecat called it when I mentioned having read it, and I have to agree. It's a very domestic bildungsroman - [livejournal.com profile] leahbobet, I think you might like it - not domestic in any perjorative sense, or meaning tame, but quiet and contained, and doing much by implication.

It's a perfectly decent YA time travel novel - very good, even excellent, but not especially outstanding - until the last few chapters. Sophie's return to the 1950s, where she is once more seen as white, when she has spent the last months seeing herself as a black person - indeed, a black slave - who can pass for white. She doesn't really think of herself as white anymore. And how Sherman puts that across is masterful, in Sophie's new wariness with her aunt, and in how she thinks.

"There was no arguing with a Fairchild. Not even a nice one."

The closing chapters raise the book to fresh levels of brilliance. It is excellent. Go forth and read it now.


nonfiction


187. Greek Fiction: Callirhoe, Daphnis and Chloe, Letters of Chion. Penguin Classics, London and New York, 2011. Translated by Rosanna Omitowoju, Phiroze Vasunia, and John Penwill. Edited by Helen Morales.

A collection of three of the early Greek novels, dating from the Second Sophistic. Approximately. The first is a travelogue/romance, the second a pastoral romance, and the third, a series of letters, once thought forgeries and now believed to be intended as fiction from the outset, in which Chion, pupil of Plato, writes of his growning conviction to do something about the tyrant in his home city.

Interesting, if very Greek.


188. Henry of Huntingdon, The History of the English People 1000-1154. Oxford World's Classics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2009. Translated by Diana Greenway.

A very interesting chronicle covering about a century and a half and treating a little of the wars between Stephen and Mathilda. Short, well-translated, and occasionally lively: recommended as interesting history.


189. David Brewer, The Greek War of Independence: The Struggle for Freedom from Ottoman Oppression. Gerald Duckworth Press, London, 2001. This edition 2011.

A very readable general history of - as it says on the tin - the Greek War of Independence, which kicked off in 1821. There are not many general - ie., non-academic - histories of this particular war available in English, and it is a very interesting war indeed.

Brewer writes perfectly acceptable interesting history on the level of the Movers and Shakers. His interest in social history is, alas, sadly lacking - but I suppose asking for a perfect general history would be a bit much.


190. David Brewer, Greece: The Hidden Centuries. Turkish Rule from the Fall of Constantinople to Greek Independence. I.B. Tauris, London, 2010.

This is not a bad history of several centuries, but suffers from being too general. Here, Brewer's lack of rigor in his social history is a much more glaring flaw. It is mostly an interesting, engaging popular history. But. There is a paragraph on page 73 that is crammed full of fail.

Speaking of Barbary coast piracy and the slave trade, Brewer writes, "When considering sexual exploitation, we should not be too much influenced by the fact that youth and beauty in a female slave commanded a higher price; a young servant would be a better worker, and a pretty one a more impressive adornment of the household." [Brewer, 2010, 73] Later in that same paragraph, he suggests that things might not have been so bad, because some women achieved honour or freedom or marriage within a Barbary household, and because legally men were not permitted to have intercourse with their wives' female slaves.

I parsed this as Let's not overestimate the amount of sexual coercion in the master-slave relationship - which... Hell, people. Help me out here. Even today, between people who are technically free and legally protected, the employer-employee relationship (particularly in the category of domestic service) is open to abuse, sexual and otherwise. Sexual violence is endemic, sexual exploitation more so even today.

So maybe not every woman taken in slavery suffered repeated violent rape. But let's not kid ourselves, Brewer, mate. No one whose life and physical integrity depends on another's good will can ever give or withhold their consent freely. A slave lived surrounded by potential violence, sexual or otherwise, and the possibility of sale to a worse master.

That paragraph rather ruined the whole book for me. Alas.




Tor.com posts:

Rod Rees, The Demi-Monde: Winter

Chris Wooding, The Iron Jackal

Tamora Pierce, Mastiff
hawkwing_lb: (DA2  title screen)
Books 2011: 180-183


180. Tamora Pierce, Mastiff.

The third and final Beka Cooper book. A little darker and more treacherous than the others, but a great read. I hope my review will eventually appear at Tor.com.


181. Elizabeth C. Bunce, Star Crossed.

A sixteen-year-old thief disguised as a lady's maid in a snowbound castle. Heresy. Politics. Magic. Betrayal. An engaging first-person voice with a sense of humour. Recommended.


182. David Weber, A Rising Thunder (eARC).

Acquired from Baen's Webscriptions through the generosity of a friend. Weber no longer even attempts to tell an engaging story or mini-plot-arc in a single volume. He's got the worst case of epic POV bloat I've seen short of Robert Jordan, and I'm not sure if we actually have any protagonists protagging around here somewhere. Disappointing: feels a lot like a volume trying to set up for the next book, and not really doing any of its own thing.


nonfiction

183. Pindar, The Complete Odes. Oxford World's Classics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007. Translated by Anthony Verity, with an introduction and notes by Stephen Instone.

Pindar came from Boeotia, from the city of Thebes. Born c.518 BC, he lived during the Persian Wars, dying prior to the Peleponnesian Wars in the fifth century. He is famous for his victory odes for athletes - an art form which is exactly contemporary with his life, as it seems to have gone out of vogue in the mid to late fifth century. (cf. Currie 2005, Hamilton 2003.)

This book comprises Verity's translation of Pindar's odes for the victors in the Panhellenic games at Olympia, Delphi, Isthmia and Nemea. The odes themselves are an interesting look at the culture of praise and the culture of elite athletics - the athletes themselves were members of the elite: your average free stonemason in the street couldn't expect to send his sons off to compete - and how this relates to the portrayal of civic praiseworthiness in the Classical period. The translation is reasonably lucid, as a translation of Greek poetry: it's not itself particularly poetic, but it's clear and fairly literal, which is all to the good.

If you have an interest in Classical panhellenic elite culture, Pindar is worth the read. If you don't, it'll probably be all Greek to you.
hawkwing_lb: (It can't get any worse... today)
Books 2011: 172-179


172. Elizabeth Bear, Range of Ghosts (ARC).

This? This may well be the epic fantasy I have spent my whole life needing to read without knowing what it was I needed.

I'm supposed to review it next spring for Ideomancer. So, in a nutshell: epic vastness. Coming of age (in more than one sense). Excellent characters. It could have been made to hit my "epic fantasy with cool shit and strong women" kink. It seems you can't really get much "epic fantasy with cool shit" without hypermasculinity... and you can't get much "cool shit and strong women" with that coming-of-age expansive epic feel. And "epic fantasy with strong women" doesn't bring the cool shit that often but this one does.

It's the best damn thing I've read since Paladin of Souls hit me over the head with its wonderfulness. And unlike Paladin of Souls, it's epic.

Yes, I have a thing for BFF with maps. It rarely finds worthy satisfaction. Here, it did.

Go now and make sure you will be able to read it ASAP. Trust me. Go.



173. Richard K. Morgan, The Cold Commands.

Morgan is doing something very interesting in this, the sequel to The Steel Remains. Not only is he subverting the normalisation of hypermasculinity and violence common to such writers as Abercrombie and Martin - and doing so very cunningly indeed - he's also chosen, in The Cold Commands, to interrogate the idea of the hero itself.

Meanwhile, he tells a story which is gripping in its own right. Where The Steel Remains stood alone, The Cold Commands appears to set up the first arc of a longer narrative. And I'm interested to see what happens next.



174. Kate Elliott, Traitors' Gate.

Third and last in series. Suffers from typical epic problems: too many point of view characters, too little time, a curious diffusion of focus.



175. Kate Elliott, Cold Fire.

The start of a new series. Elliott is a much more focused, controlled writer in a first person point of view, and the world of Cold Fire seems vastly more immediate - and as a result, interesting - than that of the "Gate" series. It's also much more fascinating in terms of setting, background, worldbuilding, and detail.

And the plot and characters aren't half bad, either. It has radicals and revolution. Recommended.


176. Kate Elliott, Cold Magic.

Sequel to Cold Fire, which I am supposed to review. It's also good - better, in fact, than its predecessor.


177. Ilona Andrews, Magic Slays.

Fifth in the Kate Daniels series, which is a decent blend of urban fantasy fluff with Things What Go Messily Boom. Daniels is less annoying than many other urban fantasy protags: she has a reason for being mouthy and a loner, has gradually become less of a loner, and the Werewolf Jerk Boyfriend is turning into a decent, almost sensible, longterm relationship.

Good boom. Recommended for when one needs fluff with killing things in.

nonfiction


178. Cicero, Defence Speeches. Oxford World's Classics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2000. Translated with an introduction and notes by D.H. Berry.

Like it says on the cover, a selection of speeches for the defence by Cicero. Interesting and occasionally entertaining, but, I imagine, only of real interest to Classics geeks.


179. Gunnel Ekroth, The Sacrificial Rituals of Greek Hero-Cults in the Archaic to the early Hellenistic periods. Kernos Supplément, 12. Liège: Centre International d'Étude de la Religion Grecque Antique, 2002.

Mostly read - read enough that I will call it read - for my thesis. It contains much fascinating detailed discussion of the technical nomenclature of sacrifice and whether by calling sacrifices different names, different actions are meant, and what this means for the interpretation of heroic and chthonic cult.

Dry, but worthwhile.
hawkwing_lb: (Bear CM weep for the entire world)
Books 2011: 169-171


169. Chris Wooding, The Iron Jackal.

Absolutely brilliant. Look for a review from Tor.com soonish. In the meantime, go out and read it.


nonfiction


170. Procopius, The Secret History. Penguin Classics, London, 2007. Translated by G.A. Williamson, revised by Peter Sarris.

In which Procopius tells us how utterly terrible and sluttish were the two leading women of the Roman empire in the 6th century CE; how ruled by his wife was the general Belisarius; how greedy and appalling was the emperor Justinian, and how hard-done-by were lawyers (of whom Procopius was one).

Fascinating, if a little excessively on the side of savage invective.


171. Cicero, The Republic and the Laws. Oxford World's Classics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998. Translated by Niall Rudd.

And so we see how a Roman aristocrat viewed the world. Interesting, although the Republic is very fragmentary. The Roman constitution is the Best Ever! and so are the Roman laws, most of them.

Not a lot of entertainment value in this, I think, though it might prove useful for reference yet.




My busy life, let me show you it: This Saturday I have an intro to Coaching course for karate, so I can't train; next week I have colloquium, so I can't train; and the following Saturday I grade for dan.

Since I figured this out, I have been walking around muttering kata sequences to myself and occasionally making wavey motions in the air. Dear people on the train platform tonight: I'm not mad! Just... preoccupied.
hawkwing_lb: (dreamed and are dead)
Books 2011: 167-168


167. Terry Pratchett, Snuff.

Not Sir Terry's most glorious hour. But a bad Pratchett is still a decent book. Look for a fuller review out of Ideomancer in their Winter issue.


nonfiction

168. Karl Popper, The Poverty of Historicism. Routledge Classics, Oxford, 2002; first English edition 1957.

Popper is here having a philosophical slapfight about the nature and purposes of history. Theoretical slapfights, even outdated ones, always have the possibility to be interesting, and once you get past Popper's decision to create a new vocabulary (and an occasionally counter-intuitive one), and his blasts at what are (now, at least) men of straw, he makes a few good points, and has some ideas that any historian perhaps ought to examine.
hawkwing_lb: (DA 2 scaring the piss)
Books 2011: 155-166


155-156: Jack McDevitt, Echo and Firebird.

The fifth and sixth entries, respectively, in McDevitt's Alex Benedict series. Archaeology in space: good fun if occasionally slow, and McDevitt sometimes puts my feminist hackles up.


157-158: Barbara Hambly, Those Who Hunt The Night and Travelling With The Dead.

Ebooks. First two in the James Asher series. Pre-war ambience, great characterisation, really creepy serious vampires. Strongly recommended.


159-160. Linnea Sinclair, Hope's Folly and Rebels and Lovers.

Romantic space operas. I would have preferred less romance and more space adventure, but one cannot have everthing that one desires. It is bad for one's character, or so I am told.


161-165. Susan R. Matthews, Prisoner of Conscience, Hour of Judgement, The Devil and Deep Space, and Warring States.

Four books set in Matthews' Jurisdiction universe, following on from An Exchange of Hostages and starring Andrej Kosciusko, Chief Medical Officer and Jurisdiction Inquisitor. They are sharp, brilliant, emotionally wrenching and frequently brutal space opera, of a kind I hardly dared dream of finding.

They are all, also, sadly out of print: 2005's Warring States is the last one, and I rather fear that the series has been orphaned of a publisher.

I recommend them exceedingly.


nonfiction

166. Cicero, Political Speeches. Oxford World's Classics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2009. Translated by D.H. Berry.

A selection of Cicero's speeches, including Pro Marcello, In Verrum I and IV, and one of the Phillipics, as well as some of the speeches against Cataline. Interesting oratory, fascinating politcal invective, has no relevance for my thesis but it was entertaining.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2011: 151-154


151-154. Barbara Hambly, The Ladies of Mandrigyn, The Witches of Wenshar, The Dark Hand of Magic and Stranger at the Wedding.

Ebooks. Recommended. Should be turning up eventually at Tor.com, so I'll linky when it happens.




October is a busy month. I always forget this.

To-do:

Contact Pricewaterhouse Coopers re: ITIN
Contact Dept. of Ed. re: Greek exchange scholarships
Read and review four books, two before 27 Oct., two before 2 Nov.
Write 7K on the thesis by 2 Nov.
Collect more seaweed and driftwood for firewood
Pick a novel and get it 12.5% finished by 8 Nov.
Email the people to remain in reasonable social contact.
Write another letter to J.
Figure out how to earn a tiny little bit of money that does not require me to do anything either illegal or unethical. (Anybody spotted a great blue whale job lately? I hear they're an endangered species?)
hawkwing_lb: (It can't get any worse... today)
Books 2011: 147-150


147-150. Barbara Hambly, The Time of the Dark, The Walls of Air, The Armies of Daylight, and Dragonsbane.

Ebooks. Further commentary should eventually appear at Tor.com, and I'll try to remember to linky to it when it happens. Suffice to say, I like these books very much.




I need to stop living on sugar, caffeine, and meat. It can't be healthy. On the other hand, today in the gym I ran 1.5 miles in 14:30 minutes, no stopping for a breather, and 2 miles in 21:40, which is getting towards where I want to be. (I need to shave another two minutes off my times, which I suppose means more training for running faster, and more training for running longer.)

I also cycled, rowed, and made with the lifting of the weights. And tomorrow, because I need to hit something, I'm going to karate again.




I have learned that Dublin has an Occupy protest of its very own. This makes me happy. Thank you, New York, for helping show the world a place to stand.

I'll head down next week. This weekend I need to crank out another thousand words on the thesis, or my supervisor will make I Am Disappoint face. And right now, my supervisor's goodwill is the only thing I have going for me.




Sleepy now.
hawkwing_lb: (DA 2 scaring the piss)
Books 2011: 146


146. Anne Osterlund, Academy 7.

[livejournal.com profile] tanaise recommended this to me as an example of YA space opera. And it is space opera, albeit of the sort when the space opera setting is rather sketchily-framed stage dressing for a story of friendship and hinted romance.

Academy 7 is the most famous and exclusive school in Alliance space. Entrance is restricted to fifty students and permitted solely on the basis of test scores. Aerin Renning is a fugitive; Dane Madousin is the son of privilege. They both have dangerous secrets.

You can already guess where this is headed, can't you? It's a decent story about two young people learning to trust, and I've always had a soft spot for school stories. Come to think of it, why aren't there more SFnal school stories?

(No one mention Ender's Game. I'm not joking. I managed to read the first thirty pages once, and hated them.)
hawkwing_lb: (Aveline is not amused)
Books 2011: 137-145


137. Kelley Armstrong, Made To Be Broken.

Non-genre thriller/crime novel. Pretty good, if a little bland.


138. Juliet E. McKenna, Irons in the Fire.

I did not find this thrilling. Bland, and too involved in the logistics of organising a revolution rather than character and emotions.


139. Kim Harrison, Black Magic Sanction.

Second-to-latest Rachel Morgan novel. Pretty much fits the pattern of the series as a whole, wherein Rachel goes from one bad scrape to a worse one at high speed and with plenty of magical explosions. Entertaining.


140. Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

A good book, but not a me-book. Brilliantly written and with a black sense of humour, it just doesn't punch any of my narrative kinks.


141. Kate Elliott, Shadow Gate.

Sequel to Spirit Gate. Epic fantasy with giant flying eagles and politics and strange magic. A little slow and sprawling to really hook me, but nonetheless interesting and entertaining.


142. Barbara Hamilton, aka Barbara Hambly, Sup With The Devil.

Abigail Adams investigates more murderous mysteries in 1770s Boston. It is a well-constructed mystery, excellently written, but I don't find this historical period and location so fascinating as to truly love the Abigail Adams books.


143. Jim Butcher, Ghost Story.

Butcher writes good story, and this particular Harry Dresden installment has interesting and compelling twists. It is, however, a tad on the gloomy side.


144. Cherie Priest, Ganymede.

Third "Clockword Century" novel, after Dreadnought and Boneshaker. I like it less than either, but it is by no means a bad book. Set in Texas-occupied New Orleans and starring pirate Andan Cly, madam Josephine Early, and a newly-invented submersible weapon, it's worth the read.


145. Michelle Sagara, Cast in Ruin.

Latest of the Elantra books, and relies upon knowledge of the previous volumes. If you liked the earlier books, you'll like this one. Me, I enjoyed it exceedingly.
hawkwing_lb: (Bear CM beyond limit the of their bond a)
Books 2011: 131-136


131. T.A. Pratt, Broken Mirrors.

Serialised online here, and dear sweet godless heavens, how did I manage to miss this? It's the fifth Marla Mason book - a series which I love with unreasonable love - and lives up to the kick-arse-and-take-names speed, tension, and interest of its predecessors. I recommend it very highly.


132-136, Barbara Hambly, The Silent Tower, The Silicon Mage, Dog Wizard, Mother of Winter, and Icefalcon's Quest.

I'm supposed to post on these at Tor.com, so I'll linky when that happens. But Hambly is pretty brilliant, so I recommend them.




Wonder if I'll break 170 books this year? That hasn't happened since 2007, at least.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2011: 128-130


128. Sherwood Smith, Blood Spirits.

Sequel to 2010's Coronets and Steel. Once again, Smith's fake European country of Dobrenica strikes me as geographically and historically impossible - Soviets? And Russians still on the eastern side of the border, when all other indications seem to be that this is a Balkan-region state? Come on - with a side order of nostalgia for the ancien régime.

Which is part of what makes this book, like its predecessor, so hard for me to like. Once again, American Kim Murray travels to her grandmother's home country, where she gets mixed up in the politics of a very small number of families, all related to her, and the death of royalty is complicated by vampires and magic.

I liked the vampires and the magic. The plot is pacey and adequately tense, and this would be a perfectly cromulent book, except...

There's a reason that the ancien régime is ancien. "American goes to Europe, finds romantic olde-worlde history," is probably my least-favourite type of story. It gives me hives, for more reasons than I have words to articulate.


129. Barbara Hambly, Ran Away.

Eleventh in the Benjamin January series. After The Shirt On His Back's foray into the wilderness, Janvier is returned to New Orléans, where he becomes involved in the investigation of a Turkish pasha accused of murdering his concubines. Janvier knew the Turk in Paris, ten years before, and his recollection of the man's honour leads him to endanger himself to discover the truth.

Brilliantly written, as always. A large portion of the first part of the book is taken up with Janvier's memories of Paris, and for the first time we see more of his first wife, Ayasha, than her name. A lucid and intelligent entry in the series.


nonfiction


130. Cicero, Selected Letters. Oxford World's Classics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2008. Translated with an introduction by P.G. Walsh.

This volume presents a wide selection of Cicero's letters from across his lifetime. Cicero writes interesting, engaging letters, and these give rather fascinating insight both into his personality and into the last decades of the republic.

The translation is vastly readable, and the notes reasonably comprehensive. I recommend this for anyone with a passing interest in the dying years of the Roman republic.
hawkwing_lb: (DA 2 scaring the piss)
Books 2011: 124-127


124. Sherwood Smith, Once A Princess.

Ebook. YA. Tolerably entertaining portal fantasy involving royalty from another world and handsome pirates. First book of two. Cliffhanger ending.


125. Walter Jon Williams, Deep State.

ARG thriller starring Dagmar from This Is Not A Game. Set partly in Turkey, partly on an RAF base in Cyprus: Williams makes the milieu feel right. Brilliant twisty story.


126. Susan R. Matthews, An Exchange of Hostages.

Out of print science fiction with a space operatic feel. Intriguingly grim, fascinatingly brutal, with an extremely well-drawn main character and solid prose chops. Recommended, if you can stomach reading about torture.


127. David Weber, A Beautiful Friendship.

YA set in the Honorverse. Not outstanding. Review forthcoming from Tor.com: I'll linky when it's live.





Film un-reviews

Way of the Warrior: Utterly forgettable Asian assassin Goes West, My Son, with a baby and a shitload of bad memories. The cinematography isn't brilliant, either.

Fair Game: Naomi West and Sean Penn star as Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson in this dramatisation of the Plame scandal. A well-cast, well-written, well-put-together film.

Attack the Block: Brilliant piece of low-budget science fiction. Aliens invade a block of London council flats, leading to showdowns with the local teenage hard boys, a nurse, and a couple of stoners. Excellent dialogue, tight writing, well shot, and a surprising amount of social criticism. And it passes the Bechdel Test in spirit, if not in fact. (I was distracted by the furry aliens with sharp teeth, okay?) Excellent.

Ironclad: After King John signs the Magna Carta, he hires a Scandinavian army to kill his barons and take back his absolute rights as king. A small band of warriors led by a baron and a Knight Templar seize Rochester castle with the intent of holding out until the archbishop of Canterbury can persuade the French to relieve them. A tense, brutal siege plays out to the final hours. Well written, well cast, well shot, with at least one strong female character - "I am not a sin," she tells the templar - and some fascinating bits of medieval siege warfare. Castle go BOOM! Excellent.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2011: 119-123


119. Walter Jon Williams, This Is Not A Game.

A suspenseful thriller about ARGs. I'm not sure it's actually, technically SF, but it's brilliant.


120. Helen S. Wright, A Matter of Oaths.

A brilliant, inventive and well-written space opera, now out of print but available as an ebook from the author's website.


nonfiction


121. Euripides, The Trojan Women and Other Plays. Oxford World's Classics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2000. Translated by James Morwood, with an introduction by Edith Hall.

Comprising Hecuba, The Trojan Women, and Andromache. Of these Andromache was the most fun to read, but the translation is lucid and readable, the introduction and the notes reasonably comprehensive, and the tragic air full of appropriate gloom.


122. The Mabinogion. Oxford World's Classics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007. Translated with an introduction and notes by Sioned Davies.

Shapeshifters! Witches! Giants! Hunting boar and knights who have a lot of resemblance to heroic warbands. An interesting piece of literature, and a readable translation.


123. Alasdair MacIntyre, A Short History of Ethics. Routledge Classics, Routledge, Oxford, 2002. First published 1967.

A short history of European ethics, providing an interesting - though by no means comprehensive - overview of the development of "ethics" in philosophical thought from Plato and Aristotle through to the early 20th century. A valuable book, albeit one which made me want to write Ethics for Atheists.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2011: 116-118


116-118, Chris Wooding, The Weavers of Saramyr, The Skein of Lament, and The Ascendancy Veil. Collected as The Braided Path.

I read The Braided Path in one sitting on Thursday afternoon and night. It's a trilogy that plays with reader expectations: you start off thinking epic fantasy - with rifles, and by the end of the first book your expectations have been subtly undermined. By the end of the second book, if you haven't figured out that this isn't your Triumphant Return of the Lost Heir fantasy, you haven't been paying enough attention.

The Weavers of Saramyr are twisted sons of bitches whose magical powers have given them real leverage with the noble families of Saramyr. For two centuries, they've worked to prejudice the people of Saramyr against anyone else who can do magic, calling them Aberrant. When it emerges that the Empress's daughter, her only heir, is Aberrant, the floodgates are loosed on a conflict that will tear the Empire of Saramyr apart.

The consequences of the Weavers' ascendancy play out over the course of the trilogy, an in-story time of roughly ten years. There are gods and spirits, war and politics and betrayal, interesting new cultures and magic both fascinating and dreadful. Through all this, we follow Keiku, whose family's death propels her on a course that will lead her into the very heart of the struggle. Keiku is an appealing character, whose development over the course of the books is eminently believable. Wooding's dab hand with characterisation is in play throughout, able to make deeply unpleasant people sympathetic. The Weavers are a tad one-dimensional in their puppy-kicking evil... but the reasons behind their madness are interesting enough to make that a minor quibble.

This isn't a wholly uplifting story. What triumph is achieved is won at great cost, and it is very far from being a triumph to wholly rejoice in. But it is, at least, a satisfying end to a compelling story, and one that I'm happy to have read.
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Books 2011: 114-115


114. David Weber, How Firm A Foundation.

Reviewed here at Tor.com.

Short version: more of the same, and enjoyable for what it is.


115. Marie Brennan, With Fate Conspire.

Review forthcoming from Tor.com. I'll linky when it happens.

Short version: I really liked this book. Go forth and read it.

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