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Books 2017: 75-85


75. Laura Lam, Shattered Minds. Tor, 2017.

Read for review for Tor.com. Really sodding good.


76. Nancy Kress, Tomorrow's Kin. Tor, 2017.

Read for review for Locus. Good, I guess.


77. Catherynne M. Valente, The Refrigerator Monologues. Saga Press, 2017. Illustrated by Annie Wu.

Read for review for Locus. I wish I'd liked it better.


78. Cat Sparks, Lotus Blue. Talos, 2017.

Read for review for Patreon. Enjoyable.


79. Malka Older, Infomocracy. Tor.com, 2016.

Read for column. Really solid debut.


80-82. M.C.A. Hogarth, Amulet Rampant, Only the Open, and In Extremis. Ebooks. 20-?-2017.

I need to figure out how to talk about these books. Continues the series begun in Even the Wingless and Some Things Transcend. Is really interested in issues of consent, mental health, power, trauma, consequences, and change, but told through the lens of space elves, space dragons, and space furries. With space opera psychic powers.


83-84. K.J. Charles, A Fashionable Indulgence and A Seditious Affair. Ebooks. Loveswept, 2015-2016.

I picked these up on the recommendation of Foz Meadows. They're historical (regency) romance featuring men who love men, and A Seditious Affair, at least, is an absolutely stunning examination of a respectful relationship between people who are opposites in almost every way.


nonfiction


85. Edward J. Watts, Hypatia: The Life and Legend of an Ancient Philosopher. Oxford University Press, 2017.

I want to talk about this at greater length at some point, but for now: it's a fascinating biography and worth reading.
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Books 2017: 65-74


65. A. Merc Rustad, So You Want to be a Robot. Lethe Press, 2017.

Read for review for Locus. Short stories. Not usually my thing, but pretty okay.


66. Nicky Drayden, The Prey of Gods. HarperCollins, 2017.

Read for review for Locus. Chaotic but good.


67. Tanya Huff, A Peace Divided. DAW/Titan Books, 2017.

Read for column for Tor.com. Lots of fun.


68. Laura Lam, False Hearts. Tor, 2016.

Read for column for Tor.com. Really good near-future thriller.


69. Wendy N. Wagner, Oath of Dogs. Angry Robot Books, 2017.

Read for review for Locus. Interesting science fiction with mystical twist.


70. Jack Campbell, The Genesis Fleet: Vanguard. Titan, 2017.

Read for review for Locus. Campbell is not getting any more imaginative.


71. Sarah Gailey, River of Teeth. Tor.com Publishing, 2017.

Read for column. Interesting novella.


nonfiction


72. bell hooks, Outlaw Culture. Routledge Classics, 2006. (Originally published 1994.)

I'd never really grasped the ways in which bell hooks is a foundational thinker for intersectional feminism before picking up this collection of essays. It is an uneven essay collection, and its referents are now nearly a quarter-century out of date, but much of what she has to say doesn't seem radical to me - in part because over those two and a half decades, they became part of the approaches to feminism that predominate among the people from whom I learned about feminist theory and praxis. (They are still radical, mind you.)

Reading this collection has made me want to read more of bell hooks' work, which is an excellent thing for any collection.


73. Linda M. Heywood, Njinga of Angola: Africa's Warrior Queen. Harvard University Press, 2017.

I want to write more about this biography of a 17th-century African queen who just did not quit and seems to have been immensely astute as a war-leader, as a diplomatic, and as a politician overall (except possibly in arranging the inheritance of her kingdom, but one cannot blame someone for not keeping things in order after they're dead). But in brief, it is a fascinating examination of a woman who the Portuguese colonisers saw as a "devil queen," and of her context.


74. Nancy Marie Brown, Ivory Vikings. St. Martin's Griffin, 2016. (Originally published 2015.)

Brown uses the Lewis chessmen, famous pieces found on the island of Lewis in Scotland in the early 19th century, as a lens through which to examine the late medieval Scandinavian world, its trade connections, and its culture. Brown is interested in the origins of the Lewis chessmen, and sets forth the arguments for where they might have been made, although it is clear her sympathies lie with the theory which ascribes them to Iceland in the late 12th or very early 13th century. (Brown makes a persuasive stab at ascribing them to the hand of an individual ivory-carver, a women named as Margaret the Adroit in the Saga of Bishop Pall - not a saga that has been translated into English.)

Brown is a careful historian, nuanced in her treatment of the evidence, and cautiously qualifying any sweeping claims. But she is also an imaginative historian, and an evocative one. Her knowledge of the Scandinavian world and the Icelandic sagas shines through, and her ability to write both clearly and entertainingly about matters of which yr. humble correspondent knows very little is a rare gift among historians. This is fun history. I approve of it.
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Books 2017: 56-64


56-57. E.E. Knight, Winter Duty (Roc, 2009), and March in Country (Roc, 2011).

I have followed Knight's Vampire Earth books for a while, though it's been a little while since I read any. I don't know how long I've had these two on my shelf, though I suspect I bought them together.

The attraction of Knight's Vampire Earth novels are the thought put into the military logistics, for me, and the fact that Knight's female military officers are competent and incompetent in ways pretty much exactly like the men. It has a grim war-slog atmosphere, and these installments are pretty like what has gone before.

Unfortunately, I'd either forgotten or not noticed at the time Knight's tendency to portray transmisogyny uncritically. "Tranny" will never not be jarringly unpleasant, and this attitude crops up in both books here.


58. Theodora Goss, The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter. Saga, 2017. ARC courtesy of editor.

Read for review for Patreon. Excellent novel, truly great.


59. Timothy Zahn, Pawn. Tor, 2017. eARC courtesy of publisher.

Read for review for Tor.com. Deeply meh.


60. Dianna Gunn, Keeper of the Dawn. Book Smugglers Publishing, 2017. eARC courtesy of publisher.

Read for column. Meh.


61. T. Kingfisher, Bryony and Roses. Red Wombat Tea Company, 2015.

Read for column. SO MUCH FUN.


62. T. Kingfisher, Summer in Orcus. Red Wombat Tea Company, 2016.

Read for column. Also SO MUCH FUN.


63. Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner, Star Crossed. Ebook, 2017. eARC courtesy of the authors.

F/F interracial romance set in the American space program of the 1960s. Disappointing pays very little attention to the operation of racism and its intersection with queer womanhood, but entertaining, if slight, romance nonetheless.


nonfiction

64. Allison Glazebrook, Madeleine M. Henry (ed.), Greek Prostitutes in the Ancient Mediterranean, 800 BCE-200 CE. (Wisconsin Studies in Classics.) Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2011.

I intend to have more to say about this later, but meanwhile, here is a review in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review to illuminate the contents of this volume.
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Books 2017: 43-49


43. Emma Newman, Brother's Ruin. Tor.com, 2017.

Read for column. Entertaining, if a bit weird.


44. Marie Brennan, Lightning in the Blood. Tor.com, 2017.

Read for review for Locus. I REALLY liked it.


45. Lois McMaster Bujold, Penric and the Shaman. Subterranean Press, 2017.

Read for column. Kind of perfectly exactly what I wanted.


46. Elizabeth Moon, Cold Welcome. Orbit/Del Rey, 2017.

Read for review. Meh.


47. Aliette de Bodard, The House of Binding Thorns. Gollancz/Ace, 2017.

Read for review. THIS IS SO GOOD IT IS SO MARVELOUS READ IT READ IT NOW.


48. Robyn Bennis, The Guns Above. Tor, 2017.

Read for review. A hell of a lot of fun.


nonfiction


49. Matthew Wright, The Lost Plays of Greek Tragedy: Volume 1: Neglected Authors. Bloomsbury, London, 2016.

I will have more to say about this later - I believe I will write something about it at length for Patreon, maybe. But it is really interesting and extremely accessible, and makes me want to learn more.
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Books 2017: 37-42


37. Corey J. White, Killing Gravity. Tor.com, 2017. Forthcoming.

Read for review for Locus. A lot of fun.


38. Marie Brennan, Within the Sanctuary of Wings. Tor, 2017. Forthcoming.

Read for review for Tor.com. Great conclusion to the series.


39. Cassandra Khaw, Food of the Gods. Solaris, 2017. Forthcoming.

Read for review for Locus. Interesting. Gruesome. Really pretty good.


40. Cynthia Ward, The Adventure of the Incognita Countess. Aqueduct Press, 2017.

Novella. Read for column. A hell of a lot of fun, in a gothic style that reminds me of Penny Dreadful.


41. Aliette de Bodard, The Citadel of Weeping Pearls. Ebook, 2015/2017.

Novella. Read for column. Set in the same continuity as On a Red Station, Drifting. Really good.


nonfiction

42. Mark S. Thompson, Wellington's Engineers: Military Engineering in the Peninsular War 1808-1814. Pen & Sword Books, Barnsley Yorks., 2015.

An interesting topic: a mediocre execution. I will have more to say later.
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Books 2017: 35-36


35. Nnedi Okorafor, Binti: Home. Tor.com Publishing, 2017.

Read for column. Good novella.


nonfiction

36. Eratosthenes and Hyginus, Constellation Myths, with Aratus's Phaenomena. Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 2015. Translated by Robin Hard.

This is a peculiar entry in the Oxford World's Classics series. It is structured oddly, such that I cannot figure if it follows the schema of one of the original authors while interspersing bits of the other, or whether the translator has separated out bits according to his own schema. However, the constellation myths themselves are very interesting as playfully literary creations, and Aratus's Phaenomena includes some really fascinating weather advice.
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Books 2017: 32-34


32. Erika Lewis, Game of Shadows. Tor, 2017. Copy via publisher.

Read for review. Er. Eeep. WTF.


33. Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin, eds., The Djinn Falls In Love & other stories. Solaris, 2017.

Read for review for Tor.com. Really excellent anthology.


nonfiction


34. Ibn Fadhlan, Ibn Fadhlan and the Land of Darkness: Arab Travellers in the Far North. Penguin Classics, 2012. Translated with an introduction by Paul Lunde and Caroline Stone.

Ibn Fadhlan left an account of his journey from Baghdad to the court of the Bulghar khan in 921 CE. (The account of his return journey doesn't survive.) Full of precise observations and surprisingly little judgment - and a certain amount of what comes across as good-humoured honesty - this is really lovely medieval travel writing. It includes the only eye-witness description of a Viking boat funeral in the lands of the Rus.

Ibn Fadhlan's account takes up a little less than half the book. The remainder is given over to extracts from other Arabic travel writers (or compilers of geographic information) who deal with the far north or with people from the far north, such as Vikings. These are usually far less self-aware and precise than Ibn Fadhlan, but fascinating in their own right.

(I really like the Arabic literature of the medieval period, at least as much of it as I've been able to read in English translation. It'd be really cool to have a good translation of Ibn Hayyan, you know. Or ibn Rusta. Hell, Mas'udi.)
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Books 2017: 18-25


18. Kameron Hurley, The Stars Are Legion. Angry Robot, 2017.

Read for Locus and for column. A fascinatingly squishy space opera, which Hurley has been promoting as LESBIANS IN SPACE (it is). It's less of a mess than her fantasy, and a lot more fun, although Hurley does sometimes confuse brutal for interesting.


19. Jacqueline Carey, Miranda and Caliban. Tor, 2017.

Read for review. A retelling of The Tempest. Honestly, I don't see the point of a novel that spends so much time dwelling on an abusive parent-child relationship that doesn't ever allow the victim of the abuse to get away. NOT my cup of tea.


20. Lara Elena Donnelly, Amberlough. Tor, 2017.

Read for column. Fascism and amoral gay boys in love. Promising debut.


21. Ada Palmer, Seven Surrenders. Tor, 2017.

Read for review. It doesn't quite succeed in living up to the promise of the first volume, which is a shame, but together Too Like The Lightning and Seven Surrenders make a very promising debut.


22. Caitlín R. Kiernan, Agents of Dreamland. Tor.com Publishing, 2017.

Read for review. Creepy Lovecraftian horror novella. Not exactly my jam. Also parasitic mind-controlling fungus.


23. Justine Saracen, The Sniper's Kiss. Bold Strokes Books, 2017.

A romance novel involving women who love women set during WWII. A Russian-speaking American clerk in the Lend-Lease programme and a Russian soldier, later a sniper, encounter each other first during international meetings about the Lend-Lease programme. Later, the American clerk gets into trouble investigating corruption on the Russian end of the Lend-Lease problem and ends up at the front, where she disguises herself as a dead Russian sniper and partners with the live Russian sniper. Saracen has done her research: the WWII setting feels believable. The characters are reasonably well-rounded, the relationships make sense in context, and the writing is better than tolerable. As F/F romances go, it's definitely in the top 10%, particularly for historical ones.

(I always feel sad judging F/F on these particular merits. But in any given month where I look at six or eight F/F books from Netgalley and at best only half of them are even readable, they are certainly the merits.)


24. Yolanda Wallace, Divided Nation, United Hearts. Bold Strokes Books, 2017.

A romance novel involving women who love women set during the American Civil War. One disguises herself as a man in order to fight for the Union, the other is trying to keep a farm running while her father and brother are fighting for the Confederacy. I finished it: it's not a particularly good novel, but it is an entertaining tropetastic mess.


nonfiction

25. Hubert Wolf, The Nuns of Sant'Ambrogio: The True Story of a Convent Scandal. Vintage, 2015. Translated from the German by Ruth Martin.

I first heard of this book via Lady Business, where it was spoken of in very complimentary terms. I can confirm that it is extremely solid history writing, clear and thorough and immensely readable: the kind of history where you keep reading in order to find out just what happened next.

Wolf deals with a particular convent scandal, one that took place in the convent of Sant'Ambrogio in Rome and was investigated as a result of a complaint made by the German Catholic Princess Katarina von Hohenzollern to the Holy Office for the Doctrine of the Faith (the office of the Inquisition). Katarina had entered the convent as a postulant and then a novice (after two marriages and a previous unsuccessful attempt to become a nun in a different convent) and came to believe that she was being poisoned by the sisters of Sant'Ambrogio, as a result of her opposition to certain practices she believed were entirely improper.

Wolf draws on several archival sources, including the Inquisition's own files and the testimony of the witnesses and defendants in the case, to illuminate the life of the Hohenzollern princess, the convent, the other nuns, Church politics, and the case itself. False saints, poisonings, political manoeuvring in the Jesuit order, the curia, and the papacy, Solicitatio by priests in confession, sexual assault of novices, female sodomy: this is history mixed with true crime, and Wolf lays it all out in fascinating detail.

Including a good deal of detail on how the Inquisition actually investigated the charges laid before it, which is fascinating in its own right.
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Books 2017: 5-17


5. Jennifer Fulton, Passion Bay. Bold Strokes Books, 2008. Ebook.

Acquired free via Kobo. F/F romance, miscommunications, tropical islands, family secrets. Mediocre.


6. Jennifer Fulton, Dark Dreamer. Bold Strokes Books, 2006. Ebook.

Haunted house. F/F romance. Sexy twins next door, one of whom consults for the FBI because dead people talk to her. Mediocre.


7. Jennifer Fulton, Dark Valentine. Bold Strokes Books, 2007. Ebook.

FF romance. Rape victim has a one-night stand with a criminal defence lawyer. Further contact results in falling in love. But oops! Criminal defence lawyer turns out to be defending her rapist. Pretty decent, I guess.


8. Jennifer Fulton, Dark Garden. Bold Strokes Books, 2009. Ebook.

FF romance. Two descendants of feuding families, secrets, lies, manipulations. Mediocre.


9. Jennifer Fulton, More Than Paradise. Bold Strokes Books, 2007. Ebook.

FF romance. Scientist meets mercenary in Papua New Guinea. Mediocre.


10. Jennifer Fulton, Naked Heart. Bold Strokes Books, 2008. Ebook.

FF romance. Scientist meets spy. Personal betrayals insufficiently addressed. Mediocre.


11. Jennifer Fulton writing as Grace Lennox, Not Single Enough. Bold Strokes Books, 2007. Ebook.

FF romance. Woman who really wants love meets single cop. Mediocre.


12. Jennifer Fulton writing as Grace Lennox, Chance. Bold Strokes Books, 2006. Ebook.

FF romance, ish. Kind of all over the place.


13. L.J. Cohen, Derelict. Interrobang Books, 2014. Ebook, copy courtesy of the author.

Read for column. Space opera, feels YA in tone.


14. Kate Elliott, The Poisoned Blade. Little Brown, 2016.

Read for column. Second book in trilogy, REALLY GOOD, I saved it for when I needed to read it most. Excellent stuff.


15. Sarah Fine, The Imposter Queen. McElderry Books, 2016.

Read for column. Solid fantasy novel, YA.


16. Jean Johnson, First Salik War: The Terrans. Ace, 2015.

Read for column. Ridiculous space opera. Fun.


Nonfiction


17. Arrian, The Campaigns of Alexander. Penguin Books, 1971. Translated by Aubrey de Sélincourt.

A fairly elderly (over fifty years old) translation of Arrian's account of the campaigns of Alexander. Straightforward, with interesting anecdotes.
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Books 2016: 140-148


140-142. Rose Beecham, Grave Silence, Sleep of Reason, and A Place of Exile. Bold Strokes Books, 2005, 2006, 2007. Ebooks.

I read these on a recommendation from a friend, and now I'm extremely annoyed that Beecham wrote no more books in this series after A Place of Exile. They're damn good, if unconventional, mysteries set in rural Colorado near the state border with Utah, starring Jude Devine, an FBI agent undercover as a Sheriff's Detective to help monitor militia activity in the area. (I don't care if this setup is plausible or not: the stories around it are compelling.) The writing is very solid and the characterisation excellent. I recommend these books wholeheartedly.


143. Courtney Milan, Hold Me. 2016, ebook.

Contemporary romance from the author of Trade Me. Very much a comedy of errors, but a sweet one and one in which several characters are queer. (The main female character is a trans woman; the love interest is a bisexual bloke.) (Neither of them are white.) It's really well put-together, as one expects from Milan, and I enjoyed it a lot.


144. Ashley Bartlett, Cash Braddock. Bold Strokes Books, 2016. Ebook via Netgalley.

Not exactly a romance novel about a drug dealer (prescription pills) who falls in love with a woman who turns out to be something other than what she seems. Amusing and well-written, as queer female romance novels go.


145. Emma Newman, After Atlas. Roc, 2016. Review copy via Tor.com.

Read for review for Tor.com. It is an excellent dystopian murder mystery, and then it jumps genres at the end, and I'm still not sure what to think.


146. Bradley P. Beaulieu and Rob Ziegler, The Burning Light. Tor.com Publishing, 2016. Review copy via Tor.com.

Read for review for Tor.com. I'm not entirely sure what the point of it is? But it is well-written.


147. Rhonda Mason, Cloak of War. Titan Books, 2016. Review copy via Titan Books.

Read for column. Ridiculous but fun, and less uneven overall than The Empress Game, to which it is a sequel.


nonfiction


148. David Potter, Theodora: Actress, Empress, Saint. Oxford University Press, 2015.

An excellently readable biography of sixth-century Byzantine empress Theodora, who began her life as the daughter of an actress and the bear-master of one of Byzantium's factions, became an actress herself, bore a daughter out of wedlock to a wealthy man, left (or was abandoned) by him, somehow met Justinian, nephew of the then-emperor Justin, and married him - in order to do this, the law barring actresses from marrying respectable men had to be changed.

She and Justinian had no children, but she was one of the pillars of his reign, though they tended to be on opposite sides of the major theological-political question of their day (regarding the outcome of the council of Chalcedon and whether Jesus Christ had one (divine) nature or two (human and divine)). During the crisis of the Nike riots, she is reported as convincing Justinian to stay and fight rather than fleeing, saying "Power is a splendid shroud."She predeceased him by more than a decade, but he never remarried.

Potter's biography is lucidly clear and eminently readable. He does great work in tying the (complex) sources together into a plausible narrative of Theodora's life and her personality. But I think more context for her later life (during the rest of Justinian's reign before her death) would have been very useful: as it stands, the biography feels very much weighted towards her rise, rather than her reign.
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Books 2016: 135


135. Greg Rucka, Stumptown Volume Two. Oni Press.

I forgot to include this in my last round-up. Excellent graphic novel about a Portland PI and a missing guitar. I would give at least a finger off my left hand to see Rucka's Stumptown adapted for the small screen, because that would be awesome.
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Books 2016: 133-134


nonfiction


133. S. Frederick Starr, Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia's Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane. Princeton University Press, 2015 (first published 2013).

Lost Enlightenment is an ambitious and very readable intellectual history of Central Asia between the late 600s and the late 1200s CE. The first three chapters of this solid tome (over 500 pages, excluding end matter) set out to provide context: context for Starr's endeavour, and context for Central Asia, which had a long and vibrant history even before the Arab invasions.

Further chapters centre on specific courts or specific figures, with significant space given to al-Khwarazmi, al-Razi, ibn Sina, al-Biruni, al-Farabi, Ferdowsi, and al-Ghazali, all figures who in their own way shaped the intellectual and cultural life not only of Central Asia, but of the entire Arab-speaking world and eventually Western Europe.

Starr accompanies this history of ideas and thinkers with a reasonably comprehensive discussion of political events affecting the region across this timeframe. His narrative occasionally tangles itself in confusion, as it does not always take either a strictly chronological or a strictly thematic approach. Lost Enlightenment's achievements are also lessened by Starr's continually insistence on using comparanda from Western Europe: he assumes the reader is familiar with examples from Western Europe but not from Central Asia or the Arab world, whereas some of us (even Western Europeans!) are much more familiar with, say, Maimonides than John Locke.

For all its faults, however, Lost Enlightenment is a fascinating work and an excellent introduction to a region and a set of thinkers frequently neglected in Anglophone history writing. I don't think there's complete English translations of the works of any of the writers named above, with the exception of Ferdowsi's Shahnameh - and where there are English translations, many of them date from a century or more ago. Perhaps Starr's efforts to bring this intellectual heritage to wider appreciation will spur some press to bring to an Anglophone audience more of the primary sources on which his history depends.


134. Rachel Mairs, The Hellenistic Far East: Archaeology, Language, and Identity in Greek Central Asia. University of California Press, 2016 (first published 2014).

This slender volume is specifically concerned to discuss the Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek kingdoms in the region that today is eastern Central Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northern India. Mairs focuses on the archaeological remains, uncovered by excavation and by survey; the challenges posed by the evidence and the state of publication of the evidence; the difficulties posed by unprovenanced items (as a result of looting) and the interpretative challenges of investigating "ethnicity" and "identity" in a region whose inhabitants are very lightly represented in the surviving literature (Chinese and Greek) and that from the point of view of outsiders; and in a region where very little epigraphic evidence has come to light that may illuminate the self-understandings of the inhabitants of ancient Bactria in the three hundred years after the conquests of Alexander the Great.

Because of its prominence in the evidence, Mairs looks in detail at the city of Ai Khanoum, the Hellenistic urban foundation that has a Greek inscription which claims to be copied from Delphi, and posits a Bactrian architectural koine to explain some of its more unusual (as a Greek city) features. Mairs also looks at the relationship between settled and nomadic people in the region, and examines the explanations given for the fall of the Graeco-Bactrian kingdoms.

While brief, this book is really interesting, particularly from the point of view of identity in the "Hellenistic" world.
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Books 2016: 119

nonfiction

119. Michael T. Taussig, The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America: Thirtieth Anniversary Edition. University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

Originally published in 1980, I first heard of this book as a recommendation from Max Gladstone. It is an anthropological study - one might call it a Marxist anthropological synthesis - of certain cultural and social practices present in some areas of 1960s and 1970s South America. It focuses in particular on a practice of the "devil bargain" among male agricultural workers, and on practices involving a figure known as the "Tio," or "uncle," a devil-like figure, which are carried out by Bolivian tin-miners. Taussig strives to argue from historical cultural context, and makes a strong case for the continuity (and adaptation under new pressures) of historic cultural forms.

This is a complex book, with a strong theoretical focus drawing on Marx, which is not an area in which I'm competent to say much. But it is fascinating read, if at times a difficult one to follow.
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Books 2016: 116-118


116. Madeline Ashby, Company Town. Tor, 2016. Copy via Tor Books.

Read, at long last, for Tor.com column. Interesting novel with great characters and great sense of place. But time paradoxes are cheating.


117. Cherie Priest, The Family Plot. Tor, 2016. Copy via Tor Books.

Read for Tor.com column. Modern southern gothic haunted house, which is not usually my genre. Priest is really good at 'em, though. I really liked this - well, right up until the last page, which is an ambiguous dirty trick of an ending. *grumps*


nonfiction


118. Tim Whitmarsh, Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World. Faber & Faber, London, 2016.

This is an intellectual history of atheism in Greek and Roman antiquity. It begins with the Archaic period in Greece, where traces of anti-theism (the idea that gods can be fought, or denied) can be seen in the Hesiodic Catologue of Women, among other places. From these mythological beginnings, Whitmarsh constructs a lineage of thinkers who disbelieved in the godly powers of the gods, and who theorised explanations for the workings of the natural world that relied on the principles of cause and effect.

The best parts of this book, by me, are the discussions of early "god-battlers" in the mythology, and the discussion of the various philosophical schools and their adherents. Whitmarsh made me want to read Sextus Empiricus - or at least feel mildly inclined towards doing so - which, since Sextus Empiricus's books rejoice in titles like Against the Mathematicians, is a hell of an achievement. The weakest part is post-Constantine, which is not really treated in any depth: there might not be any space left for public atheism, but the book could have used a chapter on how the texts in which the outlines of classical atheism remain were preserved.

On the whole, it's an extremely readable book, lucidly argued, and occasionally funny. Whitmarsh does sometimes like to pull out unusual words like perdurance, but that only adds to the experience. Battling the Gods is entertaining history. Which is the best kind.
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Books 2016: 80-95


80. Max Gladstone, Four Roads Cross. Tor, 2016.

Reviewed for Tor.com. REALLY LIKE.


81. Foz Meadows, An Accident of Stars. Angry Robot Books, 2016.

Reviewed for Tor.com. REALLY REALLY LIKE. Love, even.


82. Fran Wilde, Cloudbound. Tor, 2016.

Reviewed for Locus. REALLY LIKE.


83. Django Wexler, The Guns of Empire. Roc, 2016.

Reviewed for Tor.com. REALLY LIKE.


84. Judith Tarr, Lord of the Two Lands. Read in ebook out of a Storybundle.

Excellent novel featuring Alexander, an Egyptian priestess, sundry Macedonians, Greeks, Persians, Levantines and Egyptians, gods and fate. I really enjoyed it.


85. Jo Graham, The Emperor's Agent. Read in ebook out of a Storybundle.

Interesting and entertaining novel set during the Napoleonic Wars. Has reincarnation and magic in. Also espionage, sex and death.


86. Geonn Cannon, The Virtuous Feats of the Indomitable Miss Trafalgar and the Erudite Lady Boone. Read in ebook out of a Storybundle.

Steampunk, really not great at worldbuilding or history, with truly ANNOYING (from an archaeologist's and historian's point of view) archaeological adventurism. However, much diverse characters, quite a bit of queer sex, great sense of batshit delight and delight in being batshit? Kind of aggressively mediocre, though.


87. Heather Blackmore, For Money or Love. Bold Strokes Books, 2016. Ebook.

It's a lesbian billionaire romance! (Sort of.) And it's well-written! And touching! And affecting! And mostly good! THIS IS SURPRISING AS ALL HELL. I recommend it.


88. Jaycie Morrison, Basic Training of the Heart. Bold Strokes Books, 2016. Ebook.

Lesbian romance. Women's Army Corps, WWII. Aggressively mediocre in terms of tension, plot, and writing. Interesting characters.


89. Jenny Frame, Courting the Countess. Bold Strokes Books, 2016. Ebook.

A modern lesbian aristocrat-housekeeper romance that really really wants to be a period novel. Meh.


90. Jaime Maddox, Hooked. Bold Strokes Books, 2016. Ebook.

Terrible lesbian romance with the Problem Of Prescription Drug Addiction thrown in for good (bad) measure. The best that can be said for it is that it's marginally readable.


91. Erica Abbott, Fragmentary Blue. Ebook.

Lesbian romantic suspense. Mostly okay.


92. Erica Abbott, Certain Dark Things. Ebook.

Sequel to Fragmentary Blue. Mostly okay too.


93. Erica Abbott, Acquainted With The Night. Ebook.

Sequel to Certain Dark Things. Kind of a hot mess, but entertaining for all that it is terribly constructed.


nonfiction

94. Joseph Roisman, Alexander's Veterans and the Early Wars of the Successors. University of Texas Press, 2013 [2012].

A thorough history of Alexander's Macedonian veterans as political actors in the years immediately following his death in 323 BCE. Unfortunately not very interested in material culture and making comparisons to other sorts of veterans, but for what it is, absolutely fascinating and well worth reading.


95. Peter Thonemann, The Maeander Valley: A Historical Geography from Antiquity to Byzantium. Cambridge University Press, 2015 [2011].

A magnificent, magisterial regional history of the valley of the Maeander river in Asia Minor. Really engaging, really good. Also well worth reading.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2016: 74-79


74. David D. Levine, Arabella of Mars. Tor, 2016. Copy courtesy of Tor.

Reviewed for Tor.com.


75. Yoon Ha Lee, Ninefox Gambit. Solaris 2016. Copy courtesy of Solaris.

This is so great. SO GREAT. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic space opera territory, with undead generals and friendly robots and horrible people and relatively decent people doing horrible things and it is just so readable and compelling that despite the INCREDIBLY HIGH BODYCOUNT I want MORE NOW PLEASE.


76. Laydin Michaels, Bitter Root. Bold Strokes Books, 2016. Ebook.

Romance featuring queer women set in Louisiana. Dark pasts, lots of talk about food. It is okay, I guess.


77. Adrian Tchaikovsky, Spiderlight. Tor.com Publishing, 2016. Copy courtesy of Tor.com.

Read for review for Tor.com. I enjoyed this IMMENSELY, though at first I didn't expect to.


Nonfiction

78. James C. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia. Yale University Press, New Haven CT, 2011.

This is an incredible book, part history and part anthropology. I read it in snatches, two and three pages together as time allowed. Scott argues that marginal peoples living at the edges of settled state civilisations have, in the main, made choices about the composition of their societies, their cultural toolsets, their subsistence regimes, and so on, deliberately in order to avoid incorporation into settled states.

It is a really interesting work, and a really interesting argument, and a fascinating overview of Southeast Asia's non-state peoples. I recommend it extremely.


79. Robin Waterfield, Taken at the Flood: The Roman Conquest of Greece. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2014.

The US paperback edition is coming out this autumn and I hope to get to review this somewhere. But basically it is what it says on the tin.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2016: 43-73


43-56. Karin Kallmaker, Captain of Industry, The Kiss That Counted, Warming Trend, Love By The Numbers, Stepping Stone, Substitute for Love, Wild Things, Painted Moon, Unforgettable, One Degree of Separation, Just Like That, Making Up For Lost Time, and Roller Coaster. Bella Books, various dates. Ebooks.

Contemporary romance novels starring queer women. I might have binged. A bit.


57. Jane Fletcher, The Shewstone. Bold Strokes Books, 2016. Ebook.

Fantasy caper romance involving queer women and a magical macguffin. Fun.


58. T. Kingfisher, The Raven and the Reindeer. Independently published. Ebook.

For column at Tor.com. AMAZING LOVELY GREAT READ IT. READ IT NOW.


59. A.J. Quinn, Just Enough Light. Bold Strokes Books, 2016. Ebook.

Lesbian romance involving mountain search and rescue and dark pasts. Meh. No, seriously, really kinda meh.


60. Jae, Shaken To The Core. Ylva Publishing, 2016. Ebook.

Romance set in 1906 San Francisco featuring two women from very different backgrounds. Earthquakes! Class differences! FIRES AND PERIL! It's a lot of fun.


61. Genevieve Valentine, Icon. Saga Press, 2016.

Elegiac sequel to Persona. Beautiful, but left me rather cold.


62. Charles Stross, The Nightmare Stacks. Orbit, 2016.

Excellent instalment in Stross's Laundry series. Elves! Vampires! Invasions from another dimension. A tip of the hat to Terry Pratchett in the sheer psychopathy of the elves. Terrible family dinners. So much fun.


63. K.B. Wagers, Behind the Throne. Orbit, 2016. Forthcoming.

Space opera. Featured in Tor.com column. Enjoyed a great deal. SEQUEL NOW PLEASE?


64. Barbara Hambly, Drinking Gourd. Severn House, 2016.

Another excellent instalment in the Benjamin January series of historical mysteries featuring a free man of colour in 1830s America.


65. E.E. Richardson, Spirit Animals. Abaddon, 2016.

Urban fantasy set in Yorkshire featuring a take-no-shit middle-aged DCI. Fun!


66. Daniel Godfrey, New Pompeii. Titan, 2016.

Reviewed at Tor.com. Utter bleh.


67. Simone Zelitch, Judenstaat. Tor, 2016.

A peculiar book. Reviewed at Tor.com.


68. Max Gladstone, Four Roads Cross. Tor, 2016. Forthcoming.

An amazing book. I'm supposed to review it for Tor.com just as soon as I get my act together.


69. Melinda Snodgrass, The High Ground. Titan, 2016.

Fun space opera that should have irritated me more than it did. Covered in a column at Tor.com (future).


70. Lois McMaster Bujold, Penric's Demon. Subterranean Press, 2016.

Kind, decent, encouraging little novella, first published as an electronic version last year. Covered in a future Tor.com column.


71. Jo Walton, Necessity. Tor, 2016.

Review forthcoming from Tor.com.


nonfiction


72. Paul Cartledge, Democracy: A Life. Oxford 2016.

Reviewed at Tor.com.


73. Frank L. Holt, The Treasures of Alexander the Great. Oxford 2016.

Reviewed at Tor.com.





I may have missed one or two. It has been something of a difficult month, and before that things fall out of memory. But I think this gets me pretty much current.

(Now I just need to read and review ARABELLA OF MARS, THE WOLF ROADS, and CLOUDBOUND by Monday and we're laughing.)
hawkwing_lb: (anyway)
Books 2016: 37-42


37. Ada Palmer, Too Like the Lightning. Tor, 2016.

Reviewed for Tor.com. EXCELLENT GO READ IT.


38. Franci McMahon, Staying the Distance. Bold Strokes Books, 2016.

Mediocre lesbian romance novel about an endurance equitation competitor and her vet.


39. Barbara Ann Wright, Paladins of the Storm Lord. Bold Strokes Books, 2016.

I was extremely disappointed in Wright's last outing - which was, to put it mildly, an incoherent Norse-inspired mess, although better at a sentence level than many f/f fantasy romances in existence - and moderately disappointed in the two before that. Her first novel showed a great deal of promise, and I will confess to Some Hopes of her continuing career: but structurally the later novels of her first series really did not stand up well.

However. Paladins of the Storm Lord opens a new series, and one that shows somewhat better control. It mixes elements from fantasy and science fiction into a planetary opera somewhat reminiscent of Darkover (without the faux-medieval sexism), with politics and fights and interspecies romance. It's fun and fast and entertaining, and I'm really hoping that she manages to actually structure the rest of this series so that the narrative pays off in satisfying ways.


40. Jenny Frame, Heart of the Pack. Bold Strokes Books, 2016.

An incoherent mess of a f/f romance involving werewolves. I think. Narrative through-line, not its strong point.


Non-fiction


41. Peter Thonemann, The Hellenistic World. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2016.

With a spot of luck, a review of this will be going up at Tor.com. It is a very short introduction to the world after Alexander. Warlords! Mercenaries! Kings! Art! Natural philosophy!


42. Noel Malcolm, Agents of Empire: Knights, Corsairs, Jesuits and Spies in the Sixteenth-Century Mediterranean World. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2016.

Malcolm, a historian who specialises in the history of the Balkans, has reconstructed the achievements (in the service of at least five crowns, counting the Papacy and Venice) of three generations of an Albanian family in the 1500s. From Venice to the borders of Poland, and the Vatican to Istanbul, the Brutis and their relatives the Brunis were at the heart of political, social, and military events across the Mediterranean.

It's a really good book. I recommend it.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2015: 6-7


6. Dave Hutchinson, Europe at Midnight. Solaris, 2015.

It is a book, I suppose.


nonfiction


7. James C. Scott, Seeing Like A State: How Certain Schemes To Improve The Human Condition Have Failed. Yale University Press, 1999.

Came to this via Max Gladstone, who mentioned it in a post or interview lo these many moons ago. FUCK ME THIS IS A GOOD BOOK. Juicy social anthropology, historically grounded, makes a person have THOUGHTGASMS. SO MUCH THINKY. SUCH GOOD BOOK.
hawkwing_lb: (Default)
Books 2015: 90


nonfiction

90. David W. Anthony, The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped The Modern World. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 2007.

This is a lot less populist than its title implies. It is a solid and engaging work of scholarly synthesis that brings together evidence from historical linguistics and archaeological excavation to investigate the geographic origins of Proto-Indo-European, and the spread of Indo-European languages, and what kind of material culture Indo-European culture groups might have had.

The first section concentrates more on the historical linguistics, and is a lot more accessible than the latter sections, which requires one to keep track of the names of a lot of archaeologically distinct culture-groups, type-sites, and other sites. And pottery, and bones, and a gloriously detailed treatment of prehistoric steppe cultures. I liked it a lot, but it's not my period or area and even though I'm used to keeping track of these kinds of details in other contexts, I did find it quite hard to follow in places. (This might be, in part, because I was reading it a little at a time over a long period, and not making notes.)

It's a lengthy tome, and detailed, and more readable than this sort of detailed survey often is. I enjoyed it, and I recommend it if you have an interest in prehistoric steppe cultures.

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