Books in brief: Bear, Clark, Scalzi, Lee, Dalrymple, Rediker

Elizabeth Bear, Karen Memory. Tor, 2015. ARC courtesy of the publisher.

This book. This book. I don’t even know how to talk about it. I need to read it again and again. It did everything right for me. It’s all my narrative kinks rolled up into one – including some I didn’t even know I had, and some things I would’ve thought I’d hate to see but they’re done so well – and wrapped up with a positive ending and it all just works.


Except you can’t read it until next year. So I’m going to have to think about how to talk about it some more.

John Scalzi, Lock In. US: Tor, 2014; UK: Gollancz, 2014. Copy courtesy of Gollancz.

The last time I was writing up my books, I asked myself, “Have I forgotten something?” And it turns out that I had, because the night beforehand I’d read Lock In and it had not made enough impression to last. This is in many ways a very forgettable book: competent, but of the stuff of which airport paperbacks are made. A whodunnit with a couple of Sufficiently Advanced Technology elements. I really don’t have very much at all to say about it, and I’m damned if I can even remember the characters’ names.

Sharon Lee, Carousel Sea. Baen, 2015. e-ARC courtesy of the publisher.

Third installment in small-town fantasy series. Will include in future SWM column. Interesting, soothing, pulls all its punches.

Elizabeth May, The Falconer. Gollancz, 2013.

Debut novel. Fairies. Violence. Scotland. Steampunk. It is crack and it is terrible and it is actually quite a bit of fun.


William Dalrymple, The Return of a King: the Battle for Afghanistan. Bloomsbury, 2013.

New history of the first British Afghan war, and one that makes liberal use of sources in the local languages. A fascinating read.

Marcus Rediker, The Amistad Rebellion: an Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom. Verso, 2013.

Rediker writes good history. This one is relatively short, for him, and very accessible: an account of the Amistad slave mutiny and the long struggle of the survivors to return to their West African homes. Solid, informative, compelling.

Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914. Penguin, 2013.

A weighty (500+ pages excluding index, notes and bibliography, at 10pt-type) volume, but a deeply fascinating and extraordinarily well-written piece of history, that is astonishingly clear in its presentation of the complex factors and personalities on the European scene, and routes by which the decisions of the European powers ultimately narrowed down to war. A really excellent history book.


Thomas F. Bonnell, The Most Disreputable Trade: Publishing the Classics of English Poetry, 1765-1810. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2008.

It’s my habit to keep a book in the bathroom to read while cleaning my teeth… and doing other things… a book I don’t mind reading three and four pages at a time. By this means, I’ve learned a little about a large number of historical things. I seized on this particular book because of the interesting – dare I say alluring? – title, and because I’d read a history of the illegal book trade in prerevolutionary France that was quite frankly fascinating.

Well. Don’t judge a book by its title. Quite frankly, I expected something more… lascivious? Disreputable? Something more scandalous? But nope. No scandal! No disrepute! Not even any really juicy bookselling feuds, for crying out loud. It’s a fairly bland history of the creation of a publishing canon of English poetry by printers and booksellers in Britain. Apparently, the “most disreputable trade” part refers to what one London publisher thought would become of the publishing trade after a copyright decision went against them.

I was seduced by a misleading title, and now I know more than anyone really needs to about collections of English poetry in the late 18th century. Doubtless I will forget it all with great promptness, and remember only that there is a book in which information about it may be found.