Review copies: Walton, Cambias, Lindskold

Three, from Tor Books.

Three, from Tor Books.

Courtesy of the kind people at Tor Books: Jo Walton’s THE PHILOSOPHER KINGS, Jane Lindskold’s ARTEMIS INVADED, and James L. Cambias’s CORSAIR.


Since handing in my PhD thesis, I’ve been wandering around in a kind of aimless, bereft fog. My brain broke sometime in the last month: in the past few days, glimmerings of regrowth have begun to appear – I no longer want to run screaming from the thought of reading a novel, or really anything longer than a blogpost, although “enthusiasm for the prospect” is still a ways off – but physically, mentally, emotionally, I am so tired.

It is very bizarre. I am completely off-balance. It feels almost like the state I was in after my near-nervous-breakdown… ha, it’s nine years ago this month, practically, after I had permission to stop (I did my first year of university twice: the second time on a medical repeat) and try to learn how to live with myself again. A curious blankness; a peculiar anomie; the theoretical knowledge that with enough time and proper food and sleep and exercise one might feel real again instead of frustratedly hollow, the ghost of one’s own self haunting ruined passages. But theoretical knowledge is only theoretically comforting. Time has lost its meaning: I can’t conceive of a space beyond the end of a week, cannot conceptualise the shape of so long a time as a month. (If I hadn’t had this happen nine years ago, I’d be more worried: back then it took me about two months to think more than a couple of days ahead again.) My head and my muscles and my very bones ache, semi-constantly, and the physical reflex of anxiety – tightness in the diaphragm, shortness of breath, a tingling in the muscles that presages the desire to run or fight – comes at random moments in my day.

I don’t know if this is normal. I do know I’ve passed through something similar before, so I have to believe I will pass through this and feel more like I used to on the other side, eventually.

Meanwhile I am filling out government paperwork, in order not to starve while I try to find work… give us this day our daily forms, and deliver us from waiting in ticketed lines.

Finishing the thesis is, in case you’re interested, why my column at Tor.com is presently on a break and why this space has been pretty quiet for the last year or so.

Recently arrived review copies

Stephen Baxter's ULTIMA.

Stephen Baxter’s ULTIMA.

Here’s Stephen Baxter’s ULTIMA, out of Gollancz, which will probably end up going to the library because I haven’t read the first book in the series.

Here are some lovely things from Tor Books.

Here are some lovely things from Tor Books.

From Tor, Beth Bernobich’s THE TIME ROADS, Weis and Krammes’ THE SEVENTH SIGIL (going to the library, because it is a late book in a series I haven’t read), Jo Walton’s MY REAL CHILDREN, Tina Connolly’s SILVERBLIND, and Liu Cixin’s THE THREE BODY PROBLEM.

Books in brief: Hay, Campbell, Carey, Levene, Wheeler, Bedford, Walton, King, Herrin

Mavis Doriel Hay, Death On The Cherwell and Murder Underground. British Library Crime Classics, reprinted 2014.

Had I read Murder Underground before Death On The Cherwell, and not the other way around, I would have been inclined to dismiss Hay’s scant handful of 1930s murder mysteries as tedious and possessed of little redeeming value. Yet for all the back-and-forth boredom of Murder Underground, Death On The Cherwell is a minor delight: it breathes the Oxford of its setting, and Hay here possesses more in the way of sympathy and humour for her characters. And yet neither are mysteries in the usual sense, being more concerned with the lives of the characters than the resolution of the murder. But that makes them interesting in a different fashion.

Jack Campbell, The Lost Stars: Imperfect Sword. Ace, 2014. Copy via Tor.com.

Read for review for Tor.com. Very similar to all previous Campbell books.

Jacqueline Carey, Poison Fruit. Roc, 2014. Copy via Tor.com.

Read for review for Tor.com. Satisfactory conclusion to trilogy.

Rebecca Levene, Smiler’s Fair. Hodder, 2014. Copy courtesy of publisher.

Read for review for Strange Horizons. Three quarters of the book is prologue, and I’m none too satisfied with the rest, either.

S.M. Wheeler, Sea Change. Tor, 2013. Copy courtesy of publisher.

Read for column. Reminds me in many ways of The Last Unicorn, though its emotional beats affect me more.

Jacey Bedford, Empire of Dust. DAW, 2014. Galley copy courtesy of publisher.

Read for review. Strikingly old-fashioned space opera. Psionics. Telepathy. Women who take their husbands’ names on marriage as a matter of course. I had only just reread Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword, mind you, so its failures of imagination were clearer by comparison. Perfectly readable adventure, nothing particular about it to make it stand out.

Jo Walton, The Just City. Tor, 2015. Copy courtesy of publisher.

Read for review for Vector. A peculiar book, and less self-indulgent than it seems at first glance – though Walton takes a rather more charitable view towards both Apollo and Sokrates than I ever would. It is immensely readable, and its major thematic arguments emerge slyly from the narrative (although it actually states up front on the first page what it is going to be). In many ways, this is a book about consent, and the abuses thereof: informed consent, consent after the fact, refusal of consent, the power to compel – cunning concealed under explicit arguments about justice and arete.

It is also, at times, rather like reading one of the more enjoyable Sokratic dialogues.

Appropriately so.

Laurie R. King, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, A Letter of Mary, The Moor, and A Grave Talent. 1993-1998 variously, Allison & Busby and Picador.

Excellent mystery novels. All of them.

Judith Herrin, Unrivaled Influence. Princeton University Press, 2013.

Collection of essays on women in the Byzantine empire from throughout Herrin’s (long) career. Very interesting.

Linky runs in perpetuity on not sleeping

Border House Blog on the gender wage gap in gaming:

I’m reading through the latest digital edition of Game Developer Magazine which contains their annual survey. The salary numbers overall weren’t concerning to me, until I scrolled down and saw the differences between the male and female survey respondents. The next time someone tells me that men and women get paid equally for their talents in the game industry, I wanted something to link to them. This is just plain disgusting.

Fantasy Café, Women in SFF Month: Jacqueline Carey:

As of this writing, Martin, Jordan, and the granddaddy of them all, J.R.R. Tolkien, top the list of Amazon.com’s fantasy author rankings. A glance at the first fifty listings on the Popular Epic Fantasy bookshelf on GoodReads.com reveals forty-seven titles by thirteen male authors, ranging from long-established Big Names to more recent arrivals like Brent Weeks and Patrick Rothfuss. Exactly three books by female authors made the list: The first two titles in Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy and my own Kushiel’s Dart.

Jo Walton at Tor.com, “Fantasy, Reading and Escapism”:

Reading is a culturally approved practice, it improves my mind and widens my cultural capital. But if I admit what I read — more fiction than non fiction, more genre books than classics, fantasy, science fiction, romance, military fiction, historical fiction, mysteries and YA — then I lose that approval and have to start justifying my choices. I also read a lot of Victorian fiction and biographies and random interesting non-fiction and some things published as literature… and I don’t hold any of them as better than any of the others.