Recently arrived review copies

So I wrote an email chasing some of these (because I am supposed to review some of them for deadlines) only to find them arriving the next day. EMBARRASS ME POST WHY DON’T YOU.

Four here.

Four here.

That’s Cassandra Rose Clarke’s OUR LADY OF THE ICE (Saga Press), Laura Anne Gilman’s SILVER ON THE ROAD (Saga Press), Kai Ashante Wilson’s SORCERER OF THE WILDEEPS (Tor.com Publishing), and Carrie Vaughn’s KITTY SAVES THE WORLD (Tor Books).

Two here.

Two here.

And this is Stephanie Saulter’s REGENERATION (Jo Fletcher Books) and Jay Posey’s DAWNBREAKER (Angry Robot). Although I don’t know why anyone would send me the third book in a trilogy where I haven’t ever seen the first two… still, it has a pretty cover?

Reviews elseweb: A BARRICADE IN HELL, DEFENDERS, BINARY, and CALIFORNIA BONES

While I’ve been amusing myself by not dying of a cold, there’ve been a few pieces gone up elsewhere on these internets:

– A review of Jaime Lee Moyer’s A Barricade in Hell at Tor.com;
– A review of Stephanie Saulter’s Binary at Strange Horizons;
– A review of Will McIntosh’s Defenders at Ideomancer.com;
– A review of Greg van Eekhout’s California Bones at Tor.com;
– And a new Sleeps With Monsters column, talking about several different recent books.

Books in brief: Ferraris, Saulter, Sun-Tzu, Langbein

Zoë Ferraris, Night of the Mi’raj, City of Veils, and Kingdom of Strangers. Little, Brown & Co. 2008, 2010, 2012. Library books.

A series of mysteries set in Saudi Arabia. The protagonist of the first novel is a young devout Palestinian called Nayir; in the following two, more of the protagonist duties are taken over by Katya Hijazi, one of the few female lab technicians with the Saudi police.

I heard of these via first Marissa Lingen and then Marie Brennan. They’re really enjoyable books, although the mystery element is not always entirely well developed: the interest and the tension is in how the cultural norms and laws of the kingdom constrain the characters’ behaviour. It is rather difficult to investigate a crime when women and men are not supposed to speak to each other unless they’re related, and Katya could lose her job at any time for any perceived violations of the virtue policy of her employers. But the characterisation is excellent, and both Saudi Arabia and Islam are treated with a depth and a respect I haven’t often seen in fiction.

Recommended.

Stephanie Saulter, Binary. JFB, 2014. Review copy.

Read for review for Strange Horizons. Interesting sequel. Recommended.

Sun-Tzu, The Art of War (with a selection from the Chinese commentaries). Penguin, 2009 (2002). Edited and translated by John Minford.

An interesting and very readable translation. Minford has chosen to use short lines and line breaks after phrases, giving a feeling of aphoristic poetry to Master Sun’s work. I enjoyed reading it.

John H. Langbein, Torture and the Law of Proof: Europe and England in the Ancien Régime. University of Chicago Press, 2006 (1976).

A brief history of torture as a legal instrument in Europe prior to the 19th century. It could have done with a little more explanation of the difference between the Roman law systems of Europe and the law system of England, but it explains very well why those two systems had different approaches to torture as a legal instrument, and how changes in the standard of proof required for punishment led to a reduction in the use of torture to coerce confessions.

Books (Fiction) I Have Not Yet Finished Reading

Some of which I may never finish.


Zachary Jernigan, No Return. Night Shade Books, 2013.

Fifty pages in, this is a very interesting SFnal fantasy novel which is a)very much not my cup of tea, and b)has debut novel problems with line of direction and voice. I do not disrecommend it, but as for myself I may not finish it for a long time yet: I like to feel a strong pull, and I’m just not feeling any urgency here.

Started it when I was deathly sick, though. That might have something to do with it.

Stephanie Saulter, Gemsigns. JFB, 2013.

I’m twenty pages in. I have to read and review it for Strange Horizons. Already it tends towards the self-indulgent in terms of prose, a little bit too in love with saying the same thing in three different ways or the too-clever sentence or image. (I’m starting to think that JFB’s vision as an imprint and my idea of what I’d prefer to read, in terms of style – and also on occasion in terms of content, although that’s too early to say here – are strongly divergent.) On the other hand, already flashes of interesting character. I make see-saw hands.

And I have to finish it anyway.

Max Gladstone, Two Serpents Rise. Tor, ARC, 2013.

About sixty pages in. I love Gladstone’s debut. This would be a great book for me if I had more reason to care about the characters: it feels sufficiently like a debut novel here that I have begun to wonder if Gladstone didn’t write this one first.

ETA: Muddled the title, folks. Sorry. SERPENTS, not DEAD.

Francis Knight, Fade to Black. Orbit, 2013.

Forty pages in. I feel no connection to the main character, and without that the setting details on their own don’t really hold me. It probably doesn’t help that it has a quasi-noir voice, and I have ever found most kinds of noir predictably boring.

N.K. Jemisin, The Killing Moon. Orbit, 2012.

Fifty pages in. Setting is fascinating. Have encountered three viewpoint characters, though, and am bored by two of them. Prose is not gorgeous enough to keep me constant until the two lads start (I hope) becoming interesting. Will probably finish, eventually, but feel no particular urgency.

Karen Traviss, Halo: Glasslands. Tor, 2011.

Fifty pages in. Have appreciated Traviss’s SFnal military tie-intales before, but this novel has failed to do good characterisation on the opener, and I don’t have any investment in the Halo universe to carry me through in the absence of someone fun to hang out with. Cast of dozens: not open for newbies.


Rachel Bach, Fortune’s Pawn. Orbit, ARC, 2013.

Forty-five pages in. Tone so far is at right angles to the Military Space Opera Type Boom promised by the cover copy: not so much with the boom, lots with the lusting after pretty boys with Mysteries Attached. Tonally, reminds me a lot of Generic Urban Fantasy but In Space: the Only Girl, who is Super Competent At Killing, has Smart Mouth, and Doesn’t Have A Lot Of Friends – it’s a type, okay? And our protag is basically a Space Mercenary instantiation of the type, within Standard Deviations of Bland, which doesn’t fill me with warm fuzzy optimism about how well the rest of the novel is going to go.

I’ll probably finish it, at some point, but only to see if I’m right when I call every single move in advance.

(This makes me sad. I wanted Proper Boom with Female Protagonist. Instead forty pages of Lusting Over Pretty Cook Boy.)


Possibly I’ve begun to suffer from the Critic’s Disease. You read enough, it gets harder and harder to find stuff that stands out as appealing, because even Good Things Of Their Kind start feeling stale and predictable because you’ve read (and attempted to analyse) so many Things Of Their Kind. Only the truly excellent – or the strange and experimental – becomes capable of kicking your interest up a notch…

…And thus the critic’s tastes fall farther and farther out of step with the tastes of the Average (so-called average) Reader.

Anyway. What do you think?