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Weird little novella. Quite a lot shorter than I realised (because I thought it was a novel), and sorta on the edge of Lovecraft if you take out the cosmic bit of the cosmic horror and make a many-tentacled being of Yuggoth also be an unpleasant factory worker who beats his wife. I am unsure what to think of this, but I didn't enjoy it much.
Fourth in the Rivers of London series, and we finally get to see Nightingale do something other than Know Stuff That We Do Not. Peter Grant continues to learn things, and the level of research and thought that goes into this stuff becomes more apparent: not being an actual Londoner (Birmingham is a way nicer city), I assumed that Skygarden was real and so was its architect until reaching the afterword. I shall continue to read these to find out more: I wouldn't mind some sort of resolution to the whole thing with Lesley's face, mind, although (handwavily, to avoid spoilers) perhaps that's coming, given the end bit. And what's behind the door with the circles?
Almost as vital to understanding Dragonlance as the actual Chronicles. Everyone loves Raistlin.
Excellent collection of Straight Dope columns, although they're all available online now anyway.
Very excellently quotable for the first half. It goes a bit weird and mystic later on, a trend that future MMS books continued, and after spending the first bit wanting to be Stark you realise that Stark doesn't want to be Stark and explains why and then you're a bit sad about it all. You really ought to read this if you haven't already.
Final book of this YA trilogy. The good team win, not that we're surprised. I've been whipsawed with this whole trilogy between thinking of it as a Sandford book and as a YA book. Like, the characters and the dialogue and the action are Sandford, but the plot is YA: not that young-adult books don't have good plot, but they have to have a cherry on top. It's not enough to save the town, you have to save the world. The plan that the black hats have in this series was bad enough -- take innocent people off the streets and destroy their brains so that the rich can live forever -- without the escalation in this last book. Shay and the gang did manage to stop Singular, good. They also managed to stop the final part of the Singular plan, which to me felt massively uncalled for; a plot twist that was barely even foreshadowed, and felt like it had been pulled out of someone's hat, or perhaps some other place also round and inappropriate to find plots in. And Shay getting the.. opportunity she does at the end is in keeping with the plot, but again a bit overegged. Perhaps that's what defines a YA book? Like a TV but with the contrast turned right up, so all the colours are really bright and all the dark corners are really shadowy and there's no grey bits?
Fun short story by Abraham, who people keep recommending to me and I keep failing to get into. I liked how the world, well-drawn as it was, supported the rather spiritual sort of denouement.
Genuinely entertaining list of the methods of rhetoric, with examples and discussion. Understanding the bones of how this stuff works will make you a better writer. And Forsyth has a nice skill in writing self-demonstrating sentences.
Railways come to the Discworld. This is quite a bit less nuanced than previous Discworld books; the bad guys are just bad guys. There's little to no complexity here. Perhaps influenced by world politics and religious terrorism, of course. And it was nice to see the Simnels back again; a subtle callback for those of us who've been reading Pratchett forever. There are occasional signs that Vetinari is human, too; he's probably more entertaining to read about when he's The Guy With The Plan and basically wins always, but quite a bit less realistic. And I'm not sure how steam trains fit in with the Undertaking being powered by a cube. So, not one of the best, but average Pratchett is still better than most other stuff.
An end for Granny Weatherwax. But I never really got on with the Tiffany Aching books, for some reason. And this one wasn't actually finished when Pratchett died, so I feel less conflicted about not liking it all that much.
A collection of essays on copyright and so on. More of what you expect from Doctorow, all of which is compelling to me and well written and yet doesn't seem to convince the people who need to actually make a difference here, but it's good to have another book you can give to people so they might understand.
Did you know that the Reform Club is real? I didn't. Anyway, Verne is famous for a reason, and the reason is that he's good at this stuff. Not great at character -- Fogg immediately setting off after the opening discussion rings unrealistic today, let alone then -- but his books are fascinating.
Started reading. Intrigued by the deal between God and Lucifer. That intriguedness lasted about three paragraphs and then I drowned under the weight of the cliched dialogue and scenes. I am pretty tired of stubbly sub-Marlowe wry badasses who know about the truth behind the masquerade, I think.
Light fluffy stuff. Teen with eccentric sword-fighting father gets pulled into Tir Na Nog where he discovers that his father was king and he's a prince. Evil uncle, the works. It's all pretty cliché; this is what I think of when someone says "YA", even though most YA things aren't actually like this. A mild candy-floss diversion for a bit, perhaps.
More of the same in the Shadowmagic series. This time a copper from our world also gets pulled into Tir Na Nog, and ends up being a great fighter and falls in love with Conor's aunt. It seems very unclear how time works between the Land and the Real World; some people seem to have visited our world many hundreds of years ago.
Jesse James Dawson is a demon hunter. This is light-ish stuff, but quite neatly worked out; demons are real, lots of people do deals with them; a demon hunter can offer them a better deal (fight me for the unfortunate's soul and my own besides) and they always take it. JJD is a bit of a whiner, though; he doesn't think he is, he thinks he's a stoic quiet hero who tries as hard as he can to embody bushido while also bringing the snark, but actually when he tries it out he feels to me like he's trying too hard to be Harry Dresden and Dresden's funnier. Nonetheless, worth reading, in a slightly popcorny sort of way.
Available for free, much to Wexler's credit. Having read this first, I was pretty surprised that not only this storyline but this whole world basically doesn't intersect much with the main book thread, although it's happening more now as we get into the third book and the underlying structure of the world becomes apparent.
The French Revolution. Even with my shaky grasp of history, the parallels are not so much parallel as this is just the French Revolution retold with the names filed off and new names written in in crayon. The books keep trying to be menacing about What Janus Is Really Planning; Wexler is on record as saying that he won't do a Janus PoV because it's hard to write from the perspective of a genius character, but honestly I think he won't do it because then we'll actually know whether Janus is really a villain or not. Mother vanishing offscreen was a bit weird, although I like the Steel Ghost's sand approach.
Flintlock wars in fantasy Arabia. I'm sure there's a load of depth I'm missing because I don't know much about history. That aside, all the characters are well-drawn here; Janus is a bit clichéd in that he's a genius who has his plans always work out and is all mysterious and nose-tappy and ahahaha about it, but that's fun to read, and he's nowhere near as egregious at it as, say, Eugenides. You do get the impression that the Redeemers are a bit crap and would have their arses kicked good and hard by, for example, the Krasians from the Desert Spear. Avoiding spoilers, I was not expecting the bad guy reveal at the end, which suggests that it was convincingly written.
Snarky necromancer bloke in Murder on the Orient Airship.
Maintains the same uneasy balance of "and then Cabal did this amazing thing" followed by him basically being a snarky humourless bloke that the first book did. The story in this one is better and more believeable, though. Also, much, much more information about the world; Europe seems to be fragmented into Holmes-era little territories which each have princes and whatnot, but that's maintained into roughly the present day. Am sure actual historian people would be all "but but but what about this, and that, and the other, and how does the world look if the two world wars never happen, and, and, and", but I don't care; it makes a good backdrop for stories, and lets Howard (who did Broken Sword, I found out!) indulge himself with a world with guns and swords and airships and things made of brass and everything.
Police procedural in gang-ridden city, with the maverick cop sneered at by lazy clannish long-timers, and Da Chief in control. Cliche? Cliche. But the Maradaine books with the Thorn are top fun, and this manages the same trick. There are also little crossovers with the Veranix books here; the Brotherhood of the Nine seem to be a thing, and Kalas mentioned failing "The Nine" in Thorn. Do I spy some kind of underlying plot thingy? I believe I do.
Every reviewer has mentioned that Vee is basically Batman, and they're not wrong. (The cover in particular embraces the comparison.) He is pretty hyper-able; having a circus background ought not to mean that you can take on two or three professional assassins in a fight and win, magic or not. But the book is rollocking good fun; it deftly avoids the march towards grim and gritty fantasy, in return for what's actually clearly a well-worked-out world, and some insight into how street gangs work.
More fun in Maradaine. Same vibe as the previous book in this series; Veranix is still basically fantasy Batman (although maybe Robin is a better comparison), and there are lots of fights salted with lots of interesting world stuff. Maradaine is one of the few fantasy cities that I can actually imagine living in, along with Camorr in the Locke Lamora books (I wonder if Scott Lynch, with upcoming The Thorn of Emberlain, was annoyed at the naming of The Thorn of Dentonhill?) Also, there is clearly a whole bunch of stuff about the world that people don't know, to do with interactions between science and magic; ignoring all the big picture stuff that Phadre and Jiarna are clearly going to work on, there's a bit where a wound is completely healed by putting yellow powder and copper in it. This seems like an alarmingly important invention; I assume quite a lot more will be made of this alchemical science-plus-magic mix in future books.
My absolute favourite very short story.
Thief-vs-thief battles in fairly standard mediaeval city. It's all quite interesting, and there are a couple of neat reversals which I didn't actually see coming at all. It's lacking a bit of a sense of fun, though; gritty is good, sometimes, but the Gentlemen Bastard series has quite a bit more enjoyment in it. Also, entirely did not buy the promotion at the end.
Drothe now in new promoted state. I've seen the series described as "swords & sorcery meets Goodfellas", and I suppose that's right. However, Drothe is actually quite a dick and I'm not sure I like him. I'll probably read the next one, but with an increasing sense that I don't really care if the bloke wins or not.
Fairly mindless thriller, but OK to read when you fancy that sort of thing. Not convinced at all by the idea of the Abelard sanction, though.
Sequel (sort of) to the two previous (independent) Mortalis books. Still wields the word "professional" like a club.
Eric Carter continues to kick some arse while not really knowing what he's doing. The Bruja's secret was pretty obvious, but then it doesn't stay secret long anyway; meanwhile, I do rather like that they'll work together while she still doesn't really _like_ Eric all that much. Also, more backstory where today's villain (who is actually quite worrying) also ties into Carter's past. More of the same, please, Stephen Blackmoore.
Started. Read most of, did not finish. It just doesn't grasp me in whatever place that books I like grasp me. Quite Lovecraftian, with the monsters, but without the cosmic horror. They feel rather Innsmouth-y.
Couldn't get into this; read the first third or so and got bored.
Powerful loner necromancer chap who is actually probably quite a bit more powerful than he thinks kills ghosts and a whole bunch of other people while having the crap beaten out of him on an alarmingly regular basis. This is hard-bitten stuff; Eric Carter's kinda a dick, but in that tobacco-chewin' two-fisted I-do-what-I-must-whatever-you-think-of-it sort of way that makes for good antiheroes. The writing pulls even fewer punches than the bad guys who keep tying Eric to chairs. I was a mite surprised at the bleakness of the ending, but that's not a bad thing. And the trick with the nametags made me actually laugh out loud; Carter can slap a label on a thing describing what he wants people to see it as and then a spell makes that happen, but he's the sort of bloke who would write GRAY HONDA CIVIC TOTALLY NOT A CADILLAC on his Caddy, or THE GUY WHO’S SUPPOSED TO BE HERE on himself. I am waiting for a label saying SOME OLD BOLLOCKS YOU ARE NOT INTERESTED IN which he starts putting on anything. Seems like his style.
Especially recommended for Carter basically not knowing what he's doing, half the time, and just winging it. This is not winging it like Harry Dresden, who thinks he knows what he's doing but often there's a bunch of world out there he doesn't know about. Eric explicitly doesn't know how half the things he does actually work but does it anyway. What this means is that he's quite convincingly close to death (ha!) a lot, more so than most protagonists who might say they nearly died but you know, in that Doylist way, that they didn't. Eric ain't like that. Wouldn't surprise me one bit if he actually blew it two chapters into the next book and the whole rest of the book is blank white paper.
Granuaile takes on her first big task on her own and... fails. Not through any fault of hers, mind. Meanwhile, Atticus is busy being bossed around by the Secret Cabal (now revealed!) and his old archdruid, who is convincingly a pain in the arse but actually not a bad old git, in a rough-and-tumble sort of way. Also also, more secret agendas. Weirdly, I was convinced entirely by the Morrigan being dead and yet managing to still pass on the occasional message from the other side, but totally not convinced by that also being the case for another character who got killed a few books back (excuse me, I'm avoiding spoilers). Not sure why these two things seem so different, but they do.
Books I acquired (and have reviewed) in 2018
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