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New novels?

(7 posts)
  • Started 5 months ago by geoffhart1962
  • Latest reply from iamnothing

  1. geoffhart1962
    Member

    This topic seems to have scrolled into oblivion, so I'll restart!

    Just finished Stross' "The Delirium Brief", latest in his Lovecraftian Laundry Files series. If you liked previous installments, you'll love this one, as it retains all the good stuff but drops us off a cliff -- rather than merely sliding faster downhill. Free fall is so much fun... until the landing part. *G*

    This time, the precipitating crisis is the return of an old villain (a cult leader who's been p0wned by a particularly nasty alien parasite and has become the agent of one of the Elder Gods) who has already seemingly taken over (by privatisation) most of the American occult spy agencies and now has his sights set on their British counterparts. It's no spoiler to report that the Laundry is eliminated as a government agency, leaving its agents to cope with whatever resources they managed to sequester before the axe fell. The results are equal parts biting satire about government corruption/incompetence and the lunacy of privatizing public servicesm, and an increasingly horrific exploration of the consequences. Lots of chewy Strossian detail*, several nicely described set piece battles, and some highly qualified victories.

    * One assumes he has a full-time staff of dozens researching the details.

    Hard to say more without spoilers, but Stross has mentioned that we're nearing the end of the Laundry sequence, which may involve "dropping the C bomb" (i.e., Cthulhu). I wouldn't remotely call the ending of "Delirium Brief" optimistic or reassuring, but most of our favorite heroes from previous adventures (and a few surprising heroes) are still in there fighting hard against the inevitable. Will they win? Tune in next year for the sequel and probably conclusion of the series.

    Posted 5 months ago #
  2. iamnothing
    Member

    I'm afraid I can't contribute to this thread at present; I haven't been able to finish reading a new novel since May. I did read a new novella. Maybe I should start a new novellas thread?

    Posted 5 months ago #
  3. geoffhart1962
    Member

    Time for another charity-supporting "humble bundle": 25 books for $18 (or less for fewer books): https://www.humblebundle.com/books/scifi-fantasy-tachyon-books

    Posted 4 months ago #
  4. geoffhart1962
    Member

    Just finished Elizabeth Bear's "Karen Memory", which on the whole, I enjoyed. It's an interested and entertaining steampunk adventure, complete with brass automatons and airships, set in a late 1800s pseudo-Seattle, with some real historical figures and some hommages to real historical figures, making for an interesting historical feel. I particularly liked the notion of the city granting a "mad scientist" license to the most extreme tinkerers, with the proviso that they had to work outside the main area of the city (to avoid collateral damage) and to schedule their outbreaks of madness (i.e., technological demos) so that citizens could plan to be elsewhere.

    The main protagonists are society's disempowered, struggling to achieve power: in particular, a cast of women "seamstresses" (a euphemism for brothel workers), a black marshall, a Chinese anti-slavery activist, eastern Indians women, an American Indian (Comanche). And Karen's our spunky POV character, who must solve daunting problems before she can achieve love and the possibility of an alternative career choice. The many characters are distinctive and enjoyable, though a few come perhaps a little too direct from central casting. That's offset by the remarkable diversity of character; most "westerns" are whitewashed in the extreme, but here the diversity both feels and is realistic.

    On the whole, it's a pleasant read, though I found it didn't draw me in as strongly as Bear's other books and short stories. Part of the problem was that I found Karen's narrative voice unsatisfying and a bit offputting. I don't think it's fair to say that it's badly done; more that it just failed to resonate with me, even though I liked the character.

    Posted 4 months ago #
  5. geoffhart1962
    Member

    Just finished Kameron Hurley's "God's War". It's set on a planet a few thousand years in the future, populated by rival sects of what are recognizably offshoots of Islam. At the time of the story, the world has experienced some 300 years of ruinously bloody warfare between the two dominant sects that shows no signs of ending. There's been a tremendous ongoing loss of male lives (since males are preferentially sent to the battlefields) -- think World War I trench warfare, only far worse -- with interesting social consequences. These include a heavily skewed female to male ratio; in the more conservative of the two societies, women outnumber men more than 20 to 1. The ratios are still skewed, though less extremely, in the other society, since women also participate in the fighting. To be clear, the author does not seem to be singling out Islam for criticism, since characters from both societies are sympathetically portrayed. The main plot driver is the introduction of foreigners (from another planet) who bring with them destabilizing technology that could end the war -- though not necessarily in nice ways. Our protagonists are recruited to stop this.

    There's some fascinating worldbuilding relating to gender roles, and some funky "biopunk" technology; "magicians" can manipulate what appear to be genetically engineered or hybrid machine/organic bugs, which are omnipresent and perform functions such as lighting homes, powering vehicles, and shielding their masters from projectiles. It's an exceptionally violent world; our protagonists are bounty hunters responsible for hunting down deserters who may have been released by the enemy to carry plague to their native lands. Hurley also gives us interesting insights into boxing culture, based on her own training as a boxer.

    The characters are interesting and complex, and their interpersonal relationships are even more complex, sometimes in surprising ways. There aren't many entirely good or evil characters (possibly only one who is a named character), and events resolve in complex -- and not always expected -- ways.

    I've enjoyed Hurley's essays in Locus for many years, and always meant to get around to reading her fiction. I'm glad I did, and I look forward to encountering more of her worlds.

    Posted 4 months ago #
  6. geoffhart1962
    Member

    Just finished Curtis Chen's "Waypoint Kangaroo". The reason for the first part of the name isn't really clear, but the "Kangaroo" relates to the protagonist's quirky secret power: the ability to open a hole into an adjacent dimension, where he can store stuff and later retrive it. If you remember the "portable hole" from Bugs Bunny, that's the basic idea, only differently implemented. It's a whacky notion in a story that's otherwise fairly straightforward hard SF, and it has important plot implications.

    The basic notion is that the eponymous Kangaroo is a spy, hence his codename, and engages in a certain amount of James Bondish buckle-swashing. Mash up Bond with Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat series and you've got the basic idea, though Chen is doing more of an hommage rather than being derivative.

    The nominal plot is that Kangaroo is banished from Earth to go on a forced vacation on a luxury cruise-liner. Needless to say, spies never get to have a peaceful vacation. By the end of the book, he proves to be crucial to thwarting a plot to destroy Mars as an independent nation. (I don't think that's a spoiler; you'll see that ending coming a mile off, though how it's executed remains cliffhangerish right to the end.)

    It's a well-written, often funny, tightly plotted romp that never slows down for long. If you like Bond or Slippery Jim DiGriz, you'll love Kangaroo. Now I want to go back and read more Harrison!

    Posted 3 months ago #
  7. iamnothing
    Member

    Well, I managed to read 2 SF novels recently: _Apes and Angels_ by Ben Bova and _Welcome to Boss Lady's Planet_ by Jeff Carroll. The first is hard SF and follows _New Earth_ IIRC. The other is space opera with a lot of action as well as some thematic material.

    Posted 1 month ago #

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