fivemack (fivemack) wrote,

Books read in January

Elizabeth Moon, Winning Colours. Third in a series of Ruritanian space-operas, combining somehow the traditions of planet-spanning military fiction with the dramatic conventions of the Famous Five. Almost all problems are resolved by the intervention of powerful relatives. Fluffy comfort reading; third in a sequence of apparently six, though I'm warned off numbers 4 and 5.

K J Parker, Devices and Desires. An unusually-smart engineer is wronged by the government of his city-state, who have secured dominion over the world by jealously guarding the secret of Mass Production. His plan to get back to his family is a Heath Robinson machine with armies and kings as its components. Told through the eyes of a series of nicely wry narrators.

Elizabeth Moon again, Speed of Dark. Told by an autistic narrator, who struggles gently with the world but manages mostly to get by; let down by a peculiar ending and an unreasonably evil villain with a lack of self-awareness enough to embarrass me through the pages. I'm not keen on autistic narration - The story of the dog in the night-time I found unreadable - but this worked better.

William Manchester, American Caesar. Somewhat hagiographic biography of Douglas MacArthur, a character whose ubercompetence and impossible manner one would think over-done in a work of fiction. This is bits of history that I hadn't really encountered before: the First World War from the American point of view, the Pacific War - I really hadn't realised how much of it took place in New Guinea, or of what scale the Japanese forces in random Pacific hells were - the occupation of Japan and the war in Korea. Very interesting.

Stanislaw Lem, Imaginary Magnitude. This one's amazing; the conceit is that it's a collection of prefaces to future books, the first half is a collection of wonderful big-idea short stories, and the second a solid approach to the philosophical problems posed by superhuman artificial intelligences. Makes most science-fiction writing seem childishly basic, there's a sort of sharp, precise competence to it.

Larry Niven, Protector. Fun to read, and must have been great fun to write; this is an alien-contact story coupled with a mastermind-driven heist tale. I have a very odd angle on Niven, after reading Tales of Known Space, a collection of short stories and of descriptive writing about his Known Space setting, before actually reading any Known Space works.

George R R Martin, Fevre Dream. If you want pre-Civil-War Southern decadence, with hot humid forests, the romance of the river-boats, violence, slavery and vampires, this is the book for you. Definitely good.

R A Macavoy, The Belly of the Wolf. This one's more difficult to describe: what I like of it is the extremely calm style of the writing, I can't now recall the sequence of events at all.

Karl Schroeder, Sun of Suns. Another fun one, a picaresque set in floating cities, illuminated by their own petty nuclear suns, inside a floating spherical world with a great nuclear sun at the centre and where the water-vapour freezes into iceberg-sized icicles at the edge. You get the impression that the author has run the climate models to see how the clouds would behave and how the trees would grow, and then decided to set the action for his own amusement. Feathered fish, air-pirates, and Sargassoes of the sky.

Do any of my readers wish to borrow any of these (Devices and Desires is already lent out); can anyone suggest books I'd be interested in reading given what I thought of these ones; does anyone dispute my reviews?
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