How was my month? Well, January is a fairly horrible month, generally, but I read some really nice books. It's been a long time since I read this much Fantasy, I think.
Reading list length: 439
Down Among the Sticks and Bones
I loved everything about Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire. I think I might like it even better than the first volume, and knowing about the future makes the book even better – I bet it works without the added layer, too, though. Seanan shows a lot of empathy for the two very different protagonists, and the language is both relateable and lyrical. The cruel, cruel fairytale world, that still fits the children better than the cruelly boring and narrow-minded reality we live in, hits very close to home.
In Rogue Protocol, the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells continue to be enjoyable – it's a bit lighter on the character building and action than the previous two volumes, and some ticks of our protagonist start to feel a bit worn-out, but I still liked it! I read it when I was feeling tired, and down, and easy and fun (but never too easy, or too fun) books like these are the best thing next to hot chocolate for moods like that.
Nevernight is nice fantasy – setting-wise, it's pretty similar to Red Sister, all about a young girl assassin going to a slightly religious assassin school, but it's pretty different in style. I think I liked Red Sister more (seeing as it has less Chosen One and more realism), and the witty banter-y narrator of Nevernight was a bit predictable sometimes. But the style was very Bartimaeus-esque, so this should be a book that fits many people's interests and likes.
Through most of Blindsight, I thought this was a typical scifi novel – better than most, sure, because the aliens
were truly alien, and incomprehensible, and the humans had real characters, and futuristic modifications, and were
clever, while engaging with this unknown and potentially unknowable alien, far from home, to save/represent Earth.
But then, Peter Watts had to go and pack a final twist, sending me thinking about the correlations of intelligence and awareness, and the consequences of his novel, for the next days. This book packs a punch, and it's only in the very end that you spot it. I loved it. (Not least due to the appendix, where he lists all the recent science and studies that influenced his book, and which parts of it might feasibly be possible soon.)
I thoroughly enjoyed Tower Lord (second volume of Anthony Ryan's Raven's Shadow series). It's good fantasy, with a careful mix of known elements (the weary hero who is always right, the young fighting gutter princess, the clever queen, superstitions everywhere, evil religion, good agnostics, magic coming true, prophecies, etc), but mixes it up sufficiently that the story arc is never completely clear. We get good character development on two major and a couple of minor fronts, and I enjoyed how the pieces came together in the end. Even though it's no high literature, I'm looking forward to the conclusion.
The Wool Omnibus is a collection of truly good scifi – the old trope of isolated humans in a post-apocalyptic world, but without a huge predictable arc. You can predict some things some of the time, but not a lot, which I always appreciate. It's kind of depressing, but drew me in by showing realistic worlds and characters, and posing some pretty hard ethics questions.
- Probably Still the Chose One is a lovely fantasy short story. Given the choice of reading the Narnia books or this story, I'd go with the story, which goes on about many of the same things (but then again, I never liked Lewis and his Christianity-inserts).
- Nussia is a short story that describes the first alien exchange student, who comes to a black family in the Bronx. The writing felt very uneven, and the plot a bit directionless, so even though the idea is nice, the story didn't capture me at all.
- Umbernight is a strong science-fiction story, telling us about settlers on a harsh alien planet – the story and the setting were crafted very well, and felt real and relateable. The weak suit of the story was the writing which frequently felt like it lost its rhythm.
- Crossing a trans guy's story with Jurassic Park. Occasionally sweet, but also a bit unfocussed.
- The Last Voyage or Skidbladnir is an okay scifi short story – too predictable for my tastes, and the switch between concrete scenes and dream-like time skips feel unfinished. But the concept of sentient space ships is always a nice one.
- The Egg is a wonderful little, tiny, short story by Andy Weir. I first read it some years back, but it always stayed with me, just in the back of my head. Now I came across it again, and I thought I should share the goodness with you.
Do not recommend
- I did not finish Gardens of the Moon – I gave up after a month, and that's saying something with 180+ read things in 2018. I just wasn't feeling it. It dragged on and on and on and – I'm sure this is a good book to many, and I have the feeling that the thing missing in Dune is also costing me Gardens of the Moon, but I won't even try this again.
- Man, Octavia Butler doesn't do nice – in the end, there's always violence/rape/horror. I'm starting to see a little too many parallels between her books in terms of characters involved, and the general feeling/direction, so I'll probably lay off them for a while. I still enjoyed Clay's Ark (which is part of the Patternmaster series, although VERY loosely connected), but it's not a book I'd care to read again.