Books read, March 2011

No, the shortness of this isn’t some April Fool’s joke. I was playing Dragon Age II this month.

The Path of Daggers, Robert Jordan. Analytical re-read, discussed here.

Memory, Lois McMaster Bujold. In which Bujold finally managed to sink a knife between my ribs and twist. (Which is a good thing. I am a sucker for putting characters through hell.) That scene between Miles and Illyan was painful to read, in the best possible way. And I can’t say I’m sorry to see the series make its pivot into the latter half; the Naismith space-adventure thing was fun, but Mirror Dance was the only book out of that set that really hit my buttons. Then again, fairness requires me to note that the first half of the series is also mostly the early half, so my impressions have as much to do with Bujold’s skill as the content of the books. Anyway, all of this is to say that Memory is my favorite of the lot, and will probably remain so.

Komarr, Lois McMaster Bujold. It’s funny, how much I could predict just based on the fact that Ekaterin had pov in this book. Fortunately, I quite liked her — more than I ever really liked Quinn or Taura or Elena or Rowan or the rest. They weren’t bad characters, but I never invested in their happiness in the right way for this. I also liked the more political plot, and the running semi-joke about Miles’ ImpSec habits. All in all, very enjoyable.

A Civil Campaign, Lois McMaster Bujold. In which EVERYBODY gets point of view! As I’ve been telling people since I read it, this is the sort of thing you can write when you’re ten books into an ongoing series with a widely beloved cast of characters; in fact, it sort of requires you to be ten books etc. The dinner party. The dinner party. Trainwrecks of that sort can only happen when there’s a deep foundation of history between the characters, history that wasn’t set up just to make this one event happen, but gets dragooned into making everything explode. And I really liked, as in Memory, forcing Miles to admit and deal with his mistakes, rather than taking the easy way out like so many narratives do.

Winterfair Gifts, Lois McMaster Bujold. In which . . . Roic gets point of view? Okay. I don’t know if it’s Bujold or me that makes me not really care about most of the attractions between her characters, but laying that aside, this reminded me of “The Zeppo” from Buffy: off to the side here there’s GIANT PLOT that could fill an entire novel, but mostly we’re just going to wave at it while telling another story. I think the effect worked well in this case, and Roic went from “uh, who?” to a character I like.

Falling Free, Lois McMaster Bujold. After having read this much of the series, my completionist streak would not let me skip this one, even though I knew it wouldn’t involve any of the characters I knew. It was fine, but forgettable.

Diplomatic Immunity, Lois McMaster Bujold. So, I won’t go into this in detail because I think it needs a separate post, but it bugs me that Ekaterin wasn’t a pov character. I think that’s a missed opportunity on Bujold’s part: it would have added depth to the plot, as well as continuing to treat Ekaterin like a protagonist. As it was, she felt sidelined. On the whole I found the book okay, though; I just wish the unpacking of the ba’s plot hadn’t been treated like a footnote at the end. (Which is a place where Ekaterin pov could have helped: she didn’t spend the end of the plot out of commission.)

Cryoburn, Lois McMaster Bujold. As books to end on (in the sense that there are no more right now, and I’ll probably have to wait a while for the next), this one . . . wasn’t good. Kibou-daini didn’t have the setting complexity of Cetaganda or even Quaddiespace; it was just that one central thing (cryonics) with a few Japanese details hung on the frame. The plot was diffuse — one thread having to do with Komarr, another local to Kibou-daini — and neither managed to be very compelling to me. Expanding to Roic’s and Jin’s points of view didn’t bring a concomitant growth in complexity, especially since I wanted more about the characters I already knew. And aside from the very, very end, not much of this felt like it had consequence for the series. I would probably be more forgiving if this wasn’t the last impression I’ll get for some time, but it made a weak note to end on.

So, I have managed, in three months flat, to read all of the Vorkosiverse stuff, except maybe some short stories floating around the ether. Verdict: fun to the degree that I will almost certainly read the next book when it comes out, but not so much that I expect I’ll go back and re-read any of it (except maybe Memory). Bujold is very good at not letting her characters weasel out of the bad implications of their actions, and I do appreciate that. I also feel like I’ve learned a lot about writing this type of series, where composition order and internal chronology do not line up. At some point I’ll probably give The Curse of Chalion a try, but first I should probably take a break and read other authors. After all, there are all these shiny books clamoring for my attention . . . .

0 Responses to “Books read, March 2011”

  1. ninja_turbo

    This reminds me that I should write up my thoughts on DA2 and we can have a big LJ powwow on the game.

    • Marie Brennan

      I’d like that. I may have my own DA2 post, but I can’t decide whether to do one big post with spoilers, or split it into two, one general and one specific.

  2. ckd

    I have a habit of re-reading the series up through Memory when I’m facing a major life change. It seems to help.

    As for DA2, I don’t have it but picked up DA:Origins recently because it (a) was on sale (b) had good Amazon reviews and (c) I loved Bioware’s response to the ‘cater to ME ME ME and only ME’ customer who complained about getting TEH GHEY in his game. If I like it I’ll probably pick up DA2, though maybe not until the price drops a bit.

    • Marie Brennan

      Bioware does good story. DA:O is built on a fairly standard epic-fantasy foundation, but they manage some interesting twists on it, and the character interactions are fun to explore. If there was a bit less dungeon-crawling-monster-killing in it, I’d be content. DA2 is much less standard, and even better with character, though I don’t think they entirely hit the target they were aiming for.

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