Books read, January 2013

The list of books I started reading and gave up on (permanently) is longer than the list of books I finished. <sigh> It was one of those months.

At least I’ve learned to give up on things, though. Once upon a time I felt like I had to finish every book I started, and that would have made this month substantially more boring. (We will ignore how many of these I kept reading after the point where I should have stopped, in the hopes that they would get better.)

A Memory of Light, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. Live-blogged here and here. Analysis post still forthcoming. Short form: not perfectly satisfying, but a good deal more so than it might have been, under the circumstances.

Dearly, Departed, Lia Habel. I expected this to be one of the books I gave up on, as it is a YA zombie romance, and I am so very uninterested in zombies. Once past the first three pages, though — which are much more standard-issue Zombie Horror than the rest of the book — I found myself unexpectedly hooked. It’s a post-apocalyptic world, but not post-zombie-apocalypse: no, it’s a triple whammy of climate change, nuclear war, and civil war, in the aftermath of which people have built a pseudo-neo-Victorian society. (Shades of Unhallowed Metropolis.) It cheats a bit on the zombie thing — I tend to feel that as soon as you make your zombies intelligent, you’re really stretching the boundaries of the word — but it handles the depressing side of that fairly well. And I have to praise it for this stretch of story, summarized:

ASSHOLE COMMANDER OF ZOMBIE MILITARY COMPANY: Now that we’ve got hold of the girl, I want you to lock her up and not tell her anything until I get there in a few days.

BRAM, FUTURE ZOMBIE BOYFRIEND: Wow, that sounds like a terrible idea! She’ll go crazy not knowing anything, and probably escape, and then she’ll run facefirst into a bunch of zombies without any warning and this will all end in tears and sadness. <thinks> How’s about we lock her up in my room instead — WITH ME OUTSIDE, people, I’m suggesting it because my door has lots of locks on the inside — and then explain everything to her?

BRAM’S ZOMBIE FRIENDS: That . . . actually isn’t a terrible idea, even though we’ll probably all be court-martialed.

BRAM, TO THE NEWLY-AWAKE NORA, THROUGH THE DOOR: So, you may notice the door has a lot of locks on the inside —

NORA: <locks everything on the door>

BRAM, FZB: Fair. Let’s play a game: you ask me a question, I answer it honestly, and if my answer makes you feel any safer, you undo a lock, until you decide it’s okay to come out.

NORA: Fair.

BRAM, FZB: <explains everything>

NORA: I’m not sure I can see straight after that many metaphorical blows to the head . . . but oddly, I do feel safer. I’ll come out — but hang on a sec. <prepares>

NORA, THROWING DOOR OPEN: One wrong move and the teddy bear gets it!

BRAM, FZB: . . . fair. Would you like breakfast?

NORA: Yes, but first I would like a gun.

BRAM: Sure thing, miss, the armory is right this way, only — can we make a deal? Bear for gun? ‘Cause that belonged to my little sister and I’d be really sad if he got shot up.

NORA: Fair.

Given that I’ve been reading Ana Mardoll’s deconstruction of Twilight, specifically Edward’s complete lack of respect for Bella’s autonomy and decision-making, I found Bram a delightful change from the usual paranormal romance boyfriend.

The Hum and the Shiver, Alex Bledsoe. Expected to bounce off this one, too, because it’s a flavor of urban fantasy that I rarely engage with. This one hooked me with the protagonist, I think, even though “badly injured Iraqi war vet” is not exactly my usual speed. And it kept me going through the book quickly enough that it wasn’t until after it was over that I noticed all the things I felt were insufficiently developed or dropped. I still think the presentation of the Tufa could be improved — my eyebrows just about shot into the sky over the whole “here’s a group of black-haired people who had been living here for a long time when Europeans showed up in the New World, but they’re not Native Americans” line — but that at least got explained eventually; what I wish is that the explanation had played out more fully.

A Shadow in Summer, Daniel Abraham. First book of the Long Price Quartet. It wins on the “neat fantasy concept” front: the cities of the Khaiem depend on the andat, which are abstract concepts “bound into a form that includes volition,” i.e. anthropomorphized. Seedless is probably the most interesting character in the book. The story itself ebbed and flowed for me; there’s a stretch of time where you’re basically waiting for an investigation to conclude, and since both the reader and the character know what’s going on — the point of the investigation is to get evidence of it — I found that much less interesting. I am hoping the future books dig more into the andat and how they’re bound, because both the mechanics and the moral implications of that are fascinating.

Across the Nightingale Floor, Lian Hearn. First book of the Tales of the Otori, set in a fantasy world based on Japan (mostly the Sengoku/early Tokugawa periods). Have I mentioned I am tired of True Love at First Sight? Oh so tired. So very, very tired. And there was time in here for the characters to at least meet and talk and interact before the love happened (even if it was still rapid), so that was a serious miss for me. I also felt Kaede could have been better-employed throughout, though some of that was mitigated by her role at the end. Anyway, I enjoyed it enough to try the second book, but a lot will depend on how much that one does the stuff I liked, instead of the stuff I found annoying.

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0 Responses to “Books read, January 2013”

  1. alecaustin

    I don’t recall the Hearns improving – in fact, I think I quit after book 2, though it might have been halfway through 3.Abraham does do more of the stuff you ask for in later books, as well as other interesting things.

    • Marie Brennan

      Abrahams walks a fine line with me because I kind of detest economics, but he’s doing enough other stuff that’s interesting for me to be all right.

  2. misslynx

    Now I have to read that zombie book, even though I’m not much of a zombie fan either in general. The bit about the teddy bear completely hooked me. Plus, like you said, respect for free will and all that.

    • Marie Brennan

      That’s why I went into detail on that one. I would have said the book was Not For Me (it was a freebie at a con; I only took it off my bookshelf because I expected to read ten pages and quit), but it is largely free of the usual zombie-narrative tropes, and spends its time on other things I find far more engaging. And then I thought, there are people who probably think the same way, and won’t give this one a shot unless I give them a reason to do so.

  3. carbonel

    I enjoyed book 1 of the Tales of the Otori more than I expected to, and am planning to read 2 & 3. I’ve been warned off book 4, though — gratuitous downers, IIRC.

    My favorite of the Long Price quartet was the 4th one, but you do have to read all the others to get there. And they’re all worth reading, IMO.

  4. rachelmanija

    You just made me about 100% more interested in Dearly Departed. (Previous level of interest: non-existent.)

    The Abrahams books are really interesting. I too was most intrigued by the andats, but they’re not quuuite center stage in any of them. Book 4, which not coincidentally was my favorite, is most about them.

    • Marie Brennan

      That’s exactly why I went into more detail on Dearly, Departed. My level of interest was basically nil, and then I enjoyed it a lot. No guarantee others will feel the same, but I think it would benefit from more clearly advertising all the things it’s about that aren’t your standard-issue zombie tropes.

  5. Anonymous

    IIRC there is Twilight snarking, too

    by the Zombie Army, who are baffled by the idea of Vampire Romances? I was surprised to like it, also, but I got a free sample on my Nook & ordered it based off that.

  6. Marie Brennan

    Re: IIRC there is Twilight snarking, too

    True — they do talk about that. 🙂

  7. Marie Brennan

    The zombies have problems with wear and tear, but they also maintain medical facilities to keep themselves together. The story does acknowledge, though, that their medical science can only do so much; ultimately the zombies are dead, and are lucky if they get three or so good years post-mortem before they degenerate too much to continue.

    As for it being a zombie romance, well, that’s a key point of discussion between the two lead characters. As of the first book, it has been 100% chaste, for reasons that are likely obvious. (Bram has Thoughts, but he also has a bitterly ironic line about how those Thoughts do him precisely no good when his body no longer has the blood necessary to act on them.)

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