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.
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.
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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