Books read, October and November 2013

What with the travel and the diving headfirst into writing the next book, I didn’t get around to posting October’s report, and I’m even a bit late on November’s.

The Book of Water. L5R sourcebook, proofread prior to publication. AEG continues to put out solid material, and this one, like The Book of Fire, contains some wonderfully detailed information on a thematically-appropriate topic — in this case, sake brewing.

Thieftaker, D.B. Jackson. Historical fantasy in the pre-revolutionary colonial U.S. I kept grinning while reading this, because I recognize a lot of the maneuvers Jackson is making, in terms of research and how it fits into the story. Ultimately I wasn’t really hooked by the protagonist, but if the time period is your, well, cup of tea, then you might enjoy this.

Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, Lois McMaster Bujold. I enjoyed reading this . . . which is, in the end, unfortunately not quite the same thing as saying I liked the book. It was fun while it lasted, but once I put it down, I couldn’t help thinking about the structural flaws that kept it from being really great. I don’t much expect to revisit this one — which is a pity, given how much I was looking forward to it.

Midnight Riot, Ben Aaronovitch. Speaking of recognizing the games the author is playing! In this case the overlap is London geekery rather than historical fantasy, and oh, the London geekery. The two major strands of the plot ultimately didn’t tie together the way that I wanted them to (and thought for a time that they would); instead it felt more like they were just happening to co-exist in the same book. Plus, I would have liked more denoument. But there was much entertainment to be had, and Aaronovitch sometimes exhibits a knack for the really well-crafted descriptive touch that evokes the whole scene. I will definitely be reading the sequel, probably soon.

The Sorcerous Sea, Carol Severance. Last of the trilogy. This one disappointed me a little, possibly because the point of view got split among so many people — although I appreciated getting the perspective of a Losan character, especially given that in many respects she stayed a Losan character, rather than abandoning everything about her birth culture. But the threat at the core of this one didn’t really get developed enough for me to care about it: the sea ghost seemed kind of like an afterthought, and the villain didn’t do a lot for me either. (Though props to him for a couple of really diabolical schemes.)

The Apology Chapbook, China Mieville. Small thingy distributed at World Fantasy because Mieville had to withdraw from being Toastmaster at extremely short notice. Contains some flash and one short story. None of them did a lot for me, but that isn’t surprising; I often bounce off Mieville in general.

Jesus and the Eightfold Path, Lavie Tidhar. Nutshell description: what if the three wise men from the East were the three companions of the Tripitaka from Journey to the West? In other words, kung fu Jesus. I love the concept, but this novella felt too indecisive about which of three or four different kinds of story it wanted to be. I probably could have enjoyed any of them; it was the waffling between them that really weakened it.

Naishou Province. Another L5R supplement, but this one I didn’t proofread, so I actually read it when it came out. (An ordering of events that will be pretty rare for as long as I remain a freelancer.) It’s a setting book and adventure hook, and I prefer this one to the Second City; you have to do a lot of hacking to make SC work if you don’t want to incorporate the Spider Clan, and I make no secret of the fact that I think the elevation of the Spider to Great Clan status is one of the worst ideas in the history of the game line. But that’s neither here nor there. Naishou Province, being in the Empire, is much easier to use in other kinds of campaigns, and the writers did a good job of incorporating little anthropological details that bring it to life. I will probably yoink various portions of this if I ever run an L5R game.

Not listed here: the eighty gabillion guidebooks, pamphlets, and informative signs I read on my trip. Also more of Quicksilver. Because I have always been reading Quicksilver, and I will always be reading Quicksilver.

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