What I’m reading: Various Stuff

Contrary to appearances, I’ve actually not been idle, but been blogging more than ever – just not publicly. And I haven’t given up on this blog either, just been too busy to write much. I have been reading, though, and as I’ve fallen behind hopelessly with blogging about it, I’ll now do what I’ve been threatening to for a while, i.e. just post a list (with some short comments after each title) of everything I’ve been reading since Christmas.

C.J. Cherryh: Cyteen

One of the greatest science fiction novels ever, this one has it all – great writing, believable and complex characters, incredibly tight plotting even over a vast novel, imaginative world building that yet stays plausible down to the last details and a plethora of thought-provoking speculation and discussion, mostly centered around the nature vs. nurture debate, but touching on a lot of other things on the way (one of them being, which rather surprised me on this re-reading, submission). I might get back to this in some more details once I get around to reading the just released sequel, Regenesis, which will hopefully be soon (it’s sitting on my shelf already).

Jim Butcher: Death Masks, Blood Rites, Dead Beat

I was suffering rather badly from the stomach flu for a week, and those are just the books you want to read when you’re sick – action-packed and fast-moving, funny and witty, but not without credible characters about who you can actually care.  The general concept of the series is basically hard-boiled thrillers with supernatural elements; and in those volumes it becomes increasingly apparent that there is some kind of general story-arch going on, too. With a cliffhanger at the end of almost every paragraph, those novels make for compulsive page turning – definitely a fun reading, and I’m looking forward to reading the next bunch of installments.

John Scalzi: The Last Colony

The third novel set in Scalzi’s so-called “Old Man’s War universe” and the conclusion to a trilogy (although there is the novella Sagan’s Diary and his most recent novel Zoe’s Tale which share not just the background, but also characters and events with the trilogy novels. Like the first two novels, this comes across mostly as kind of a post-modern, liberal Heinlein – which sounds like a weird concept at first, but Scalzi makes it work.

Steven Brust: The Book of Jhereg

An omnibus edition of the first three novels (in order of writing) of Steven Brust’s “Vlad Taltos” series. It reads interestingly similar to the Dresden Files novels, probably mostly due to the shared presence of what Scalzi once called “smartass narrator”. As good as Jim Butcher is though, Brust is definitely the better and more imaginative writer, and for everyone willing to take a closer look, does some very interesting things with (if not to) narrative structure here. The third novel, Teckla,  is the best one in my opinion, not just because of the highly amusing conceit of using a cleaning bill to structure a novel, but because it has an emotional depth that the first two seem to lack a bit.

Diana Wynne-Jones: House of Many Ways

Though they are generally classified as children’s literature, Diana Wynne-Jones’ novels are more intelligent and entertaining than about 90% of what counts for “adult” fantasy. This novel is the sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle and Castle in the Air which one doesn’t have to have read to understand this one, but which are nonetheless strongly recommended (as is the movie Hayao Miyazaki made of Howl’s Moving Castle). Like the other two, reading it is sheer and utter delight, and it is only recommended not to do it in  a public place, as the repeated squeeing it induces is likely to attract irritated looks.

Kelley Armstrong: Men of the Otherworld

Not really the newest installment in her Women of the Otherworld series, but a collection of short(er) fiction that was originally published on her web site. I actually have most of them as pdf on my hard drive, but never really got much into reading fiction on the computer, so I jumped at the chance to get them in printed form, all the more so as the proceeds are going to a charitable cause (something called “World Literacy of Canada” – can’ t really say I know what this is or does, but Worldy Literacy is definitely A Good Thing, almost as good as World Domination). The stories aren’t nearly as polished as her novels, but fill in some background, and make for an entertaining read; even if the writing isn’t quite up to par, Kelley Armstrong’s characterization skills are very much in evidence here.

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