Monthly Archives: January 2015

Mirror dance

Mirror dance / Lois McMaster Bujold

I figure it’s about time for another Vorkosigan post.  Since this is the beginning of some relatively major changes in the series, I’m going to be throwing pretty much the whole thing under the cut. If you have already read Brothers in arms, or don’t care about having that book’s major plot twist spoiled, then read on.

I’ll sum up what’s below here:

Mirror dance is in some sense a direct sequel to Brothers in arms. It introduces some major twists into the series and represents the beginning of a huge turning point in the life of Miles Vorkosigan. It’s also the darkest Vorkosigan novel up to this point. Beyond its interest for the series, Mirror dance elaborates and expands on many of the continuing themes of the series – especially the way the series portrays and examines mental illness.

Mirror dance is also the necessary precursor to Memory, widely considered the best novel of the series. Anybody who enjoys the series should read Mirror dance, but like Memory it’s fairly dependent on the previous volumes and as such isn’t really a good entry point into the universe.

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A brother’s price

A brother’s price / Wen Spencer

A brother’s price is a novel that seems to be intended to defy genre categorization. Part fantasy, part western, and part romance, it comes from Wen Spencer, more frequently a writer of urban fantasy/paranormal romance with an sf twist.

Despite the fact that I’ve read about 10 urban fantasy novels in a row, this is the only book I’ve read by this author.

I usually try to avoid talking about other reviews when I write these, but I have totally failed this time.

Brief plot summary

Jerin is a young man being raised by his sisters. About to come of age in a world where men are treated as property due to their extreme scarcity, he is not exactly looking forward to an arranged marriage. After rescuing a mysterious woman, Jerin finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy that threatens to overthrow the government.

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Kiln people

Kiln people / David Brin

Kiln people is a novel in the vein of “classic” sf. Not because it reads as dated, but because it takes an idea and runs with it, asking “what would society be like if X happened? What would be the benefits? What would be the drawbacks?”

Originally published in 2001, it’s part book of ideas, part hardboiled mystery.

Brief plot summary

In the future, disposable, 24-hour bodies are cheap and widely available. Instead of physically going in to work, people upload a copy of their minds into a “ditto” and send it to work in their stead. At the end of the day, the “original” can choose to inload those experiences into their own minds. Albert Morris is a “ditective” (get it? he’s a detective but he uses dittos. Don’t worry, it’s the most forced part of this book). Tasked with solving the murder of a prominent scientist, he and his veritable army of duplicates will face the expected questions of identity and the barrier between “human” and “other”.

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The broken kingdoms

The broken kingdoms / N.K. Jemisin

The broken kingdoms is the second installment in N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy. Moving away the high-level political intrigue of the first novel, the middle book adds more depth and an increasingly nuanced portrayal of the varioud gods.

Brief plot summary

Oree Shoth is a blind artist living in the shadow of the World Tree. When a mysterious, possibly shiny, man shows up Shoth decides to take him in and nurse him back to health. What she doesn’t know is how this simple act of kindness will get her entangled with the search for a serial killer who is targeting godlings.

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Since I did a fairly mainstream superhero series for my last “sequential-art-narrative” review, I’m gonna do something way more fun this time.

Bookhunter / Jason Shiga

Jason Shiga is an offbeat comics genius. He frequently attempts to push the structural boundaries of the format and generally succeeds at writing silly, exciting stories. Bookhunter is a true “graphic novel” rather than an ongoing series. It’s a combination police procedural/70s action movie/extended series of librarian in-jokes that works remarkably well.

Brief plot summary

It’s Oakland in the early 1970s. Technology is causing a rapid shift in the way libraries operate. Patron records are now stored on magnetic tape. Electronic library catalogs (initially created around 1967) are starting to pop up in public libraries. Enter the Library Police, a group of specialists dedicated to eradicating library-related crime. Summoned to the Oakland Public Library to solve the mystery of a forged Caxton Bible, the Library Police have only three days to solve “three concentric locked-room mysteries”, catch the thief, and recover the original book.

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Gun, with occasional music

Gun, with occasional music / Jonathan Lethem

Jonathan Lethem is one of those authors on the “approved” list for NPR-drinking academics. As a result, he’s not a “science fiction” author. Gun, with occasional music was his first published novel, but he first achieved mainstream success with Motherless Brooklyn, a noirtype novel written from the perspective of a narrator suffering from Tourette’s syndrome.

Lethem is much beloved of literary hipsters, and like Dave Eggers I have a hard time getting into his work because of the sheer amount of obnoxious love directed his way. Gun, with occasional music was a book I attempted to read shortly after it came out, but I never got around to finishing it until last year.

Brief plot summary

Conrad Metcalf is a private detective in a world where most menial positions are held by genetically engineered animals, an individual’s worth is measured by their karma, and designer drugs are freely distributed by the government. After a former client shows up dead and a flimsy coverup makes Metcalf the number one suspect, Metcalf must avoid an angry kangaroo, gangsters, and the Powers That Be in an attempt to figure out what is going on.

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Forever peace

Forever peace / Joe Haldeman

We return to sf for the first post time in … quite a while, really. Forever peace is Joe Haldeman’s followup to the surpassed-only-by-Starship troopers-as-most-well-known-military-sf-novel The forever war.

That being said, they are completely different books that don’t even share a universe. Forever peace is more of a thematic successor than it is a literal sequel. It was nominated for a bunch of awards and I’ve already recommended it several times on this blog.

Brief plot summary

The gap between the haves and have-nots has widened considerably. While most citizens of the Universal Welfare State live in relative comfort, the developing world is plagued by constant uprisings. The UWS fights these wars through the use of soldierboys, remote-controlled robot soldiers piloted by draftees who are linked mind-to-mind. Forever peace focuses on physics professor and draftee Julian Class as he struggles with the morality of war, the possibility of the total destruction of the solar system, and the “rightness” of forcing a situation that would make humanity biologically incapable of war.

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Goblin quest

Goblin quest / Jim C. Hines

Goblin quest is a Pratchett-esque fantasy satire by Jim C. Hines. I discovered Hines when I randomly grabbed Libriomancer off the shelf one day, only to discover that there wasn’t much else by him that was available through ILL. Goblin quest was pretty much the only other book held by the consortium.

Brief plot summary

Jig is a nearsighted goblin at the bottom of the local hierarchy. Struggling to avoid the constant bullying he receives, Jig is captured by a party of adventurers looking for the legendary treasure hidden beneath the caves where Jig’s people live. Forced to act as their guide, Jig encounters just about every classic fantasy monster, trap, and archetype.

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