Sorry to be so late, but I assure you, these are indeed all the books I read last month. If this has taught me nothing else, it’s that I read a lot less books than I thought I did…
The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines
I have this trait of finding the books that get a lot of buzz in the SF/F blogosphere entirely overrated. I don’t know why – is it a gender thing? The fact that I never got into any of the giant epic fantasy series (Jordan, Brooks, Goodkind) that form the basis of the genre for most of my generation?
The Stepsister Scheme has little to do with the giants of Epic 80’s Fantasy – it owes more to Disney fairy tales and the whole princess merchandising whirlwind that they’ve been pushing – but I got much of the same vibe as I did from the last buzz book I read but couldn’t get much into. (Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind, if you must know.) The concept of the book – Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White do their own damn rescuing – is certainly engaging, and it was a nice, quick read. But blown away I was not. I do think I’ll read the sequel, and it’s worth a look, but while the buzz got me to read it, it did more harm than good in the end. [Barnes and Noble / Powells]
REREAD: Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress
I don’t go much for hard science fiction, but this one is an exception. The plot gave me pause way back when I first heard about it – People who don’t sleep? Seriously? – but the execution is excellent. (The original novella won a Hugo and a Nebula, and the book was nominated for them.) Perhaps the kicker for me is that, unlike the vast majority of award-winning hard SF that I’ve tried, Kress’ characters are actually well-rounded people in their own right, not just plot cyphers. The biggest compliment I have for this book is that after finishing it, I had to read the sequels immediately… Now granted, they’re not quite as good as the original (and out of print to boot) but I’m glad I did. Recommended. [My copy is used, but a 2004 reprint is available: Barnes and Noble / Powells]
Fate of the Jedi: Outcast by Aaron Allston
I actually had a hard time getting into this one, and I blame fanfic. I am completely obsessed with a fic and it has taken over my brain. At least the Star Wars part. So I’m not really sure I’m even qualified to review.
That said, I did enjoy it. I’m long past the days when a Star Wars novel can blow my mind (Though Mindor came close,) but Outcast offers a lot of good things. Namely, Ben and Luke. Ben was the biggest surprise of Legacy of the Force, and his development continues here. My only complaint is that the business part of the plot(s) – all that time underground – seem a bit draggy. I’m wondering if I’m missing something… And also if Aaron has a serious thing for subterranean environments. Recommended for EU fans. [Barnes and Noble / Powells]
A Magic of Twilight by S.L. Farrell
I have one phrase for this book: Fantasy Word Salad. I’m sure there’s a more traditional term for the phenomenon, as it’s ridiculously common in fantasy, but if there is, it’s slipped my mind. All you need to know is that this is one of those books that has new words for almost everything and it is completely overwhelming. In addition to all the relevant titles and locations one needs to absorb, the naming conventions of the nobility (all their names start with cu’, ca’, or ci’) made it so I was halfway through the book before I could tell characters apart by names instead of context. Now granted, I’m a (too-)fast reader, and I’ve dealt with this issue before, but I didn’t really have the patience for it this time around. There’s some possibility here – it’s a fantasy in the GRRM everything-is-okay-so-let’s-take-it-to-shit tradition – but I’m afraid my irritation overruled it. [Barnes and Noble / Powells]
Spectrum 15, edited by Cathy and Arnie Fenner
The Spectrum series has been highlighting genre art since 1994 and is always a good bet… This one, highlighting work done in 2007, is no exception. There are even a few Star Wars pieces, including Terese Nielsen’s Legacy of the Force Luke and Mark Chiarello’s Celebration IV print. Recommended [Barnes and Noble / Powells]