||[May. 14th, 2017|04:49 pm]
A Closed and Common Orbit - Becky Chambers
A View From the Cheap Seats - Neil Gaiman
Of Fire and Stars - Audrey Coulthurst
Within the Sanctuary of Wings - Marie Brennan
Want You Gone - Christopher Brookmyre
A Closed and Common Orbit is the second instalment in Becky Chambers Wayfarers series, and it took me a wee bit longer to get into than the first, only because I was that wistful that we weren't rejoining the crew from that book. Although it picks up with a couple of minor characters from the first book this one could be read as a standalone (although you really ought to read Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, because it's lovely). It's about found families, and sentient AIs, and transcending sucky circumstances. Cosy sci-fi that doesn't skip on the worldbuilding - I have my fingers and toes crossed for more in this world.
It's not a secret that Neil Gaiman's fiction does little for me (it always reads as oddly flat) but I do like his brain; I've loved the things he's written about the importance of libraries, and of creating things. So I picked up A View From the Cheap Seats, a collection of his non-fiction. And, yeah, about 15-20% was that, but the rest of it was reprints of intros he'd written to other people's books, and that can seem kind of circle-jerky at the best of times, but at least when the author is talking about things you've read you can agree or not with them, or where your tastes overlap you might discover new things to check out. But Gaiman's tastes are a bit too... 'boy nerd' to be helpful to me. So this was largely a collection of intros to books and comics I haven't read, and have no desire to read, as such... meh.
Of Fire and Stars is a YA fantasy where a princess travels to a new kingdom to meet the prince she's been betrothed too since infancy, only to find herself falling in love with his sister. And the f/f romance was lovely, it was a slow burn hate-at-first-sight to love that was, alas, trapped inside a painfully generic YA fantasy. If you were to write a YA novel using a write-by-numbers kit this is the book you'd write. The characterisation of the central pairing was thin (one is nice, the other is feisty) while the characterisation of the secondary characters was non-existent. Even the prince, upon discovering his fiancee in bed with his sister, manages to react with a little less feeling than a dead dodo. The worldbuilding lurches between the non-existent and nonsensical, even by the standards of YA fantasies.
My thing with this book was, like, imagine someone had written the book of your dreams, but it was shite.
Within the Sanctuary of Wings is the final instalment of the Memoirs of Lady Trent series, the outrageously delightful adventures of a pseudo-Victorian lady naturalist who specialises in dragons.
(I say final instalment because I read somewhere that Marie Brennan is working on a book set in the same world but a couple of generations down the line, which I am leery of because I am wary of diminishing returns, I mean look what happened when the Parasol Protectorate time skipped like that. But the Lady Trent series is complete, and, as mentioned, de-fucking-lightful.)
There is twist in this final instalment, that I don't want to give away, but in the hands of a different writer could have come across as straining suspension of disbelief but in Marie Brennan's made me look back on the previous four novels and go ooh, that's clever. I give the entire series a solid A.
While I'm on the topic of series that know, or don't, when to end: Christopher Brookmyre is one of my favourite writers, and Jack Parlabane my favourite of his creations. But this eighth instalment in the Parlabane series is an inadvertent argument that Jack should have been put out to pasture with, probably, Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks. Although, Black Widow was a good take on a reporter of legally dubious methods in a post Leveson world, but showing Jack back on the top of his game in Want You Gone kind of undercuts the value of that outing.
Also, Brookmyre has generally done a good job of moving Parlabane with the times, and as middle aged Scottish blokes go, he's pretty progressive, so the scene where the middle-aged Jack sleeps with twenty-five year old bisexual with an undercut kind of left a bad taste in my mouth.
Basically, authors, know when to let your self-inserts go.
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