30 July 2012

Book review: Casket of Souls

Casket of Souls by Lynn Flewelling, 2012.

This is the sixth installment in Flewelling's Nightrunner series, starring a pair of young men who are thieves and spies for the Queen of Skala. As the book opens, Alec and Seregil have returned from their adventures in The White Road and are getting back into the swing of their usual mischief: stealing letters from nobles' houses, spying on people, and uncovering wide-ranging conspiracies to kill the Queen and her heir, and another to kill the Queen's very popular youngest sister.

Just another week in Alec and Seregil's life.

The Queen has unpopularly decided to continue fighting the war by rejecting the Overlord of Plenimar's treaty. Back in Rhiminee, Skala's capital, food and materials are scarce, and the people are growing restless. Their anger only increases when a new plague of completely unknown origin breaks out and a quarantine is declared.

Meanwhile, a theater troupe displaced from Mycena, where Skala and Plenimar tend to wage their wars, has arrived in the city and their chief actor is winning hearts and minds--and many little gifts from patrons.

This is the most complex book in the series yet. Flewelling interweaves multiple plot threads: Beka, Princess Klia, and Queen Phoria out at the front; Alec and Seregil in Skala; and Atre and his theater troupe. The Skala plot includes two rival cabals and the mysterious sleeping plague, and Beka and Klia have ties to one of the cabals.

Even so, this book is likely to be readable as a standalone story. A new reader won't know who Nysander is, or understand Seregil's complex relationship with his father back in Aurenen, but the new reader should be able to recognize those as references to past books, and, with any luck, want to go read the rest.

Flewelling is currently working on what she says will be the last Skala/nightrunners book. I look forward to reading it and seeing where she goes after it's finished.

16 July 2012

Book review: Deadline

Deadline, by Mira Grant

This book is nominated for best novel in the 2012 Hugo Awards, and this will be the final post in my Hugo nominees series.

Many people recommended this series to me, but I don't like horror, and I especially don't like zombies. But Countdown wasn't too bad, and people assured me that the book wasn't much scarier than the novella, so I gave it a shot.

Despite being the second novel in a series (Feed being first), I wasn't very lost. It stands alone nicely, though now I'm curious about what exactly happened in the first book, even if I've spoilered myself completely.

Shaun Mason had to shoot his sister, Georgia, because she was infected with the zombie virus when someone deliberately injected it into her. He and his intrepid team of bloggers are tracking down the person who ordered that injection. When a CDC researcher who's supposed to be dead turns up on his doorstep, the proverbial shit hits the fan.

In Grant's world, bloggers and independent journalists compete for ratings by having their Irwins (named for Steve, because they go out in the field and poke thing with sticks) go poke dead things with sticks and get footage of it, while their Newsies report on it.

The extreme security precautions, and the comment that people are afraid of not being afraid, struck me as commentary on today's airport security theater and "the terrorists will have won." Actually, I didn't have to look too slanted at it to find parallels between future zombie America and today.

The blood testing and fluid precautions remind me of modern infection control measures (whether from HIV or MRSA) taken to the extreme necessary to protect other people from the zombie virus, which lies dormant in everyone until amplification occurs (spontaneously or due to a traumatic event).

It's creepy, but it appeals to the infectious disease/epidemiology geek in me. Now I have to find the first and third books in the series.

12 July 2012

Book review: Leviathan Wakes

Leviathan Wakes, by James SA Corey

This is a nominee for best novel in the 2012 Hugo Awards.

The executive officer of an ice hauler ends up captain of the remainder of their crew after their ship is nuked by a stealth battleship. A detective ends up deep in an investigation he was supposed to ignore.

Holden, the sailor, wants to find out who nuked their ship and killed his friends, and when he investigates, he finds a piece of evidence linking the Mars fleet. This ignites the powder keg of conflict between the Belt and Mars.

Miller, a cop on Ceres, is told to find a girl and take her back to her parents. She'd run off and abandoned her family's wealth to help poor people in the Belt by joining the Outer Planets Alliance, a sort of IRA for the Kuiper Belt and beyond.

The conspiracy they uncover is far deeper than they expected.

This is a good old-fashioned space opera, albeit one in which they don't leave the solar system (because there's no FTL). If you like that sort of thing (and I do), this book should be right up your alley.

09 July 2012

Book review: Of Blood and Honey

Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht

Leicht is nominated for the Campbell award for best new writer.

Liam, a young Catholic man in Northern Ireland, lands in a prison camp for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He says he isn't political, but a second imprisonment for the same reason turns him to the IRA. Liam's father, unbeknownst to him, is one of the fae. The fae, meanwhile, are at war as well.

Leicht interweaves faery and the Troubles in a compelling narrative. If you don't like swearing or violence, leave this aside. Otherwise, you should definitely consider reading this.

This is an interesting review from the perspective of a Northern Irishman. He has some things to point out that Americans like me wouldn't pick up on.

05 July 2012

Book review: Redemption in Indigo

Redemption in Indigo, by Karen Lord.

This was in the Hugo packet, as Lord is up for a Campbell Award for best new writer. (The Campbell is not a Hugo, it's just on the same ballot.)

A young woman is married to a foolish glutton, and she returns home to escape him. He finds her and follows her, and she attracts the attention of the djombi, a sort of spirit. A trickster djombi decides she's the best person to give the Chaos Stick to, and the djombi he stole it from finds out and takes Paama on an interesting trip.

It's told in the manner of a folk tale, with the narrator occasionally poking through the fourth wall. Since the novel was inspired by a Senegalese folk tale, that's appropriate.

It's an interesting read. Lord has a wry sense of humor, and she makes even the djombi with indigo skin who thinks humanity is a plague sympathetic. If you like folk tales, you should pick this up.

02 July 2012

Book review: Glamour in Glass

Glamour in Glass, by Mary Robinette Kowal, 2012

This is the sequel to Shades of Milk and Honey. It follows Jane and Vincent on their honeymoon.

Vincent has an old friend who lives in the Flemish countryside. He and Jane want to consult him on a question of glamour, because they're trying to figure out how to make a glamour portable. So they take their honeymoon to France/Belgium, and they get entangled in local politics (and not-so-local: the Bonapartistes are still active).

This is a great read, and if you enjoyed Shades, you'll enjoy this.