See? Not as late as July! Go me!
Cutting for major spoilers and some space. May come back and cut for space more once I post this and see how much space it hogs.
(Nine books. Nine
. Shoot. Granted, some of them were short, but others were five hundred pages. Probably won't read this many novels again until I get another insane commute like August's. Given where I live, it shouldn't be more than three years... anyway. On to the stories.) The Years of Rice and Salt, Kim Stanley Robinson
(Nominated for the 2003 Hugo Award for Best Novel): The Black Plague devastated Europe in the Middle Ages, killing an estimated third to half of the continental population. What if it had wiped out 99% of the European population? How would history play out if Chinese and Islamic culture dominated, rather than European? And what if souls reincarnated, grouping together in multiple lifetimes, so that stories set a thousand years apart might be the adventures of the one protagonist? Kim Stanley Robinson throws a monkey wrench in the mechanics of history and writes down how it might play out. Sort of. ( Spoilers? What spoilers? You mean the ones under this cut? )
On the balance, it’s KSR. If you like his relaxed writing style and socialist/environmental politics, you’ll probably enjoy The Years of Rice and Salt
.O Jerusalem, Laurie R. King
Russell and her mentor/partner Sherlock Holmes temporarily escape a messy and potentially lethal case in London, risking their lives in the Holy Land in January 1919. Set smack in the middle of The Beekeeper's Apprentice
, the first book in the series, but written between The Moor
and Justice Hall
If I recall correctly, I first read this during a Laurie King binge a couple years ago. Beats The Moor
hands down. Justice Hall, Laurie R. King
: A very direct sequel to O Jerusalem
. The most striking thing about it, for me, is a theme it shares with LRK’s Martinelli series: an authorial love of generational continuity and expensive houses intersecting with some less rooted or more ambiguously rooted characters. Russell gushes about the centuries of history imbued in Justice Hall's very walls; Kate Martinelli and her partner Lee sink sweat, time and money into Lee’s dead... aunt’s? mother’s? house on Russian Hill. The central mystery, such as it is, unfolds with authorial deliberation and enjoyable twists, but is almost incidental to LRK’s interest in continuity and the changing British social landscape of the 1920's. The King’s Peace, Jo Walton
: Would you believe I didn’t pick up that this was an Arthurian retelling until two hundred or more pages in? Comments waiting on finding and finishing The King’s Name
the second half of the story. The Lathe of Heaven, Ursula K. Le Guin
: Everyone dreams; most people’s dreams don’t affect reality. George Orr’s do, and it terrifies him. The state-assigned psychiatrist he is forced to see after a drug overdose read as an apparent suicide attempt is fascinated by these "effective dreams" and uses George to rewrite the world a bit. Okay, more than a bit. George is disturbed. The reader resists the urge to earmark and pencil in examples of Le Guin’s
bulletproof literary kinks
pet ideas. Dawn, Octavia Butler
: The War is gone, as is most of the human race. Lilith Iyapo (people famliar with Bible-based religious traditions will note the significance and irony of the name) is one of the survivors saved by the Oankali, aliens without the human biological imperative for conflict, but with an imperative to "trade" genetic structure with other species, willing or otherwise. The novel narrates Lilith’s reluctant acceptance of a role as the resentful bridge between the humans and the Oankali.
The Oankali have a classically cool S.F.nal idea going for them: a three sex reproductive system, involving up to five participants. They also subvert a lot of classic memes. Their behavior toward humanity is peaceful, benevolent and more invasive than any "conquer the puny Earthlings" military campaign. Their trade imperative is read by most of the characters as infecting the human genome with frightening, alien characteristics. Science fiction has reiterated the clash of cultures theme from a dominant culture’s point of view plenty of times; Dawn
is about the effects on (and by) the "weaker" culture. Humans hate and fear the Oankali, but are prized by that species of assimilators for their adaptability and creativity.
This has some obvious applications to the history of the United States, and the Americas at large. Ill Met in Lankhmar, Fritz Leiber
: All hail the adventures of the indomitable Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser! Old school sword-and-sorcery of the type much mocked by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland
, but with a flair for dramatic language and humor. The city of Lankhmar has probably inspired a number of D&D games, and several series currently in production, such as Steven Brust’s Vlad novels and P.C. Hodgell’s Jaime books, very likely also trace some roots to Fritz Lieber’s novels. If you find any of the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser novels, they’re slightly dated in attitude and their use of language, but very much worth reading for their lively protagonists and fantastical plots. The Service of the Sword, David Weber et al
: latest collection of stories set in the Honorverse. People who have read the previous three collections know the drill: Weber writes a story about Honor, the Navy, or the treecats and other authors fill in gaps that interest them. ( This time, Jane Lindskold, Timothy Zahn, John Ringo, Victor Mitchell, and Eric Flint step up to the Honorverse. )A Wolf at the Door, and Other Retold Fairy Tales, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, eds
: Short story collection filed under YA at the library. I checked it out for the Garth Nix story, a rather gruesome retelling of Hansel and Gretel
, but really enjoyed several other stories in the collection. A fast, easy read, including contributions from a lot of big name authors, including Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee and Jane Yolen. Possibly my favorite story in the collection was "Swans" a retelling of the same myth used in pegkerr
's The Wild Swans
, which was about family, love, noise and silence when I wanted to hear about those things. Edited Sept. 12 to add:
The Cinderella retooling annoyed me, though, smacking into current buttons regarding the importance of self-motivation and determination in life.Edited Oct 17 to add:
Forgot about Sorcery and Cecelia
, which I had to have read sometime in August.
September's book list will almost certainly be shorter, unless people are keenly interested in a blow-by-blow account of my struggles with functional groups in two different courses, but I've got some good stuff on hand: more Octavia Butler, The Paths of the Dead
(finished it this weekend, and... oh. Even fangirl squeals fail. I think Brust may be leaping up the purchase priority list as soon as I confirm the pub date for The Enchantress of Dzur Mountain
. And oh, thank any and all deities and divinities for interlibrary loan, which granted me Paths
and will eventually eventually land The Lord of Castle Black
in my trembling hands.)