What I’ve Been Reading

It’s been faaaaaaaar too long since posted here. I’ve been having trouble coming up with things to post about, as usual. This included trying to write a couple of book reviews that never worked out, so, in lieu of that, here’s some brief thoughts on the books I’ve read since the last review I posted, so many months ago. These are listed in the order they were read.

The Grace of Kings – Ken Liu
I wish I’d been able to write a real post about this one. This is a great epic fantasy, about two men from very different backgrounds who become friends, and then become leaders of a revolt with very different ideas of how to rule an empire. The voice of the novel is the kind if omniscient narrator you don’t often see in modern fiction. It moves easily between the intimate and the sweeping, reading in parts like a historical epic and including elements of classical myth. The world, too, is just different enough from standard fantasy settings to be interesting. Highly recommended; the best epic fantasy I’ve read in years.

The Lives of Tao – Wesley Chu
This was a quick read for my trip up to Edinburgh in August. A race of aliens that lives inside of human bodies and has been directing history for millenia is fighting a secret civil war – and now, by accident, Roen Tan has been drafted into it. Entertaining for a light read, but I honestly found it a bit too clichéd. The alien premise was interesting, and the history of Tao’s long life was the best part, but the plot was nothing special.

Uprooted – Naomi Novik
A young woman, Agnieszka, is chosen by a wizard called the Dragon to come and live in his tower for ten years – a prospect that terrifies her. Meanwhile, the Wood, an ancient and corrupted forest which the Dragon holds at bay, has been advancing. Taking from classic fairy tales and spinning them into something new, this is a really excellent book.

The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps – Kai Ashante Wilson
A novella, this story follows a sorceror travelling with a caravan south through the treacherous Wildeeps, stalked by a dangerous beast. Reminiscent of the Dying Earth genre, this is a primitive-seeming fantasy setting where the weird and impossible is peppered with hints at a distant past of wildly advanced technempire  It is beautifully written, and in a distinctly African-American vernacular that makes it stand out among the plain English and faux-Medieval language of most fantasy. If it has a major flaw it is its length – the ending is abrupt.

Empire Ascendant – Kameron Hurley
The second book in the Worldbreaker Saga, this has much of what was in The Mirror Empire – carnivorous plants, alternate reality doppelgangers, scheming politics, and a bloodthirsty conquering empire on the ascent. But this is the middle book of the trilogy, the Empire Strikes Back, and it is brutal. Everyone suffers, often in horrific ways; nothing is easy. If you think George R R Martin likes to hurt his characters, try this one and see the difference.

Ancillary Mercy – Ann Leckie
You shouldn’t need me to tell you this was good: this is the final book of the trilogy that started with Ancillary Justice, which took home every major SFF award in 2014. A direct continuation of the story told in Ancillary Sword, this sees Breq defending the Athoek system from the effects of Anaander Mianaai’s internal war. Like Breq, Leckie seems to like defying expectations, and this conclusion to the trilogy takes things in some unexpected directions. Like Ancillary Sword, this is a quieter book with a focus on the interpersonal relationships of the people around Breq – if you liked the previous volume, you’ll like this one.

Many Discworld Audiobooks – Terry Pratchett (read by Stephen Briggs)
While reading these other few books I’ve continued my big listen through the Discworld series – I am currently on Wintersmith – and they are just brilliant. Terry Pratchett was a master, and he’ll never be replaced. I’m convinced, for example, that it would be impossible to improve the funeral chapter in Wintersmith.

Now that I’m caught up, I’ll try to find more things to post about – soon!

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