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bear by san

March 2017



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can't sleep books will eat me

you through chattering teeth reply and curse us as you go.

I've got a post up over on Charlie's Diary about thwarting gaming the Hugos next year. Thanks for the pulpit, autopope!

In much much happier news, I'm going to talk about some books I love now.

These are things I have read in the past couple of years that are really, really good.

My Real Children, by papersky (Jo Walton), which is a great book about a woman living two lives in parallel but different timestreams. I have a quibble with the ending, but that's literally my only quibble with the book. There was a thing in the last paragraph that made me go "Huh?" So good, so gorgeously written, so understated, so completely a thing that could never be written in another genre. 

The Goblin Emperor, by truepenny (Katherine Addison), just came in second in the Hugo Best Novel award. It's about a young man growing up in exile who is awakened in the middle of the night to be told that his entire family has been assassinated and he's going to have to be Emperor of the Elves now. There only problem is that he has no training at all, and his mother was a goblin.

The Girl in the Road, by Monica Byrne, is about two women traveling great distances in different times, whose lives are joined by one unspeakable moment of violence. It's so good, you guys. The writing is top notch and the characters are prickly and weird and unreliable narrators and it's compelling as hell.

The Peripheral, by William Gibson. Apparently I am on a roll with parallel-story novels, because this is another one with two threads of narrative that weave together synthetically. It's great: I think this is Gibson's best novel, and it's a crying shame it didn't make the Hugo ballot this year. It has gunfights and philosophy in about equal measure, and it blew my socks off.

Updraft, by Fran Wilde, comes out on Tuesday. It's super, one of the best first novels I've read in a long time. It's about a girl who cannot follow orders to save her life trying to make her way through a perilous society where people live at the top of living bone towers and travel with wings. There are creepy monsters and secret societies and this protagonist who just cannot stop making things worse for herself.

Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho. Also a new novelist, this is a Regency-era thriller with sorcery duels and brutal politics. It's wacky and madcap while also being quite tense. I was reminded of those Cary Grant/Kate Hepburn screwball comedies in the way things just escalate and escalate.

Lavinia, by Ursula K. Le Guin. I've been hand-selling this book to everybody who will sit still for it. It's subtle and generous and witty and heartbreaking and I loved it to absolute death. And I have a critical allergy to Romans.

Of Noble Family, by Mary Robinette Kowal. The final book in her glamourist histories, this does an excellent job of kicking the coprotagonists Jane and Vincent out of their comfort zone and sending them out into a wider and more difficult world. These books have been moving from strength to strength, and portions of this one are serious nailbiters.

A World of Trouble, by Ben H. Winters. Last book in a trilogy, and all three of them are very good. The protagonist is a guy who was a cop in a world with an impending calamity--and extinction-event level meteor strike--hanging over it. He's trying to be a decent human being and do decent human being things, like take care of his sister. Mystery, action, characterization--all great.

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein. Oh my gosh just read this book it will knock your socks off. I made the mistake of listening to it on audiobook, and I'm sure the neighbors thought I was a fucking lunatic, walking the dog with headphones in and snot and tears running down my face while I sobbed and sobbed.

California Bones, by Greg Van Eekhout. This is a thrillery book about a young guy whose dad was a sorcerer, and who is attempting to navigate a magical underworld where all the sorcerers hang out and compete for power. It's like Tim Powers meets The Wire. I loved it.



Not too surprisingly, the recommendation list I gave a friend earlier today has some overlap with yours. I didn't list the things that aren't out yet, and I considered and then didn't list California Bones or Verity for no particular reason. And, well, I see why Karen Memory didn't make your list.

The Winters is the only one not on my radar already, and I've added it to the list.

My list also had Uprooted by Naomi Novik, Alif the Unseen by G. Willow WIlson, Ancillary Justice, and Brust's Jhereg novels.


I both love and hate when you post these lists, because my tbr expands drastically. But I always love your recs.

I have not read the Winters and did not have any of its series on my wishlist yet. I like this sort of list. Thank you.
I loved but also quibbled with the ending of My Real Children. Don't know if it's the same quibble, of course.

If you haven't read Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, it's definitely worth it. It's a sequel of sorts to CNV, but with different main character. I also thought well of her earlier AU Arthurian books, though those didn't blow me away the same way.

And just like many other people, I recommend Uprooted.
Things I have loved so far this year

Bryony And Roses by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon). Sort of loosely based on Beauty and the Beast, with a truly creepy antagonist and a gardener for the main character, graced with Vernon's quirky sense of humor.

The Pyramids of London by Andrea K. Höst. Imagine that the gods were real, set that in a Victorian-like England but the major world powers are Egypt and Rome. Stir in some Steampunk and Vampires and set two female protagonists of two different generations lose in it to solve a murder. I loved the world building in this, and also the character development of the main characters.

I expect many people here will be familiar with Karen Memory, which I loved for the tapestry of people that was the bordello and also the mechanical octopus because mechanical octopus.

Voyage of the Basilisk and Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan, which I loved for the varied species of dragons and sea monsters (I love it when the book gets into the biology of things and does it right!) and for the narrative voice of the main character.

And I add my voice to the chorus in praise of Uprooted.
Oh my goodness! Just after I swore to stop buying books for a bit (TBR is now beyond ridiculous), you go and post a bunch of things that make me go hhhmmmooohhhhyessss.

Not sure whether to thank you or give you a stern warning and take away all tea and biscuits.
You could always put them on a running-wishlist, to be invoked at Christmas, for example....
Ohhhh Goblin Emperor filled me with such happiness. I wanted to cuddle that book afterwards.

It's been pretty much my book of the year.

Other books read this year I enjoyed (though didn't necessarily come out this year):

Pen Pal - Francesca Forrest
The Poison Master - Liz Williams
The Time Roads - Beth Bernonich
Cry Murder! in a Small Voice - Greer Gilman
Thank you for using a Jethro Tull quote as a blog post title.

Love teh Goblin Emperor and Lavina. I'll be looking up the rest of your list.
May I recommend an Australian book? The Bird's Child by Sarah Leigh Price. A novel of lost letters, birds, magic and love.
Jethro Tull is always the right answer. :)
Thanks for the recommendations. I kinda' lost touch with SF after reading all of Asimov and Clarke (yeah, I'm that guy) and the reading for fun hiatus during grad school.
If that's your taste, I bet you're going to love this year's Hugo winner, THE THREE BODY PROBLEM.

It's kickin' it old skool.
Code Name Verity is amazing. I'm astonished it's been marketed as YA because I found plenty to chew on as an adult. (Not that teens shouldn't get the good stuff, but I don't want grown-ups to miss out!)
It's like Tim Powers meets The Wire.

WELL, *I'm* sold.