Posted on Tue 17 November 2015

books books books

  • Saturn Run, John Sandford and Ctein
  • The Promise, Robert Crais
  • Root of Unity (Russell’s Attic #3), S.L. Huang
  • Unrelenting (Kris Longknife #13), Mike Shepherd
  • Going Dark (The Red #3), Linda Nagata
  • Manners & Mutiny, Gail Carriger
  • Silver on the Road, Laura Anne Gilman

Let’s count the number of ways this will please James Nicoll: Saturn Run is set within the Solar System; features two different reaction engine systems which are integral to the plot; has no fusion reactors; features reasonable percentages of women with agency.

It also has a junior-high obsession with sex, fiendish (but not inscrutable, and not universally fiendish) Chinese antagonists, and a super-spy-soldier who is not only rich, not only good-looking, but also is irresistable to women and discovers a starship decellerating towards Saturn.

All in all, several hard-SF writers would have been very pleased if they could call this one their own.

Depending on how you look at it, The Promise is the fourteenth novel featuring Elvis Cole, improbably lucky LA PI; the third novel featuring Joe Pike, improbably uncommunicative super-soldier-tinker-spy; or the second novel featuring Scott James and Maggie, heartwarming PTSD victims and canine killing machine. As in most Crais novels, you should suspect the female hiring the PI immediately. Also features Jon Stone, whom I now have tagged in my head as “Guy Fieri, mercenary killing machine edition”. Not really a good place to start with any of these characters, but it has a plot and you can dance to it.

Speaking of not a good place to start, Root of Unity. Go back and read the first two, assuming you like the idea of a superhero with a shadowy past who claims that the ability to do math really fast is her only superpower. I count superhuman levels of gymnastics, reactions, tactical sense, most of her senses, and probably luck. Ends with a clear direction for the next novel.

Oh, hey, another not-a-good-place-to-start is Unrelenting, which is the thirteenth book of Kris Longknife, Space Princess! and Unstoppable Military Tactical Strategist Captain. You like that sort of thing? Shepherd does that kind of thing fairly well on an annual November deadline.

And Going Dark is the conclusion to the latest Linda Nagata trilogy. AI, cybernetics, politics, military actions, drones, near-space travel, addiction, money… this is the new cyberpunk, well executed.

Changing directions for the last two books: Manners & Mutiny is the final book (I think) of the YA Victorian-era magical-steampunk pentalogy. As always, a comedy of manners punctuated by action. Werewolves, vampires, clanking mechanical servants, strange rays and mad scientists are all defeated by ingenious teenage girls.

Finally for this installment of What -dsr- is Reading, another standalone novel: Silver On The Road. The subgenre is Weird West: 1825 - 1885 or so, Western America, with major magical elements. I did not expect to like this half so much as I did. Our heroine escapes indenture to the devil, only to return to work for him voluntarily. It works out well.

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