Posted on Sat 08 July 2017

recently read

  • The Last Good Man, Linda Nagata
  • In Evil Times, Melinda Snodgrass
  • The Scorpion Rules; The Swan Riders, Erin Bow
  • Kris Longknife: Emissary, Mike Shepherd
  • Kangaroo Too, Curtis Chen
  • Final Girls, Mira Grant
  • Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Seanan McGuire
  • Nothing Left to Lose, Dan Wells
  • To Fire Called, Nathan Lowell
  • White Hot, Ilona Andrews

If you wish to be completely unspoiled: I liked every one of these books, enough to recommend them (or their series) to people whom I think might like things like that.

After this, my low-spoiler notes on what kind of things they are.

The Last Good Man is a near-future military thriller posing philosophical questions about the ethics of automated weaponry and the place of private military companies amidst battles on four continents. It’s also about justice and revenge.

In Evil Times is the second book in at least a trilogy and perhaps a longer series, set in the FTL Imperio de Humanidad, a moderately nasty aristocracy built on a theme of human superiority and alien servitude. In the first book, La Infanta Mercedes became the first female cadet at the space force academy; this book chronicles the middle decades of her life, before she presumably ascends to the throne. Youthful idealism gives way to realpolitik and easier paths.

The Scorpion Rules and The Swan Riders are the first and second books set in a 400-year old all-Earth empire ruled by a handful of AIs that got the keys to an orbital laser grid. Sadly, the AIs are faster and more observant but not wiser than humans. Their pax is based on limited self-rule of nations guaranteed by hostages from the rulers and the threat of laser-glazing cities. (The energy requirements do not seem to have been calculated well.) Intriguing characters, though.

Kris Longknife: Emissary is the fifteenth book about the Admiral Princess; this time she’s sent to become ambassador to the Iteeche. Remember how little is known about the Iteeche? Now we get to find out. Shepherd is now self-publishing this series, which means about the same level of publishing and copy editing but a schedule closer to his natural pace – which seems to be 2-3 books a year instead of one. Don’t start with this one; it’s a milSF-space-opera popcorn series and you should get the whole set.

Kangaroo Too is the sequel to Chen’s hilariously funny Waypoint Kangaroo, and it manages to be nearly as good. Not a trilogy, I think, but a long-running series. It’s multi-planetary espionage of the Bond variety which takes itself seriously enough to be worth investing your time.

Final Girls by Mira Grant and Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire are of course by the same author. Both are horror novellas; the first in a SFnal horror-movie sense, and the second in the fantastic multi-dimensional universe of Every Heart A Doorway. More blood and gore on the SF side of the house, which would make an excellent movie.

Nothing Left to Lose wraps up the six volume series of Dan Wells’ John Cleaver, a teenage serial killer who restricts himself to killing demons. Luckily, there are a bunch of demons in that world to kill.

To Fire Called is the second book of the second series about Ishmael Wong, who is now trying to set up an interstellar transport company of his own. Unfortunately… spoilers. Lots of spoilers. Lowell continues to try to solve his characters’ problems non-violently, but doesn’t quite succeed here.

White Hot is the second book of a romance-marketed urban fantasy / PI-with- psychic powers series. I assume it’s romance-marketed because that sells better; there’s no particular reason to categorize it that way otherwise. Good plot twists.

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