occasional highly-erratic summary of what I’ve been reading and listening to.
Because of the long gap (three months) since my last summary, this is going to be a set of very brief comments on what I can remember!
It’s also startling to realize just how many books I read in a three-month period!
The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly
Library Hardback, Ebooks and Trade Paperback
Yeah, OK, so I’m addicted to popular thrillers. But I like Connelly’s outwardly hard-bitten but often personally vulnerable hero, Harry Bosch. Black Echo is the first book in this series, and I’ve only just read it. Stupidly, the territorial copyright system prevented me from actually paying the author for an electronic version, so I resorted to borrowing a free hardback copy from the local library. Anyway, it was interesting at last to read of Bosch’s first encounter with Eleanor Wish, a relationship which continues on and off throughout the whole series. Angel’s Flight is another in this series. Both books have interesting and not wholly predictable plots, and I enjoyed them both.
The Poet doesn’t feature Bosch, but instead journalist Jack McEvoy, devastated by the apparent suicide of his twin brother, a police officer. Of course in the way of such novels, it turns out that it was no suicide but a murder instead – indeed, part of a series of such murders. As the case becomes handled by the FBI, McEvoy becomes involved with an agent, Rachel Walling, but then starts to have doubts about her… I enjoyed this a lot, and would consider it one of Connelly’s best. Not so The Scarecrow, a sequel featuring McEvoy and Walling, which I thought was a very lightweight pot-boiler, and a real disappointment.
Destroyer of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner
Hardcover, my own collection
This is the third in a series of – what? re-imaginings, re-visitings, re-workings – of Niven’s Known Space science fiction books written in the 1960′s and 70′s. As such, they are really quite intriguing, as the events and characters in those old stories are woven into a wholly different framework seen from an alternative angle. Niven always has plenty of imagination, and wrote stories which really appeal to those who like speculation on the grand scale. But his dialogue and characterization have never been his strong suits. It’s when he teams up with others who are much stronger in these areas that he has done his best work – with Jerry Pournelle, for example, or here with Edward M. Lerner.
The previous two books in this series are Fleet of Worlds and Juggler of Worlds.
A Darkling Plain by Phillip Reeve
Paperbacks, my own collection
These are the last two books of the Mortal Engines tetralogy. I talked about the previous book Predator’s Gold here. Really superior (if occasionally a bit violent) science fiction for early teenagers, with strong characters and really interesting (if slightly unbelievable) premise of a future world in which cities have become mobile on great traction engines. I, of course, am no longer a teenager. But it doesn’t stop me really enjoying books written for that audience.
Illegal Action by Stella Rimington
E-book on my iPhone
This is the third in a series of thrillers written by the ex-head of Britain’s MI5. She certainly has the background knowledge and isn’t a bad (if not great) writer either.
American Empire: Blood and Iron
American Empire: The Center Cannot Hold
American Empire: Victorious Opposition by Harry Turtledove
Turtledove is, as they say, the master of alternative history. But gosh this is a long-winded series! So far I have listened to over 160 hours of Turtledove’s vision of a world in which the Confederate States won the American Civil War in 1862. After that event – now called “The War of Secession” – we had the “Second Mexican War” in the 1880s, and “The Great War” in 1914-1917, at the end of which the Confederate States (and their allies Britain and France) were defeated by the USA and Germany.
The “American Empire” group of Turtledove’s novels covers the aftermath of that defeat and leads us up to the 1940s. It’s fascinating how the author spins an entirely believable tale of how a disgruntled sergeant in the defeated Southern army, embittered by his experiences and filled with a conviction that the South was “stabbed in the back” by “traitors” in the government and by an uprising amongst the still-mistreated blacks, goes on to join and then lead, a new political party. Turtledove so cleverly shapes his story that the realization of the parallels with events in Germany in “our” timeline is slow in coming. By casting that story in utterly convincing terms in an American setting, he makes us see those “real” events in a much deeper way.
And so on to the next four novels and the opening of the equivalent of World War II. Lots more reading to do!
Once Upon a Time in the North by Phillip Pullman
Small hardback, my own collection
Very brief but enjoyable prequel to Pullman’s “Golden Compass” series, telling the story of how Lee Scoresby first meets up with the armored polar bear Iorek Byrnison. This is a small-format gift book.
Inherit the Stars by James P. Hogan
E-book on my iPhone
Well, this was free (from Baen Books), and worth about what I paid for it. I read the original SF novel in paperback years ago, and I seemed to remember enjoying it, so I read it again for curiosity. I was surprised, though, at how poorly written it was. The plot is all driven by a series of revelations rather than by the actions of the characters (let alone by the interactions of the characters).
The Monster in the Box by Ruth Rendell
Trade paperback, on loan
The latest Wexford novel from Rendell. Cleverly done, and well-written, if not particularly deep. Rendell writes so many, and so many very excellent, books that I’m sure she sees these police-procedural Wexford books as a relaxation from her more challenging works.
I’m currently part-way through:
- The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. (Ebook)
- The Water’s Lovely by Ruth Rendell (Audiobook)