Daniel Abraham, The Spider’s War. The end of its series. Too much abusive boyfriend, not enough banking. Seriously. It felt like Abraham started out doing cool things with banking, and then the banker did not get to use her banking skills in the climax of the book basically at all. She got to use metaphors for them, which were her feminine wiles. This did not thrill me. Also, the person she was forced to use feminine wiles on was incredibly distasteful to her and me, and I totally get what Abraham was doing with the portrayal of a Nice Guy TM wreaking havoc without really understanding why what he was doing was not okay, but that didn’t mean I enjoyed spending any time with him in fiction, either in his perspective or the perspectives of those around him. I really loved the series that started with A Shadow in Summer, and every project Abraham does is quite different from the others, so I’m glad this series has found its resolution so we can see what other themes and tropes he feels like playing with.
Chaz Brenchley, Three Twins at Crater School Chapters 20 & 21. Kindle. I know, I keep saying I am terrible at reading serials, but the thing is we’ve got to the point in the book that’s jam-packed with plot. Each chapter is fairly short–think kids’ book chapters, that’s the model Chaz is using–and yet things! keep! happening! So if I’m in line at the post office and need something on my Kindle, I can find out what. And I am such a sucker for school stories.
Avner Cohen, The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb. Cohen apparently has another book about Israel’s development of the bomb. This one was about Israeli attitudes and discussion practices around nuclear weapons. I found it mildly intellectually interesting and not the least bit emotionally engaging. Probably falls in the category of “if you have a particular interest in this topic but not otherwise.”
Charles de Lint, Waifs and Strays. Reread. One of the problems of collecting an author’s stories around a particular theme is that it can feel repetitive or expose weakness. In this case de Lint’s sense of teenage dialog is a serious weakness. I have found some of his work compelling, but this is just not a collection of his best stuff. Start somewhere else if you’re curious about de Lint.
Bradley Denton, Buddy Holly Is Alive and Well on Ganymede. Reread. I am really curious about how this reads to someone who wasn’t living on the prairie in the late ’80s/early ’90s. Denton’s sense of prairie, of that part of middle America, is literally incomparable. I have no idea what other author even tries to get across that sense of the world, especially in the late 20th century. The music references were fun, the gonzo sf conceit continues to be better than I would have assumed without reading other Denton, but it’s the dust of the middle and southern plains that I really love in Denton’s work.
Maria Emilia Paz, Strategy, Security, and Spies: Mexico and the US as Allies in World War II. I really like having specific references about parts of the world wars that were not the obvious theaters, books that make clear the ways in which it was a world war. Paz has a keen sense of where each country was clueless about the other’s perceptions and motivations here–particularly the fact that the US no longer thought of itself as an invading power that had taken some Mexican land (on the “that was a long time ago” front) but Mexico really did perceive it that way and have several diplomatic needs accordingly. Interesting stuff, and brief enough not to become tedious.
Benjamin Rosenbaum, The Ant King and Other Stories. Reread. Rosenbaum’s stories are clever (sometimes the failure mode of clever), and I really like the other cities section. (I am a sucker for that.) The stories I liked best outside that section tended to be the least wry, to feel the least like they were smirking at their own characters. And I do love the off-the-wall surreal moments. That’s what I keep this collection around for.
Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Brooke Allen, and Carolyn Nowak, Lumberjanes: Band Together. The thing about Lumberjanes is that every new thing feels natural but you can’t see them coming. “Oh, mermaid music festival, sure,” is a thing that makes emotional sense in context, and it was fun, and we got a little more Roanoke cabin backstory along the way. Not clearly a major advancement in plot, but a fun, fast read.
Lynne Thomas, Michael Thomas, and Michi Trota, eds., Uncanny Magazine Issue 13. Kindle. I really liked the Sofia Samatar prose poem or whatever it was (I don’t have to know what it was! it was a thing I liked!), and the nonfiction of this issue was particularly strong, to the point where I am tempted to call it a service to the community. The stories were all quite readable but just barely not into the “favorites” category for me, although Amal’s thing was close, thoughtful and personal and wrenching and why not a favorite again? Hmm. Maybe I just needed to sit with it for awhile.
Adam Zamoyski, Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna. This goes into a lot of detail about the Congress of Vienna, which apparently lasted for quite some time. Zamoyski is interested in the personalities as well as the policies, so it’s a fairly engaging read, but if you pick it up on the wrong day it will replicate the “gahhhh will this never ennnnnd” feeling experienced by so many of the people involved. And suddenly there’s Napoleon! and then not! So really: pretty accurate emotionally as well as detailed in facts.