November 30, 2006

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, November 2006

Theodore Judson, Fitzpatrick's War
Mind candy. A futuristic re-telling of the story of Alexander the Great, making him out to be the psychopathic catastrophe-in-human-form he really was.
Lois McMaster Bujold, The Sharing Knife: Beguilement
Mind candy. A fun fantasy, but it's the first volume in a new series, and the protagonists are getting off entirely too easy for a Bujold book. This makes me very suspicious about what she's setting up for volume two...
Liz Williams, Snake Agent
Mind candy. It's sometime in the middle of the twenty-first century. Singapore has franchised itself, and Singapore Three is somewhere on the coast of southern China. Detective Inspector Chen is a member of the police force. His job is to interface with the Celestial and Infernal bureaucracies, which are exactly as described in traditional Chinese beliefs about the afterlife. And, oh yes, his wife is a demon whom he helped get out of the arranged marriage from (forgive the expression) Hell. And then things get complicated.
Laura Lippman, No Good Deeds
Mind candy. Latest in the series (previous installment). Absorbing as always; for once I figured out who did it long before the ending (this doesn't seem that hard here!), and that had very little to do with the interest of the novel.
Christopher Priest, The Prestige
Mind candy. I see, from the inside front cover, that I bought my copy in October of 1999. It therefore took me seven years and one month to get around to reading this. It is really, really good, so you should read it much sooner. I will not say anything more, lest I spoil Priest's illusions.
Julia Spencer-Fleming, Out of the Deep I Cry and To Darkness and to Death
Mind candy. Continues the "Claire Fergusson" series begun with In the Bleak Midwinter and A Fountain Filled with Blood. A bit reminiscent, actually, of Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins mysteries (noticed here and here): a female Anglican/Episcopalian minister investigating murders in an isolated rural town which has lost its economic reason to exist --- and where potential new ones are themselves insidious. The major differences are (1) Spencer-Fleming writes about upstate New York, while Rickman writes about the Welsh marches; (2) Spencer-Fleming is entirely in the mundane world, with none of Rickman's occult intrusions; (3) Spencer-Fleming devotes a lot of space to her heroine's complicated relationship with her town's married chief of police, whereas Watkins's love life is mercifully straightforward.
Toby Musgrave, Courtyard Gardens
Nice as a collection of ideas, with drool-worthy accompanying photographs. Alas, many of them seem ill-suited to the climate of the Allegheny Plateau...
Lindsay Allen, The Persian Empire
Readable, extremely well-illustrated brief summary of the history of the Achaemenid Empire, combining ancient sources with archaeological findings. Good on trying to see things from a less parochial perspective than that of the Greeks (Vidal's Creation [review by Danny Yee; review by Anoop Sarkar] gets a [humorous] plug in an end-note), and on integrating what we know with how we learned it. The last chapter gives an interesting description of later Persian and Iranian ideas about the empire, Alexander, the ruins at Persepolis, etc.
Claudia Koonz, The Nazi Conscience
Horrifies, because there was one.
R. R. Bahadur, Some Limit Theorems in Statistics
Concise yet remarkably lucid summary of pioneering (< 1971) work on statistical applications of large deviations theorems, much of it Bahadur's. Because it came before the work by Donsker, Varadhan, etc. which led to the modern generalized, streamlined theory of large deviations, Bahadur has to spend time proving special cases of general theorems, can't just talk about "rate functions", etc. But, strangely, I can't seem to find anyone re-presenting this work using modern large deviations theory...
Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen, Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.: This Is What They Want
Mind candy. "Healing America by beating people up."
Elaine Cunningham, Shadows in the Darkness
Mind candy: contemporary fantasy/mystery.
Laurence Gough, Heartbreaker
Mind candy. Nicely-done police procedural set in Vancouver. The 8th novel in a long series, but I read it with enjoyment without having read any of the others, which I will now look for.
Patricia Briggs, Steal the Dragon and When Demons Walk
Mind-candy fantasy, but tasty. Briggs gets points for the fact that the heroics in the first book did not, in fact, prevent the successful Invasion by the Eastern Hordes, which is simply a settled matter of fact in the second book.

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur; Scientifiction and Fantastica; The Pleasures of Detection; Writing for Antiquity; Enigmas of Chance

Posted at November 30, 2006 23:59 | permanent link

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