- Elizabeth Bear: Bone and Jewel Creatures
Lovely writing, with lots of implied world-building in the city and history and theology surrounding the Wizards of Messaline. An enjoyable read, though very short. My only real problem came in the ending, when one of the three perspective characters (Emeraude) ends up being totally irrelevant to the resolution of the story.
- Elizabeth Bear: Range of Ghosts
I liked this a lot. Wonderful language and metaphor, and a cosmology with clear layers of myth and meaning beyond the explicit stuff. I found both of the main characters, Temur and Samarkar, very compelling and engaging. Temur may be the grandson of the Great Khagan, but the things he actually wants are very straightforward and ordinary, he’s only pushed into great deeds by enemies who expect him to be a rival. For Samarkar, the best thing about her is her challenges and weakness (in potency, not personality): she is a Wizard of Tsarepeth, yes, but being a weak one is so much more interesting than being a strong one. It gives us so much more to root for. And with the way the Wizards were set up, her initiation was fascinatingly tense: they can have successful careers without any magical talent, so when it’s time to find out if Samarkar has any talent, I felt like the story really could’ve gone in either direction (as opposed to a “heroes will succeed somehow” situation).
Again, though for different reasons, the ending left me a bit disappointed. Some of the plotlines end well (Edene’s epilogue is awesome), but there’ a big climactic battle that feels a bit random. Why did the villains attack there, inside a fortress containing hundreds of soldiers to back up the heroes? I’m not sure if it’s “stupid on demand” or “lucky break”, but both are a let-down from an otherwise great book.
- Steven Gould: 7th Sigma
At first I liked this; a very interesting and well-realized setting, and some good characters. But over time my interest really waned, and I had to force myself to not just set the book aside and skip the last quarter. The book felt too episodic to me, largely because of the main character’s uninteresting and late-breaking motive. When the main character’s adventures are driven by the motive “hates crimes”, I just don’t care that much about each new assignment he receives. There were little hints about a story arc resolving the mysteries of the setting, but unfortunately that ended up secondary to Kimble dismantling with the criminal organization of the week.
I am currently reading Elizabeth Bear’s Shattered Pillars, and have M.J. Locke’s Up Against It and Steven Brust’s The Book of Jhereg to go. Unlikely I’ll get through them all by VP, but that’s what airplanes are for!