Oct. 20th, 2016

hoursgoneby: (Hourglass)
What I Just Finished Reading: Utopia, by Thomas More. Philosophy is not really my thing but I kind of get the impression it's a satire. (Granted, I'm 500 years away - literally, it was published in 1516 - from the target audience so I may be missing some things.) Or it could just be that it sounds too tightly regulated to me to be a paradise, but I'm told I have problems with authority. I found out that the title comes from two Greek words, ou and topos, that mean 'not' and 'place' respectively that just reinforces this. Utopia is not a thing humanity can achieve. (Frankly, I wouldn't want to live in it. Confess my sins to my husband monthly my ass, and that's just for starters.)

Radiance, by Catherynne M. Valente. Oh, I really enjoyed this one! It reads like something out of the golden age of SF, though more diverse and I'm glad to see it. It takes place in an alternate 1986 when talkies are a shiny new innovation and humanity has colonized the solar system. Moving back and forth between time periods, and using a variety of storytelling techniques, it tells the story of the mysterious disappearance of documentary filmmaker Severin Unck. The mystery is incredibly involving, and the world building is just amazing. I honestly want to tell you everything and nothing at the same time because it's so good and yet you should really go into it unspoiled.

Sadly, I no longer have my copy. It was a free download through the Tor book club and before I could do a backup [Edit: Radiance is one I bought, not downloaded through Tor, and I was able to get it back by syncing my Kobo library. Sorry, I was tired.] My ereader randomly reset itself back to factory settings. I woke up one morning, turned it on, and got the message that it was resetting. And swore. Happily, I was able to get all my books back save the Tor book club ones but since I wanted hard copies of Three Body Problem and Radiance anyway it's not too big a deal. I would have liked to finish the most recent one, from Elizabeth Bear, though.

Nor Iron Bars a Cage, by Kaje Harper, which can be downloaded for free: my link there goes to Smashwords but it's availabe on Amazon Kindle as well. Lyon was once a sorceror's apprentice but after the possession and death of his master, he became a hermit, rarely leaving his house and earning a living as a translator. Then, unexpectedly, his childhood friend Tobin appears, on a mission for the king and with a job for Lyon - one that means leaving the one place he feels secure.
With this one, I was worried that a) Tobin would be handle Lyon's past trauma in a typical romance-novel way (ie. healing cock), b) Lyon would end the novel completely over his PTSD (not how it works), and c) Lyon's disabled right hand would also be magically healed.

Fortunately, while Tobin insists that Lyon comes with him (not that either of them has any other option, it is a command from the king) he's still careful, considerate, and patient and makes sure he knows Lyon's boundaries so he doesn't cross them. None of this alpha-male bullying you into being what they think you should be bullshit. I really liked Tobin.

Lyon can handle some things better by the end but is still clearly suffering from PTSD and there's no suggestion he'll ever be completely healed of it. (I'm sick to death of seeing people magically 100% cured of their mental illnesses in fiction. It doesn't work that way. Aaand I'm going to stop the rant right there.) He does have to face the wraith that possessed his master, but the idea of facing your fears (exposure therapy) has merit and isn't treated like a cure-all so I'm OK with it. I grant you exposure therapy doesn't usually mean plunging straight into things in a magical circle to face one spirit while being aided by another but it's not like the book went straight from 'flashback-ridden, agoraphobic hermit' to 'boldly facing your fears with no other reaction'. I don't think it even hit that last one at all.

Lyon does end the book with a slightly greater range of motion in his right hand but it's never going to be 100%. It makes sense, though: the original injury had scarred over before it could be properly tended and there was a foreign object embedded in it. Removal of the object and what sounds like a minor operation, possibly to remove more scar tissue, plus some light physiotherapy would serve to improve things. I checked to see if there were a sequel: sadly, there was not. I'd've liked to read more about Tobin and Lyon.

Hexmaker (Hexworld #2), by Jordan L. Hawk. Malachi is a fox shifter and a thief, who witnesses a murder during one of his break-ins. Caught and held at the scene, he also finds his witch, Dr. Owen Yates, when the forensic hexman arrives at the murder scene. Owen Yates, who is a week away from his arranged marriage to an upper crust heiress, finds himself torn between his attraction to Malachi and his sense of duty. But as the hunt for the murderer draws them closer, Owen begins to question whether he can live a lie for the rest of his life.

Remember Owen Yates, from Hexbreaker? He's not as much of a straitlaced ass as he initially comes across as. I would call him more constrained, actually - a lot of his public persona seems to be just that. He's a lot more likeable and sympathetic than I initially thought he would be. I also like that this book broke with the "he's my witch but how can I tell him??" bit that Hexmaker and Hexbreaker seemed to indicate would be the formula for the series. We get to learn more about the history of magic in the world, plus there's a touch of clockpunk, and more of the theriarchist conspiracy. I'm looking forward to seeing where that's going.

The War of the Flowers, by Tad Williams. Theo Vilmos, a struggling rock singer, is unexpectedly shoved into the parallell world of Faerie and finds himself a pivotal figure in the looming war between the six Great Houses and the rest of the beings that inhabit the realm.

After the boredom that was Otherland, I was a bit leery of picking up another great thick Williams book but The War of the Flowers didn't disappoint. The world was developed and nuanced, and gave a sense of truly being inhabited. I liked the idea of Faerie with industrial development and the problems that come with it. I admit I did see most of the plot twists with Theo himself coming (well before he did, like Simon from Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn he's often not the fastest at thinking things through, seems to be a characteristic of Williams' everyman characters) and had suspicions about a few of the others, but there were one or two I did not see coming. And it gave me the sniffles at one point and I nearly missed my morning bus today because I just had to finish reading it! I want to reread it again already just to see what I missed first time through.

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