Monday, November 27, 2017

What I'm Reading

T. Kingfisher, Clockwork Boys

T. Kingfisher, as we all know, is the nom de plume of everyone's favorite, Ursula Vernon. This is the first installment of a serial adventure novel about a young forger/accountant, a demon-possessed knight, an assassin, and an even younger priest/scholar who are drafted into a suicide mission: they must stop the giant clockwork assault monsters that are coming to conquer their city.

Adventure ensues. This works because Vernon is such a wonderful writer. The characters are charming, the mileu is even better, and the dialogue is perfect.

The sole down check is that the next installment will not be out for at least two months. :(

John Varley, The Golden Globe.

Apparently I am re-reading white male science fiction writers from the 1980s and 1990s. Varley was one of my favorites when I was reading this sort of SF.

In this novel, an actor, Kenneth Valentine, is fighting to get back from Pluto to the moon so that he can play King Lear. That's the basic story. There are many complications, as well as a mystery in the back story which is (eventually) revealed and solved. We don't really read Varley for the plot, though -- we read him for the world-building. Varley's world-building is among the best.

This is one of his middle-late novels, and it is set in his Eight Worlds universe. So we get functional immortality, and characters who can change gender at will (though no one in this book does that, nor does it really seem to be affecting this society as it did his works written in the 1970s and early 1980s. We get cities run by Central Computers. We get Heinleiners -- libertarians more or less shaped like Robert Heinlein's Lazarus Long. We get pocket Disneylands and self-aware ships and all the rest.

This book and his early short stories have always been my favorite works -- his latest novels, less so.

But he's always readable.

Sophie Hannah, Keep Her Safe

This is a mystery novel, more or less. An English woman flees her family in a not-very-believable snit, coming to stay at an expensive American resort, where she stumbles into a immense scandal / possible murder of a young child. She and another guest (kind of) solve it.

The entire story both strains credibility and isn't all that interesting, though Hannah writes well enough that I kept reading. It was also sort of cool that all the main characters were women, including the villain, a Bill-O'Reilly-esque woman named Bonnie Juno. Her character is more of a caricature, but she's fun to read.

If you're looking for something that requires no thought at all, this will keep you turning pages.

Orson Scott Card, How to Write Science Fiction

Once upon a time, before he turned into a homophobic science-denying dick, I used to read Orson Scott Card quite a bit. I knew he had flaws -- his women were pretty terrible, his dialogue too cute, and none of his people acted like actual people (all of them are either Mary Sues or StrawVillains) -- but like Heinleins, he's very readable, or at least his early work was. I can forgive a lot for readable.

Sadly, his over the past 15 to 20 years, as his politics overwhelmed his intellect and talent, his books have become pretty awful. But this book was published in 1990, so when I saw it on the shelf at my neighborhood library, I thought I would give it a read.

It's not terrible. It mostly doesn't say anything you wouldn't find in any other book on writing, mind you. Stephen King's book on writing is better, and Anne Lammott's book is much better. And it had some flaws -- his reference to Jane Austen's Emma, for instance, shows he either hadn't read the actual novel, or didn't bother to check his memory of it. Also, his advice on using cussing in your writing, and how you shouldn't drink coffee if you're a write... yeah, okay, son.

If you can get this one for free from the library as I did, and you're curious, go ahead. Otherwise, you're not missing anything.

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