I'm working on my second guest review for Asimov's, so much of my reading is directed toward that. But here are some works I'm reading just for fun.
Mona Clee, Branch Point
This is a SF book published in the mid-90s. It's got both AU and time travel, so it's hitting my buttons. The initial situation has Kennedy swerving in the wrong direction during the Cuban Missile Crisis, touching off a nuclear war which ends up destroying Earth's population and ecosystem, all except for a handful of people who survive in a bunker in northern California. These people too are doomed, so they spend most of a century developing a time-travel device, which can only be used four times. They send their three best young people, two women and a man, back in 1962 to warn Kennedy. They can't come back, so they're supposed to monitor world events and fix things if another nuclear war ever happens. In the event, they have to stop three more nuclear apocalypses. The book reaches through 2019, which means we get a look at what someone in 1995 thought the early 21st century would be like, always fun. Clee predicted the first black US president, for one thing, but she's waaaay off.
This is probably more interesting to people who lived through the end of the 20th Century, since there's a lot of recent history that gets discussed and played with. Several times, Clee spends pages and pages discussing the history of this era of that one. And there are some unlikely as well as some queasy moments, as James Nicoll notes in his review. Still, I enjoyed this one enough that I'm planning on reading her other book -- apparently she only wrote two.
Joe Haldeman, Forever Peace
Another 1990s book. I think this is the only Haldeman novel I have never read. It's supposed to be one of his best, along with Forever War, but I didn't like it all that much. It's not a bad book, mind you. Like Forever War, Haldeman's experiences in Vietnam inform both plot and theme. So we get a lot of pretty horrific violence, all being excused by those committing it because, after all, this is war, and the enemy is evil.
This is not Haldeman's point of view -- he's showing us how it works, and how people come to fervently believe the truth of it. I remember being told as a child that it was okay to shoot small Vietnamese children, since (after all!) those (slur deleted) used them to kill American soldiers. I also remember adults in my neighborhood explaining that "nuking" Vietnam (and then later Iran) would be a good thing, since "those people" were commies who killed Americans.
Anyway, in this novel, "soldierboys" are used to fight "terrorists" in Central America. Soldierboys are drone-like machines, powered through link to actual soldiers, lying in a "cage" thousands of miles away. These soldierboys are almost indestructible, so the enemy (that being anyone who lives in Central America, including small children) doesn't have a chance. There are hints that the war is being continually ramped up because of a religious sect in the US, the Enders, who want to bring about Armageddon; and more hints that it is being ramped up because of profits being made by arms manufacturers; and more hints that the war continues because the best way to create enemy terrorists is to continually destroy their families and communities in drone strikes.
The tech people have a fix, and through the last half of the book we watch a race between the Enders and the scientists -- one wanting to create endless peace, the other to destroy the planet. I'm not sure why I felt lukewarm about this one. The endless gore and violence, maybe. It needed to be there, but I'm just exhausted by it.
Interesting point: Apparently one of the controversial details about this book when it was first published in 1997 is that some of the soldiers are women.
Anne Bernays, Growing up Rich
This is a re-read, which I enjoy mainly for the look it gives us of life in 1940s New York / Brooklynn. An obscenely wealthy rich girl, Sally, who is also neglected and unloved by her skinny beautiful mother (Sally is slightly plump), loses her parents in a plain crash and has to go live with a (just slightly less wealthy) friend of her stepfather's. So we get to look at live among the haut in New York, and then life among the upper-middle-class in Brooklynn. The details and the writing are what make this enjoyable. The plot is unsurprising -- the rich girl learns to like life among the warm and loving (slightly less rich) middle class. Also she loses weight.
Bernays wrote some other books, none of which I have ever read, but I see my library has one. I might give it a try.