Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Tomb of the Golden Bird by Elizabeth Peters

Latest installment in the Amelia Peabody Egyptian Archeology mystery series. This one centered around the discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb, with the Peabody-Emersons taking part as bit players and observers.

Fortunately I still enjoy simply spending time with Peters' characters, because the biggest mystery in this book was "where's the plot?" A holy man might have been murdered (though nobody seemed to care very much) and an encrypted message sat around for a while. But the main characters weren't really involved in any of it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Magic Study by Maria Snyder

Good book, fairly quick read. Yelena was kidnapped as a child from her home in Sitia and grew up in Ixia. (Note: I wish the author had given the countries names less easy to confuse.) In Snyder's previous book Poison Study, Yelena escaped death to become a poison taster and find a place for herself in Ixia. Here, she returns to Sitia to gain control of her newly discovered magical powers, under sentence of death if she doesn't succeed. (Certainly one way of getting her to focus on her studies.)

One of the things I liked about Poison Study was the political system - the semi-benevolent, if rather twisted, military dictatorship was an interesting change from the conventional fantasy monarchy or vague ruling by some sort of council arrangement. Sitia falls under the "vague council" governing category.

The main story arc involved catching a serial killer, and the main theme was Yelena coming to terms with her roots in Sitia. She spent remarkably little time on magic study, especially given the threat of death, which seemed to have been forgotten about by book's end.

Overall, an engrossing read, but a bit too much plot. I didn't get that feeling from the previous, although it was also action-filled.

I'd have liked to spend more time with Yelena's brother.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Saffron and Brimstone by Elizabeth Hand

Short stories. Elizabeth Hand is one of those authors that I think I should like - reviews and comments on the group rec.arts.sf.written put her in that branch of literary speculative fiction I like - but despite several tries, I've never made it further than a few pages into any of her novels. So I thought I'd give this collection a try.

I had no difficulty reading it, and it did indeed fall into that area of literary SF that I particuarly like. I suppose I shall try a novel again...

The stories varied considerably. I didn't like the final quartet as much; it's a slipstream set of meditations on friendship, leaping about through time, space and nominal genre, but in at least three of them I never had enough of a sense of the people to care much about their friendship.

Of the rest... two stick in my mind. The first, Cleopatra Brimstone, is an odd, indecipherable tale of geeky but attractive Jane, a budding lepidopterist. The plot is fairly straightforward - studies entomology, is raped, becomes a predator, turns into a moth - but Jane herself is opaque. I could say it's depersonalization made literal, but really I don't know quite what to make of it. It sticks, though.

The other is The Least Trumps. The main character is an agoraphobic tatoo artist, and the world changes. The ending is lovely - it's a delicate story, I don't want to disturb it by saying more.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Sharing Knife - Legacy by Lois McMaster Bujold

Another sequel, another car-trip book. This was readable, but... hmm. Too much in-law unpleasantness, and nothing getting resolved.

I feel like I should have liked it more than I did. I often like ambiguity, and stories where the world doesn't get saved, and in-law conflict, even. But I can't remember the names of any of the characters.

I was expecting the "sharing knife" of the series title (the particular one that featured in Beguilement) to be a more important element in this one.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Kushiel's Justice by Jacqueline Carey

Middle book in Carey's follow-up trilogy following Imriel, the foster-son on the hero and heroine of her first series. At least, I assume it's a trilogy, at first I thought it might be a duology. (Checks author's web site.) Yep, it's a trilogy.

Suffers from middle-book-of-trilogy-itis. Imriel spends a lot of time going places and doing things. I liked the first half of the book, the story of Imriel's doomed marriage. After that, though... well, he sets out on a quest, and various stuff happens to hinder him. At one point, when Imriel is interrupted yet again, this time by a shipwreck, I could almost hear the author muttering "ok, now shipwreck him, that'll fill up a few more pages..." Not that I have anything against a picaresque adventure where the hero overcomes a series of obstacles, but this just didn't work. It was dull.

Looking at that "didn't work" comment reminds me of a blog post by Sarah Monette, a fantasy writer I like quite a bit as a novelist and also as a blogger. Her fifth reason why a scene might suck is the bit I'm thinking of.