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Bookworm 2015: Serial Reader

Posted on | December 27, 2015 | No Comments

22886868There is something to be said about reliability. Every year, when summer rolls in, I need to know that I will have good stuff to crackle on the beach. Not too serious, no Gulag Archipelago or Finnegans Wake, but also not too light, no Remo: The Destroyer or Holy Bible. Something familiar, like a well-worn pair of underpants, yet also not boring, like the shadow of a starship obscuring the Moon.

There are certain authors I could rely upon for this. Some of them are still around and kicking. Terry Pratchett is, alas, not, and the somewhat rushed, but still (within the larger out-of-the-book context) incredibly heart-wrenching fare-well of The Shepherd’s Crown marks the passing of a true legend. If you did not read through all of the Discworld novels, some of the action here will be confusing, but if you did, tears will be shed, and the question of which of the characters Pratchett most identified with will definitely be answered.

23154785The clockworkiest of my beach writers is probably Charlie Stross. I honestly cannot remember a summer vacation without a Stross under my arm, and he keeps plopping out at least one book per year during early summer. This year was no exception, but it did mark a deviation; his long-standing Laundry Files series suddenly wrenched the camera and microphone away from the usual “Bob” POV character and shifted its Lovecraft-meets-spies perspective over to his wife, the deadly violinist Mo, in The Annihilation Score. Suspicious though I was at first of this switch, it actually breathed a bit of fresh air into the slightly stale corridors of the Laundry, although it is a bit jarring when Mo, on occasion, suddenly starts smart-assing like Bob, but one hefty bibliography later I already knew enough to recognize a normal segue into the uniquely Strossian dialect of Explainish.

22886612The second clockworkiest and even more ideal for the beach is the faux-author James S.A. Corey with his (their?) Expanse series. This year’s Nemesis Games sees our gang go on individual voyages of (re)discovery, overshadowed by a larger conspiracy being played out in the tense environs of the thoroughly transformed solar system. This is the kind of series that, with a pair of well-practiced writers behind its helm and a regular heaping of the holy trinity, simply cannot go wrong, but for the same reason, also cannot truly boggle brains – just perfect for sand and surf and sun.

22381326The fantasy-author spot that was so unfortunately vacated by Pratchett was very quickly filled by a man who just cannot seem to write anything bad. Joe Abercrombie’s YA Shattered Sea trilogy is not quite on par with the First Law series (and that was a jagzillion pages I burned through in a blink), bur reads just as smooth, and though a bit less complex (to keep with the “YA” label), it is full of twists and turns and bitter disappointments and plans thwarted and forced compromises brought to a satisfying end in Half a War. I am somewhat disappointed that his next, for the beaches of 2016, will be a short story collection and not the kick-off to a new series of hefty brick-sized novels.

24358527One man who may earn a spot among the regulars, if he continues with the book-a-year rhythm, will be Marko Kloos with his Frontlines series, the latest being Angles of Attack. This is a weird beast – whenever I read it, there is a voice in the back of my brain nagging on about how “you should not like this – this is cheap wish-fulfillment Heinlein-knockoff skiffy and it makes no sense” yet book after book I keep returning to this military SF series and our increasingly imperiled collection of squabbling humans on the run from the Lanky forces. The thing is – derivative though it may be, this is one hell of a fun and well written collection of dystopian-alien invasion military SF novels, and much like the aforementioned Remo: The Destroyer – I can’t help loving them despite all their faults.

18968751There are others, of course. People I keep on the “just in case” stack, people I read if I don’t know what to read next, like David Zindell with his Requiem for Homo Sapiens sequence. The Broken God, like the prequel novel, suffers from a preachy and overlong segment that almost murders all the joy out of reading the book, but still it is a sufficiently fascinating mix of philosophy and high-concept SF that it is keeping me hooked. John Hornor Jacobs, whom I have chided a few posts down for one disappointing sequel, produced a fascinating series in another universe, that of the Incarcerado trilogy, where he pulled a Sum of All Fears half way through, turning a slightly offbeat harrypotteriana suddenly into terrifyingly lovecraftian eschatological waters in The Conformity. If only he could somehow stabilize that talent he so clearly has, he would certainly earn a place among the above regulars.

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  • Goodreads

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
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