Books I Bought in 2005

I'm afraid book reviews are on hiatus. You will find here brief reviews of books through 2011, longer reviews through fall of 2014, and then nothing. Sorry! I got distracted trying to finish a game and then never got back to reviewing.

I acquired 82 books in 2005.

January 2005

Robson, Justina
Natural History
First few pages grabbed me, rest of book lost me. Promising premise from POV of construct intelligences, but the plot went flailing around and the characters weren't interesting.

Bear, Elizabeth
Big murky angst -- old soldier hard-done-by. I found myself skipping large tracts of history and world-building, which may explain why I finished the book wondering what everyone else saw in it.

McDevitt, Jack
Another one of his archaeological thrillers. Explore, explore, explore the ancient alien artifact and then realize that you're about to die horribly unless you solve the survival puzzle. A formula, but I like it.

Caine, Rachel
Chill Factor (Weather Warden, book 3)
Massive fluffy fluff. Inexcusably fun. Read it if you're hooked on the Weather Bitch already.

Feiffer, Jules
By the Side of the Road
Children's book. A boy's parents threaten to make him get out of the car; he does; it turns out unexpectedly well. Warms my heart -- go ahead, analyze me.

McGee, Harold
On Food and Cooking (revised)
The Big Blue Book of Food (Alton Brown is sometimes seen ostentatiously carrying it), now turned red and encyclopedic. It has at least a paragraph on every plant that human beings eat.

Stross, Charles
The Family Trade (The Merchant Princes, book 1)
Beginning of his multi-universe Mafia series. This is good old-fashioned fun -- current-day American falls into fantasy world, righteously reinvents civilization. Lots of fiddly magic rules.

McDevitt, Jack
Another one of his archaeological thrillers.

McDevitt, Jack
Another one of his archaeological thrillers. No, I can't tell them apart from a year's distance, why do you ask?

Zielinski, Stephan
Bad Magic
I want to re-read this. Snarky urban street magicians. I was hooked from the moment I met the invisible wizard walking through a hospital burn ward, peeling pain off of patients' skins and dropping it into a liquid-nitrogen thermos for later alchemy.

Harrison, M. John
Started to read this and was immediately repulsed, so I stopped. It wound up on my (extremely short) "I was willing to throw this into a book sale" list.

Harrison, M. John
Short story chapbook. I remember admiring the surreality but not getting into the story.

February 2005

Nix, Garth
Drowned Wednesday
Continuing his kids' "Keys" series. Steam-fantasy fun, but (as a friend noted) the author spends too much time throwing adventures at his protagonist and not enough having his protagonist do anything.

Berg, Carol
The Soul Weaver (Bridge of D'Arnath, book 3)
The first book in this series is still the best, but this one is still readable. Magical kid raised by evil mind-controlling monsters. I admit I'm now completely sick of the one evil magical substance that negates wizard powers.

Dunnett, Dorothy
Niccolo Rising (House of Niccolo, book 1)
The Spring of the Ram (House of Niccolo, book 2)
Start of Dunnett's Other Series. Vast historical tapestry; characters grinding against each other and throwing out huge showers of brilliant sparks. A more interesting romance-tension than in her first series. Dunnett is the pacing queen: you show me another romance which spends this much time setting up the background of the One True Pair before they even notice each other.

Snyder, Zilpha Keatly
Below the Root
And All Between
Old kids' SF series that I've always loved. (I found the third book several years ago.) Sweet happy elves living in the trees are menaced by horrible goblins who are escaping from their underground prison. Yes, I said SF. Definitely written for young people, but it has politics, archaeology, and cultural change before it's all over.

Foglio, Phil; Foglio, Kaja
Agatha Heterodyne and the Monster Engine (Girl Genius, book 3)
Last time I mentioned buying these collections, a bunch of people told me I was stupid for not buying the monthly books. Zarf says "Ha!" (The monthlies are no longer in publication. Instead, the Foglios are doing it as a web comic, which... I still haven't started reading. Will get around to it.)

March 2005

Green, Simon R.
Hex and the City
I came in somewhere in the middle of the Nightside series. The author really wants to show us lots and lots of mind-blowingly cool things. He's not that great at actually blowing my mind. The off-handed funny bits work much better than his transcendental ones. However, bitter fantasy P.I. is still a tasty snack.

Dunnett, Dorothy
Race of Scorpions (House of Niccolo, book 3)
Niccolo gets in more trouble.

Borgstrom, Rebecca
Hitherby Dragons: Primal Chaos
Collection of (self-published) short bits from designer of Nobilis. I guess she's better known now for her fiction. You can find these on her web site, and there are many great ones, although I still haven't figured out the serial story that many of them comprise.

Dunnett, Dorothy
Scales of Gold (House of Niccolo, book 4)
Niccolo causes more trouble. Did I say "causes"? "Gets in."

Westerfeld, Scott
Touching Darkness (Midnighters, vol 2)
Sequel to kids-with-powers dark fantasy from last year. Good followup; the kids-eye wow-adventure oh-gods-they're-coming-out-of-the-walls viewpoint is now expanding, as the protagonists learn more about the history of the town they live in. Want more.

Kibuishi, Kazu
Daisy Kutter: The Last Train
Graphic novel -- a rather gonzo western with giant robots. Laconic lady with a shotgun. Lot of card-playing. I like this artist's style, and I don't just mean that visually (although I'm having trouble explicating what I do mean).

April 2005

Dunnett, Dorothy
The Unicorn Hunt (House of Niccolo, book 5)
Niccolo. Trouble.

Baker, Keith
The City of Towers (The Dreaming Dark, book 1)
Baker is the guy who invented the "Eberron" campaign setting for D&D. I bought this book because, well, actually because I used to know him slightly. It's not great -- reads like a D&D tie-in novel, even though technically it's tying into a universe that the author invented himself. Put it this way: a mind flayer shows up, and you're supposed to freak out.

Morgan, Richard K.
Broken Angels
More sex and ultra-violence and bodies-as-commodities. The author gets goth points for setting his story in a lethal radiation zone, so that all the characters spend the book slowly dying (at least, their bodies are).

Kibuishi, Kazu (ed.)
Flight (vol 2)
Collection of stand-alone graphic short stories, slightly themed. I liked some of them, which is what they were clearly aiming for.

Green, Simon R.
Drinking Midnight Wine
Standalone book, but I can't remember anything that sets it apart from his other stuff, except that it doesn't mention the Nightside. Can't remember much about it at all, really.

Yolen, Jane; Nielsen Hayden, Patrick
The Year's Best Science Fiction and
Fantasy for Teens

True that. A lot of excellent stories. When someone asked me who the hell Kelly Link was, I was able to say "She wrote the very fine lead story in this teen fantasy anthology I just read." Also, Kipling.

May 2005

Dunnett, Dorothy
To Lie With Lions (House of Niccolo, book 6)
You know the drill. (Looking back, I find that these are some of my favorite books of everything I read in 2005. So don't get the idea that the short reviews are bad reviews.)

Arakawa Hiromu
Fullmetal Alchemist (vol 1)
Beginning of a manga series that so many people have talked about that I don't think I can say much. I think I need to read more of it to really get into it; unfortunately, this is about the point in the year when my budget constricted sharply, so I haven't read past volume 2.

Herbert, Frank
The Dosadi Experiment
Good old stuff from the good old days. I finally know why you should never sue a Gowachin. Really, the Gowachin legal system is the big draw here -- Herbert invents a full-bore alien legal system, something their entire culture is based on, and he has the balls to make it feel real. The actual plot concerns a tempered-by-fire race of ultimate badasses, a theme which Dune did better.

Smith, Clark Ashton
Collection of short stories from when "weird fantasy" was a genre. I think more people should read these simply because they influenced everything, I mean, right through Lankhmar and into the Discworld.

Dunnett, Dorothy
Caprice and Rondo (House of Niccolo, book 7)
Gemini (House of Niccolo, book 8)
To be honest, I thought the series was dragged out a little. Dunnett ties up the big romance in book 7 (or maybe it was the end of 6). She then spends a book wrapping up plot threads -- which, yes, she's been spinning (or in some cases hiding) since the very beginning -- but the momentum bleeds out of it.

June 2005

Marks, Laurie J.
Earth Logic
Odd-beat fantasy about a large family (of multiple definitions) living in the middle of politics. (A fantasy nation held by foreign invaders over multiple generations.) Charming family, satisfying working out of the "you know, we could just stop fucking each other over" kind of story, somewhat marred by the fact that the title character's plot arc is "When shall I get off my ass?" (Answer: at the end of the book.)

McKillip, Patricia
Od Magic
My guess is that this was written to be McKillip-for-newbies. Rather simple and blunt plot (compared to, say, Ombria in Shadow.) Made me want to re-read Ombria in Shadow.

Eschbach, Andreas
The Carpet Makers
Literary SF, by which I mean "marketed to non-genre readers". Or maybe I mean "downbeat series of moments-in-the-lives-of a bunch of people I disliked". Recommended if you thought Use of Weapons was Banks's only worthwhile novel (but not if you merely thought it was his best).

Reynolds, Alastair
Century Rain
Standalone novel about a post-nanotech-holocaust Earth which finds a portal to... a pre-holocaust Earth. Then everyone chases each other around for a while.

July 2005

Hoffman, Nina Kiriki
A Stir of Bones
Hoffman has a style, and she's sticking to it. In this case, the shy but ultimately friendly entities are various hauntings of a haunted house. All turns out very well.

May, Julian
Conqueror's Moon (The Boreal Moon, book 1)
I remember plot elements from this but not the actual story. Politics fantasy. I will continue reading the series, paperback only please.

McCarthy, Wil
To Crush the Moon
End of his Queendom series. I've described this as "subsumed by an Eeyoric compulsion to show technology going horribly wrong", but the actual problem is that the storyline is powerful when stuff is collapsing, but wanders blindly when it comes to dealing with and fixing things. The original Collapsium had the fixing-things as a set-piece puzzle with political machinations; in this book, it's just spackle.

Glass, Isabel
The Divided Crown
Sequel to a book I didn't know about. Rather thin fantasy; some good scenes, but fails to hold together for a newcomer to the universe. Leans heavily on magic items to keep the story interesting.

Clemens, James
Shadowfall (The Godslayer Chronicles, book 1)
The notion of magic derived from the bodily humors of gods must have sounded like a good idea. The actual details of when you need god-pee versus god-snot are not, as it turns out, something I needed to dwell on. That aside, a readable high-fantasy trilogy opener.

Schroeder, Karl
Lady of Mazes
If A Fire Upon the Deep was the last word in The-Future-as-Usenet, this is the last word in The-Future-as-Livejournal. A civilization elects to maintain itself as multiple non-overlapping cultures in the same physical space -- everyone runs sensory filters to screen out foreign elements, so they can associate with their own kind of people. The plot is less cool than the setup: people from this (meta)-culture run into other high-tech cultures, and things get less convincing.

Stross, Charles
The Hidden Family (The Merchant Princes, book 2)
Second world-walking Mafia book. More of same, still good.

Stross, Charles
I actually just finished this in December, despite having bought it in July. Fix-up of a sequence of short stories from across the Singularity -- and the author doesn't duck the issue, either. This was what Schroeder was trying to do. Information goes everywhere, social conventions turn upside down, corporations and lawsuits turn sentient and start having arguments with irate Ponzi schemes. Despite the title, the narrative rate-of-change stays fairly constant -- we stick with human protagonists even after humanity has become a sidethought in the Solar System. And despite Scalzi, I think this would be a fine first novel to hand to an SF-non-reader (as long as he was modern-tech literate. Ok, a computer geek.) (However, the big finish was unconvincing.)

August 2005

Davidson, Avram
The Kar-Chee Reign / Rogue Dragon
Rather odd very-post-holocaust dark-age myth, where the holocaust was aliens coming down and strip-mining the planet for thousands of years without let-up. I'm not sure what the point was, aside from the idea that human civilization could be absolutely eradicated while leaving some humans around. Then it turned into standard plucky-human adventure.

Meaney, John
To Hold Infinity
Police procedural, or something like it -- well, there's a serial killer to track down -- in a massively augmented human aristocracy. Decent, but I don't remember the plot being particularly plausible.

Meaney, John
Rags-to-riches-to-rebel-leader story in a literally stratified civilization. Core gimmick is a collection of oracles who can see the inescapable future. This is not carried through in any believeable way, nor are the social consequences, nor are the way the oracles are defeated. Also, the author spends pornographic amounts of plot space on the hero's jogging habit.

McCarthy, Wil
Murder in the Solid State
Did I read this? I must have. (Reading books on transatlantic flights is obviously not the optimal retention regime.) Oh, right, nanotech researcher is framed for murder. Book mostly succeeds in convincing me that the author had a bad experience with a patent lawyer. Skip it, skip Bloom, go straight to Collapsium where it gets fun.

Cockayne, Steve
The Seagull Drovers (Legends of the Land 3)
When I finished book 2, many years ago, I said "The author had better get some redemption into book 3." He doesn't. Dank, depressing, and no character in the trilogy gets satisfactory sex for more than a week of their entire lives. Ending goes nowhere.

Ficacci, Luigi
Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Collection of Piranesi lithographs. These include the huge, gloomy, architectural "Prisons" which must have influenced a generation of 3D videogame designers. Love this stuff.

Erikson, Steven
The Devil Delivered
Novella: post-environmental-disaster meditation with Native Americans and cypherpunks. Didn't grab me.

Erikson, Steven
The Healthy Dead
Novella: another Korbal Broach story. Pure log-blunt satire, with the usual cast of horrible people you wouldn't want to read a whole novel about. Amusing, but not as many gross-out points as Blood Follows -- too bad.

Powers, Tim
Strange Itineraries
Collection of short stories, about half of which I already had. (In his Night Moves collection.) But even a few Tim Powers short stories are worth buying. Get this.

Gentle, Mary
Under the Penitence
Novella, in the "Ash" universe. There was, let me think, a horribly dysfunctional parent-child relationship? (No, really.) Gentle continues her career of gripping stories about people you wish you'd never met.

Rohan, Michael Scott; Scott, Allan
A Spell of Empire: The Horns of Tartarus
Early Rohan effort, in sort of the same vein as Avram Davidson's historical fantasies: let the historical Byzantines (or whoever) talk in modern dialect and then have a lot of fun. Okay, it's fluff, and Davidson did it better. And Rohan doesn't invest the boss monster at the end with the power that his "Spiral" books display. But he's got a collection of charming grumpy heroes -- many of whom talk in funny accents -- and it's really all good.

Disch, Thomas M.; McDaniel, David; Stine, Hank
The Prisoner Omnibus
Who the heck knew there were three Prisoner tie-in novels, back in the day? (I knew about one.) None of these are really necessary, unless you're a Prisoner completist. But it's interesting that two different authors decided to go with John Drake as the Prisoner's real name (thus tying him to Danger Man for certain).

Banks, Iain M.
The Algebraist
His first non-Culture SF story in a while. This is a classic artifact-chase through a gas giant, although (for a change) the gas gianteers aren't extinct, they're just secretive jerks. Everyone is fighting over the mcguffin, so there are huge space battles (unfortunately against a blood-soaked psychopathic sadist, who is about as interesting a character as the prop closet he was dragged out of). The vast sweeps of galactic history are nice, though. Fun read, except that (this being Banks) everyone gets screwed at the end.

Rowling, J. K.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Continuing my acquisition of the UK paperbacks as I come across them. Everyone says this is the most bloated book, which I'm not sure I agree with; it moves right along, and I didn't think any of the plot lines were droppable. Okay, the house-elf stuff. Mind you, when I saw the Goblet of Fire movie, which dropped half the plot threads of the book, I wound up deciding that the book should have dropped them too.

Arakawa Hiromu
Fullmetal Alchemist (vol 2)
Another increment in the multi-dozen-volume series.

Nix, Garth
Across The Wall
Short stories. The one in the "Sabriel" universe turns out flat, but there are some good ones otherwise.

September 2005

Duane, Diane
Wizards At War
Been waiting for this one for years. Yay! It could have been better. Boo! The premise is that all the adult wizards (in, like, the Universe) are about to lose their power, so the kids have to take over. Sadly, this premise then gets dropped -- we don't see what the grownup version of wizardry is like, just more of the usual running around the universe. Also, last book's Evil was more interesting and promised some complexification of the series; this book didn't really follow through. But it wasn't bad.

Pratchett, Terry
I hate fantasy board games designed by people who think all board games are like chess but different. That aside: this is more Vimes dealing with more city politics. Nothing terribly, ha ha, ground-shaking. Well, they can't all be Night Watch.

Carey, Jacqueline
The infamous big Tolkienesque fantasy with POV mostly (not entirely) from the Bad Guys. As a fantasy epic, it works pretty well -- I want to read the sequel. As commentary on Tolkienesque fantasy, it suffers from mixed assumptions. The Good Guys and Bad Guys are not Tolkien's creations; they have their own history and their own relationships. But the Good Guys seem to think they're Tolkien characters, and whine a lot when the universe fails to match up. (Despite knowing their own history perfectly well.) This isn't genre criticism, this is the author being smug with puppets. Fortunately, she doesn't waste too many pages on that stuff.

October 2005

Irvine, Alexander C.
The Narrows
WW2-era espionage thriller, only the protagonist is a blue-collar worker in Detroit. And he's working on the golem lines. Irvine spends more time on the hero's shaky marriage and cuter-than-kittens daughter than on chase scenes, but there are plenty of German spies and shady characters in bars, don't worry. I wish the magical elements had hung together more tightly, but this is still an excellent story.

Le Van, Marthe (ed.)
1000 Rings
Variations on a theme of "you can put it on your finger". It's a silly little bargain-table art book, but man, this should be a required text for designers. You wouldn't believe some of this stuff. Some of them are even practical as jewelry.

Caine, Rachel
Windfall (Weather Warden, book 4)
Still big fun. Oh, the pain, the immortal djinn is dying for her, or she's dying for him, or they're dying for their baby, or something like that.

McKillip, Patricia
Harrowing the Dragon
All the short stories she's been writing all this time. It's great to see her covering ground other than the ethereal high fantasy that her novels all seem to fall into. (Since Fool's Run, anyway.)

November 2005

Martin, George R. R.
A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, No. 4)
It finally arrives. It is half a book. Half a really, really long book. Half a book's worth of stuff happens. Considering that we won't meet these characters again until 2010 if we're lucky, I wish more of them had been involved in anything significant. I mean, yes, a lot of important stuff happened, but I felt like a lot of time got marked. Plus (as someone else noted) Cersei's head is way more boring to inhabit than Jaime's.

Elliott, Kate
For years everyone told me this was good. Surprise! It's good. High-tech woman stranded among the horse nomads. The nomad culture really comes alive, and then the people in it all come alive on top of that and are great to hang out with. There's a tall dark romanticly-prickly stranger to have a romance with, so that all goes as expected.

December 2005

Green, Simon R.
Paths Not Taken
Nightside story arc continues. You can see why these books come out so quickly; it's an episodic serial, not a series of novels. Adventures continue; they still don't bear thinking about with any rigor, and the angst is as clunky as the romance, but you get your snark where you can.

McDevitt, Jack
Once again, historical artifacts turn up a mystery. For a change, they're less than a hundred years old -- stuff from a research ship whose crew mysteriously disappeared. The author manages to give away his mcguffin to the readers a half-book before the protagonists clue in -- perhaps they were distracted by wondering how many vehicles the bad guys could sabotage before they were reduced to deflating the unicycle. However, still a decent read.

Langton, Jane
The Mysterious Circus
When I was very small, I read The Diamond in the Window, which was perfectly delightful. Shocked the hell out of me when I realized that the author is still writing sequels. I think I found this out too late, because this one is not very nifty. The cast has gotten larger, which is fine, but I think the target audience has gotten younger. For no obvious reason; the original kids are still around and several years older than when they started. Also, the Big Bad is thoroughly mundane.

Langton, Jane
The Swing in the Summerhouse
To check my memory, I picked up the immediate sequel to The Diamond in the Window, and it is as perfectly delightful as ever. Eddy and Eleanor take more of Prince Krishna's magical journeys, including the one he hasn't quite worked the bugs out of. Thoreau quotes are reified left and right, and if the parables are all obvious, so what; the joy comes through. Interestingly, there is no Big Bad, and the story still works fine.

Wilson, Robert Charles
I was spoiled for the ending and decided to buy this anyway. In retrospect, I don't see why people complained; the author starts dropping hints no later than the midpoint of the book, and gets explicit well before the end. On the other hand, the resolution isn't nearly as interesting as the setup. It winds up as a struggle up Mount Doom, and then the amulet is chucked in and that's it. And I did want to know about how general society developed afterwards. And more detail about the religious arguments. Okay, I see why people complained.

Heatter, Maida
Maida Heatter's Cakes
Contains the Queen Mother's Cake, and many other things I need to bake someday.

Monette, Sarah
The book I am halfway through as I write this! I liked the first half. One of those fantasy novels set in Paris instead of London. The Revolution is nowhere in sight (but I'm only halfway through) but we're ass-deep in aristocrats, decadent playboys, and wizards. Also gutter thieves, whores, and necromancers. Tasty stew.

Last updated January 4, 2006.

Books I own

Comments on books I bought in: 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014

Zarfhome (map) (down)