Books I Bought in 2003

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 133 books in 2003.

January 2003

McKenna, Juliet E.
The Warrior's Bond
Nth in a series. I remember the first one being really good. I remember all the successors as not living up to it.

MacDonald, James D.
The Apocalypse Door
Priest noir. "The fun nun with the gun." Read it.

Nix, Garth
Part two of the sequel to Sabriel. Not nearly as graceful and charming as the original. Liked the dog, though.

Williams, Liz
The Poison Master
Some people think that "dark fantasy" means that the sun literally never rises. This wasn't bad, but the story wasn't as good as the setting.

Briggs, Patricia
Dragon Blood
She's getting good. Good characters.

Effinger, George Alec
The Bird of Time
Old favorite. Time-travel silliness. I miss GAE. I miss his early silliness even more.

Billingsley, Franny
The Folk Keeper
Growing-up story with faeries and humans. Very good.

Looney, Andrew
The Empty City
Honestly, I bought this because he's a friend. Buy his games instead.

Jay, Ricky
Little art book documenting a collection of old casino dice. Old casino dice were made of celluloid. Celluloid decays over time, in weird ways. Great photographs of rotting dice.

Jones, Diana Wynne
Witch's Business
Early DWJ, I think. Pretty good.

Hodgell, P. C.
Blood and Ivory
Collection of stories; I had most of them; this was a "support the author" purchase.

Harris, Charlaine
Living Dead in Dallas
Book two of a series. Ultimately a riff on Anita Blake: vampirism comes out of the coffin, but the viewpoint character is a waitress in Middle-Nowhere Carolina. (Georgia? South of me.) Good fun, good story. Mind you, I could have said the same thing about Anita Blake #2.

Spencer, Wen
Tainted Trail
Another book two. Very good series about a werewolf (but not really) in slightly-future Pittsburgh. Don't make assumptions; book one turned very SFnal halfway through.

Doctorow, Cory
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom
Enjoyed this a lot. Good old-fashioned story about people, set after death and money are cured. Author is obsessed with Disneyworld, but I guess someone has to be.

February 2003

Moore, Alan; O'Neill, Kevin
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (vol 1)
Comic collection. Glorious gooniness of 100+ years ago, mashed into a story with a big wooden spoon. There's a prose short story at the end of the collection which is even more spot-the-reference. Recommended. Pretend crap movie never existed.

Tropp, Barbara
China Moon Cookbook
Has a steamed bun recipe which I was able to make. Fantastic. I haven't made much from this, but everything has been good.

Duane, Diane
Runaways (Tom Clancy's Net Force)
I now have all six of these. The ones Duane wrote, I mean. They're all good solid YA SF, with Duane's heart-rendingly clear rendition of people. Really, if you like any of her fiction, you shouldn't avoid these.

Zimmerman, Eric; Nowacek, Nancy
Life in the Garden
Deck of cards, with a sentence or paragraph on each. Shuffle, deal fice. Read them. The resulting short-short story is good, more often than not. I wish I knew how they did it. I've tried to imitate the trick, with only mild success.

Smullyan, Raymond
The Riddle of Scheherazade: and Other Amazing Puzzles
One of his last puzzle books (1997). I wish I could get into these more. I used to love them, but the magic went away.

Dennett, Daniel C.
Freedom Evolves
Casually sets fire to the whole "free will vs determinism" argument. Discusses various kinds of free will, with examples. I've heard this is largely a recap of themes from his earlier books, but apparently not the ones I've read. Anyhow, recommended.

Smullyan, Raymond
Some Interesting Memories: A Paradoxical Life
If you've read all his puzzle and philosophy books, you've already heard most of these anecdotes. If you haven't, you aren't interested in this.

Kearney, Paul
Ships From the West
Conclusion of a pentalogy. Feels somewhat rushed; the first few books hooked me more than the last few satisfied me. Still enjoyed it.

March 2003

McGarry, Terry
The Binder's Road
Strange sequel to her first fantasy novel. First one was pretty classical in form: misunderstood mage reveals conspiracy, saves the world, or rather the island she thinks is the world. In book two, people try to put civilization back together after the exciting (read: catastrophic) climax of book one. Good idea; I'm not sure it was done well, but I'm not sure it wasn't.

Shinn, Sharon
Book four of a series which should have stopped after one. I vaguely remember that everyone was an idiot, or maybe everyone was abusive, or maybe everything worked out well for no discernable reason.

van Gulik, Robert Hans
The Phantom of the Temple
One of the much-discussed Judge Dee books. I love Hughart. It turns out I don't like van Gulik.

Maggin, Elliot S.
Superman: Miracle Monday
I actually read this on the Web first. Don't know if I did it legally. Anyway, I own it now. Surprisingly well-written for a Superman novella.

Lee, John
The Unicorn Quest
Bad. Author wanted to write fantasy.

MacGregor, Ellen
Miss Pickerell Goes Undersea
Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars
Ancient classics of yore.

April 2003

Herbert, Frank
Children of Dune
Yes, I would never have bought this if the Sci-Fi Channel hadn't done their adaptation. I did read it before I watched it. Not bad, but I find the Dune books more interesting than entertaining. I've never been captivated by them.

Zim, Herbert S.
Codes and Secret Writing
Another ancient classic of yore. If you were into codes in the mid-70s, you probably found this book -- likely in the yellow Scholastic edition. I bought this because I was going to a Minneapolis con, and I wanted Bruce Schneier to sign it. He did. I am happy.

Smith, Sherwood
Crown Duel
Good YA fantasy. (Originally two-book series, collected here). Dirt-poor country nobility goes to big city, copes with intrigue, triumphs.

Lindholm, Megan
Harpy's Flight
The Limbreth Gate
Two of her Ki/Vandien books. I liked these. (More than her Robin Hobb books.) Unpretentious fun sword-and-sorcery, or I guess I should say cart-and-sorcery.

Pierce, Meredith Ann
Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood
Little jewel book, like McKillip's recent work. Not that beautiful, but still a sweet fairy tale.

McCarthy, Wil
The Wellstone
Space opera at its modern best.

Froud, Brian
The World of the Dark Crystal
Art book for the movie. Features sketches, diagrams, and Froud art more than photographs. (Which is good: I don't need photographs, I have the DVD.) This has the Serafini-nature: it is presented as a fragmentary history, investigation, archaeology of a lost world. Kicks ass.

MacLeod, Ken
Engine City (The Engines of Light, book 3)
Boring conclusion to boring series.

May 2003

Pratchett, Terry
The Wee Free Men
Terrific. I love Pratchett's kid characters, and this is one of the best.

Huff, Tanya
Long Hot Summoning (The Keeper's Chronicles 3)
Funny, but jokes about shopping malls ought not be stretched out this long.

Harris, Charlaine
Club Dead
Book three of series. Lost all my faith by blatantly manipulating characters into angsty positions. Advice: read first two, stop.

Berg, Carol
Song of the Beast
Her first trilogy was a really well-drawn character fantasy. This is a standalone, but not so engaging.

Lynn, Elizabeth A.
The Sardonyx Net
Old book. SF society with slavery. Okay adventure.

Davidson, Avram
The Phoenix and the Mirror
Ok, this is an old book. Alchemy and Davidson's mad take on history. Recommended.

Packard, Edward
The Cave of Time (Choose Your Own Adventure #1)
Invented the CYOA genre. Structurally interesting. Will write essay on this someday.

Sucharitkul, Somtow
The Fallen Country
Don't think I read this.

Springer, Nancy
The Friendship Song
Teen fantasy about family and friendship and being a teen. Okay, a teen rock music addict, which I never was. Still good stuff. Oh yes, it's an Orpheus story.

Jones, Diana Wynne
The Merlin Conspiracy
My favorite of recent DWJ, which still isn't as good as some of her earlier stuff.

Williamson, Jack
The Cometeers
One Against the Legion
Golden Age space opera. I guess this was the best there was of that, at the time.

Wilson, Colin
The Space Vampires
I guess this was as erotic as SF was allowed to get, at the time.

Rohan, Michael Scott; Scott, Allan
The Ice King
Minor gods-are-summoned-in-modern-world fantasy. Norse gods. Rohan did better with his solo books.

McMullen, Sean
Souls in the Great Machine
I later found out this was a fixup of a whole lot of short stories and novellettes. Doesn't work as a novel; it's stuck together with absurd coincidence. Characters are totally unbelievable.

Schroeder, Karl
Nice modern space opera. Kind of jumpy. Last time I mentioned the science errors, I started a three-month thread-that-would-not-die. Honest, the good science outnumbers the bad.

Weis, Margaret (ed.)
Fantastic Alice
Theme anthology. I hate theme anthologies. They anti-showcase stories. However, this has a Zelazny short story that I like.

Smith, Clark Ashton
A Rendezvous in Averoigne
Collection of his Lovecraft-era dark fantasy. Good stuff, but probably you have to be the right age to be hooked on it.

Cockayne, Steve
Wanderers and Islanders (Legends of the Land 1)
The Iron Chain (Legends of the Land 2)
Fantasy, though far distant from the genre conventions. Offbeat and dreamlike. First one is ambiguous, second one downright grim. He'd better be planning to redeem the characters with a third.

Gentle, Mary
White Crow
Collection of the Valentine & White Crow stories -- including Rats and Gargoyles, which is probably the best of the bunch. All the others seem too narrow, despite admirable flamboyance, imagination, and verve.

Stross, Charles
Collection of stories. Good to excellent.

June 2003

Whiteland, David
Fudebakudo: The Way of the Exploding Pen
Cartoons about martial arts. I laughed.

Tufte, Edward R.
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint
One oldie, and a pamphlet from his upcoming book. If you've seen an article on the subject of "Powerpoint makes you stupid", it was either this pamphlet, or a discussion of it. Recommended.

Serafini, Luigi; Cetrulo, Polecenella
Pulcinellopedia (piccola)
The other book Serafini ever wrote. Clowns, women, spaghetti.

July 2003

McKillip, Patricia
In the Forests of Serre
Jewel book, like I said. Fairy tale of fairy tales. Ombria was better.

Spencer, Wen
Bitter Waters
Third book in series. Still good. Suddenly a lot of sex, though. I worry about Anita-Blake-style meltdown.

Nix, Garth
Mister Monday
Fun, lots of style, shallow. A friend noted that the protagonist barely does anything; magical guides tell him what to do.

Duncan, Dave
The Destiny of the Sword (The Seventh Sword, book 3)
You'd be amazed how long I looked for this. This was a very early Duncan trilogy. Hugely fun, great storytelling, great characters, great story. I think Duncan never wins awards because he's too enjoyable.

Duncan, Dave
Silvercloak (King's Daggers, No 3)
The "Daggers" series is for younger readers, set in "King's Blades" universe. They're all standalones. Fun, like I said. Not his best though.

Lem, Stanislaw
Peace on Earth
Recent Lem. Weird to read a Lem story which is conscious of nanotechnology, etc. However, you don't need to read it.

Westerfield, Scott
The Risen Empire
First half of decent SF war story.

Asher, Neal
Space opera with blood, blood, big weapons, and blood. I don't think I like anybody in it.

Kirstein, Rosemary
The Steerswoman's Road (The Steerswoman; The Outskirter's Secret)
Reprint of two of my favorite SF novels.

Pullman, Philip
Spring-Heeled Jack
Mixed comics and prose. Story doesn't do much.

Hemry, John G.
A Just Determination
Written for, and I guess by, the military-obsessed. If the Navy represents all that is good and bright about humanity, for you, you'll like this.

MacLeod, Ian R.
The Light Ages
Dickensian world erupts in revolution. Baroque and grim.

Wells, Martha
The Wizard Hunters (The Fall of Ile-Rien, 1)

Asprin, Robert; Abbey, Lynn
Thieves' World: Graphics 1
I scrape fragments of Diane Duane story out of any crack. (Except for Marvel Comics tie-ins.)

Duncan, Dave
A Rose-Red City
His first, I think. He got better.

Lewitt, S. N.
Angel at Apogee
She got better too, but this isn't bad.

Gerrold, David
Voyage of the Star Wolf
The Middle of Nowhere
Started as a Star Trek story idea, but Gerrold developed it into its own story and world. Good military SF, even if you don't believe the Navy represents all that is good etc.

Smith, Cordwainer
Still to-be-read.

van Vogt, A. E.
The Weapon Makers
Not as interesting as its place in SF lore would imply.

Franklin, Cheryl J.
Fire Crossing
Far down in a series, or two series, which I haven't read. I couldn't tell. Made no sense, but I secretly suspect that this would be true even if I had read them.

Baxter, Stephen
Victorian pastiche. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is more inventive, The Light Ages more believable.

August 2003

Brust, Steven
The Lord of Castle Black
I am tired of the style.

Stross, Charles
Singularity Sky
Promising author trips, falls flat on first novel. He's trying to amaze me with the possibility of a post-scarcity world, and the existence of non-American politics. Unfortunately he forgot to shoot Banks and MacLeod. Hint: Doctorow didn't invent the ideas either, but Down and Out is a story.

Butcher, Jim
Storm Front (Dresden Files, 1)
Secret-magic-in-our-world story, like Anita Blake only it's a guy and he's a wizard. (I know, the Blake stories are alternate, not secret. The comparison still jumps out at you.) Fun but minor; weak plotting, and the tough-hard-luck-guy narration is stock. (But see below.)

Rowling, J. K.; Huws, Emily
Harri Potter a Maen yr Athronydd
Bought as a conversation piece. I know no Welsh.

Kirstein, Rosemary
The Lost Steersman
Sequel appears after a decade, and thank Zog, the author hasn't lost it.

Fforde, Jasper
The Well of Lost Plots
He hasn't quite worn the joke out yet.

Williams, Liz
The Ghost Sister
All knowledge of this has fled from my head. I liked Poison Master more.

Christopher, John
The Lotus Caves
Old classic. I think I used to read this by skipping the first half, and starting when the wacky lunar secrets start to appear. (I was ten, maybe.) In retrospect, the whole thing is good.

Lewitt, S. N.
I try to remember this, but only get parts of Angel at Apogee.

Lubar, David
Hidden Talents
Kids' book about kids with mutant powers. Good. Running gimmick with scraps of paper that reveal adults' POV is not very successful. However, the author still gets across that Pinkwaterian sense of real (but slightly stranger-than-life) kids in a world of real (but much stranger-than-life (except that it all looks that way to kids)) adults.

Butcher, Jim
Fool Moon (Dresden Files, 2)
Grave Peril (Dresden Files, 3)
Second book like first. Third really starts to rock. Interesting and surprising uses of magic, which are nonetheless inevitable and satisfying. Preternatural politics get more interesting; protagonist's problems get more creative and twisted.

Whittemore, Edward
Jericho Mosaic
Nile Shadows
Jerusalem Poker
Three of the four "Jerusalem Quartet" novels. (I bought the first one in 2002.) I have now read all but the last. There are no other books like these.

Effinger, George Alec
The Bird of Time
Old favorite. Time-travel silliness. Didn't I say this once? Oh, yes, I found it in hardback. I miss GAE.

September 2003

Butcher, Jim
Summer Knight (Dresden Files, 4)
Continues to kick ass.

Brown, Alton
Gear For Your Kitchen
Didn't read (much of) this in 2003. But Alton Brown does great signings.

Gaiman, Neil
Sandman: Endless Nights
A couple of good stories, a couple of mediocre ones, a couple that aren't stories at all -- what the hell? If you're new to Sandman, please don't start here.

Butcher, Jim
Death Masks (Dresden Files, 5)
Continues to kick ass.

Bujold, Lois McMaster
Paladin of Souls

Stephenson, Neal
Reading this was a grim march of deadly willpower. It had several enjoyable pages.

October 2003

Pratchett, Terry
Monstrous Regiment
Pretty good, but Night Watch was better; so was Wee Free Men in a different way.

McCarthy, Wil
Aggressor Six
Old book. Has a claustrophobic sort of future which I don't enjoy reading. A gimmick story, stretched out too much.

Dickinson, Peter
The Blue Hawk
Fine old YA fantasy. Beautiful example of a story which may be about divine influence, and may be about a person of religious faith in a mundane world. Works either way, without condescension.

Reaves, Michael; Pelan, John (ed.)
Shadows over Baker Street
Theme anthology. I hate theme anthologies. I bought it for the Gaiman story, but there is another good one.

Duane, Diane
Wizard's Holiday
Not as blazingly good as the first two in this series, but my favorite since then, I think. Duane's conception of the Big Bad is getting interestingly more complex.

Westerfield, Scott
The Killing of Worlds
Second half of decent SF war story.

Moriarty, Chris
Spin State
Good conspiracy/AI/class-warfare story. But it works too hard to show a SFnal coal mine with downtrodden miners. I liked the playboy, gourmand AI.

Moon, Elizabeth
Trading in Danger
Cadet gets thrown out of military school. Will she make good on her disgrace?? Fun, but minor.

Spoor, Ryk E.
Digital Knight
Uneven fixup of stories about a guy who meets a vampire-in-the-modern- world. Readable, but I hope his next book is more together.

Dean, Pamela
The Secret Country
The Hidden Land
I read these many years ago, but I haven't started the re-read.

Schneier, Bruce
Beyond Fear
Introduction to thinking about security. Mostly straightforward stuff, but it's really good to have all the straightforward stuff written down where anybody can read it.

November 2003

Hearn, Lian
Grass for His Pillow
Book two of Japan-with-names-changed fantasy. Readable, but not strikingly good.

Spencer, Wen
Interesting start; middle and end feel phoned-in. Protagonist's story-arc has absolutely no coherence, story-wise. Stick with her Ukiah Oregon series.

McKinley, Robin
Wonderful construction. Great story. Vampire story which is great even if you're sick of vampire stories. Read it.

Swanwick, Michael
Field Guide to the Mesozoic Megafauna
Pamphlet collection of short-shorts. I love all the short-shorts in his Puck Aleshire's Abecedary; all the one he's done since then, including the periodic-table collection on, range from minor to trash. What the hell?

Irvine, Alex
Unintended Consequences
Collection of short stories. Some good ones, some terrific ones. Keep buying this guy.

Walton, Jo
Tooth and Claw
Combined with the flu to produce some amazingly unpleasant fever dreams. Hopefully you will not have that problem.

Walton says this is Trollope with dragons. I don't read Trollope. This is well-written, and very cleverly imagined, but everyone is stuffy and boring. This made it difficult for me to really get into it. Still, I'm glad I read it.

Drake, G. E.; Taylor, Sherry
The Compleat Lovecraftian Bar Guide
Bought because how could I not buy it? But I never drink... ethanol.

Bocskay, Georg; Hoefnagel, Joris
Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta
A Holy Roman Emperor commanded that Bocskay create for him the definitive book of calligraphy. Amazing stuff. Later, Hoefnagel came along and drew little plants and animals in the margins... so well that each page looks like a unified, designed whole. This is a reproduction of that manuscript. Cost a bundle, but how could I not buy it?

Dean, Pamela
The Whim of the Dragon
Haven't started the re-read.

Duncan, Dave
Impossible Odds (A Chronicle of the King's Blades)
Gonzo magical adventure, with conspiracy, treason, and the nastiest batch of undead nightmares since George R. R. Martin started teasing us with ice demons.

December 2003

Huff, Tanya
Relative Magic
Collection of stories. Some good ones. The one about the vampire-in- modern-world putting personal ads in the newspaper was a hoot.

Nix, Garth
Grim Tuesday
Second of seven, as you might guess. Still fun to read.

Moore, Alan; O'Neill, Kevin
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (vol 2)
More glorious comics stuff. Unfortunately, instead of a bonus prose short story, there's a bonus prose dead-as-dust catch-the-reference catalog of 19th-century fantasy. (And early 20th-century. And...? I caught them doing the Beatles, and now my trust is broken.)

Last updated January 2, 2004.

Books I own

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

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