Books I Bought in 2006

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 93 books in 2006.

January 2006

Fforde, Jasper
Something Rotten
Was this the fourth one? It was okay, but I was tired of this series by book three. Fforde should have put the ending (which was cute) at the end of book 2 and gotten on with something else.

Gaiman, Neil
Anansi Boys
Charming and moves right along, which means Gaiman has avoided all the reasons I disliked American Gods. Still has all the good parts of American Gods -- plus funny -- so, basically, read this.

Levy, Jennifer; Danto, Arthur C.
397 Chairs
More of my design-collecting fetish.

MacLeod, Ken
Learning the World
Full of entertaining bits, and things happen, but I'm not sure there's a story.

Isaak, Elaine
The Singer's Crown
Definitely no story. Narration goes off rails, finds some new ones, goes off them too. I think the main character spends a lot of time bummed out, either because he's a eunuch or for some other reason.

February 2006

McKillip, Patricia A.
Solstice Wood
I like when McKillip does contemporary. I am told the sense of place is completely wrong for -- New England? (sorry, my copy may be unpacked yet but I'm not at home) -- in any case, I don't care. Mad characters are still sparkly and delightful against a modern backdrop.

Williams, Liz
The Banquet of the Lords of Night & Other Stories
Contains the very short story that Snake Agent was founded upon. Lots of other stories with similar atmospheres, although they're not otherwise related. I liked enough of these to recommend it, particularly if you liked Snake Agent (see below).

Knight, Damon (ed.)
Orbit 18
Contains "Rules of Moopsball". Also, as it turns out, a story that was expanded into The Memory of Whiteness, but the Moopsball piece is the one that will live in fannishness forever.

Briggs, Patricia
Moon Called
Preternatural romance called. Briggs is the latest author to answer. This is a solidly-written entry in the subgenre, which is good, because the subgenre is now too full for crap to get by on sparkly-new ideas and steamy sex. It's werewolves, although the protagonist is not one herself. The blending of pack nipping-order and politics is convincing.

Berg, Carol
Daughter of Ancients (Bridge of D'Arnath, book 4)
End of series, honest for real this time. As I said in some previous commentary, only the first book is really compelling -- you read the rest if you want to hang out with the folks and have some more adventures. They're nice folks.

de Camp, L. Sprague; Pratt, Fletcher
Tales from Gavagan's Bar
Many, many old saws, which were new at the time. Remember what I said about a subgenre which gets by on sparkly ideas? SF/F stories set in a bar was an older one, although to be fair, short-shorts don't need an excuse.

Shedley, Ethan I.
Earth Ship & Star Song
I only barely remember the storyline here. Earth's ecology collapses and humanity has to do something else. This was a grand vision of the future, only not well-developed enough to become a classic.

Palmatier, Joshua
The Skewed Throne
Compelling series opener. Loveable thief girl grows up wild on the streets, except none of that "loveable" crap. She's desperate, constantly on the brink of starvation, and good at stabbing things and running away. She has to learn to understand her magical talent (which, being totally uneducated, she narrates in a very idiosyncratic way) while finding allies (which are not the same as "a loving home and replacement parents").

Bowes, Richard
From the Files of the Time Rangers
A collection of short stories. The background is a mix of Greek gods, time travel, tall tales, and other stuff I've forgotten. This mix does not hold together.

March 2006

Green, Simon R.
Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth
Episode in the Nightside series; ends a story arc. Predictably, Green is not able to carry off all the omens and import that he's been building up over ?six books, but he has a jolly good try.

Wilson, Robert Charles
Stomped all over the 2006 awards, because it's good. Today's reason for all the stars going out is that Earth is in a time bubble. Therefore, we get to experience the grand vision of the future in one generation of viewpoint: terraforming, alien human civilizations, the death of the Solar System. This works fantastically well, and I only wonder why nobody has done it before... oh, right, Stapledon and that Sheffield one. Wilson must be a good writer or something.

Broderick, Damien
Broderick has a crush on Zelazny's Amber series. If you do too, re-read Amber.

April 2006

Dennett, Daniel C.
Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon
Dennett calls for religious behavior to be studied in all the ways that you might expect would freak out non-atheists: anthropologically, sociologically, biologically, evolutionarily, memetically. Only has the barest sampling of such studies; Dennett is mostly counterarguing-in-advance the objections and the freaking-out. If you think humans can never or will never study themselves that way, this is an interesting book. If you think you already do it because you're an SF fan, you should probably read the book anyway, if only to cure your naivete about how hard sociology is. If you want to understand religion, this book will not solve your problem.

Novik, Naomi
His Majesty's Dragon
Reading this book is like petting a fluffy cat. The cat is a dragon, who is British and modest, and he's got a human captain, and it's the Napoleonic War, and it's wonderful comfort food.

Westerfeld, Scott
Blue Noon (Midnighters, vol 3)
Good wrap-up to good, original take on the teens-with-superpowers-fighting-demons thing. Things turn out to be more complicated than we thought, and war costs and costs.

Nix, Garth
Sir Thursday
This is the middle of the series, so "more of same," meaning more pretty-good kid adventure serial so I'm happy with it. They're coming out awfully far apart for such short books, though. I hope Nix isn't tired of the series.

Kransen, Charon; Le Van, Marthe (ed.)
500 Bracelets
500 Wood Bowls
Further developments in the contemporary-design series. The bracelets push and then disintegrate the notion of "you wear it on your wrist," which is nifty, plus many of them are beautiful. The wooden bowls are just beautiful.

Norton, Andre
Sargasso of Space
The Zero Stone
Saw these cheap, so I bought them. I read them when I was eight, just like you did. I was surprised how little I remembered of The Zero Stone, but it turns out it was good.

May 2006

Novik, Naomi
Throne of Jade
Boy and dragon go to China.

Peters, Jan; Kieffer, Susan Mowery (ed.)
500 Baskets
These get downright mathematical.

Vinge, Vernor
Rainbows End
Lots of cool stuff, but not quite satisfying. Big flashy ending... well, you'd call it big if you hadn't seen Vinge turn off stars and steamroll galactic civilizations in his previous books. Which is an unfair comparison; this is a near-future piece. My point is, it's a big flashy ending that doesn't seem to resolve very much. Feels like Vinge wanted the big and the flashy but didn't really have an ending in mind, so he threw fireworks onto some plot elements and called it a day.

Williams, Liz
Snake Agent
It's a dark night in the Chinese afterlife and everybody's got a small flaw in his character. No, the book doesn't have that line, but it might as well. Detective-Inspector Chen doesn't live in Hell, but sometimes he has to go there on police business. The afterlife bureacracy is just as mucked-up as the mundane one, which makes this both perfect Chinese myth and perfect noir procedural. My only complaint is that Williams tries to be funny and doesn't quite know how. Hopefully she'll get better at that in the sequels.

Fairclough, Robert (ed.)
The Prisoner: The Original Scripts, Volume 1
Obsessively detailed rendering of the TV show's scripts; perfect for the obsessed fan (i.e., me). Packed with notes about changed lines, cut and added scenes, production details, who argued with who on the set and how that affected the episode, etc, etc. Bonus essays on various people responsible for the series (it wasn't just McGoohan and a weather balloon); also a couple of unused episode outlines. Must grab volume 2.

Butcher, Jim
Dead Beat
I'm sticking to paperbacks for the Harry Dresden series, which means I'm now permanently behind. My memory says this one has more action and less character development, which doesn't bother me. No, I'm probably confusing character development with hot vampire/faerie sex. My mistake. This one has character development, and also zombie dinosaurs, so win-win. (In case you're the last Dresden fan to hear, he's turning into a Sci-Fi Channel series this month. I'm optimistic.)

Robinson, Spider
The Crazy Years
Spider is now a grumpy old guy. This is a collection of grumpy essays. Once or twice he slips into telling an anecdote, and the readability rockets up, but then he goes back to grump. It doesn't help that he's down on the Internet and up on people who want to smoke, scoring zero with me both ways.

June 2006

Novik, Naomi
Black Powder War
Third book. (But not the end of a trilogy. These books are reasonably self-contained, but the series plot-line shows no sign of ending.) In case you're the last Temeraire fan to hear, Peter Jackson optioned this for a movie. Note that "optioned" is a long way from "making it", especially if Eragon drives the dragon movie market into a sinkhole and then pees on it with the fury of a thousand once-burned studio executives.

Reynolds, Alastair
Pushing Ice
Stand-alone novel about engineers. An Alien Artifact Enters the System and only our hero comet-drillers can reach it. They then have arguments. Reynolds makes a creditable (but not very convincing) attempt at having the backbone of his story be the rivalry between two women, both of whom (being engineers) are sure they know how to deal with everything. The coolness of the alien artifact covers the cracks.

Shinn, Sharon
The Truth-Teller's Tale
Shinn stepped out of the revolving door of SF/F romance to do The Safe-Keeper's Secret, which was (deliberate irony) a frank and disarming YA fantasy. This one is set in the same world; but the story is more contrived and awkward. Still nice.

Kimbriel, Katharine Eliska
Kindred Rites
Sequel to Night Calls, a fixup in which a girl with the Sight grows up in backwoods-settler country. This novel is a single story; still pleasant company.

July 2006

Rowles, Chuck
Going Home, book 1 (The Gods of Arr-Kelaan)
Going Home, book 2 (The Gods of Arr-Kelaan)
Graphic novels about a passenger liner that crashes on a low-tech planet, leaving the few survivors inexplicably omnipotent. Protagonist wants nothing more than to stagger around the rest of his life creating beers for himself. He can't avoid getting caught in more important events. Has the right funny-serious tone.

Edwards, Ron
The Sorcerer's Soul
Nine Worlds
Two "new style" role-playing systems, meaning that they're founded on a simple storytelling mechanic rather than a combat or skill-simulation mechanic. These are small books -- no spell tables or artifact lists. In Sorcerer you are bound to a demon who can do magic for you; it has needs and you have desires, so how much are you willing to pay? Nine Worlds is a Greek geocentric milieu in which you manage a list of story goals ("free my love from Hades") instead of a list of skills, and counterbalanced honor-vs-glory instead of hit points.

Bear, Elizabeth
Blood and Iron
Modern urban fantasy turned up to 11: wizards with cellphones, dragons, the Faerie Queens, immortal conspiracies, armies of trees. It's war (human-vs-elf, light-elf-vs-dark, dragon-aiyee-run-away) but Bear vindictively avoids taking sides. She is self-assured enough to make all this satisfying for me, but you may disagree.

Monette, Sarah
The Virtu
Second book in ?four-ology about a wizard and a thief on the run, each of whom is a whirling tornado of emotionally fucked-up. This time they're running towards something (and Felix is no longer schizophrenic) so the story has more drive. I'm tempted to say that Melusine and The Virtu are half-novels that form part one of a duology -- but I say this in retrospect of Melusine. Never mind, it's all about the character narration.

Stross, Charles
Post-scarcity post-humans volunteer for a cripplingly primitive lifestyle experiment: mid-20th-century Earth. Experiment turns out to be More Than It Seems. Stross is down off the pure-idea buzz of Accelerando, but this social commentary isn't incisive enough to be a replacement. Fortunately, the plot holds up adequately.

Duncan, Dave
Children of Chaos
Rollicking adventure with politics on a dodecahedral planet. People have magical talents, which cost in subtle or obvious ways. If that sounds stock, remember that Duncan has been making stock fantasy rollick for decades now. Part one of two.

Park, Paul
A Princess of Roumania
Got a few chapters in, was bored blind, threw it aside.

Lynch, Scott
The Lies of Locke Lamora
Gonzo-fun romp about the first long-con man in fantasy city. The setting is a take on Renaissance Venice, which is also a nice change. Much blood and revenge. This is a complete story but some plot threads carry forward into a (planned) long series.

Stross, Charles
The Clan Corporate (The Merchant Princes, book 3)
"Book 3" is all I can say. I suspect this series will read better all at once, but I have no self-control.

Morrison, Grant
Crawling from the Wreckage (Doom Patrol, collection 1)
The Painting That Ate Paris (Doom Patrol, collection 2)
Down Paradise Way (Doom Patrol, collection 3)
The late-80s magical-surrealism comic book series, collected as graphic novels. If you are turned on by the idea of the Brotherhood of Dada, or a villain who has every superpower you aren't currently thinking of, you should read these.

Carey, Jacqueline
Conclusion to a two-parter which is intended as a trenchant criticism of Tolkien. To Carey's probable chagrin, the series fails as criticism/analysis, but succeeds pretty well as unashamed Tolkien imitation. Only with more sympathetic villains, which is nice.

August 2006

Kushner, Ellen
The Privilege of the Sword
Twenty years after Swordspoint, forty-ish before The Fall of the Kings. Where Swordspoint was a prickly romance and Fall mused about the romance of lost magic, Privilege is a tight dissection of class and gender roles in the changing fantasy city. Or rather, it's a excellently-rendered growing-up narration of a country girl who comes to the big city and learns to duel -- with social issues shining out from behind every crack. Fully readable on its own, but if you've read the other two, this illuminates various characters from new angles.

Brust, Steven
Vlad finally gets a decent meal. This book does much to set up coming alarums and emergencies, but doesn't do a lot of plot advancement. So, polar opposite to Issola. I am okay with alternation, but Brust would be better served by a more even mix, particularly if the books are going to appear at four-year intervals.

Turner, Megan Whalen
The King of Attolia
Long-awaited conclusion to three-book set (but not really a trilogy) about a thief who makes good. (Heh heh.) Once again, a book to read for the great company, although this time they're viewed by an outsider.

Sanderson, Brandon
I declare Sanderson to be the new Dave Duncan. Big fat fantasy about a rebellion in the land oppressed by the Dark Lord. Complicated magical talents that the author describes in obsessive detail. Lots of politics. Unashamedly fun. This is the beginning of a series, but it does have a satisfying conclusion (yes, the confrontation with the Dark Lord, and guess how that goes? Wrong.)

Walton, Jo
1940s British country-house murder mystery, with political complications. Excellently narrated by two very different characters. I've read too many reviews of this to believe that you haven't read any, so I'll stop there.

Powers, Tim
Three Days to Never
Better than the worst Powers. I think it's not as good as his best, but I thought that about Last Call and then changed my mind after a couple of rereads. I will reread this and decide then. In any case, it's got ghosts, Einstein, time machines, Charlie Chaplin, and the weirdness locus that is Hollywood.

Abraham, Daniel
A Shadow in Summer
Big, detailed fantasy world in which magic is done by enslaved demons. The demons are not thrilled with their role. This is politics top to bottom -- but since it's one demon to one mage, and one demon can give a winning edge to an entire city, it's really personal politics. Beginning of an ambitious series (unsure of planned length) which looks like a winner from here.

Caine, Rachel
Firestorm (Weather Warden, book 5)
Not much to say: the fifth of an unboundedly-long fluff preternatural romance series. It still has momentum -- that is, the overall situation continues to change. I still like it.

Perry, Steve
The Musashi Flex
In a distant future run by big corporations, a few men challenge themselves with the deadly sport of... Okay, this could describe any number of books, but this one is fairly well-done. The martial arts ring true (at least from my standpoint of a couple of years of aikido). The characters are broadly drawn but engaging. I am told this is a precursor to a bunch of other books, but I didn't know that when I read it and it was fine.

Sherman, Delia
Straight-up kids' story about a kid in Faerie New York. She has adventures. This is not irony or a dark adult take; it's an adventure for pre-teens to enjoy. Note: my copy vibrates when I take the Red Line from Harvard to Central. If you need to locate the Genius Loci of Boston, you know where to look.

September 2006

Duncan, Hal
Very eccentric ramble through a Greater Universe with an Eternal War. Characters drift from one setting and role to another. There seems to be an overall plot, but it's hard to pin down, particularly since this is only the first half of the story. I liked it for its mix of Miltonian and modern-punk tropes: angels in a tattoo parlor, being etched with Enochian symbols of power. This also conveys the unbounded infinity of the Greater Universe better than anybody since Zelazny. However, I suspect it's a love-it-or-bored-by-it book.

Nagata, Linda
Epic quest on a world of magic, only the magic is out-of-control nanotech. (Nagata does this much, much better than Chalker.) The society is carefully thought out, not made of stupid people, and quite a bit stranger than your fantasy goggles lead you to assume.

Keck, David
In the Eye of Heaven
Gritty feudal fantasy. Our boy aspires to be a knight, but the piece of land his father scrounged for him comes unscrounged. Now what the heck is he going to do? This is a world where even tournament combat can easily leave you with broken fingers or sprained shoulders -- which is to say, a realistic world -- but it also has magic. Of the Norse persuasion: lots of dooms and vengeance from beyond the grave. Pleasant, but did not convince me I had to keep reading the series, particularly not in hardcover.

Nazarian, Vera
The Clock King and the Queen of the Hourglass
Far-future novella: Earth is dying, humans are wispy asexual creatures. They have a male in stasis, and they periodically (rarely) need to raise a fertile female to mate with him and get some more genetic bafflegab. This is a dreamy little (non-porny) romance, but I didn't care much.

Kibuishi, Kazu (ed.)
Flight (vol 3)
Graphic novel anthology. (Is that a contradiction in terms?) Okay, a collection of short comics by different authors, on the general theme of "Flight". Very wide range, although it tends towards the cute.

Gaiman, Neil
Fragile Things
Collection of stories, of which I think I'd seen nearly all before. But if you don't have a copy of "A Study in Emerald", this is a good place to get it.

Tufte, Edward R.
Beautiful Evidence
A collection of essays related only by Tufte's interest in design. This has the "sparklines" essay, the "PowerPoint suxxors" essay, and one on how to mount garden sculpture.

Pratchett, Terry
I think Pratchett's "young adult" Discworld books are drifting towards being the same as the "adult" ones, except shorter and with Tiffany Aching. This is not a complaint, just an observation. Wintersmith is typical Pratchett.

Schroeder, Karl
Sun of Suns
Space pirates! Okay, freefall pirates in a giant air-bubble. All of Schroeder's usual care for social constructions (when every state is a rag-tag fleet of floating platforms around a hand-tended fusion sun, what is the ecology of nations?) plus fleet engagements, revenge, a voyage of discovery into a lost world, a kid growing up, ancient technology, adventure, and maybe a little bit of true love. There will be sequels, which I am happy about.

October 2006

Jones, Diana Wynne
The Pinhoe Egg
Best Jones in a while, I'd say. Usual magical follies, but with a non-silly thread: the old grandma of the extended family is going senile and isn't competent to live on her own. But she's still the most powerful witch in the clan, and perfectly capable of making everybody's life hell. What now? This gets tangled with family feuds, old wars with the Little People, the usual crop of teenage wizards, and the Crestomanci (who for once doesn't know as much as he thinks he does). The tone is a little more uneven than Jones's best, but she's still got it.

Bujold, Lois McMaster
Beguilement (The Sharing Knife, 1)
I still think Bujold was watching "Firefly" the whole time she was writing the dialogue for this. Explicitly New-World-settlers fantasy, with small towns of farmers and nomadic tribes. Only the nomads are a distributed military culture dedicated to hunting down "malices" (demons). Our heroine falls in with one of them, and then -- the smoochies. There is a certain amount of "nomads good; farmers idiots", but shades of grey do creep in eventually. This is half a novel. More specifically, it's half a Bujold novel, so it has all the characters and the initial problem, but our heroes have not yet been dropped into the cacky. This gives it a bit of a Mercedes Lackey feel, but I have faith that the cacky is looming ahead.

Bourdain, Anthony
The Nasty Bits
Collection of essays about the food world. Lacks the brutality of his first book, and the flagrant self-mockery of his TV show. Result: bland.

Littleton, Maurine; Kieffer, Susan (ed.)
500 Glass Objects
Damn, I love art glass.

Zahn, Timothy
Night Train to Rigel
Old-fashioned action movie in space. Politics, chase scenes, aliens, people found dead. Starts, in fact, with a mysterious dying stranger who lives just long enough to hand over an interstellar train ticket. That tells you all you need to know.

Stemple, Adam
Singer of Souls
Starts as Scribblies-style urban faerie fantasy. Ends bitter, bitter black. Stemple must have seen one too many junkie friends die.

Hodgell, P. C.
To Ride a Rathorn
This is "Jame hits military school" and the military school barely survives it. Good old Jame. Not much is resolved here -- I think it's really only part one of the original "military school" plotline. But it's a return to God Stalk's more quirky and whimsical brand of total chaos and disruption. I enjoyed that, particularly since I am sure it's a temporary respite. (Complaint: the book design is terrible, with a half-obscured cover title and internal maps at 72 dpi.)

November 2006

Dennett, Daniel C.
Sweet Dreams: Philosophical Obstacles to a Science of Consciousness
This is a collection of counter-counterarguments to counterarguments to Dennett's books on consciousness. (It has nothing to do with Breaking the Spell, above.) As such, it's probably only interesting to people who are already fans of Consciousness Explained etc.

Palmatier, Joshua
The Broken Throne
Book two of fantasy series that I'm pretty pleased with. Our heroine is now a figure of power in the city. She still carries her knife, but now she has problems that can't be solved by stabbing: magic, famine, barbarian invaders, corrupt merchants, and her questionably-gruntled predecessor. She copes.

Wrede, Patricia; Stevermer, Caroline
The Mislaid Magician, or Ten Years After
Returns to the epistolary form of Sorcery and Cecelia. (But now the menfolk are writing letters too. Admirably distinct voices.) The story is fine -- more of same -- but it's nice to see the background world evolving. It's not just fantasyland, it's semihistorical England, and the "history" means change.

December 2006

Stross, Charles
The Jennifer Morgue
More "Bob Howard" spycraft-and-Cthulhiana. Writing these is clearly more fun for Stross than a bucket of kittens, and so reading is too. (Did you catch that the protagonist's initials are "BOFH"?) This one goes consciously towards the gonzo-spy end of the spectrum, so the lurking horrors are a little shortchanged. Nonetheless, terrific.

Bear, Elizabeth
I didn't like Hammered much, but Bear has gotten much better at dropping in vast swathes of background without stopping the story dead at the outset. This is a standalone in which a not-very-admirable Terran empire is taking back a bunch of emancipated colonies (which are not necessarily that admirable either). One colony is More Than It Seems. It's a character story on top of politics on top of culture clash, and all of these levels are well-done.

Baker, Keith
The Shattered Land (The Dreaming Dark, book 2)
The Gates of Night (The Dreaming Dark, book 3)
The first book in this series was pretty generic D&D fiction (albeit in a D&D milieu that Baker invented himself). By the second book he's figured out what story he wants to tell about his characters, so what comes out is respectable fantasy. There are some excellent world-building moments, too. I hope he turns to writing non-tied-in fantasy.

Smith, Sherwood
I am only halfway into this, due to disruptions of my reading schedule (see below). Smith does big feudal politics (politics is this year's theme, isn't it?) from the point of view of a kid at military school (two more themes, come to think of it). The names and titles -- everybody has two or three of each -- take a few chapters to get used to, but the YA viewpoint is metal-solid. (First line: "Let's go fight the girls!") My only complaint is that the narration has potholes; it's mostly tight-third-person, but sometimes jumps heads or goes omniscient to make some point. Consistency would work better.

Wolfe, Gene
Soldier of Sidon
Have not gotten to this.

Duane, Diane
The Empty Chair (Star Trek)
Wrap-up of the highly-spread-out Rihannsu ("Romulan") series -- Duane started it in the first era of Trek novelizing. The characters are all smart, smart renditions of the classic Trek cast -- which is tremendously satisfying to read. Unfortunately, they don't talk like the classic cast, which is somewhat disappointing. I mean, Duane's Kirk is a great captain and her McCoy is a great doctor and so on; I just can't imagine Shatner or Kelley saying these lines. Nonethless, we get a big windup for the Rihannsu, with some great moments, and a bit of clever chamfering to fit this continuity in with the canonical TNG view of the Romulans.

Danielewski, Mark Z.
House of Leaves [bought in 2004]
I appreciate that someone is still willing to treat typography as a fireworks factory rather than pavement. (Who was the last one -- Ellen Raskin?) This faux-documentary rendering of a surreal horror incident is entertaining if you're willing to put in the work to parse it all. The footnotes stack three layers deep. Note that while the horror genre's blends with F/SF take on the latters' emphasis on plot, the classic ghost story is not a novel, and neither is this. A Thing Happened.

Hobb, Robin
Shaman's Crossing [borrowed]
Forest Mage [borrowed]
As the person said whom I borrowed these from: "Robin Hobb has pretty much figured out how to end a novel now." Solid fantasy, and if I didn't come out the other side transfigured, I can at least say that all my predictions about where the plot was going were proven wrong. Will be -- okay, borrowing -- the conclusion of the trilogy when it appears.

Susanna Clarke
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell [borrowed]
I started reading this in mid-December, which more or less blew out the rest of the year (which is why I didn't get to the Wolfe). It takes a few hundred pages to introduce a character who is not repulsive, and another few hundred before I started caring what happened to him. This does not seem like the best structure for a novel. And Clarke's consummate control of tone is not apparent until the going gets very fey and strange -- at which point you realize that all the dry fustiness is deliberate -- at which point you wonder why she worked so hard to make her novel dislikeable. But I eventually wound up intrigued by the history of English magic, mostly revealed in footnotes, which is much stranger than the quasi-historical setting at first implies.

Last updated January 4, 2007.

Books I own

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

Zarfhome (map) (down)