Dec. 14th, 2016

muccamukk: Juli on a ladder shelving library books, sunbeams giving him wings. (Heart of Thomas: Wings)
What I Just Finished Reading
Gate of Ivrel (Chronicles of Morgaine, #1) by C.J. Cherryh
It's difficult to describe the emotional intensity of this book. It's like when Tolkien talks about Elves in the Silm: Everyone we meet is The Most Renowned Swordsman/Bowman/Singer/Bottlewasher/Etc. Everyone in this book is having The Worst Week Ever. The backstory is neatly summarised in the prologue in two competing documents (the SF perspective of events, and the Fantasy perspective), and then we're off to the races. The characters have already had every totally awful thing that's possible to happen happen to them by the time they meet. They're both desperate and at their worst, and within about half a page they're both pretty well in denial about how co-dependant they now are. Terrible things continue to happen at an average of 1.6 times a chapter.

So it's pretty dramatic, is what I'm saying, but I really liked how the characters handled it. Morgaine has been doing this for like a thousand years, everyone she knows is dead, she's probably going to fail, possibly causing the End Of All Things. She is the most stoic brave little toaster ever. Vanye has been living in exile, and just wants a hug, and his honour to be restored. He's very interested in honour, which is an unfortunate habit in what is basically a designated woobie.

The world building is very interesting. One of the best SF from a Fantasy perspective books I've read, with the iron-age PoV character making as decent sense of things as he can, while still letting the reader in on the SF elements. There is a lot about court politics, especially the morality of leadership and abuse of power (something the last '70s fantasy novel I read was also very interested in), and family obligations.

Definitely reading the rest of the series, though possibly after a break.


Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military-Industrial Complex by Michael A. Hiltzik
This book felt really scattered to me. It wanted to focus on Lawrence, but it also wanted to talk about Big Science, but it also wanted to talk about the military, and yes all three were intertwined, but the author kept rabbiting off after different threads, and it just didn't really come together for me. The later chapters especially dragged on, spent way too much time on who was on what committee, and didn't draw a very clear picture of the military and non-military use of various projects.

The pre-WWII stuff was interesting, as I hadn't read much about that, and had the attention to scientific detail that the rest of the book more or less dropped.


American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant by Ronald C. White Jr., narrated by Arthur Morey
So this was unapologetically and ragingly partisan, which was pretty charming on the whole. I've heard enough outlines and other sides on Grant to patch in the details, and it's explicitly meant to stand in opposition to anti-Grant books.

In any case, I like Grant, and am happy to read all about him, and the book is detailed and interesting. I hadn't heard much about his later life, and even the war stuff which everyone knows pretty well had some fresh takes, while mostly avoiding getting bogged in details. I think my favourite sections were the presidential campaigns, which were so bananapants back then.

The narrator did a good job, but there a lot of small either reading or copy errors, with the wrong word in places.

I'd be interested in an bio of Stanton next.


Child of a Hidden Sea (Hidden Sea Tales, #1) by A.M. Dellamonica
This was really fun. Marine videographer and professional student bamphs into a portal world and immediately decides to science the shit out of it. The secondary world is fascinating, for its similarities and differences with our own, and I loved all the different islands and cultures. Plus most of it is set on a boat, which makes me happy.

I thought the protagonist was going to be a little self-inserty (sometimes a problem with portal books), but she worked out to having enough good qualities and flaws to spend a book with, and her relationship with her family was fun. Looking forward to the next one.


A Daughter of No Nation (Hidden Sea Tales, #2) by A.M. Dellamonica
I enjoyed this one even more than the first one. It really dug into the characters and worldbuilding, and I couldn't put it down. The action sequences were gripping as well, more so than the first book, especially the two battle scenes.

I'm really enjoying exploring the world with Sophie as she tries to find her place in it, and learning more about Stormwreck and what and where it is. The politics were very well drawn, and I'm looking forward to the next one to find out what happens next.


The Nature of a Pirate (Hidden Sea Tales, #3) by A.M. Dellamonica
Great conclusion to the series. I enjoyed how it wrapped up most of the major questions, but didn't make it all too neat. I could imagine more books in this series, but don't need to have more to feel the story is complete, which is a nice balance.

I found the action climax a little weaker than the second book, but the political and family drama pulled the rest along nicely. Would have liked more with Sophie's birth parents.


When She Came Home by Drusilla Campbell, narrated by Jane Jacobs
By the numbers story of a female marine with PTSD, which managed to be so predictable that I found it extremely calming. I liked the main character and was invested in things working out for her, which of course I knew they would. The book could probably have used about 80% less explaining what everyone was feeling and why, but somehow I didn't mind.


What I'm Reading Now
The War of the Worlds on audiobook, which I'd never read, and genocidal racism in the opening aside, it's been pretty good. It's one of those books where it's interesting to see how much I picked up via osmosis, and how much is new to me.

Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston from the library, which I've just started. So far my favourite part is Mara Angelou's deeply ambivalent introduction (more or less to the tune of: "It's good for black people to tell their own stories, and this is... certainly a story told by a black person. I guess.")


What I'm Reading Next
Maybe Their Eyes Were Watching God, if I don't bail out on Hurston. I have a bio of Tesla. Some litfic library book I don't remember ordering.
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