A smattering of books (not exhaustive).
I’m still finishing up Stephenson’s The Confusion, soon on to the third book in this trilogy. It’s been a long slog. Guess what? In the last half of the second book, things start to get rolling, mostly. Fifty pages to go.
Generally I don’t like to read the first book in a series (some readers may remember Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld saga, which took fifteen years, three or four more books and several truckloads of deux ex machina and some truly crappy projection of computer technology to finally finish off). I make exceptions for certain authors, and Lois McMaster Bujold is one of these. Her latest The Sharing Knife: Beguilement is a fine example of professional fantasy writing; every paragraph seems to be doing two different things, the characters are believable, and the plot seems air-tight so far. At this point (halfway through) I don’t really care that there are more books in the series, as long as it doesn’t turn into another Treadmill. Recommended.
I’ve also been wading through all of the Miles Vorkosigian books by Bujold. It’s starting to get old at the 2/3rds mark (with Mirror Dance), but it’s still good.
Adam Stempel’s The Singer of Souls is . . . not that great. I really liked the first seven-eighths of this light fantasy, and was having a lot of fun with it. The characterization is good, and while the plot is predictable, the characters make it enjoyable. It’s a stretch to compare it to Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks, but the similarities are there (so are a few forgivable issues, such as filling out the motivation for some of the minor characters). But it was like theatre popcorn; eventually you reach the end, and you might not want to swallow what’s down there. The problem is that the last couple of chapters of this book completely destroy all of the preceeding work. I’ve only seen a couple of books end like this (the deux ex machina wrap-up of Varley’s The Ophiuci Hotline comes to mind). It’s just too bad. I can’t recommend this. I’m hoping that Stempel does a better job with his next book (he should get a better editor, for sure).
Oh yes, and it turns out that Russell Hoban (of Pilgerman fame) wrote the lovely children’s book Bread and Jam for Francis, which had me chuckling away the other morning with our toddler.