Reading Material

There are new titles available from three of my favorite authors. Here are three quick reviews:

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance, by Lois McMaster Bujold, is a cleverly disguised romantic comedy. I'm not a big fan of romance, but I make exceptions for Bujold. A Civil Campaign was the first time she delivered a by-the-numbers romance where I was expecting military sci-fi, and halfway through that book I set it down, admitted to myself that I was reading and enjoying a romance, and then picked it back up and devoured it. A Civil Campaign remains one of my favorite books.

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance is similar. It is a book about dialog, plotting, and relationships under pressure. I think Captain Vorpatril, our hero, and Tej, our heroine, each only fire weapons once in the story (not at each other.)

If you enjoy the Vorkosigan Saga books, Captain Vorpatril's Alliance is full of old friends, and touches on bits of history you'll delight to remember. If you've never picked up a Vorkosigan book before, you ought not start with this one. It has, for the uninitiated, far too many people in it. Why do you care about Ivan's cousin Miles?  Or Ivan's um-stepdad Simon? The book doesn't spend as much time introducing these folks as it could, and that's fine for fans of the series. New readers should start somewhere else. I recommend starting here.

Next up: Brandon Sanderson attempted to write a short story, and landed on a novella instead. I'm not complaining. The Emperor's Soul is a story about a forger who is asked to use her magical skills to forge a human being. This is a great story, and a perfect introduction for readers unfamiliar with Brandon's work. I loved The Way of Kings, but a shorter tome is probably a better way to find out for yourself whether an author writes what you like.

As an added bonus, The Emperor's Soul is the subject of this week's episode of Writing Excuses. Our "Project In Depth" episodes, of which this is one, allow three of the co-hosts to grill the fourth about a particular piece of work, and Brandon is on the spot this week. Note, however, that this episode of our weekly podcast is full of spoilers, so don't go listening to it until you've read the book.

Finally, Iain Banks latest book, The Hydrogen Sonata... I hate to say that I was even a little bit disappointed, but I was. A little bit. This is due in part to the fact that Banks has set the bar so very, very high. He turned space opera into literature with Consider Phlebas, and his two most recent previous novels, Surface Detail and Matter, were full of big ideas, rich characters, and dramatic finishes. The Hydrogen Sonata, in contrast, promises the same sort of big stuff, but spins down (very deliberately, I suspect) into something of a  "move along, nothing to see here" closing chapter. Maybe the moral is "at times like these perhaps we shouldn't make such a fuss," and that's actually a pretty valid message. But to my tastes not enough things explode.  

That said, I still enjoyed it. I'm a sucker for his prose, and his Culture novels in particular. 

Now, if you're still looking for good reading, I'd be remiss in my responsibilities as a co-author if I failed to remind you about Space Eldritch, a collection of neo-Lovecraftian sci-fi/horror in which my 12,500-word novelette "Flight of the Runewright" can be found. If you'd like a sample from that tale, here are the first 2100 words. If you've already read it, we'd love for you to post a quick review at Amazon -- even if you hated it! As of this writing Space Eldritch has nothing but five-star reviews, and that looks suspicious. Please, tell us what you really think!

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