Okay, it's possible this rating is simply an overjoyed overreaction to the vast improvement this book is over the last book I read. But I tell you whaOkay, it's possible this rating is simply an overjoyed overreaction to the vast improvement this book is over the last book I read. But I tell you what: this is a book written by someone who knows how to write. Pace, slow reveal, worldbuilding, characterization, juggling multiple threads: he's got almost the complete toolbox.
And he's also writing a story that's fascinating, that's well worth reading. This world, instead of 3D printers, has chemjet printers that allow anyone to print up basically any drug they can manufacture, legal, illegal, or brand-new. It's a chemical wonderland/horrorscape. You can switch your sexual preference, rewire your brain, remove your own empathy -- anything you want.
But Lyda wasn't trying to do any of that. She and her small research team were trying to make a drug to help treat schizophrenia; instead, they found Numinous, the drug that gave users a feeling of being watched by, cared for by, a god. But then, during a party, they accidentally overdosed on their own wares, and their lives went off track, out of whack. The only thing they agreed on: Numinous could never be made again.
Ten years later, Lyda realizes Numinous is being made again. With the help of her chemically paranoid, ultra-intelligent girlfriend, she sets out to figure out who's making the drug.
This story is fast-paced, smart, compelling, entertaining, and just twisty enough to be fun. (And even if I hadn't read it immediately after a disaster book, I would for sure have given it at least four stars.)...more
I really wanted to like this book. And it was almost a book I could really like. But reading it was a struggle, of the kind where I'd read ten pages aI really wanted to like this book. And it was almost a book I could really like. But reading it was a struggle, of the kind where I'd read ten pages and find something else to do, over and over again. There is one thing this book is really useful for, though: it's a great example of good ideas in the hands of someone who doesn't quite have the tools to write about them.
This book has worldbuilding, sort of, but without details or foundation, so it never feels real. It has interesting ideas that never go anywhere. The author tries to juggle dozens of plates, but he only knows how to juggle two, so most of the plates end up shattered and forgotten on the ground. The slow reveals don't work because they aren't carried through consistently; you get a hint, followed by nothing for a bunch of chapters, followed by an info-dump, often in dialogue. The writing is choppy and jagged, with point-of-view switches that aren't signaled well enough (or justified by anything except the author's need to tell, rather than show, how someone is feeling or thinking) and time jumps that aren't cued and aren't smooth; as a result reading this feels like work.
Basically, I feel like there was a good book potentially hidden somewhere in here. But the author didn't find it. I'll give him a few more books to practice on, and then maybe check out his work again. ...more
Alastair Reynolds writes great short stories. And some of them are in this collection, but mostly they aren't. This is half good stuff, half off-cuts,Alastair Reynolds writes great short stories. And some of them are in this collection, but mostly they aren't. This is half good stuff, half off-cuts, and it honestly isn't where I'd recommend anyone start with his short stories. (Beyond the Aquila Rift is definitely the place to start.) That said, there's enough stuff in here that's worth reading and NOT in Beyond the Aquila Rift that this one is worth the time of -- well, someone like me, who has read almost every book Reynolds has written and a fair number of his short stories.
This book is notable for collecting all three Merlin stories (BAR only has the middle one, Minla's Flowers; it does stand alone, but the context of Hideaway and the resolution of Merlin's Gun are very nice to have). It also has both Carrie Clay stories (The Real Story and Zima Blue; the latter is better, and it's in BAR, but the former is also very good). Other stand-outs (that are NOT in BAR), for me:
ENOLA. I'm not sure why this wasn't in BAR; it's definitely, in my opinion, one of Reynolds's better stories. A trinket-seller in a marketplace is not what she seems, and neither is the world she lives in.
CARDIFF AFTER. The odd part of this one for me is that it is linked to Signal to Noise, which is the only Reynolds story I've ever found not worth finishing -- like, he's sometimes better, he's sometimes worse, but he's never just a dull mess, except in Signal to Noise. But Cardiff After is shorter, punchier, and more interesting. Cardiff is destroyed by a terrorist bomb in one universe, and, thanks to a quantum connection system, that has a number of effects on another universe, where Cardiff is fine.
SPIREY AND THE QUEEN. It's a space war between two significantly-named factions, and Spirey and Yarrow are chasing a defector on orders from their superior. And then they land, and discover that literally nothing is how they thought it was, including the war itself.
I'm glad I read this. More Reynolds is always a good thing. (Although, wow, when you read a lot of him at once, you become grimly aware of how extremely not at all queer his futures are.) But if you haven't read any Reynolds, start with House of Suns (if you want a novel) or Beyond the Aquila Rift (if you want short stories). Don't start here....more
So the thing here is -- I didn't actually enjoy either of the main plots of this book. But I really enjoyed the book. And it took me a bit a of thinkiSo the thing here is -- I didn't actually enjoy either of the main plots of this book. But I really enjoyed the book. And it took me a bit a of thinking to figure out why.
First, here's what I didn't like. I didn't like the thriller plot of this book, mostly because -- well. The main character doesn't come off as remarkably dense for not figuring out exactly what's going on 1/4 of the way through the book only because she's young and under a lot of stress and it's a solution she doesn't want to see. But I am not young or caught in the middle of a flu epidemic, and I figured it out waaaaaay before she did. Thrillers need tension to work, and that really cut the strings.
I also didn't like the romance much. The characters worked for me, I liked and believed in them, but I just was not all that convinced of their world-ending eternal true love forever.
Oh, and this book did not stick the ending. Like, at all. The last few pages are an exercise in "okay but then what oh god I have no idea I kind of wrote myself into a corner shit here's an implausible happy ending to read through real quick tra la!" (Though I do appreciate the commitment to *having* a happy ending. Always welcome.)
But. But. None of that mattered that much to me, because the characters in this were so real, so believable, and the worlds they navigated were so clearly understood and displayed. This is a book that does race and class well, that is full of characters navigating race and class and power and social structures (and also, but fairly irrelevantly, teen romance and a flu pandemic and a moderately implausible thriller plot), and the depiction of them doing so is full of nuance and heart and reality. And the real story of this book is a young black woman figuring out which way she wants to navigate all these things, and that plot *was* interesting. And so, so palpably real, from the first chapter, which provides a visceral feeling of the claustrophobic confines of her life, to the final chapters, which are all about her getting free.
This book also interests me because it is in the present tense, something I'm noticing is happening a lot more in published books these days, and because it features a weird narrative quirk, in which the story is...narrated by the main character's subconscious? And that subconscious occasionally breaks in with a few paragraphs in the first person? It's weird, and I didn't exactly like it, but I didn't hate it and it didn't break the story for me, which is impressive, because normally something like that would.
Read this if you're looking for an insightful, subtle, wonderful story about coming of age while black in America. Skip this if you're looking for a great romance or a great thriller. (But, really, read this. It's got a ton of flaws, yes, but it is still so good!)...more
For me, Gail Carriger books are like meringues: extremely light, frothy, and sweet, and if I eat more than one or two, I feel ill. In other words: totFor me, Gail Carriger books are like meringues: extremely light, frothy, and sweet, and if I eat more than one or two, I feel ill. In other words: total fluff, don't think about it too hard, where "too hard" is "at all." But, hey, at this point, after this year, I am ready for fluff. I want fluff. Not thinking is exactly what I want to do.
And while this is a very Carriger book, it didn't quite deliver on its meringue promise, mostly because of a couple of minuses her other ones haven't had for me. First, her approach to the romance is a bit, uh, off for me -- like, any time the author sets up a competent woman and then makes the mark of her True Love being that she's incompetent and helpless around him, I'm apt to narrow my eyes and hope against hope that the love interest will be anyone else.
But the second flaw is the bigger one for me. Basically, this is an imperialist romp. Rue goes to India and there is much marveling at the natives! And imitation of native gods! And oh look, the white girl has come to save you! It's just...really painful, and it makes the too-much-meringue nausea kick in way earlier.
Basically the only reason I finished this one is the background queer pairing, which I kept hoping hoping hoping would see some sort of resolution of basically any kind. And that's the reason I read the second one, too. So far, no luck; the het romance remains on the page, and the queer romance remains on the back burner on low. I'd probably read a third book in the series today, if it were out, just to see if AT LAST the queer couple might at least kiss, but it's not out. And that's the other thing about these book-meringues: they're totally forgettable. By the time the next one arrives, I'm not sure I'll remember who any of these people are. ...more
I really liked the middle (roughly) one-third of this book. The rest was incredibly annoying. So I'm going to review this in third parts.
First third:I really liked the middle (roughly) one-third of this book. The rest was incredibly annoying. So I'm going to review this in third parts.
First third: Briddey is just a girl who can't say no, can't set any boundaries (tip: don't give keys to people you can't trust not to break into your apartment), and can't finish a sentence. For the entire first third, that's all that's happening: people are telling her what to do, she's trying to get out of it without every saying "No" or "I don't want to," and she's running from place to place like a chicken with her head cut off and connected to a smart phone. Oh, and she's freaking out. Constantly. If you've ever thought it would be delightful to be immersed in someone else's anxieties 24/7, the first third of Crosstalk is for you.
Second third: The plot actually happens! Developments occur, and they are interesting and entertaining!
Final third: The romance kicks into high gear (cautious yay) and the plot spins out of control, developing to a point well beyond entertaining and deeply into ludicrous. And Connie Willis's traditional Annoyingly Determined Preteen Girl shows up and takes over completely. If you've ever thought it would be fun to try to read a mediocre book while a loud, obnoxious nine year old interrupts you every seven seconds, then the last third of Crosstalk is for you.
I'm not...sorry I finished this? And I do love telepathy stories, so that part was cool. (Although this really skims the surface of telepathy stories; no one has any major feelings about not having any privacy, no one discusses any of the ethical issues, none of that.) But, wow, this is a light Connie Willis book that just did not work for me. So I'm also not happy I finished it....more