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Sun, 28 Feb 2010

February 2010 in books

Some of these reviews can also be found on Amazon.

In February 2010 I read the following books:

1. Acts of Destruction, by Mat Coward

I bought this on the recommendation of Ken MacLeod, and wasn't disappointed. While the story is set in the future, it's not science fiction, it's a crime mystery. The futuristic setting acts merely to provide a whimsical - and frankly a bit silly - backdrop. That backdrop is somewhat similar to that of Morris's Dystopia, showing that a good novel can be built on such an improbable foundation. One of the ways this is far superior to Morris's book is that there's far less tedious speechifying. Sure, that means we don't learn all the details about how The Process transformed society, but we don't care anyway, The Process merely provides Coward with justification for the situations he puts his characters in and then, like in nearly all other good novels, it is their navigating their way through their troubles that entrances us. The predicaments don't bear up to scrutiny, just as the society that spawned them doesn't, but by the time you notice, you'll already be entranced by the characters and have suspended your disbelief for the duration - although the rice-free curry house was pushing it a bit.

I loved this book, and I'm sure you will too. If you're unsure despite my glowing review, you can read the first couple of chapters on the author's website.

2. Prime Number, by Harry Harrison

This collection of short stories is, I'm afraid, rather disappointing. Sure, the individual tales are entertaining, but nothing really stands out. And combined together as a single book, it all gets a bit samey. There are a couple of places where Harrison's usual genius peeks out from the clouds, but not enough to make it worth buying.

3. When It Changed, ed by Geoff Ryman

This is meant to be a short story collection that "puts authors and scientists back in touch with each other, to re-connect research ideas with literary concerns". In this it largely fails, despite the positive remarks made after each tale by a scientist working in a field tangentially related to the story.

Of the 16 stories, only one is by an author I recognise (Ken MacLeod), but 5 stories really stood out - Moss Witch, by Sara Maitland; In The Event Of, by Michael Arditti; White Skies, by Chaz Brenchley; Enigma, by Liz Williams; and Hair by Adam Roberts. That last one is the only one that does a good job of weaving actual science into the story.

That sounds like a bad review, doesn't it. Well, it's not. At least not entirely. In 276 pages there were five good short stories. Obviously I'd expect more if all the stories were by one author who I already knew was good at their craft. But five good shorts by random unknowns is unexpectedly good going. I recommend this book.

Posted at 11:20 by David Cantrell
keywords: books | culture
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