Summer’s come and gone and so has my annual summer reading list. I blogged about the “prelist” back in the spring, but never got around to posting a formal list to Nuketown even though I put one together on GoodReads. Here is is, complete with status:
- 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
- Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey (done)
- Dinocalypse Now by Chuck Wendig
- Existance by David Brin (in progress)
- Hellboy: The Storm and the Fury by Mike Mignola (done)
- The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Invincible by Jack Campbell (done)
- Reamde by Neal Stephenson (in progress)
- The Reality Dysfunction by Peter F. Hamilton (abandoned)
- Redshirts by John Scalzi (done)
- The Truelove by Patrick O’Brian (done)
- The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (done)
Of the 11 books on the list (one being a graphic novel), I finished six. Four of those were — The Storm and the Fury, Caliban’s War, Redshirts, and Invincible — were read over a few days in August when I went on vacation with my family to Lake Champlain. After a long, exceedingly busy summer I was starving for good books, and I devoured these.
The rest of the summer was much slower; when I wasn’t on Butler Island my reading time was greatly diminished.
My favorite book was Caliban’s War, James S.A. Corey’s follow-up to Leviathan Wakes It continues the story of an alien protomolecule that infects the solar system and the various political and corporate factions that seek to take advantage of it. In this book someone is trying to weaponize the molecule, with predictably disastrous results. It’s a fun read that once again evokes the spirit of Firefly and frontier-style space opera, though this time with some political intrigue mixed in.
Redshirts wasn’t what I expected. I knew that John Scalzi’s book was about the redshirted security types serving on a Star Trek-clone starship, and that as such it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. It’s a funny read, but I was surprised at just how meta it got. It reminded me of Stargate’s “Wormhole X-Treme!” episode, and if you enjoyed that, you’ll likely enjoy this book. I was hoping the book would be more of a straight-up satire of Star Trek, and was disappointed when it turned out to be more of a writing expirement.
The Way of Kings
I’ve enjoyed Brandon Sanderson’s work completing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series; he’s nailed the town and narrative stye of Jordan while simultaneously taming many of the author’s meandering story lines. I was eager to see how his own books read, and decided to pick up the The Way of Kings audiobook. It’s a big book — 45 hrs and 37 mins in audio form, 1280 pages in print — and it took me most of August and September to listen to (and that’s with a 16-hour round trip car ride to Lake Champlain thrown in).
I loved that Sanderson’s crafted a non-standard fantasy world. Like his earlier Mistborn books he’s eschewed standard magic to create something wholly his own. In The Way of Kings magic of a kind exists but it’s tied to an epic force known as stormlight. This light, generated by massive storms that wrack the world, can be trapped in gemstones and then used to fuel “shardplate” — essentially medieval power armor — as well as mystical abilities that can manipulate gravity and transform physical objects.
The book uses the same rotating point-of-view approach of The Wheel of Time and A Song of Fire and Ice to tell the stories of Dalinar Kholin, a high prince whose people are fighting an unending war, Kaladin, a slave who fights in the self-same war, and Shallan, a woman who’s seeking to restore her faltering royal house. Each POV is broken up by short vignettes examining other parts of the world.
I could have skipped all of Kaladin’s self-pitying flashbacks, and I’d have preferred he introduced us to his downtrodden hero at the time he joined the war, rather than his initial time as a slave. That said I can’t argue with the destination; Sanderson expertly brought these threads together in a satisfying conclusion that expertly sets up the next book … which I’ll be sure to read when it’s released in late 2013.
The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Invincible
The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Invincible sees Admiral Jack Geary’s expeditionary force deep in hostile alien space. He finds himself fighting the “enigmas”, the secretive species that manipulated humanity into a century-long civil war, and a new belligerent, herd-like species that’s just as hostile. He has to battle his way through both factions in order to achieve his exploration goals and return home. All the while his fleet is falling apart around him; the ship’s were designed for the last war knowing that they would likely be destroyed in less than two years. Now that the previous war has been one, Geary finds himself with a fleet who’s critical systems are actively failing.
Invincible was a better book than Dreadnaught, but it shares the same fundamental problem: Geary isn’t seriously challenged. Sure, his fleet is falling apart and it causes some tense moments, but it’s not nearly the threat it should be. He introduces some cool new alien species with divergent battle tactics, but Geary adapts too quickly and his victories seem to easy. I’d love to see a true rival arise to give Geary a run for his money.
Hellboy: The Storm and the Fury
Hellboy: The Storm and the Fury is the capstone to a decade’s worth of Hellboy stories. It pulls together threads from nearly a dozen books to create the culmination of Hellboy’s ghost-hunting, monster-slaying, god-battling career. My only regret is that I didn’t have a chance to re-read the entire series before getting this book.
The Truelove is Book #15 of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey / Maturin series. It sees Jack Aubrey dealing with French agents trying to take control of a South Pacific island. There’s no epic naval battles in book, which was disappointing, but the story is advanced, and Aubrey is restored to his proper station in the Royal Navy. Honestly at this point Aubrey and Maturin are old friends, and I’m happy to read through with the occasional lull in the action to advance the story.
The Reality Dysfunction
I took a crack at Peter F. Hamilton’s The Reality Dysfunction because I enjoyed his Pandora’s Star and Void novels, but I found it a painful read. There were parts of it I enjoyed, particularly the bit where a salvager is piecing together an ancient threat to the galaxy, but the chapters involving a frontier world settlement and the demonic cult preying on it were simply too warped for my tastes. I might have toughed it out if the story was moving faster, but it was a meandering mess and I simply didn’t have the energy to power through the book.
I’ve been slowly reading Neal Stephenson’s Reamde since I got it for Christmas 2011, and I’m still reading it. I’ve made a serious dent in it, and I really need to make one last push to finish it. I shouldn’t make it sound like such a struggle — it’s an enjoyable book — but my tastes continue to run toward space opera and high fantasy. Modern day geeky espionage, as fun as it is, just isn’t where my head is.
And the Rest…
I started reading Existence by David Brin and got about halfway through it before putting it aside for reasons I’ll talk about in a future column. I’ll get back to it eventually. There are also a few books I simply didn’t get to. 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson is one. Dinocalypse Now is another. I’m hoping to be able to knock out both of them in the next few months, but truth be told they aren’t at the top of my list. I’m still on my military SF/space opera/fantasy kick, and my fall reading is focused along those lines. I’m currently reading Ken MacLeod’s Newton’s Wake (which scratches the space opera/transhumanism itch) and listening to The Final Empire: Mistborn Book 1 by Brandon Sanderson, which scratches the the fantasy one.