28 June 2009

Recent books of note, June 2009

I read a couple of A Lee Martinez's comic fantasy novels - In the Company of Ogres and A Nameless Witch. Both are good, well worth checking out if you are a fan of Asprin/Pratchett/etc.

I've been working backwards through K J Parker's trilogies. Unfortunately, my main discovery is that quality has been steadily improving. I simply stopped reading the "Fencer" trilogy after a completely gratuitous atrocity. The "Scavenger" trilogy was good but not exceptional - it uses the 'protagonist is amnesiac' cliche, and despite this is a fairly good story. Parker pretty much ruined it for me at the end when the protagonist - who has shown himself to basically be a terrible person - is revealed to have previously been a terrible person. It wasn't quite the shock reveal it might have seemed when the plot was initially sketched out. So, my advice on K J Parker: read the "Engineer" trilogy and The Company. If you like those enough to want more, read the "Scavenger" trilogy. If you want even more and are not utterly sick of the current fashion for adding atrocities to a story for no good reason, read the "Fencer" stories.

I'm not sure where this fashion for atrocities comes from - I wonder if Iain Banks is somewhat to blame (at least in science fiction and fantasy), as people imitate his work. If so, they're really hitting the wrong bit to imitate. I have a feeling it might be deriving from some other places too - the "Literary Fiction" genre seems to do it as well.

Dave Duncan has a third "Alchemist" novel, which is great fun. I read one of his generic fantasy novels, too, and it was so generic I couldn't be bothered with the second in the series. Strange that the same person can write both. Or maybe generic fantasy just taints all that it touches?

This Is Not A Game by Walter Jon Williams is a fantastic read... it's about a producer of alternate reality games, and what happens when she allows the real world and the game world to mix. Good characters, good story and a good understanding of how online life actually functions all feed in. Plus it is a story of this "this could, just, happen" rather than a more science fiction approach (like the near future in Stross's Halting State).

Speaking of Stross, the fifth installment of "The Merchant Princes" series is great although I'm unhappy I now have to wait a year or so for the final one.

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