Summer reading wrap-up

SpellCrash, by Kelly McCullough, could be called cyber-fantasy. There’s magic, dimension-hopping, and spells merged with computer hardware/software operations. There’s a large cast of characters, with backstories, but the characters also fill roles in Greek mythology, which helps the neophyte hang on. Surprisingly, I felt cast adrift by the lack of real locations (that sounds ironic coming from an SF/F reader, but bear with me) and I don’t mean "real" in the sense of existing in our world. Everything happens in other dimensions, other planes, outside our reality, etc. McCullough provides evocative sweeping descriptions but as the characters hopped here and there, I soon lost track of where they’d jumped to, or from, and which dimensional door/method had been used.

Blood Oath, by Christopher Farnsworth, looked like yet another vampire novel being pushed as mainstream (hoping that vampires will sell well outside the SF/F section, I guess). It turned out to be a fun, smooth read that I finished in two nights. Creating a "President’s Vampire" is unique, although all the Urban Fantasy tropes were predictable. But, if it wasn’t outstandingly different, why did I enjoy it so much? I guess a well-plotted, clearly-written novel will deliver a good read, even if it adds nothing to the mythos. Farnsworth puts together a great ensemble of villains, including the bwaa-ha-ha supervillain, the narcissistic sociopath, the just-following-orders sadist, the puppet master, and more—all with different agendas. The "good guys" are also varied and moderately complex, providing a gratifying mix.

YA (Young Adult) often doesn’t live up to its hype and it usually disappoints me, on several levels. However, I decided to try Graceling, by Kristin Cashore, despite the hyperbole on its cover. From the moment I opened it, I loved it. The heroine felt real and nuanced, rather than the obligatory stubborn (inattentive?), headstrong (stupid?), coming-of-age (hormone-driven?) young woman. The plot was clever, tight, and the book well-edited, which was another plus. There was a good balance of action with dialogue (description is always slim in YA, but I didn’t miss it).

C. J. Cherryh’s Conspirator and Deceiver starts a new Foreigner 3-book series, inside the bigger Foreigner series. Confused? Just call them books number 10 and 11. Since I’ve read every Foreigner book, I didn’t expect to be confused and I was, when I read the jacket copy for Conspirator. Hadn’t I read this book already? Cajeiri gets bored—check. Cajeiri evades his guards and runs away to be with Bren—check. It sounded like Deliverer, just rewritten a bit. I shrugged and started reading the book, and found that Tor had put the jacket copy from Deliverer (book #9) on Conspirator (book #10). Then I found the correct jacket copy for Conspirator(book #10) on Deceiver(book #11). Strange. Undoubtedly, this was a mistake made by the publisher or printer.

Although I love this series, be aware that Cherryh isn’t pushing a lot of plot through these books. They tend to cover only a couple of days of action, although you won’t realize that until you’re at the end. This isn’t a problem for me because I love the world and characters, I’ll follow the politics, and I’ll wait for more books. However, a first-time reader might be disappointed, as well as confused, by these later books. If you’re new to the Foreigner series, I suggest you read the very first book (Foreigner, of course) to get a good background on the world and the human-atevi situation before you try any of the others. Surprisingly, after the first book, you can probably jump in at any time… although you might have to ignore the jacket cover copy. 😉

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