May Reading Thread

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I'm starting May with two genre books on the go.

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (two operatives on opposite sides in a temporal conflict write letters to each other) which I'm struggling to get to grips with, and a re-read of Emphyrio by Jack Vance (an artisan in a strictly controlled society wants something more for himself and his fellow non-lords) which I'm sailing through, though I'm finding it depressing that I can't remember any of it from my last read, which was only about 12 years ago.

I duly finished both SF novels carried over from April. Emphyrio retained my interest throughout with its clever story of how trade deals and cunning can be far more effective than open conquest in making people slaves, since they co-operate and do it to themselves, and I thoroughly enjoyed my re-read. By contrast This Is How You Lose the Time War was a chore to finish as I found it too self-consciously clever with its look-at-me literary prose; I nearly gave up half-way, and when I got to the end wished I had, since that would have spared me the denouement.

I finished only one other genre novel in May, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley, an historical fantasy set in 1880s London. A Japanese watchmaker is visited by a telegraphist who mysteriously received one of the man’s pocket watches and was thereby saved when a bomb exploded at Scotland Yard, and they become connected with a woman scientist trying to prove the existence of luminiferous aether. Enjoyable on the whole, and the main plot was interesting as the police have the watchmaker investigated, believing him to be complicit in the Fenian bombing campaign, but I was never convinced by the necessity of the woman's role in the story and was wholly unimpressed by the ending meted out to her. (Some of the story takes place in the real-life Victorian curiosity, the Japanese Village in Knightsbridge, and deals with its association with The Mikado by Gilbert & Sullivan. In a happy case of coincidence, not long after I finished the novel I went to see a performance of G&S music. One of the singers had been in the film Topsy-Turvy about G&S which I promptly watched, and it includes recreated scenes from the Village.)

I did start another fantasy novel supposedly set in the early 1920s, but after 12 pages of first person prose which never gripped or even mildly entertained me, and a quick skim of further chapters -- and at least one other POV also in first person, which I find irritating en masse -- and with no real interest in young adult witches from Whitby finding love, I gave up.

The bulk of my reading this month has therefore been non-SFF as I embarked on a memorial re-read of the Tudor-set Shardlake novels by CJ Sansom who died at the end of April. I originally read them as I found them, in random order, and reading them in sequence this time around added a great deal to the pleasure as the personal situations of Shardlake and his friends cohered. I’ve made my way through Dissolution, Dark Fire, Sovereign, Revelation and Lamentation, but I dodged Heartstone as I remembered its plot (and its heavy reliance on the Mary Rose museum) too well. Although these books are classed as murder mysteries set in a historical period, to my mind they’re actually hefty historical novels in which murders are solved as part of the plot. Sometimes it seems only a very, very small part of the plot, as in Tombland which I’m currently plodding my slow way through.
Reading The Element of Fire by Martha Wells, Her first book.
Like Witch King, her latest, it's chock full of colorful characters. My problem is that there are so many that with the exception of perhaps three or four, most get introduced and then disappear (usually experiencing rigor mortis.)
I have a two book combined volume from the library. The second book, Death of the Necromancer was nominated for the Nebula.
I really shouldn't complain. But it is a fault to introduce and even characterize individuals and then dispense with them.
As I said, it was her first published book. The pseudo-medieval colour adds to everything. It is certainly lively, set in a kingdom rife with magic and non-human Fey. Only 1/3 through, but I expect to finish it. Almost everyone has lovers, particularly the Royals. Nothing survives without magical protection. The ASSUMPTION is that is that no one is trustworthy, To the extent that when someone acts with ethics, everyone is surprised. So murder and betrayal are the norm.
If you enjoy magic at every turn, transformed critters, magically caused bloodshed, with a few sharply drawn characters, but a wealth of detail and flavor, I would recommend it.
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