Crouch, Blake. Dark Matter.

NY: Crown, 2016.

When I don’t have a specific book pending in the back of my mind, waiting until I finish the current one, I usually browse my “To Read” list (which is very lengthy) until something just hits me the right way. This week, it was Crouch’s book, which has been staring at me from the shelf for awhile now. Time travel and alternate histories are two of my favorite subgenres within science fiction, and in recent years, authors of both have often turned to the concept of the multiverse to quasi-explain the “how it works” part of their stories. Crouch sort of does the same thing here, but he carries it all off in highly original and unique ways.

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Fuller, David. Sundance.

NY: Riverhead Books, 2014.

Among other things, I’ve been a more or less professional genealogist for more than fifty years (an obvious interest for a big-city librarian with several history degrees), and because I have an interest in the so-called Old West, I’ve spent some time researching some of the better-known Good Guys and Bad Guys thereof. That includes Robert Parker and Harry Longbaugh, better known to most Americans as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Both were killed by the Bolivian army in 1908 — right?

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Novik, Naomi. His Majesty’s Dragon.

NY: Ballantine, 2006.

I’d been aware of this fantasy series set during the Napoleonic wars, but to be honest, I had sort of deliberately avoided it. I’m a lifelong fan of naval adventure stories set in that period, having discovered my father’s shelf of Hornblower novels at an early age. I’ve read very literally several hundred novels by several dozen authors about the Royal Navy at the turn of the 18th century, and I’m picky about authenticity of detail. But I recently read Uprooted, a standalone fantasy novel by the same author and greatly enjoyed it, so I decided I ought to give this earlier work a fair chance. And I have to say, it doesn’t disappoint.

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Lee, Sharon & Steve Miller. Neogenesis.

NY: Baen, 2018.

Last year’s volume in this excellent space opera series was the latest in the arc that focused on Capt. Theo Waitley, youngest scion of Clan Korval, the House of Tree and Dragon, as she struggled to preserve the existence of her AI ship. This new arc in the Liaden saga runs mostly in parallel with that one — as the stories set in various parts of the now very complex Liaden universe often do — and it concentrates on events back home on Surebleak, though the two narratives come together for a mutual resolution late in the book.

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Hamilton, Peter F. Manhattan in Reverse and Other Stories.

NY: Ballantine, 2012.

Hamilton is best known for the “Void” trilogy and a number of other works about the Confederation and the Commonwealth universe, but his short fiction is much less well known — perhaps because he has written relatively little of it. This collection is only his second, containing the six short stories he created since 1998, plus the title story, written especially for this volume.

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MacGregor, Neil. A History of the World in 100 Objects.

NY: Viking, 2010.

My academic field is social history, which means I’m far more interested in the evolution of everyday life than I am in treaties and royal weddings and big battles, and I have a particular interest in what’s called “material history” — the study of things, mostly man-created. There’s something about actually holding a manufactured object — a bayonet, a patent-medicine bottle, a faience bead — and thinking about the person who made it and those who have held it over the centuries — or millennia — before you.

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Novik, Naomi. Uprooted.

NY: Del Rey, 2015.

I was aware that Novik had already done a lengthy adventure series involving dragons in the Napoleonic wars, but this standalone fantasy is the first thing I’ve read by her. And I confess I picked it up mostly because it won the Nebula, which is a strong recommendation, and because Ellen De Generes is producing a film adaptation. Turns out Novik is one hell of a writer.

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Dessen, Sarah. This Lullaby.

NY: Viking, 2002.

I read a lot of YA novels, generally of the romantic sort. Partly this is an effect of a long career in public libraries, but partly I just enjoy the generally simple plots and narrative style. (Not too simple; that would be redundant and boring.) A few authors, though, produce fiction for teenage readers that can be every bit as complex as a well-written novel intended for the middle-aged. Sarah Dessen is one of those, and the dozen of her books that I’ve read have never been less than good. And some have been very good indeed. This earlier work is somewhere in the middle of the pack.

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Quammen, David. The Soul of Viktor Tronko.

Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1987.

I first read this marvelous Cold War spy story when it was first published, but I recently came across it via Kindle Unlimited and enjoyed it all over again. John Le Carre is still the best there is at this stuff, but Quammen comes a close second. But where Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was inspired by Kim Philby and is a very British take on the period, the character of Claude Sparrow is clearly a version of James Jesus Angleton, who nearly destroyed the CIA with his hyper-paranoia (and did, in real life, destroy the careers of a number of more or less innocent agents).

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Lee, Sharon & Steve Miller. The Gathering Edge.

NY: Baen, 2017.

The twenty “Liaden” novels are first-rate space opera, now reaching the level of true epic storytelling. It’s not really a series, in the sense of a linear string of sequels, though. There are several overlapping narrative arcs, spread over a period of several centuries, though most of the main protagonists are members of Clan Korval — the House of Tree and Dragon.

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