Wells, Martha. Artificial Condition.

NY: Macmillan/Tom Doherty, 2018.

I got hooked on All Systems Red, the first volume of the “Murderbot Diaries,” and I’ve been looking forward to this one, but it’s somehow less satisfying than I had expected. Perhaps it’s because we already know a lot about the protagonist now, and the strange circumstances that govern his life, but this second adventure just doesn’t seem to have quite the same kick.



Prince, Liz. Tomboy.

San Francisco: Zest Books, 2014.

The author calls herself “an autobiographical cartoonist,” and this is the story of her struggle to get through childhood — but from a very particular perspective. Liz was always a “tomboy.” Meaning, actually, that she always wanted to somehow BE a boy.


Niimura, Ken. Henshin.

Berkeley, CA: Image Comics, 2015.

The title means “transformation” in Japanese, and that’s supposed to be the theme of the thirteen short graphic stories in this collection, but it’s sometimes difficult to see how it’s supposed to apply. Most of the stories themselves are not bad, though.


Published in: on 28 September 2018 at 1:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Knisley, Lucy. Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride.

NY: First Second, 2016.

I’ve been a fan of Lucy’s graphic memoirs since French Milk, and this nearly 300-page volume is sort of the culmination, her graduation into what she thinks of as “real” adulthood. She’s been relatively successful, too, with four books out before her 30th birthday, strong praise for all of them, and undoubtedly more to come. If you’ve read all her books over the past decade, you know that she and a guy named John were happily together in Chicago for five years while she attended the Art Institute and he made his first assault on the tech world. (They both revel in being self-declared nerds.)


Published in: on 26 September 2018 at 8:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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Wells, Martha. All Systems Red.

NY: Tor, 2017.

Wells has written mostly fantasy novels of a type that just doesn’t appeal to me, so I was only slightly aware of her work. But this one is straight-up, hardcore science fiction, and it’s quite good. The narrator is nameless because he’s a construct — more than an “enhanced human,” less than a full machine, designed to be hired out for security work. But “SecUnit,” as the humans for whom he works sometimes call him, has hacked his own governor module, making him a free agent, and because of his often bloody professional past he has come to think of himself as “Murderbot.”


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.


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.


Published in: on 8 August 2018 at 6:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Padua, Sydney. The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage.

NY: Pantheon, 2015.

I’ve long been fascinated by Charles Babbage and his “difference engine” (almost always confused with his completely separate “analytical engine,” which was the first instance of the concepts which grew into the digital computer, more than a century later), especially after reading Gibson and Sterling’s 1991 novel. Babbage was a first-rate mathematician — he held Isaac Newton’s Lucasian Chair of math at Cambridge, most recently occupied by Stephen Hawking — but Ada, Countess of Lovelace, the only legitimate child of the mad, bad, dangerous Lord Byron, was a certified math genius.


Turtledove. Harry. We Install and Other Stories.

NY: Open Road, 2015.

Harry’s early fantasy novels and alternate history short fiction, published in the mid-1980s, weren’t bad. His first full-blown alt-history novel, Guns of the South, was also pretty good. But shortly thereafter, he began cranking out novels as fast as he could type and their quality degraded badly. Of the sixty or so mostly fat books he’s published in the past twenty-five years, many are frankly unreadable, at least to me – but I keep checking back on his work, just in case.


Colasanti, Susane. Waiting for You.

NY: Viking, 2009.

Young adult novels about high school romance — about boy-girl relationships of all kinds really — tend to follow a pattern. That’s okay, it’s what the readers want and expect, and the best writers add various fillips to make their story different from all the others. Colasanti sticks to the pattern but her characters have a lot of originality to them and the writing itself is well above average.


Published in: on 29 June 2018 at 6:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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