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.



Shusterman, Neal. Scythe.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 2016.

This is one of the more innovative and original SF novels I’ve read recently. I thought, from the jacket copy, that it would be fantasy, but it’s actually pretty “hard” science fiction, set maybe three centuries in our future. It seems that in 2040, the “cloud” of data — the Internet and everything else — reaches the tipping point and becomes sentient, and that’s the end of the old random world. Because humans are now virtually immortal, you can be revived from almost any sort of death, short of complete destruction of the body by fire.


Larsson, Stieg. The Girl Who Played with Fire.

NY: Knopf, 2009.

More than a decade ago, I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the first in Larsson’s best-selling posthumous trilogy set in Sweden, and I loved it. A very complex, multi-plotted murder mystery with involving and highly original characters — especially Lisbeth Salander, the near-genius hacker with a decidedly warped view of the world (with good reason) and a very strong sense of justice. But for a variety of reasons, I never got around to reading the two subsequent books.


Carlson, David L. & Landis Blair. The Hunting Accident: A True Story of Crime and Poetry.

NY: First Second, 2017.

If you’re in the market for a really involving graphic novel that will keep you absorbed for hours and have you hunting up background material so you can learn more, I strongly recommend this one. It’s the winter of 1959 in Chicago and ten-year-old Charlie Rizzo has just returned to live with his father following his divorced mother’s death in California. He doesn’t really know his father that well, except that he’s blind and writes poetry, but his mother and grandmother had felt the need to “save” Charlie from him five years earlier.


Ingolfsson, Viktor Arnar. Daybreak.

Las Vegas: AmazonCrossing, 2013 (first published 2005 in Icelandic).

I don’t know what it is about Scandinavian mystery writers, and about Icelandic writers in particular, but they’re both very similar to and very different from the classic Anglo-American police procedural. And Ingofsson is one of the best of them, so it’s a puzzle why this one had to wait eight years to be published in translation.


Published in: on 11 September 2018 at 10:21 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.”


Flanagan, Liz. Eden Summer.

NY: Scholastic, 2017.

I read a fair number of YA novels of the “teen romance” sort (I’ll read almost anything if it’s well-written) and there are certain features and themes that are common to most of them. Flanagan, whose first novel I believe this is, has taken a rather different path in her story, and it’s quite an original and empathic one.


Published in: on 2 September 2018 at 1:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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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.


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?


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.