WWW Wednesday 2-5-14

WWW Wednesday. This meme is from shouldbereading.

 

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

 

• What are you currently reading?

Katharine Kerr’s Polar City Nightmare.

Actually re-reading this, first read in ms yea-these-many years ago. Like Pat Cadigan’s Synners, it’s worn surprisingly well. I liked it then because it used present tense, and I had two unpublished novels that insisted on using present, one of which has since been my best success. Like its forerunner Polar City Blues, Nightmare affirmed that yeah, you cd. ignore the naysayers, use present tense and still get published, even be an established author, and not a wild-eyed marginalist.

I also still like the format for mind-talk between the psychics, much more innovative than most versions. And the racial almost-reversal of black and white, but with Hispanic input, and the presence of slums. (The evacuation plans for the barrio, in case of a space attack, uncannily anticipated the reality of events during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.)

Back then, I was also v. interested in the affair/non-affair of the previous female lead, Bobbie Lacey, and her AI, Buddy, a human/machine trope that turned up in other women’s SF novels. And I lerved Blade the literate lizard and ex-Space Marine Sergeant, who makes a starring reappearance here, quoting everything from Shakespeare to Conrad, while hefting a metal bar for weapon and living in the outer reaches of Down-and-Outville. No, that’s my name for it, not Kit’s.

I will admit, the intricacies of baseball, which plays a central role, tend to go past me, much as cricket might past a US reader, but everything else, including the fascinating set of aliens, from the Cons to the ‘Lies to the newly discovered Enzebbs – first encountered in the person of “Mrs Bug” – are happily Still At It, whatever it is.

Nowadays,  *Nightmare* also makes me notice the way our home settings infiltrate our work. It isn’t just the use of “Merrkan,” near to a rap-slang, or the awareness of barrios, that makes this novel proclaim, I was written in an urban setting on the US west coast. It comes over in something as minor as Red Wallace’s taking her skimmer out onto a freeway that circles Polar City.

Sure, for most people in the US, and a lot of people in Australia, this is everyday. But even if/when I wrote SF, it wd. never occur to me to have characters driving on a freeway, because in my hometown such are only just beginning to appear. What this did drive home to me, you shd. excuse the pun, is how much, even when we are going for a radical difference from our own everyday,  our secondary worlds  are still predicated on that everyday. Down to minor details like this.

• What did you recently finish reading?

Sharon Shinn’s *Royal Airs*, Anne Perry’s “A Christmas Hope,” *Midnight at Marble Arch* and *Blind Justice* and Diana Gabaldon’s “The Custom of the Army” and “A Plague of Zombies.”

*Royal Airs* is the sequel to *Troubled Waters*, then a new world and new magic system for Shinn, and I liked both aspects a lot. The four elements, the connected attributes of the people belonging to each, the storyline’s variant on the lost heir and lots of UST in the central romantic relationship, with no treatment of horses to annoy with its lack of either common or horse-sense ,and a crackerjack magical climax; it was all fine. *Royal Airs* re-introduces a lot of the main characters while skillfully shifting focus to a previously middle-range character, and introducing a new romantic relationship. Somehow, however, it just didn’t gel so nicely. The new lead is a bit wishy-washy, the relationship is much less electric, and the twist on the lost heir variant was a lot more telegraphed. Most annoying, the whole thing ended, damn , excuse another pun, up in the  air.  Since there’s no warning, I consider this a cheap trick on the part of both author and publisher, and I may not read the putative follow-up.

. Led on by Anne Perry’s latest Christmas novelette, which was a lot less verbiose and repetitive and just plain silly about clues and procedures than the previous one, I did read “A Christmas Hope.” Then, because I have always liked her main series characters, particularly the women, Charlotte Pitt and Hester now-Monk, I decided to try the latest in both series. But whatever her women’s virtues, after over 50 novels in the same setting, Perry is just about down to boilerplate paragraphs. If a character steps out in the street, a carriage with women in it will come past, jingling and jangling. Elsewhere, there will be street criers and/or noises that always include a distant hurdy-gurdy or barrel organ. I cd. practically write these paragraphs myself in these two novels.

The main reasons for abandoning Perry, though, are firstly, the utter cluelessness of the detectives, whose flapping round like a chicken with one foot nailed down has reached plague proportions. The Monk novel concerns the equivalent of a televangelist who, like his later models, has been shafting his congregation for their money. The case goes to court, without the prosecution bothering to check the claims of cooked accounts from Hester and Co, which depend wholly on her previously dishonest accountant. And while the case runs its wearisome gamut through misdirected attempts to prove the bona fides of the witnesses, rather than focus on the question, What did the preacher do with the money? nobody until about the second last chapter even bothers to ask, What’s the preacher’s stipend? What do his living conditions suggest about his actual income?

Sure, the actual investigation of the house has to be withheld so Monk can find a last-minute clue to who actually committed the central murder, but a plotline that enforces complete stupidity on the characters is not enough to compensate.

Add to these infuriating repeated blind spots the now over-the-top repetition of everything from ideas to claims and scenes, and Perry is no longer worth the price of her books, even on Kindle. I won’t be reading any more.

Otoh, if Diana Gabaldon does some more about Lord John Grey, I will be reading and even buying that. I liked the Outlander series from the start, and will probably read the next book faute de mieux, when I can find nothing else new (I need some new authors  as well!), but I’ve been going off the wonderful Claire Randall for sometime now, not only for her endless medical extensions, but for her hardening attitude to her first husband and his infidelities. What, she comes back from a mysterious absence, pregnant, unable to explain how, she expects him to accept and raise the baby – which is clearly not his, at least after it’s born – and then she bitches because he finds himself some consolation elsewhere? Not in my book, baby.

Lord John, otoh, while carrying a torch for the same hero, manages to find himself quite a lot of interest elsewhere. However, Gabaldon does NOT repeat herself, use boilerplate paragraphs, lose the plot when it comes to investigations – and Lord John does quite a few – and adds meticulous historical research. The vignette of Wolf and the storming of the heights of Quebec in “Custom of the Army” is an excellent example of such, but it’s seldom shown off  better than in “A Plague of Zombies,” which, in grateful contrast to the current plague of “Zombies and –” is set in the West Indies at the time of the *real* zombie, and goes into considerable detail about how such are made.

In addition there’s what seems an accurate account of the maroons, or escaped slaves who made a chronic problem for Jamaican authorities, right down to fascinating  minutiae like the exchange of hats as a pledge of faith. Given that Claire Randall and medical matters do not, for once, impinge in either novella, I will certainly be reading more of the Lord John stuff. I may even, since it appears the more recent main series has begun to include him pretty integrally, put up with more of Claire, I guess.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

My old Encyclopedia of Feminism, in search of “Cranky Ladies in History” – since have just been invited to write a short story on such for an anthology, and the mental cupboard is bare of any interesting new possibilities.

What about you? What are you reading, have you been reading, wanting to read next?

 

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WWW Wednesday 2-5-14 — 7 Comments

  1. I got way behind on the Anne Perry–now I’m not sure I should catch up.

    Reading: Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett
    Just Finished: Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews
    Next Up: Finishing some nonfiction stacked next to my bed!

  2. Well, the first real barrio was in NYC — Puerto Ricans exercising their status as U.S. citizens in the late 1900’s when the island’s economy was trash, and again during WWII for the jobs servicing the war, and again later, from the Dominican Republic and other Spanish speaking Caribbean islands because their economies were trash — and as in the DR, an evil lord that makes Tolkien’s Sauron look fairly innocuous.

    We also say Merrikan here too.

    And we have freeways. And baseball teams.

    Just sayin’. 🙂

  3. Though, of course, in terms of etymology, el barrio was in use back in Spain centuries ago, and throughout the American lands of the Spanish New World imperium:

    barrio (n.) 1841, “ward of a Spanish or Spanish-speaking city,” sometimes also used of rural settlements, from Spanish barrio “district, suburb,” from Arabic barriya “open country” (fem.), from barr “outside” (of the city). Main modern sense of “Spanish-speaking district in a U.S. city” is 1939; original reference is to Spanish Harlem in New York City.

  4. Read:
    Astro City Vol. 2: Confessionr by Kurt Busiek
    Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vessr by Charles Vess
    Reading:
    The January Dancer by Michael Flynn
    The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
    To Read:
    Romulus Buckle & the Engines of War by Richard Ellis Preston Jr.