International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day

I was too tired last night to edit and upload something, so nothing new this morning. I may get a chance tonight, but am not promising anything. In the meantime, there are already quite a few free pieces on my website, including my first profic novel series, and a couple of shorts from a current series.

book log: Andre Norton: Plague ship and Voodoo Planet

Discovered a while back that there are several of Norton’s books on Project Gutenberg, and promptly downloaded them via the Feedbooks site into my Cybook. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve read Plague Ship and Voodoo Planet, the second and third titles from the Solar Queen series.

The first two Solar Queen books were major comfort reads for me when I was a kid, so I was a little bit worried about whether Plague Ship would stand up to scrutiny [mumble] years on. But it’s still enormous fun. Voodoo Planet is novella length, and one I’d only read once or twice before. Good read, although I think wouldn’t have hooked me the way the first two did if I hadn’t already known the characters.

I want to talk about Plague Ship in more depth, but that needs to wait until I’m a bit less tired. Maybe this weekend, but it’ll be competing for time with doing some writing of my own.

Started Ralestone Luck, her first written and second published novel, once I’d finished Voodoo Planet yesterday. Completely unfamiliar to me, and the prose is not up to the standard of her later books, but it’s definitely Norton’s style and I’m enjoying it.

March 2009 book log

A somewhat tardy posting of my book log for March.

Print books:

An ARC received through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme of The Agency by Ally O’Brien. Full review here; short version, I liked it a lot and I think a lot of my friends will too, but it’s not going to be to everyone’s taste.


Finished Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. As gloriously gothic as ever.

Mansfield Park, by Jane Austin, which I hadn’t read before. (*) Fanny is a drip, but I still couldn’t stop turning the pages. Also, “the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there”. Loved this. Am told that a recent BBC adaption omitted the Portsmouth section as a cost-saving exercise, and am boggled. It’s integral to the structure of the book, and if you drop it, large chunks of the story arc simply don’t make emotional sense.
(* Or to be more accurate, I don’t remember reading before. I bought an Austen omnibus back in the days when my memory was doing an impersonation of a sieve, and while I know I read most or all of the ones I hadn’t already read, I remember nothing whatsoever about them from then. I know I started MP, but I don’t know if I finished it.)

Book review: Ally O’Brien — The Agency

Note: I received an ARC of this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme.

Tess Drake is a high-flying literary agent on the staff of a top entertainment agency. Sufficiently high-flying that she wants to branch out on her own, rather than continue to take a salary that’s a fraction of the money she brings into the business. As the novel opens, she’s just been given one final push in that direction by the death of her boss. Tess liked Lowell; she loathes Cosima, the woman who’s about to take over, and the feeling’s mutual.

The problem for Tess is that she’s made more enemies than just Cosima along the way to success. She’s left frantically trying to put together her new business without letting slip what she’s doing, in the middle of the uproar generated by Lowell’s death from auto-erotic asphyxiation. Oh, and then there’s the police investigation into the suggestion that Lowell’s death wasn’t an accident, and that Tess might have had something to do with it.

It’s fast, funny, and more than a little over the top. It’s also unashamedly for an adult audience, as is obvious right from the first page. There is swearing and there is sex, and most of it is there for genuine plot and character development reasons. There’s also a lot of acidly funny commentary on the entertainment business, with much dropping of real names to add to the realism.

Tess is often unlikeable, but she’s also aware of her flaws, and there’s real growth in her character during the book. She’s also fiercely loyal to a few people for more than commercial reasons, and genuinely regrets the damage she’s accidentally caused to relationships she valued.

The book’s a blend of chick-lit and mystery, and does a good job of both, but is not going to appeal to everyone. I can see why the reviews on LibraryThing range from loathing to loving it. For me personally it was a page-turner, and while I sometimes wanted to shake some sense into Tess, by the last few chapters I very much wanted her to break free of the trap that had been laid for her. The novel is complete in itself and does have a satisfying ending, but I’d love to see what happened next. I’d gladly read a sequel to this book.

LibraryThing entry
ISBN: 978-0312379445 (hardback)

ETA: Amazon and links deleted. See this post on my main blog about Amazon’s censorship of LGBT books for why.

Italian earthquake check-in notes

Spreading the word:

[info]elisa_rolle reports she’s well away from the quake and safe, though obviously distressed.

Patrick and Teresa Neilsen Hayden are in Rome — woken by the quake, but fine.

[info]annafdd has commented on PNH’s post at Making Light, linked above.

Other science fiction folk are also checking in or asking for check-ins at Making Light.

I’m not aware of any other check-in threads at present.

cheap books — Hugo voting packet

John Scalzi is organising an ebook Hugo packet again, and this year’s collection is looking very good indeed. The deal here is that if you are a voting member of Worldcon (the annual world convention for science fiction and fantasy fandom), you can sign up to receive a free package of electronic versions of a lot of the books and short stories on the Hugo short list, the better that you may read them and then vote for them in the Hugos.

The bad news is that you have to be a voting member of Worldcon, and that costs money — at minimum you need to buy a supporting membership. The good news is that the packet would cost you rather more than the minimum $50 membership to go and buy commercially, so if these are books you’d like to read, this is a very good deal even if you’re not otherwise interested in Worldcon.

What do the authors and publishers get out of this, given that they’re donating the texts and get no direct financial return? Publicity. It’s a way to get their award shortlisted material in front of the people who can vote for that award. That’s good in a number of ways, not least the concept of “the first hit is free”.

More details at Scalzi’s blog: