Book log: Colin Kapp — The Wizard of Anharitte

Book 92

Anharitte is the port city on a feudal planet whose location makes it an important hub in interstellar commerce. The Free Traders’ local agent, Tito Ren, is charged with ensuring that things run smoothly. Alas for Ren, a powerful wizard is educating his slaves well beyond what is needed for them to do their tasks, and it’s clear that the wizard is intent on brewing exactly the sort of social disruption that could cause trouble for trade. It’s also clear to Ren that the wizard is no wizard, but an import like himself, using advanced technology to create his magic. Proving this to the local authorities is another matter, and Ren embarks on a little local war with the Imaiz, a careful balancing act that he keeps within the accepted practices of the society he’s working within. Ren’s problem is that he finds himself ever more in sympathy with the Imaiz’s goals, while still wanting to keep faith with his employers.

It’s a short novel by current standards, but there’s plenty packed into it, from the entertainment of the cat-and-mouse game, to the careful description of Anharrite’s culture, to the depiction of Ren’s growing moral quandary. This is one of the books I happily re-read every so often.

LibraryThing entry

Book log: Thomas Burnett Swann — Moondust

Book 91

Short fantasy novel using the siege of Jericho by Joshua and the Israelites as its setting. But since this is a fantasy novel, Rahab is an ugly changeling, exchanged one night for the young brother of the Cretan exile Bard. Bard recognises that Rahab had no say in the matter, and loves her as a sister — even when she emerges from her ugly form a year later to be revealed as a beautiful woman with butterfly wings. When Rahab disappears, Bard goes looking for her, knowing that she has probably been taken back to wherever she came from. The plot is driven by who exchanged Rahab for a human hostage, and why. There’s some wonderful world-building in this book, and a page-turning story. It’s all told in tight, compact prose that’s a joy to read. It was the first book of Swann’s I read, and I’ve loved it since I bought my copy some thirty years ago.

Librarything entry

Book log for 2010

Book log 2010

In the end I didn’t quite make it to 100 books. Still, 92 books read this year isn’t bad going. I’d have liked to write reviews of more of them, but didn’t always have time and energy to do more than log a book. In fact, I’ve not really been up to reading for review for the last few months, which was a bit of a problem as I had several actual review copies in hand… I still owe Stevie Carroll a review on the full anthology she sent me, even if I did manage to say something sensible about her story in the anthology. However, I finally reviewed an Early Reviewers book from last year, and started requesting LTER books again. I’ve won two this year, the first of which alas I have still not started because I seem to have mislaid it on the Cybook. The second was a print copy of a short story anthology, and I read a few stories from it the first evening I had it. I’d only intended to read one to get a feel for it and leave the rest until I was awake enough to read-for-review, so I think it’s going to get a favourable review once I’ve finished it.

I need to have a tidy up of the Cybook, because although the memory is nowhere near full, the index system on the software leaves much to be desired and gets exceedingly slow when you have a hundred books loaded on one memory card. I may deal with this by buying some extra cards and splitting into sub-collections, should they be cheap in the sales next week. This would also let me put the books I would prefer not to be on public display on a separate card. :-)

the books of 2010 under the cut

Book log: Agatha Christie — The Blue Geranium and other stories [audiobook]

Book 90 (there was a glitch in earlier numbering, which I’ve corrected from here on, and in the master list for the year which will be posted soon)

Re-listen of the second CD set taken from The Thirteen Problems, read by the incomparable Joan Hickson. The four short stories on this double CD set are the titular “The Blue Geranium”, “The Four Suspects”, The Companion” and “A Christmas Tragedy”. The format is a group of friends telling each other creepy mysteries after dinner, allowing the others to try to guess the solution, and then revealing the answer. Miss Marple, of course, is able to solve each by her observation of human nature. Superbly read by Hickson, and highly enjoyable, though probably best listened to one or two at a time rather than the whole lot in one sitting.

LibraryThing entry

interim book log

Book 84: Val McDermid — Killing the Shadows

Another doorstop of a crime novel from McDermid, this one about a statistics-based psychological profiler who will no longer work with the Met after they ignored her advice because it wasn’t what they wanted to hear, and went with another profiler whose advice led to the collapse of the case.

Fiona Cameron still works with other police departments. But one case comes only too close to home, with a serial killer who is stalking… crime writers who write about serial killers. And Fiona’s boyfriend is on the list of novelists set to meet the same fate as their own characters. It has the potential to be a very silly conceit, but McDermid’s far too skillful to let it slip into silliness. Instead it’s used to ratchet up the tension in a very convincing way, in a dazzling display of meta commentary. Wonderful piece of work.

Book 85: Carola Dunn — Damsel in Distress
Book 86: Carola Dunn — Dead in the Water
Book 87: Carola Dunn — Styx and Stones

Books 5, 6 and 7 of the Daisy Dalrymple mystery series. I’d never read any of the series before, but these worked perfectly well without having read earlier books in the sequence. The series is set in the 1920s, and Daisy is a young member of the aristocracy who works for a living rather than take an allowance from the cousin who inherited the estate after the death of both her brother and her father. She has an unfortunate habit of stumbling over murders… Gentle cosies with some entertaining characters, and slow but steady growth in the background story of the main characters. They’re not at the top level of mysteries, but they’re an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours and I’ll be looking for more of them.

Book 88: Leslie Charteris — The Saint Meets the Tiger

The first of the Saint books, and one that Charteris himself occasionally disowned as not being up to standard. Yes, it’s corny, but it’s a competent enough piece of work for someone not yet 21 when he wrote it, and it’s great swashbuckling fun.
(and I need to add my recently acquired Saint collection to LibraryThing…)

Book Log: Val McDermid — The Grave Tattoo

Book 83

A murder victim’s corpse is found in the Lake District, and it’s an unusual one — a bog body, but only two centuries old, and decorated with tattoos that indicate the man had been a sailor in the Pacific. Wordsworth scholar Jane Gresham sees a potential link with a Lakeland rumour — that Bounty mutineer Fletcher Christian had not died on Pitcairn Island, but had secretly made his way back to England. And further, that he might have told his story to his old school friend Wordsworth. Jane already has reason to suspect that there is an undiscovered Wordsworth manuscript chronicling Christian’s story, but when she goes looking for it, death follows in her wake.

This is a solid doorstopper of a crime novel, but every page is put to good use by McDermid in weaving her story. Enjoyed this a lot.

LibraryThing entry

November 2010 book log

Book 74) Jennifer Ashley — Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage

Victorian romance, second of a quartet. Logged with brief notes on 6 November.

Book 75) Edward Marston — The Frost Fair

Fourth in a mystery series set in Restoration London. Logged with brief notes on 14 November.

Book 76) MC Beaton — Death of a Perfect Wife

Fourth in the Hamish Macbeth mystery series, and the last I’ll be reading. Logged with reasons why on 14 November.

Book 77) Erich Maria Remarque — All Quiet On The Western Front

Logged with notes on November 14, Remembrance Sunday

Book 78) Sam Storyteller — Your Face Is Turned (re-read)

Logged on November 14, previously reviewed on 12 April

Book 79) Georgette Heyer – No Wind of Blame

Logged with brief notes on 21 November.

Book 80) Joseph Green – The Loafers of Refuge

Battery on my Palm died and took my notes with it. A study of the settlement of a pastoral world, and the interaction between settlers from Earth and the humanoid natives. The natives are low tech, but have psi powers — which can be taught to humans who are willing to take the trouble to learn. It’s an interesting and mostly thoughtful read, but has some strange blind spots.

Book 81) Sharyn McCrumb – Zombies of the Gene Pool

Mystery set amongst science fiction fandom, and a sequel to Bimbos of the Death Sun, although you don’t need to have read the latter first. The mystery isn’t too bad, but McCrumb’s attitude to fandom makes me wonder who ran over her puppy. Yes, the sort of people she’s talking about did and do exist (I’ve met some of them), but she’s presenting the extreme as the norm. I also prefer mysteries where in theory at least you could work out the answer from clues along the way, and I’m not convinced that this one works on that level.

Book 82) Laurie R King — The Beekeeper’s Apprentice

First of a series of Sherlock Holmes pastiches, in which a young Edwardian woman by the name of Mary Russell literally trips over a man studying bees on the Sussex downs, recognises him as the retired detective, Sherlock Holmes, and contrives to get taken on as his apprentice, largely by virtue of being just as observant as and even less well socialised than Holmes.

Yes, it’s just as much of an author wish-fulfillment fantasy ala Mary-Sue as it sounds, at least for the first few chapters. I kept reading anyway, on the grounds that if it was that much of a Mary-Sue all the way through it probably wouldn’t have been a commercial success. Fortunately it does improve. Fortunately, because there were four of the series in The Works that day, and having bought the lot on a whim I’d have been most disappointed if they’d turned out to be too annoying to read more than one. I think part of the problem is that it’s first person POV from a POV that is *supposed* to be like an adolescent and particularly irritating version of Holmes, which can grate very badly when what your subconscious expects is Doctor Watson’s narrative voice. Taking that into account, at its best this book works well as a Holmes pastiche.


And I started reading an ebook of a Jeeves and Wooster collection (Cybook isn’t to hand to check the title) when I was sitting on a train last week and couldn’t find what I was supposed to be reading next, which is something from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme. Bus book this week is Val McDermid’s The Grave Tattoo, which I’m unlikely to finish this week as it’s a long one.

I’m not going to break 100 books this year unless there’s an outbreak of reading over Christmas, but it’ll be closer to 100 than to 50.