Books, January 2018

I have been reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell since NOVEMBER. An 850 page trade paperback (that is, a sturdier paperback as large as a hardback, instead of the little pocket size/pulpy paper mass market paperbacks) is a crime against bookbinding.

The Stone Sky, NK Jemisin

I finished this in January but before I’d written up December – see what I had to say about the whole trilogy at once last month.

Another One Bites the Crust, Ellie Alexander

Once again, I hesitate to say anything resembling details because it’s impossible to talk about mysteries without spoilers practically by definition. But what I will vaguely say is that in her recent few books, the villain’s motivation and/or background was informed by current events and politics, rather than just personal vengeance, and it really elevated the book above standard pulp mystery to a more sophisticated level. That’s no insult to books that don’t do this – my own murder mysteries generally depend on vengeance too.

I fear my absolute favorite mystery series may be winding down – only one more book is confirmed at a time, so there’s no way to know yet, but I worry that mom’s wedding may be the end. Noooooooo! All of the other series I’m reading that are still being released are taking their time releasing the next book (lookin at you, Jim Butcher) so the fact that these books give me the warm fuzzies AND come out on a consistent schedule is just so comforting.

Genre: mystery. Format: novel. Rating: 3/3 don’t take my comfort food books away from me!

Artemis, Andy Weir

It was a fun heist, but not as good as The Martian, and as with its predecessor its greatest strength is in fully fleshing out the consequences in constructed hyperrealistic world. But instead of leaning into Mark Watney’s fun with the technical details that drive the plot, giving him time to develop as a likable character through meandering digressions, Weir self-consciously steers around them here, which undercuts new protagonist Jazz’s supposed expertise. I wonder if some editor said The Martian succeeded in spite of those bits and they needed to be gone this time around – but talking around them just made everyone seem weirdly reticent at best and hiding incompetence at worst. Throw in some underdeveloped and incongruous character choices for our protagonist, and it adds up to a fun but thin adventure run. I suspect it might play better on screen, where sci-fi adventure stories with strong casts can succeed with less characterization than books need, and I think we’re going to find out – after the success of The Martian moviethis will almost certainly be adapted too.

Genre: mystery, spec fic, HEIST. Format: novel. Rating: 2/3, not as good as The Martian

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