August 24th, 2016

kitty, reading

Books #53-54

Book #53 was "Lock In" by John Scalzi. I love a good genre mashup, and this combination of murder mystery and sci-fi really worked for me. In the near future, a flu-like plague has swept the globe. Some people die from it, while others seem mostly unaffected. A small percentage experience full paralysis but unaffected mental function, resulting in "lock in," called Haden's Syndrome. The world throws lots of money at research toward a cure and adaptive devices, so that it's not uncommon to see androids, called "threeps," housing the personalities of the paralyzed "locked in." Some of the people who survived the plague have also had their brains subtly rewired so that they are capable of "carrying" a locked in person's conciousness in their bodies, called "intergrators". The story starts with Chris Shane, a locked in survivor of Haden's syndrome, starting his new job as an FBI agent with a case that involves one man dead and another man, an integrator, covered in blood but not remembering what had happened. Chris Shane and his able-bodied partner must solve the mystery. I've always heard Scalzi was a good writer, but the plots of his other novels haven't grabbed me, so this is my first, but I'll likely read more by this author. I've also met him in person at local conventions and he is one of the good guys, so I'm happy to support his writing career!

Book #54 was "Broken Harbor" by Tana French, the fourth in her Dublin Murder Squad detective novel series. French takes a secondary from one book and makes him or her the main character in the next book. So, in the last book, the main character was undercover agent Frank Mackey, who went head-to-head with an old rival, Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy. Scorcher Kennedy becomes the main character in Broken Harbor, and to French's credit, while Kennedy is a blowhard who is difficult to like, she humanizes him in this novel by giving him a complicated family life and a case that messes with his head. A terrible attack has taken place at an abandoned housing development called Broken Harbor, with two children and a man dead and the mother of the family in critical condition at the hospital. At first, things seem cut and dried, but the more evidence that Kennedy and his newbie partner Richie find, the more complicated and nonsensical everything seems. French's novels all tend to have a theme, but they're usually subtle and artfully done. The theme of this one - that you can do everything right and still have things go off the rails - is a bit heavy-handed. That's really my only criticism. She does an admirable job of humanizing Kennedy, making you feel sympathetic toward his partner, Richie, and making your heart ache for the family of victims. I've saw a reviewer make a comment along the lines that French's novels are really literary fiction disguised as detective novels, and I have to agree. She's an author to keep an eye on.

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Book 92

Magic Fell (The Mages' Guild Trilogy, #1)Magic Fell by Andi Van

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love fantasy and this had a lot of really good elements to it. It opens with a mother giving up everything to stop a power-mad king then fast forwards several decades. Her ploy was only partially successful. Magic has been outlawed and the king's descendants will put any magic user to death.

Our point of view character is Tasis, a half human half elf (which opens him up to prejudice as does his androgynous appearance) who is in the middle of a tragedy of his own. His only friend is Zaree who is like a sister to him. She's part of a warrior sect with secrets of her own. Tasis's problems are compounded by the fact he is a budding magic user and the king is very aware of it. He and Zaree are forced to go on the run.

The other point of view character is the elf, Kelwin who is on mission of his own, basically leaving his mentor to find his way in the world beyond the safety of his home. Naturally soon he and Tasis (and Zaree) are thrown together and they learn Tasis is part of something bigger than he knows. Together with the familiar (in the form of a cat) K'yerin they try to find an island of myth which isn't so mythical. They might just be the ones to bring magic back to the world, reestablish the lost guild and stop the magic-hating king.

I enjoyed the story and the characters. Tasis does need saving a bit often but he is just a teenager and just coming into his power so that's forgivable. This is a series and it does it in the way I like, yes it sets up the next one but the main story arc of the first book has a conclusion (I'm not a fan of the very open ending so this works for me). I'm looking forward to the next one.

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