38. Norton, Andre, ed. Tales of the Witch World 3 (467 p.)
(Voice of memory, by M.E. Allen; Plumduff Potato-Eye, by Jayge Carr; The scent of magic, by Juanita Coulson; Heartspell, by A.C. Crispin; The weavers, by Esther M. Friesner; The root of all evil, by Sharon Green; Knowledge, by P.M. Griffin; The circle of sleep, by Caralyn Inks; Falcon's chick, by Patricia Shaw Mathews; Fortune's children, by Patricia A. McKillip; Godron's daughter, by Ann Miller & Karen E. Rigley; A question of magic, by marta Randall; Strait of storms, by K.L. Roberts; Candletrap, by Mary H. Schaub; Whispering cane, by Carol Severance; Gunnora's gift, by Elisabeth Waters; Wolfhead, by Michael D. Winkle; Were-flight, by Lisa Woodworth; The sword-seller, by Patricia C. Wrede)
39. Robinson, Spider. The Callahan Touch (Callahan's Bar) (228 p.)
40. Dixon, Chuck & Steve Epting. El Cazador (144 p.)
41. Heinlein, Robert A. Friday (357 p.)
42. Brust, Steven. Issola (Vlad Taltos series) (255 p.)
July total: 1,451 pages
2011 total to date: 11,326 pages
Woo-hoo, 10,000 pages by July-- I think I might just make my usual annual goals of 50 books and 15,000 pages this year, and I'm basically on pace for my secondary annual goals of 75 books and 20,000 pages. I think I'm about to hit one of my regular lulls, though, and my next couple of books have higher pagecounts, so I suspect I won't be keeping up this pace for long.
It's nice and all that Andre Norton's Witch World books were an inspiration to all of these writers, but having now read two collections of stories set in this milieu (which I've otherwise only heard of in passing and haven't ever actually seen any of the main books from in a library or bookstore), I'm not inspired to read anything else in this setting. It's not that they're bad stories, just that they didn't grab me--to the point where I was almost dreading the idea of continuing to slog through this volume, and I'm glad it's over. It's very rare that I finish a book and say, "Right, that one's not staying in my collection," but this is most definitely in that category. I think the main problem is that I'm not a tweenage girl who adores pegasi and sorceresses, and thus 9/10 of the appeal goes right past me. Though given the presence of stories like the one about the hunkalicious ferocious were-creature who just wants to cuddle with his new best friend, the outcast girl who's secretly a were-panther (I think there may have been one of those in the first collection, too), perhaps this is a series that might appeal more to the Twilight crowd than it does to me.
I've heard Spider Robinson's Callahan's Bar series praised so much over the years that, when this volume fell into my lap, I decided to give it a try. I hope the earlier volumes are better, because this one was awful. I suppose, if you think filk as performed by die-hard SF fen is the highest form of art, and that namechecking your con-going friends as often as possible somehow improves a story, then you might think this is good stuff. But to me, on the outside of the SF fandom community, this read like bad fanfic written by someone who's otherwise a good writer. Robinson is definitely a talented writer--as evidenced by my wanting to keep reading to find out what happens next, even though I was constantly annoyed by what did happen. And that in itself was annoying. But if the rest of the Callahan's Bar stories are built on a foundation of cramming in as much filk as possible, constantly giving walk-on parts (or more) to close personal friends from fandom, and on repeated attempts to out-pun a Xanth story, I'll pass, thank you.
El Cazador is one of the best pirate stories I've read in a while. It's a crying shame that it ends with "to be continued" and probably never will be, and just as it was building up steam, too.
Friday starts off about an ultra-competent female secret agent, but about half-way through the book, Heinlein decides that all of the world's political and social problems can be solved by libertarianism and free love, and decides to try to use the rest of the book as a platform to argue that point. (Also--trigger alert--the main character gets raped and then tortured very early on in the story and she's "so tough" that she thinks to herself--while it's happening--that it's proof that her captors and their leader aren't very good at the secret-agent business.) I rather liked the secret agent/adventure parts of the story, and appreciated the Easter egg of a link to his earlier short story, "Gulf" (about super-agents Mr. & Mrs. Greene, included in the Off the Main Sequence collection I read back in December), but overall, a story that started off strong seemed to peter out in the middle, and then turn into a rambling series of vignettes that doesn't really build to anything and then ends.
Issola jumps back to the "present" of the Vlad Taltos storyline, and pushes Our Hero into the middle of a battle of the gods of his world with as- or more-powerful beings. And yet, despite the cosmic-level action, Brust, through Vlad, manages to keep the story firmly grounded. I was saddened a bit by the fate of one of the supporting cast, but I could see something like it coming a ways off and I think it was handled fairly well. I'm a little concerned by hints that look like the series might spiral off from here into another case of an author indulging in self-insertion fanfic in his own universe (as happened with Clive Cussler when he started showing up in every book to help his hero out of an otherwise impossible jam or hand him a vital piece of information, etc.), but the stories have been so good so far that I'm inclined to give Brust the benefit of the doubt and head on, full steam ahead. Except that this is the last of the books I own so far; the local library has the rest, but I'll need to start arranging to get over there and get them, and that may take a while. (The newer stories are all also available as e-books, but I'm not going that route as yet.)
Feudalism: Serf & Turf