39. Cussler, Clive. Flood Tide (Dirk Pitt Adventure. v. ) (678 p.)
40. Anderson, Poul & Gordon Dickson. Hoka! (219 p.)
(Contents: Joy in Mudville; Undiplomatic Immunity; Full Pack (Hokas Wild); The Bear That Walks Like a Man, by Sandra Miesel; The Napoleon Crime)
41. Ringo, John. Gust Front (Legacy of the Aldenata, bk. 2) (721 p.)
42. Bujold, Lois McMaster. Barrayar (Vorkosigan Saga) (389 p.)
43. Gownley, Jimmy. Her Permanent Record (Amelia Rules! v. 9) (144 p.)
September total: 2,151 pages
2012 YTD total: 14,894 pages
One of my guilty pleasure reads is Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt series. I think the first several are genuinely good (and I definitely recommend them to anyone who likes modern-set action-adventure fiction with a somewhat historical basis), but the last several have been... less good. I think the point at which the series jumped the shark is when Cussler started turning the series into a self-insertion fanfic parody of itself. He writes himself into one chapter in every volume, at just the right point to save the main character or otherwise provide him with exactly the macguffin he needs to move the plot along when the main character is otherwise at a total dead end with absolutely no useful leads. Once was a cute easter egg. With the second time, it got old fast. Doing it in Every Single Book is a writing tic that's impossible to ignore and breaks me out of the story every time. After more than a dozen books, the main character is also getting up in years and has survived so many near-death experiences due to severe injuries that it's amazing he can still feed himself without drooling, let alone be the heroic/romantic lead in an action-adventure novel; the trope's been used in so many books now that my suspension of disbelief is startng to wear thin. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed the book, and would probably watch the movie if they ever made one. (Though after Sahara--which wasn't even one of the better books to begin with, IMHO--I don't know how likely that is.)
I'd read this Hoka collection before, years ago, but had forgotten most of it. I originally picked it up because one of the stories is illustrated by Phil Foglio. (He also did the original cover, but this is a later edition with a Michael Whelan cover and the "afterword" moved to be between stories #3 & 4.) For those not familiar with the Hoka, they're a race of intelligent bear-like aliens who are about 3-4 feet tall and look like giant teddy bears. They're also highly impressionable and love taking on personas based on various periods of Earth fiction. In that, they're very similar to the original Star Trek episode that features a culture based on old gangster movies, but here it's (usually) played for laughs, and multiple sources of character personas may be found in a single story--sometimes even within the same Hoka character. It's fun, silly SF from the mid-20th century, yet the authors still stay grounded, don't get too enamored of their own jokes, and thus these are all coherent, solid stories. Generally recommended.
I picked up Gust Front thinking it was a standalone "story from the trenches" SF war novel. While it indeed mostly is a grunt's-eye view story, it's about as far from standalone as you can get, and I wish the trade dress made that more obvious, as I didn't get a complete story and wasn't happy about that. I liked it well enough, and just enough of the previous volume is summarized over the course of this one that I didn't need to have read it to understand this one, but what's missing is a real denoument; the action builds to a climax of sorts, and then just sort of ends, with most of the plot threads to be picked up in the next book. Also, the way the invading army was set up throughout the book, either there's an entire other book's worth of plot movement in areas other than wherever the current chapters POV character was that got left out, or there's pretty much zero chance that the eventual outcome could have been what it was. (E.g.: When one side has massive numerical, technological, and communications superiority, completely controls the air, completely controls the space around the planet (including the ability to pinpoint-target and totally obliterate any land-based defense installations), and partly has the element of surprise, even if they're also dumb enough to repeatedly walk into massive ambushes, it's just not plausible for undermanned and poorly armed defenders to not only hold them off but also wipe them out). As war stories go, it was about as much brain-candy fun as the movie Independence Day, and with an outcome that's almost as unbelievable, except it also includes all the grit, grime, and blood of an in-the-trenches first-hand account of World War I. Needless to say, I don't plan to put myself through any of the other books in this series.
Barrayar, on the other hand, was a highly enjoyable SF adventure, set just before the only other Vorkosigan Saga volume I've read, and featuring Miles Vorkosigan's mother as the primary protagonist. I like her, and would definitely read more books with her as the protagonist. (Of which I know there is at least one.)
With Her Permanent Record, Jimmy Gownley has finally conquered the "smacked repeatedly with the ugly stick" and "face is too tiny for the head" problems that his faces have frequently sufferend from in the last few Amelia Rules! volumes, especially for the adults. This volume calls back to and builds on actions in previous volumes more than some of the others do, and so probably isn't as good to hand to anyone unfamiliar with the series as, say, books 1 or 2 are, but it's very enjoyable, with plenty of rollercoaster ups & downs the whole way through. I also read somewhere that it's the last volume in the series, and that makes me sad. Though given how much the main character has aged so far over the course of the series, any further volumes would end up featuring her as a high schooler & college student and thus just wouldn't fit in well with the rest of the series; from that point of view, this one serves as a fitting finale, as the volume ends with Amelia having grown immensely as a character in ways that hearken directly back to the beginning of the very first volume, so things are fairly neatly tied up while still leaving the door open for us to imagine what happens next.
Feudalism: Serf & Turf