February 18th, 2017


Books that I read in January

Books that I read in January:

1. Forward, Eve. Villains by Necessity (446 p.)

2. Harrison, Harry. The Stainless Steel Rat Returns (Stainless Steel Rat) (304 p.)

3. Sayers, Dorothy L. Murder Must Advertise (Lord Peter Wimsey) (344 p.)

4. Sanderson, Brandon. The Alloy of Law (Mistborn novels) (332 p.)

5. Bujold, Lois McMaster. Cordelia's Honor (Vorkosigan Saga) (596 p.)
(Contents: Shards of Honor; Barrayar)

6. Hubbard, Freeman. The Phantom Brakeman, and Other Railroad Stories (91 p.)
(Contents: The Phantom Brakeman; The Tain That Never Came Back; The Broken Lantern; Casey Jones and the Cannonball Express; Signal-Tower Decision; A Depot Rescue)

7. Jackson, Robert B. Road Race Round the World (63 p.)

Total: 2,176 pages
YTD Total: 2,176 pages

Villains by Necessity has its share of first-novel flaws (e.g. a character with a surprise twist to his subplot being named "Sir Pryse"--albeit a twist that is guessable a mile away, so it isn't much of a surprise unless you aren't paying attention), but it's overall an excellent reversal of the usual fantasy tropes of good struggling against all-powerful evil, with good having already won, and the few villains left banding together on a quest to restore the balance before the world ends, sublimated into pure white energy. It's long out of print, often expensive as heck in print form, and not available as an e-book as far as I can tell, but if you can find a library with a copy, I highly recommend it, despite the flaws.

The Stainless Steel Rat Returns is almost a good Stainless Steel Rat book, but just doesn't quite make it. It's better than most of the other later Rat novels, though. If anything, it reminds me of Asprin's co-written Myth novels-- you can sort of see where the magic would have been, and it's reminiscent of the good times, but feels more like a shell that's missing the true soul. Recommended to fans who aren't sure whether to bother with any of the novels after the first three (and possibly the prequel), but otherwise skippable.

Murder Must Advertise is excellent, both as a view into the world of advertising agencies before the industry got so thoroughly scientific, psychological, and calculated, and as a mystery. It's technically set in the 1930s, but could easily be read as taking place any time between then and the late 1950s without any appreciable changes. Recommended, though I think it's probably more enjoyable if this isn't one's first Lord Peter Wimsey novel.

I've had several people recommend the Mistborn series to me, but when I went to the library, the original trilogy was all checked out. But this one, the first of a trilogy set a few centuries later as Sanderson's fantasy world has moved out of a stereotypical medieval period into a steampunk industrial revolution/Wild West setting. It's quite good, with a very inventive and thoroughy thought out magic system; I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

I'd previously read Barrayar, and am now catching up on the first half of the story with Cordelia's Honor. They definitely read better together than separately, and tell some important stories in the backstory of the Vorkosigan universe. Having a strong female protagonist who isn't necessarily all that strong in the physical sense is also quite refreshing. There are some triggery scenes for those sensitive to that, but otherwise highly recommended.

The Phantom Brakeman and Road Race Round the World are both children's books that I've re-read so many times I've lost count. The nostalgia factor is high for me, but they really are good reads in their own right. The first is a collection of various true stories involving railroads. The other is about the first automobile race to circumnavigate the globe, with lots of photos of the cars and race conditions. Not necessarily easy to find, but well worth the read; if nothing else, they can make good, yet also informational palate cleansers.

Feudalism: Serf & Turf