Summer Reading Wrap-Up

September 8th, 2009 by Potato

Well, this was a very pleasantly cool summer. I didn’t spend nearly enough time outside enjoying it, and didn’t get all the summer reading I had hoped to done — boy do I miss the days of being a kid and having the summers off to do nothing but play video games and read. Here are the books I did get around to:

Warning, spoilers follow!

One Jump Ahead, Mark Van Name – this was a good military sci-fi read about a kidnapping, a nano-bot enhanced mercenary soldier, and his sarcastic sentient combat tank. It wasn’t particularly special, it’s not the sort of book you’ll be talking about with your friends years later, but it was very readable and enjoyable, well worth spending some alone time with on a sunny afternoon. I’m planning on picking up the next book in the series, Smiling Jack, if that adds any weight to the quasi-recommendation.

Bitterwood, James Maxey – this is mostly a fantasy tale about a dragon empire ruling over humanity, with a few sci-fi twists along the way. After losing his family to the dragon overlords, Bitterwood goes on a decades-long dragon-killing revenge quest… which unfortunately leads to him killing the king’s favourite son, which drives the dragon king to decide to exterminate humanity. Humans and sympathetic dragons must work together to stop the madness of the dragon king… Another good, quick read without much to complain about. I enjoyed the mis-mash of sci-fi and dragons and archers. Apparently there are two more books following this, but Bitterwood doesn’t look to have been written specifically for a trilogy, it stands pretty well on it’s own, and while it was fairly good, it didn’t leave me itching for more. Maybe next summer :)

Mistborn, Brandon Sanderson – This has been the best fantasy read of the summer for me. A very engrossing novel about an empire with an immortal emperor, who, as OSC puts it “if not evil, is nasty and arbitrary”. A slave rebellion seeks to overthrow the throne, lead by a powerful “allomancer”, one of the only ones in the slave caste’s ranks (in this world, powers are hereditary, and typically only nobles possess them). I found the system of magic that he’s created to be very engrossing — it’s magic, it’s powerful, but it’s also clearly limited, and possessing its own set of rules and trade-offs. The whole time I was reading about the magic system I was thinking of what a great RPG this world would make. It’s a real page-turner, and we’ve already picked up the rest of the trilogy: Well of Ascension and Hero of the Ages, but I can’t read them yet because Wayfare called dibs! Yes, the books are better than the titles. While I hadn’t heard of him before, Brandon Sanderson has been chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time (which I also haven’t heard of). This is apparently a big deal. Whatever, I enjoyed the book and I’ll be sure to read through his other stuff!

Trade Pact Universe #1 Thousand Words For A Stranger, Julie Czerneda – I hadn’t heard about Julie Czerneda until she got a mention on John Scalzi’s Whatever, and that was unfortunate. She is a good writer (and Canadian), and I quite enjoyed the first book in her “Trade Pact Universe” series, about telepaths and space pirates. Some of her descriptions of telepathy (especially the “M’hir” — even reading silently, my mouth didn’t like trying to make sense of that “word”) rubbed me the wrong way, but the writing and dialogue is otherwise top-notch, and I’ve already picked up the second book in this series, as well as the first in another:

Species Imperative #1 Survival, Julie Czerneda – I liked this one a bit more from the “concept” side of sci-fi, but really didn’t fall in love with the plot or the characters — the main character seemed to just follow along without questioning what was happening to her enough, up to the point of running off to an alien world without ever getting a satisfactory answer to why a salmon researcher was so uniquely important to a galactic question. Maybe that’ll be answered in the next book of the series, but I started to get fatigued from the suspension of disbelief required to continue to not get pulled out of the story wondering why all the other characters were so worked up over the protagonist. Though from the concept side of things I did like her (brief) descriptions of the alien species, FTL travel, and a future earth where wilderness areas are rabidly protected. And there was an awful lot of duplicity on the part of the minor characters. It ends on a cliff-hanger, and even then I’m not sure I’m going to follow-up with the rest of the trilogy.

As you may have noticed, I’ve signed up as an Amazon affiliate, and the links above will take you directly to the Amazon page for each book. I don’t want that to influence whether or how you buy your books, and while all the books here were at least decent summer reads, I wouldn’t give a book a good review just to try to get an affiliate sale. However, if you are going to buy any of these, and if you might use Amazon, then might I suggest using the links here? The site gets a 4% kickback from any purchases made.

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