Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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WindyCon’s contribution to my TBR pile

I can’t say I was desperate for more books to load onto my already fully stocked TBR shelves, but one can hardly avoid buying a book or two at a convention. As it happens, books were particularly easy to come by at this year’s WindyCon. Here’s what I picked up:

books

Okay, can you read all the titles? Here’s a list:

When Diplomacy Fails and Assassin And Other Stories by Steven Barnes were both published by ISFiC Press, which if I understand correctly is the organization, or a branch of the organization, responsible for putting on WindyCon. They were giving away stacks of free books and these are the two I picked up. Even though I’m not too interested in short stories, they look like they might have some good stories in them — and, you know, free books, right?

Then a used book dealer I know slightly is going out of business, so they had all their books half price. These were all used paperbacks in good to like-new condition, and they cost a dollar to about $2.50 apiece, and at prices like that, well, you don’t mind taking a chance on a book you know almost nothing about. So I picked up quite a few, including one, Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith, that I already own on Kindle. I don’t mind having a paper copy as well — or maybe I’ll give it away to someone who I think will like it.

I picked up three books by new-to-me authors: The Devil You Know by Mike Carey, Catch the Lightning by Catherine Asaro, Consequences by Katherine Rusch.

Two of those are a bit of a risk because they are not the first books in their respective series. I would never have bought them new. Catch the Lightning is the second book in Asaro’s Skolian Empire series and I must say, the first book of that series, Primary Inversion, has a weird description at Goodreads:

The Skolian Empire rules a third of the civilized galaxy through its mastery of faster-than-light communication. But war with the rival empire of the Traders seems imminent, a war that can only lead to slavery for the Skolians or the destruction of both sides. Destructive skirmishes have already occurred. A desperate attempt must be made to avert total disaster.

Look how that description falls into the passive voice! A desperate attempt must be made by whom? Isn’t that strange? We have no idea of the main character! I’m not sure I remember ever seeing back cover copy written that way before. I don’t think it’s very effective. I want to know about the protagonist, not just the situation!

The other one, Consequences, is the third book in Rusch’s Retrieval Artist series. The first book of that series sounds much more appealing:

His name: Miles Flint. His occupation: Retrieval Artist. His job: Hunt down the Disappeared–outlaws on the run, wanted for crimes against alien cultures. The catch: Flint isn’t working on the side of the law.

See? I don’t really get this — if he’s not working on the side of the law, then what’s he doing? Working for a private corporation? Working for himself? Nevertheless, focusing on the protagonist immediately makes the book sound more like something I might like.

Of course now I have to decide whether to buy the first books in order to start each series properly, or try the volumes I have to see if I like the authors. At least the book by Carey is the first in its series.

Moving on, I picked up The Demon and the City by Liz Williams because I already read and liked her Snake Agent. Snake Agent was the first book in the series, The Demon in the City is the second, so that’s perfect.

I also got Armageddon Summer because it’s by Jane Yolen. Well, and Bruce Coville. However, I see from Goodreads that it’s yet another look at a Bad Preacher and Bad Christianity. Wow, what a bold, unique vision that is. I suppose it’s possible Yolen handles this extremely cliched trope better than average, not that that’s a high bar. If I’d looked at the description and comments on Goodreads first, I doubt I’d have bothered picking it up.

Finally, I did pick up two books new, from Larry The Bookseller, who by the way has recovered from the car accident earlier this summer (if you heard about that). The broken rib wasn’t the big issue, it was the pneumonia he caught in the hospital. Anyway, I was glad to see Larry back at it. He’s a fixture of conventions, at least in the Midwest.

Of course I had to pick up Jeweled Fire by Sharon Shinn! And An Ancient Peace by Tanya Huff! I’ve been waiting for both of those. I’m sure I’ll read Jeweled Fire soon, but I may want to re-read all the Sergeant Toren books before reading An Ancient Peace, so who knows about that. I like just having it sit here on my TBR pile, though.

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6 Comments WindyCon’s contribution to my TBR pile

  1. Mary Anne

    You might like Catherine Asaro. I believe she is a science professional (physics maybe) and some of her stuff can get a little bit technical. But it’s interesting, and different. Strong female characters. Been a long time since I’ve read anything of hers. I think I started somewhere in the second or third book in the series, and then went back to read the first (within the chronological timeline of the series – I don’t know if they were written that way.) Most of the stories revolve around various members of this ruling intergalactic family, and their nemeses, a competing empire whose ruling class can only find pleasure in the pain of others. They are not books I’ve ever reread, and I like to reread. I think because you’d have to plow through them all to get a good grasp of the overall picture. You get glimpses in each book, but unless you read them in a cluster, you may lose some of the connections. I was not inspired enough to read them all in a cluster – individually, I’d give most of the books a C+/B-, but they don’t draw me enough to spend time on the series as a whole (unlike, say, the Vorkosigan series.) I would still read a new entry in the series, however.

  2. SarahZ

    Asaro’s Skolian books are pretty loosely tied together as series go, and I think the one you have is a good starting point. Her stuff is a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, her science is fun – for example, she comes up with enough explanation to make the psi talents in her book be actually sci fi. And, she’s got some really great characters. On the other, her Skolian books have a sort of outlandishly evil empire that they’re at war with, and some strange sexual stuff. There’s some instalove, the bad guys are all sexual sadists, and also the Skolian royal family is pretty inbred, and that’s the crowd this series follows. Those are never the central couples (I think), but it’s a part of the setting. I find the series to be a bit uneven, but I liked Primary Inversion and Catch the Lightning (don’t think I’ve read all of them). For me, the physics, advanced math, and characters are what make the books work.

  3. Rachel

    Thanks for your comments! It sounds like I should definitely read Catch the Lightning first and then look for the others only if the series really appeals to me. I’m looking forward to seeing how Asaro makes psionics look really SF rather than fantasy.

  4. Linda S

    I remember liking PRIMARY INVERSION and some of the other books in the series, but what Sarah Z says about the strange sexual stuff is definitely true. Asaro is an interesting author; she has a very strong science background (according to her author page, she has a doctorate in theoretical chemical physics from Harvard), but she’s definitely not writing Hal Clement-style books! I’ll be interested to hear what you think of CATCH THE LIGHTNING.

    I’m also looking forward to your opinion of AN ANCIENT PEACE. I liked it, but not as much as I was hoping to. Maybe my expectations were set too high, or maybe I was just having a bad day. I’m planning to go back and give it another shot later, since I loved almost all of her earlier space marine books.

  5. Karen K

    I loved _Primary Inversion_ so much that I haven’t read _Catch the Lightning_ because I am terrified that it will change / not be as good as _Primary Inversion_. (I know it is odd, but I don’t like being disappointed. I’ll sometimes read the end first to discover if the author is going to kill anyone off first.) I just read Asaro’s _Undercity_ and really enjoyed it. It predates _Primary Inversion_ in the timeline.

  6. Rachel

    Thanks for your comments! Based on that, I do think maybe I will go on and get Primary Inversion and read that first. The science background sounds neat, not being quite as hard-science-y as Hal Clement sounds good, and we’ll just see about the sexual aspects of the story.

    Linda, I hope I like An Ancient Peace more than you did, but I do plan to read the others again first, so I should really be in the mood to go on with the story after that!

    Karen, sometimes I call my brother and ask directly, “So, this has a happy ending, right???” If the ending is happy or at least ambiguous, fine, but if the story is a tragedy, no, thanks.

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