Okay, well, I couldn’t do a retrospective post about the books I read in 2018 because I read so few in the second half of the year that the whole idea just seemed pointless.
So rather than waiting for the end of 2019, I thought I’d review books read in January, quick while they’re still fresh in my mind.
1) Skye Object by Linda Nagata. Liked it quite a bit, despite feeling the giant squid things were a little over the top.
2) Tracking by David Palmer. I bet no one else here has read that, except for Craig, who’s the one who found it for me. It’s the sequel to Palmer’s Emergence, but Tracking was issued only as a three-part serial in Analog back in 2008. I hear Erik Flint’s Ring of Fire Press will be bringing it out, and if so, this year is a pretty good bet. Also if so, I really hope Palmer edits out 98% of the flashbacks and reprises and so on. Let people get the newly-re-issued Emergence and read that first. Then they won’t need all that tedious flashback material.
I should add, if you decide to read Emergence, it’s good, but go in expecting a superhuman, supercompetent, super-idealized girl as the main character. And if you eventually find a copy of Tracking, don’t expect anything different in that one — except in the latter, we also get a supercanine, supercompetent, super-idealized border collie.
4) Making Up by Lucy Parker. I liked it a lot. It’s a romance set in contemporary London. Parker does good romances. I don’t like them as well as Laura Florand, but I do like them quite a bit.
5) Terms of Enlistment and also Lines of Engagement by Marko Kloos. I liked these pretty well, but I’m on the fence about going on with the series. The main immediate problem (huge indestructible alien ship will kill us all) is dealt with at the end of the second book, but reviews seem to indicate that Our Heroes kind of forget about the method they used to snatch victory from the teeth of defeat when they find themselves faced with similar indestructible alien ships in the third book?
I can’t bear extreme protagonist stupidity. If that impression is correct, this would be a classic example. If anybody had read the full series, what do you think? Does Kloos pull it off when he forces his characters to forget how to solve this problem when the they get back to Earth and find lots of indestructible alien ships? Or is that as unbelievable as it seems?
8) Securing Caite by Susan Stoker. Another romance. I liked it, even though it is not, perhaps, objectively all that good. It is an interesting exercise in taking a romance novel and stripping out everything but the romance parts.
Here’s what I mean by that:
At the beginning, Caite meets some Navy SEALS. Then those guys get into trouble and Caite is put in a situation where she needs to rescue them. This is actually somewhat believable! (I know, quite a trick!). But what is interesting is how the author: a) shows us the initial meeting; b) shows us Caite finding out the guys are in trouble; c) shows us Caite getting them out of their predicament; but d) skips extremely lightly over the guys getting into that trouble in the first place. A bit is from the male lead’s pov, but not the actual adventure part. That part, the reader is not shown. Very interesting authorial choice!
The greatest flaw with this story, though, is that anybody can see why Caite would be attracted to the SEAL. I mean, that is not in the least surprising. But this book offers an absolutely classic no-holds-barred instaromance, where the guy falls for Caite for no reason whatsoever. LATER she proves to be super brave and well worth falling in love with, but at first? There is just zero reason given for his immediate attraction. Huge flaw, since the story would have worked beautifully if he had hardly noticed her to begin with and then REALLY noticed her because she rescued him and his buddies.
All this aside, I admit I preordered the second book. This is because there’s a teaser at the end of the first one, and the very first thing that happens? A pit bull gets rescued. Awwwww. Not sure any other incident would have caused me to preorder the second book, but what can I say? I am a total softy for a tough guy who rescues a pit bull.
9) Knife Children by LMB. Obviously I liked it a lot, I just posted about that one a couple days ago. Good, solid novella. Hanneke pointed out that it’s great how a novella can show us a slice-of-life with characters we care about and no need for a huge terrible crisis. That’s so true. I mean, I love giant bats as much as the next person, but I definitely enjoyed just peeking in at Barr’s life and seeing him get things in order with Lily.
Okay, now, look how romance heavy this list is! Four, maybe five out of ten. That’s certainly unusual. And you know what happened at the end of the month? For the first time ever, I sort of thought maybe I might like to write a romance.
I believe this is probably due specifically to reading Securing Caite, the least-good story but the clearest, simplest romance in the bunch. The romance beats are super-obvious; the pared-down story makes the romance structure stand out with extreme clarity. All of a sudden I thought, you know, I might like to try this.
So yesterday, with nothing else urgent to do (just finished a revision and zapped that back to my agent; snow day so no work), I went ahead and wrote 7000 words, 22 pages, of a new book. Space opera romance, that is the plan. I have all these great scenes in mind, although halfway through I paint the protagonists into a dire corner and heaven knows how I will get them out again. I have no scenes in my head for that part of the book, yet. Still, getting to that point would probably clarify what happens next.
May turn out to be space-opera-with-romance rather than romance-with-space-opera. I do believe I can already detect a certain shift in that direction. Still, it’ll be interesting to see how long the story holds momentum and rolls on out, and what its main genre turns out to be.