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More books I read from 2014

Started: 2015-01-28 20:52:23

Submitted: 2015-01-28 20:58:10

Visibility: World-readable

I already listed my favorite novels of 2014, but those were just a selection of the books I read from 2014. Here are books that didn't make my list of favorites but were all redeeming in their own special ways, in no particular order.

New fiction

Authority and Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer: These two books finish the Southern Reach Trilogy that started with Annihilation. Authority follows the newly-installed director of the Southern Reach, the mysterious government agency that's trying to get a handle on the even-more-mysterious Area X somewhere on the American gulf coast. Acceptance returns to Area X and finally resolves, more or less, what the whole thing is all about. These books are weirder than the fiction I usually read, but I did enjoy my excursions into Area X.

Sword of the Bright Lady by M.C. Planck: A mechanical engineer gets sucked through a mysterious portal into a fantasy world and soon discovers that all is not right: all able-bodied young men are conscripted as foot soldiers in a devastating war of attrition with their demonic neighbors. The engineer is able to introduce gunpowder to the town he finds himself in, turning his peasant levee into a well-armed regiment -- at which point he discovers Important Things about the state of the world that are left to be resolved in the sequels. I liked the introduction of gunpowder and the tactics of early modern warfare into an epic fantasy setting.

The Outsorcerer's Apprentice by Tom Holt: Outsourcing to the developing world is a drag: import duties and shipping costs. But if an intrepid outsourcer can locate a pocket fantasy universe, populated with bumbling petty nobles and fair maidens and elves and dwarves, the outsourcer doesn't even need to pay the locals. Then the locals start asking difficult questions: why is it that wolves come out of the hills dressed as grannies trying to snag young women? What is the wolf economy really like to be able to provide well-stocked cottages to every wolf who comes out of the hills? And why are doughnuts and bagels banned on religious grounds?

A Call to Duty by David Weber and Timothy Zhan: Because if there's one thing the world needs, it's yet another storyline in the sprawling Honorverse. At least this one starts a few hundred years earlier, when the Kingdom of Manticore is a backwater at the edge of inhabited space and is trying to figure out whether it needs a space navy at all. I enjoyed reading the book, but it's clearly setting up a very long new series ("Manticore Ascendant") of its own.

Scale-Bright by Benjanun Sriduangkaew: This novella (which I read in printed form) made me want to go back to Hong Kong. It places characters from Chinese mythology in exile from heaven in Hong Kong, and creates an underworld populated with demons and gods and demon-hunters. I might have appreciated more of the references to Chinese mythology if I actually understood more of Chinese mythology but I still enjoyed the novella.

Backlist fiction

Men at Arms and Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett: Two great City Watch stories in Discworld. I was amused by Detritus joining the City Watch, overclocking his brain in the pork-futures storage facility, and carrying a siege ballista like a crossbow. (I have resolved to use the verb "read" with audiobooks as well as print books.)

God's War by Kameron Hurley: After reading The Mirror Empire, I went back to Kameron Hurley's backlist and read God's War, her first published novel and the first book in the three-book Bel Dame Apocrypha. This is a story of a dreary desert planet populated by two nations at war with each other for no reason anyone can remember. This is a story of survival and strong female characters and platonic friendships and bug tech-so-advanced-it's-indistinguishable-from-magic and has one of the best opening lines I've read in years, "Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert." I liked the loving descriptions of the brutal dusty desert and the people hustling to survive without selling themselves out.

Non-fiction

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe: I've read Randall Munroe's work for years, and enjoyed his What If? blog. This is, more or less, a concatenation of blog posts in a time-honored tradition of publishing, with some new material. I'd read much of it before but I enjoyed reading it again. Given my habit of securing dust jackets to books using library-grade plastic covers I can't help but feel slightly disappointed by the easter eggs inside the dust jacket on the hard cover.

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