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Currently Reading - 4-Dec-2016

December 5th, 2016 (02:53 am)
current location: Belatedly ex libris
current mood: Literate

A little bit of a catch-up as a couple of these go back almost a month.

Currently Reading

Anno Dracula - Dracula, Cha, Cha, Cha, Kim Newman

It's 1959 and the Italian Dolce Vita is watching eagerly as the guests assemble for the wedding of the year - Dracula's marriage to the vampiric Princess Asa Vajda. Also in Rome, watching Dracula in his Italian exile, is Charles Beauregard, the man who thwarted him in Victorian Britain. But Charles is 106 and waiting to die, and not even Geneviève Dieudonné, the love of his life, can persuade him to let her give him the vampiric kiss and bring him over to be one of the undead. Arriving to help Geneviève with Charles' final days is Kate Reed, the vampire journalist whose credentials stretch back to being a prominent part of the resistance to Dracula. And it soon transpires that also in Rome, in fact working as Dracula's chatelaine, is Penelope Churchward, the third of the vampire women in Charles' life.

Reading Newman's notes after completing this, I realised that I had missed a large element of the story. Newman's work as a film critic means he has an encyclopaedic knowledge of film, and the core motif for Dracula Cha, Cha, Cha is apparently Three Coins in the Fountain, which I'm not certain I've ever seen, with Charles' three women taking the title roles. Of course, that's not the only film motif. The Talented Mr Ripley is contemplating the prospect he may have bitten off a little more than he can chew in trying his games on Dracula's household. Secret agent Hamish Bond is in town, and there are several perfect adaptions of Bond film motifs, though Geneviève finds Bond a pale shadow of her Charles. Drawing on the Italian vampire movie tradition is a major subplot involving Matre Lachrymae,  the Mother of Tears, the guardian spirit of Rome, and a series of vampire murders, culminating in one at the wedding itself, and leaving our three protagonists needing to find the real culprit in order to clear Kate, who was caught literally red-handed.

Also included with the package is the novella Aquarius, which is a solo effort for Kate Reed as she is asked by the Diogenes Club to investigate a rare vampiric murder as a favour to Scotland Yard's vampiric B Division. It's easy enough to imagine Jack Regan of the Sweeney as a vampiric cop, but George Dixon of Dock Green?!? Lying close to the root of things is one of the creepiest images of the whole series, amoral secret policeman Caleb Croft turned into an academic of the beat generation, with his own little cult of followers.

Anno Dracula - Johnny Alucard, Kim Newman

It's 1976 and Francis Ford Coppola is in Romania to film his Dracula,  with Kate Reed as his technical advisor. Vampires are persecuted in Romania as the Transylvania movement is agitating for the creation of a separate Transylvanian state, to be ruled by vampires, of course. When Kate finds a half-starved Romanian Vampire, Ion Popescu, she helps him get a job on the production as a fixer. He thanks her by setting her up for the murder of their Securitate watcher. What Kate didn't realise was that Ion is Dracula's last child.

Having achieved his aim of slipping into the States, Ion Popescu becomes Johnny Pop, master of the disco dance floor, drawing the attention of New York's most famous vampire, Andy Warhol, just as another familiar face, Penelope Churchward decides to move on. Behind the scenes he starts to build his empire, by creating the drug Drac, which gives mortals an all-too-brief experience of vampirism. His New York career is cut short, courtesy of an intersection of the plot of Saturday Night Fever with Taxi Driver, The French Connection, (probably) Shaft, and Scooby Doo.

Meanwhile, out on the West Coast, Geneviève Dieudonné has run into an old PI, taking on one last case. Her help prompts him to suggest she has an eye for it, and she reinvents herself yet again. Things turn ugly when her friends start dying, and she finds herself faced with a tiny blonde cheerleader, convinced that Genè is the fount of all evil. Yes, it's Genèvieve versus Barbie the Vampire Slayer, but there's more to it than just those darn annoying kids, and she quickly  finds herself afoul of the new power in the movie business, Johnny Alucard, a man newly arrived from the East Coast and who seems to be financing a surprising number of Dracula films across all sorts of formats.

Having moved on from Andy Warhol, Penelope Churchward has gotten herself a job as an instructor on one of America's most secret projects, teaching America's best to be the best that they can be. Newman claims it's the film he hates above all others, but it's a gesture-perfect evocation of Top Gun, with Penny in the Charley role. Penny's success there prompts Alucard to bring her onboard to coach a protégé of his own.

As the Eighties pass Alucard entrenches himself in Hollywood, the Transylvanian Movement grows stronger. Geneviève reinvents herself as a forensic specialist - Bones, with blood. But in the UK Caleb Croft is back in the secret policeman role he fits best, and Kate is not his favourite person.

The endgame comes with the fall of the Wall. Alucard proposes that he should stage the Anno Dracula version of Liveaid, but this time the beneficiary is Transylvania, and the concert is the cover for a coup. The Transylvanian Movement just don't realise whose coup it actually is.

Structurally this is very difficult to review, it covers fifteen years in the character's lives, and it does it via a series of self-contained novellas. Geneviève the PI and Geneviève as Doctor Dee, the forensics specialist, I'd happily read far more of, or watch the TV series, but Kate's story is harsher, and the reality is that both our running protagonists spend the entire book being persecuted for their earlier interactions with Dracula, while all the while Alucard grows in power.

Apparently a fifth book is contracted, which is just as well, because this one ends with evil triumphant.

The Course of Empire, Eric Flint and K D Wentworth

The 'course of empire' here seems to be a descendant of the old Roman 'Cursus Honorum', the path of offices that would take a young Roman from his first position to dictator. Junior Jao leader Aille arrives on Earth for his first posting. He is literally marked for great things, the once in a generation hope of one of the leading clans of the Jao. But the occupation of Earth isn't going well, 20 years after the conquest there is still resistance, and Governor Oppuk, once the great hope of his own clan, the traditional mailed fist antithesis of Aille's clan of elegant plotters, is regularly driven to furious retribution by Humanity's refusal to accept that the Jao way is better.

Aille steps into his waiting slot as second in command of the human Jinau troops, which is roughly equivalent to sending someone fresh out of Sandhurst/West Point to command all forces in Afghanistant. But Aille has been sent to learn, and as he doesn't have any staff beyond his personal tutor in the art of command, he sets about creating one from people who have things to teach him, picking up a technocrat here, a potential bodyguard there. And scandalously he doesn't restrict himself to only Jao, drafting the hyper-competent Jinao general Ed Kransky, Caitlin Stockwell, hostage daughter of the puppet president of the US, (also the one human who truly understands the Jinau's postural sub-language, though she lacks the ears to be truly fluent) and Pfc Gabe Tully, a resistance plant in the Jinau, who can't decide whether to kill himself now before the interrogation starts, or if he's fallen into an incredible intelligence gathering opportunity.

Initially the game plays out as a dance between Aille and Governor Oppuk, each trying to lure the other into a mis-step, but Aille keeps raising the stakes, and then the stakes are taken out of their hands entirely as the Ekhat, the legendary world-scouring xenophobes for whom the Jao themselves were once Jinau, announce their arrival in the solar system. Humanity thought they were just a Jao bogeyman, meant to scare them and justify the occupation, but now they're here, and Oppuk's response is to abandon the humans in favour of a last stand in space. Aille has different ideas.

I started reading snippets of the later books in the series online, and went looking for the earlier ones, and it turns out the first one is actually free at Amazon, so if military SF is your thing, or for that matter alien societies with some nicely observed non-human edges, then this may be worth a look.

Blunt Force, K B Spangler

The fourth Rachel Peng technothriller, the novel series spun off from Spangler's 'A Girl and Her Fed' webcomic. Two years ago, in the first of the series, Digital Divide, OACET Special Agent Rachel Peng, the cyborg liaison to the DC MPD, allowed psychopathic murderer Jonathan Glazer to escape from custody. She had a good reason, he was going to escape whatever she did, he really was that competent, and her way meant he did it without killing anyone, and paid his debt with enough information to prevent OACET being wound up by Congress and the cyborgs drafted into the military. Now Glazer is standing at her front fence, wearing a dead friend's face, and telling her he has been sent to help her, because another move against OACET has been set in motion.

What that move is soon becomes clear as Rachel finds out Hope Blackwell and Avery Hill have been kidnapped. Whoever kidnapped Hope (aka 'the Girl') is riding the tiger, because she's one of the top ten judoka on the planet, and has anger management issues (plus her husband is Pat Mulcahy, aka 'the Fed', director of OACET, who was lethally dangerous even before he was a cyborg). But Avery is Hope and Rachel's honorary niece, and she's two. The game becomes a little clearer, and a lot murkier, when the kidnappers make themselves known. They're a militia, one focussed on the bizarre political world of the US sovereign citizen movement, and their leader has a little problem he'd like Mulcahy's help with. So it's a standoff, and if some of the militia were hoping for something a little Ruby Ridge or Waco, what they actually get is Josh Glassman, Mulcahy's deputy, a man who can turn anything into a party, even a siege.

Thanks to Glazer's reappearance as Marshall Wyatt, the cyborgs know there's a deeper game, but they don't know who the enemy is, or what their end game is, and explaining just why Glazer/Wyatt is helping means Rachel needs to 'fess up to the whole letting-him-escape thing, which causes some major soul-searching among her bosses and the rest of the cyborg collective. But they need Rachel, she's their best investigator, particularly when backed by her MPD team, their best bet of figuring out what the endgame is before the endgame happens to them. And all the while the clock is ticking, because Hope is off her meds, and eventually her judgement will go and she'll push the militia further than they can tolerate*.

Beneath all the technothriller edges, there's a solid political thriller here, one rooted in the story of OACET and its creation and continued existence, and a disturbing dive into the worldview of the militias. While lurking in the background, 'helping'  is Glazer/Wyatt, whose 'help' is likely part of an even deeper game.

I thought this had one or two slightly rough edges, I'd personally have done without chapter one, which is in a different viewpoint, but I still consumed it in a single sitting and Rachel remains one of my favourite characters in contemporary fiction.

* Even with her judgement intact Hope is still regularly beating up her guards, even while duct-taped to a chair. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out what was going on. Her explanation is "Martial artist tricks", but there's a side of the Girl and Her Fed universe, Hope's side, that the technothrillers don't address.

Up Next

I've got some beta reading to do, not sure what comes after that.

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Bannon and Thiel and Universal Suffrage

November 28th, 2016 (10:21 pm)
discontent

current location: Aux Barricades!
current mood: discontent

I stumbled across an interesting background article on Peter Thiel over the weekend (and I do mean stumbled, I'd actually googled 'Jamethiel'), which I'd already been meaning to flag up for people, but another article I came across today was on Steve Bannon, and they really do synergise with each other into something seriously scary.

Here's the Thiel piece, it's a general 'who is Peter Thiel' article, useful for giving a better feel for the man - German-born naturalised American gay techno-geek-financier/ultra-libertarian who co-founded Paypal. (Basically think Rabid Puppy in a $10,000 suit). This is someone who took the money from Paypal and didn't use it to build rockets, but used it to co-found Palantir Technologies, and that name is no accident, it's a seriously high end government surveillance tools company that explicitly uses the corrupted Palantiri of LoTRs as it's identity/mission statement, so fighting for Truth, Justice and the inevitable triumph of Sauron. But then the article starts digging into his politics,and things get even darker.

"I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible," he wrote in a 2009 essay; he believes in monopolies but denounces multiculturalism as "exist[ing] to destroy Western culture".

In that 2009 essay, "The Education of a Libertarian", published by the Washington-based Cato Institute, Thiel writes: "The 1920s was the last decade in American history during which one could be genuinely optimistic about politics. Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women – two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians – have rendered the notion of 'capitalist democracy' into an oxymoron."

But if Thiel sounded hopeless or resigned in 2009, he sees Trump as a bridge to somewhere - possibly to his sense that to protect capitalism the democracy must be shrunk; get the vote back from those damned women and welfare recipients, and capitalism has a better chance in a tighter democracy of more sympathetic voters.

Thiel's argument against democracy as we've known it reads like the web-based Dark Enlightenment or Neo-reaction movement, sometimes abbreviated to NRx, a key element of which is described as a post-libertarian futurism – it touts authoritarianism, even some kind of monarch-and-subjects rule, as preferable to democracy because libertarians are unlikely ever to win democratic elections."

The Bannon article isn't nearly so deep a study, Trump’s Chief Strategist, Stephen Bannon, said he’d prefer it if only property owners could vote, but the similarity in views comes screaming through:

Now, though, a former Bannon colleague, Julia Jones, who worked alongside him as a partner on a Ronald Reagan film project, revealed to The New York Times that he not only spoke on issues of “genetic superiority,” but that he “once mused about the desirability of limiting the vote to property owners.”

When Jones offered the rebuttal that such a plan “would exclude a lot of African-Americans,” Bannon allegedly quipped back in return that “maybe that’s not such a bad thing.”

So that's two of them, both racist authoritarians who think only people like them should have the vote, and both whispering in Trump's ear. Maybe that Palantir analogy is even closer than I thought.

 

Mostly on Dreamwidth nowadays. You can reply on the DW post at http://davidgillon.dreamwidth.org/105315.html using OpenID. LJ commenting is on, but may not be checked regularly.

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The Disabled Life

November 28th, 2016 (08:26 pm)
amused

current location: BTDT
current mood: amused

A friend just linked to this - two wheelchair-using sisters blogging spoonie life on wheels via comics and snark - The Disabled Life

So much 'yes, that!'

Two comic panels, the first titled &quot;expectation&quot;, the second &quot;reality&quot;. In the first, a hunky topless fireman has plucked our wheelchair using heroine to safety, In the second, she&quot;s still in her chair at the top of the stairs, leaning over and asking &quot;Uh, is somone coming?&quot;

And the writing is just as sharp:

" With great power comes great responsibility… like having the ability to run someone over, but CHOOSING the right moment to do it."

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Seriously, Mr Trump?!?

November 27th, 2016 (09:13 pm)
current location: Worried the tree of liberty is about to be watered
current mood: *Facepalm*


Three possibilities:
1) Drunk Tweeting
2) He really is this insecure (in which case he really shouldn't have his finger on the nuclear button)
3) He means the Afro-American, Hispanic, LGBT, Muslim and Jewish votes, or maybe just anyone who didn't vote Donald J Trump
4) All of the above.

In all cases, worrying.

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Dreamlogging

November 27th, 2016 (02:04 pm)
current location: Unknown Kadath
current mood: Dreamy

 I get the most interesting dreams when sleep-deprived enough I fall asleep again after semi-waking.

This one started out with me, and in the garden at my parents, then sheltering under a board propped shack-like in the corner when the rain came down. That had me confronted with some stuff that real world needs thinking about, so I crawled through a hole in the fence into a dreamscape (yay, symbolic escapism). I think there was a crowd scene, and then it segued into a fantasy in which I definitely wasn't me as I'm fairly sure I'm not female and called Jamethiel*. I think some of the plot stuff that followed has faded away, but I was hiding out, pretending to be dead, and unfortunately the people who believed the story include my female lover Surethiel. But then my team came to town, including Surethiel, and I was able to sneak into the inn(?) where they were staying and change into my own clothes. And as I peeked out of the room where I was changing, I could see the others having a council of war down the corridor with Surethiel pacing up and down in front of everyone. So I stepped out, and she saw me, and stopped, and her mouth dropped into this littlest 'oh'. I walked towards her and we hugged**, and I picked her up and carried her to one of the chairs and sat down, still holding her.

I only remember one line, from Surethiel to me as we sat down, but I think it's a good one. "Only you could marry two men and (then realise you) still need a wife.'

And then a delivery guy knocked at the door. But spot on bit to end at, Brain. And Brain, I think you're a romantic!

*Yes, I know.a female character named Jamethiel comes with not a little backstory, but it's so long since I read the early Kencyr books I have no idea if my dream was drawing on anything more than the name.

** As I walked towards Surethiel she did one of those dream-morphs and became visibly well-endowed, interestingly I was sufficiently aware of myself outside the dream to protest 'but that's not my type'.

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Shopping. Aaargh! *Headdesk*

November 26th, 2016 (06:18 pm)
current location: All shopped out
current mood: Burn it with fire

Shopping at Asda, and so is everyone else.

Roll up to the wheelchair accessible accessible till. (Only one I can use due to the width of the clip-on wheelchair trolley)

Someone being served, someone unloading a very full trolley, couple in front of me with a trolley packed to the gunwhales.

Mutter, mutter.

"Would you like to go in front," says the guy in front, "we've got loads".

I'm not sure they actually had more items than me, theirs were just bigger, so I said, "No, you were here first", while feeling embarrassed at their generosity versus my ill grace

One of Asda's junior managers then appears (remarkable how they're all young men, and the till staff aren't). "If you go over to the self-service aisle I'll have one of our staff put everything through for you."

Dubious, but "Okay"

Get to the self-service aisle, staffer is pleasant, but a bit dubious it will help. First we have to find an aisle we can join, while she keeps being pulled away for people with "unknown item in bagging area"

Finally we join an aisle, the two girls in front of us are taking forever. Can't help noticing the couple with the packed trolley are loading their last few items onto the conveyor.

Eventually get to swipe stuff through, and it turns out the self-service aisles really aren't designed for wheelies. The 'bagging area' is far too low, so the staffer has to hit "I don't want to bag this item' before every item, then turn and put it in my bags on the clip-on trolley. Even doing that she has to override the system with her card about five times.

Time saved? Umm, took about three times as long.(And the staffer was touchy-feely, so I got patted on shoulder/back three or four times, which really doesn't help)

Aaaarrrrgh!

Mostly on Dreamwidth nowadays. You can reply on the DW post at http://davidgillon.dreamwidth.org/104326.html using OpenID. LJ commenting is on, but may not be checked regularly.

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Christmas. Bah! Humbug!

November 26th, 2016 (06:12 pm)
current location: Not in Rochester
current mood: Bah! Humbug!

Drive over to Rochester for lunch, end up having to park so far out I was on the point of turning around and going home.
Wheel down into town, realize when most of the way there the reason it's so crowded is it's the Christmas Market.
Get to the High Street, realise it's so crowded it's hell on earth for wheelies, turn round, push back up hill to the car.
Go shopping at Asda, which is worth a post on its own
Argh! *headdesk* Argh!....

And next weekend is the Dickensian Christmas, which will be worse.

Mostly on Dreamwidth nowadays. You can reply on the DW post at http://davidgillon.dreamwidth.org/103976.html using OpenID. LJ commenting is on, but may not be checked regularly.

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Disability Confident Gets Even More Farcical

November 24th, 2016 (08:08 pm)
current location: Beating my head against a wall
current mood: My flabber is gasted

Sigh, even the DWP admitted that Two Ticks was being abused and needed to be replaced because employers were overwhelmingly not following through on their commitments towards disabled people under the scheme. (Research showed one in five did nothing, and over half met only one of five commitments)

So it created Disability Confident as a (badly flawed) replacement

Then what does it do?

It hands Disability Confident status to every company that had Two Ticks

Utterly farcical

Article with comments by Yours Truly

At least it explains where DWP found 2400 firms to sign up to Disability Confident so quickly. 2300 of them didn't.

Mostly on Dreamwidth nowadays. You can reply on the DW post at http://davidgillon.dreamwidth.org/103837.html using OpenID. LJ commenting is on, but may not be checked regularly.

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One River, One Boat

November 23rd, 2016 (05:33 pm)
pensive

current location: Watching from afar
current mood: pensive

Trump's nomination of Nikki Haley as US Ambassador to the UN prompted one of my online friends to link to this poem by South Carolina's Poet Laureate, Marjory Wentworth, which Haley's staff cut from her inauguration, allegedly for talking about slavery.

Over and above the politics, I think it's a gorgeous piece: One River, One Boat

Some background on the cut.

Some background on Haley (fairly hopeful in that she's the daughter of Sikh immigrants, OTOH Tea Partyista)

If nothing else, she should set Steve Bannon's teeth on edge...
 

Mostly on Dreamwidth nowadays. You can reply on the DW post at http://davidgillon.dreamwidth.org/103476.html using OpenID. LJ commenting is on, but may not be checked regularly.

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Currently Reading - 18-Nov-2016

November 18th, 2016 (08:01 pm)
cranky

current location: ex libris
current mood: cranky


Currently Reading

Penric's Mission, Lois McMaster Bujold


The certainties of Penric's life in the World of the Five Gods have changed since last we saw him in Penric and the Shaman. He's now around 30, though still taken as younger, the Princess-Archdivine has died, medicine has lost its attraction, and he has moved on to a new Duke's court. His new lord has decided he might make a useful spy, which is quite a change for a Sorceror-Divine (and almost a doctor) of the Bastard. The change in role clearly excites Penric, but things don't go so well, and soon he's quite literally in a hole, with Desdemona, his inner demon, she of the 11 prior lives, all female, called on to perform a little life-saving self-surgery. Still, it's difficult to keep a good man, and his demon, down in a hole and Penric and Des manage to figure a way out. Which still leaves him overseas, in a city where he is visibly a foreigner, and there's the small matter of the man he was sent to meet, who will have been thoroughly incriminated by the documents he was carrying.

Penric is rather too late to prevent his contact's thoroughly Byzantine punishment, but his stubborn side, and maybe also the Bastard, mean he's not about to abandon him, or his interestingly widowed sister, even if that means taking up doctoring again. It's perhaps surprising just how dangerous a spy Penric could be, but he's constrained by his ethics as both doctor and divine, though of course that's a divine of the Bastard's order, and the Bastard's ethics are interestingly flexible (I loved the way Penric finance's himself). And only Penric could interrupt a duel to the death to tell his opponent 'look, you're doing it wrong' and deliver theological advice.

Grand Central Arena, Ryk Spoor

Ariane Austin is your typical space-racer pilot, bar the blue hair and the all-powerful AI in the box on her belt, in a post-scarcity society that has expanded to dominate the entire solar system, but can't make the jump to an interstellar society for some reason. Then up pops Dr Simon Sandrisson, who just happens to have figured out a jump drive, but can't get it to work as all the automation fails the instant his test probes jump. So he needs a pilot, and the rest of a crew. Cue crew assembly montage, mostly focused on power engineer Dr Marc C DuQuesne, who is More Than He Seems.

The jump drive is based on the everything's closer in warp space principle, what they hadn't bargained on is warp space being full. There is a mini Dyson sphere for every star system, and at the centre of everything is the Arena. It's sort of the Babylon 5 scenario, but rather than a beacon of hope, all alone in the night, the Arena is a beacon of full-contact sports, where everything is up for challenge. The Arena is old, and ruled by what is presumably an AI, but no other AI works in Arena Space. Nor do nuclear reactors, which is a bit of a bugger when you need your fusion plant to recharge your jump drive. The Arena is also the meeting place for the various factions of Arena Space, and the medium of commerce is betting on formal Challenges. But that's okay, Humanity is a society of insane risk-takers by Arena standards. (Of course we are, got to have that human exceptionalism) So it's up to Ariane, as newly designated leader of the Faction of Humanity, to figure out a way to refuel their ship.

Obviously this means Humanity variously bonding, having scientific meet-cute, or thoroughly annoying all five main factions in no time whatsoever. The Molothos are your typical aggressive xenophobes, the Vengeance think it's all an alien plot, the Faith are the Arena's version of B5's Vorlons (the cuddly Kosh version, not the fascist planet destroyers of Season 4), the Analytic are scientists and the Blessed to Serve are the biological slaves of an AI dominated society. And then there's Orphan, clearly the same species as the Blessed, and leader of the Liberated, a faction of one, who serves as their guide to the Arena. And lurking in the backgroud are the Shadeweavers, the polar opposite of the Faith, with more than a touch of B5 techno-mage about them.

And it's up to Ariane to win the prize of a trip home.

If you imagine Babylon 5 crossed with Golden Age SF you'll get the right feel for this, it's space opera on a grand scale, with all humanity's fate in the hands of Ivanova Ariane, backed by a certain power engineer whose name is a flaming banner he's more than he seems.
 

Spheres of Influence, Ryk Spoor

The sequel to Grand Central Arena. Ariane and the others have been back to the Solar System, to explain why Humanity is now at war, and the politicians and diplomats are Not Happy. But it's time to head back to the Arena ahead of the official mission, but with a new recruit to the crew. Marc thinks Ariane needs a bodyguard, and he has just the 'man' for the job, Sun Wu Kung, the Monkey King.

Here be spoilers for Grand Central ArenaCollapse )

 

Meanwhile, back at the Arena, everyone is plotting, especially those factions Ariane managed to humiliate the first time around. And the plotting gets worse with the arrival of two human diplomats, and a wildcard. But Ariane was difficult to beat the first time around, and this time she's got the Monkey King backing her.

I liked this just as much as the first, but there are two major flaws. The first is it loses a little focus on what makes the Arena so attractive a storytelling venue, the second is the real problem, the story seems to be missing about it's first sixth. There's a back-story summary that includes about a page of 'and what happened in between' that's actually fairly important to the plot. I'm not certain whether that means it was written as a separate novella, was a late editorial deletion, or what, but it should definitely be there at the start, and it isn't. It's still a thoroughly entertaining story, but it's a flawed entertaining.

Shadow of Victory, David Weber

I'm a fan of the Honorverse, and Weber in general, but I found this seriously irritating. That's not to say I didn't also thoroughly enjoy it, I read all 800 pages in under 24 hours, but it has some serious issues. This is the latest in the Shadows sub-series, which concentrates on the exploits of Admiral Michelle Henke and Captain Aivars Terekhov and his crew in the newly annexed Talbot Cluster (because Honor is now far too senior for the ship-to-ship stuff), and the main problem is it's a thematic repeat of Shadows of Freedom, the previous book, with walk-on parts for A Rising Thunder, the last mainstream Honor Harrington novel and Cauldron of Ghosts, the last novel in the Crown of Slaves Zilwicki/Cachat sub-series. Essentially we're getting three years of history we've already seen three times over, from a fourth perspective.

Shadows of Freedom was the Mesans (slave-creating, ubermensch, behind-the-scenes manipulators) using agents of the Solarian League (the 800lb gorilla of oppressively corrupt bureacratic states) as puppets to set up local liberation movements/terrorist cells to oppose the Manticoran annexation of the Talbot Cluster (never mind the overwhelming majority of Talbot cluster residents being firmly of the thank god you got here before the Sollies, where do we sign up to be imperial subjects opinion). Victory has them repeating the same stunt, but in Solly territory, telling the liberation movements on various Solly client states that they're the Manticorans, here to help them break free of Solarian oppression, and that the Navy will be there when they do rise up to keep the Solarian headbreakers off their backs - the operational concept is for all these efforts to fail and tarnish the Manties' rep.

So you have the Polish planet with its football-based liberation movement, the Czech planet with its party-based liberation movement, the Celtic planet with its forestry-based liberation movement, the US planet with its redneck liberation movement, and the other planet with its non-denominational liberation movement. All expecting Mantie help and the Manties none the wiser. Results are varied, for values of varied ranging into circa 10 million dead. (I'm not convinced having both Polish and Czech liberation movements was wise, I got thoroughly confused as to which character belonged in which movement).

There aren't actually that many new characters. A couple of Solly intel types who are beginning to figure out the Mesans are manipulating them (of course we already had a couple of Solly intel types who are... etc),  a new Mesan junior spymaster and his sociopathic deputy, and Aivars Terekov's wife Sinead, who is A Force of Nature - a significant chunk of the book is Sinead flattening anyone who stands between her and her husband after he's redeployed after precisely two nights at home. For fan-service Ginger Lewis finally gets her own ship, but having built her and it up, she and it aren't even present for the culmination of her own arc. And at the end of it all the overall series narrative has moved on a whole 12 hours from Cauldron of Ghosts.

Irritating.

Other observations. Not having read any Honorverse in a while, the relative lack of familiarity rather beat me about the head with just how keen Weber is on tall, thin female officers with 'exotic' looks. Here including a literal catwoman. And his mainstream characters do seem to be rather predominantly Western. Oh, Manticore's Queen Elizabeth (and her cousin Michelle Henke) are black, so it's not the white man's burden, but anyone of Asian background is overwhelmingly likely to get exotic hung on them (this includes Honor and her mother). I don't think we've seen an Asian-derived society in the entire series, while even the Czechs now have a star-system to call their own. The non-denominational liberation movement does have a Thai family involved. They run a Thai restaurant where the coup leaders meet, and the family patriarch goes by Thai Granpa. Seriously?!

ETA I remembered last night that the Honorverse's Andermani Empire is ethnically Asian, but culturally it's explicitly modelled on Prussia. *Headdesk*

Anno Dracula, Kim Newman

I've now read the last two books (to date) in the series, Dracula Cha Cha, Cha, and Johnny Alucard, but this is big enough already, so I'll save those for a separate update,

Up Next

Not certain, I'm tempted to re-read the entire Eric Flint/Ryk Spoor Boundary series, I'm probably 30 pages into Boundary, but might settle for just Castaway Planet, which is the next in the series after the two I've read. It's a shared setting, rather than a related plot, so the re-read is optional.

Mostly on Dreamwidth nowadays. You can reply on the DW post at http://davidgillon.dreamwidth.org/103413.html using OpenID. LJ commenting is on, but may not be checked regularly.

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