What I’ve read this fall

September issue August issue

Okay, it’s been nearly three months since I shared my readings here n the blog, so I’ve got lots to tell you about!

Please note: I will be discussing a plot spoiler for “Childhood’s End”, by Arthur C. Clarke further down in this post. If you don’t want to get spoiled on this fine book, then don’t read past the paragraph on “Castle for Rent.”

“The Gripping Hand,” by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. I finally finished this in early October. I loved the main thrust of the action within the Mote system, with the Empire expedition running into a new civilization of space-born Moties this time and getting caught in the middle of a war between them. Frankly, the novel could probably have done with less build-up to the point of “OMG a new jump point to Mote system could open up any day now!” and it would have been at least as strong, in my opinion. But I loved reading the build-up anyway.

“Gateway,” by Frederik Pohl. Overall, I really liked this – I liked the concept of humanity discovering strange and temperamental alien ships and heading out to prospect the galaxy in them. I want to read more of the Heechee series by Pohl, and I like a lot of his secondary characters. On the other hand, Robinette Broadhead just pissed me off a lot of the time, and as fun as Sigfrid von Shrink was, I didn’t really feel impressed with the therapy plot thread or Rob’s enormous survivor’s guilt for trying to do the right thing, to sacrifice himself to save his teammates, and getting the timing wrong.

I also had problems with the physics at the end – if you’ve got ships that can somehow circumvent the speed of light, then the event horizon of a black hole isn’t an impassable barrier anymore. I think that the Heechee ships must already cross an event horizon with every trip, so why can’t they get out of the black hole – or if the development of the black hole threw off their targeting, then how could Rob get back home once he passes the event horizon by another means?

Moving on to “Rock Rats,” by Ben Bova. Okay, we didn’t get stealth suit hijinks again, and Martin managed to get to the end of the book without a significant slapdown. Asteroid belt piracy, battles, corporate intrigue, and clone babies are all very well and good, but I felt a let-down at the end, as if it was all just leading into the third book of the trilogy.

“Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” Oh, my god. I loved the first three Harry Potter books, but GoF just kicks the series into high gear. Voldemort is back and badder than ever – he was missing from ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’ as a true character, though his legacy still manages to hang over the plot. But this time, he’s arranging the intricate plot quite directly, and nothing will be the same after he has Harry in his power. I also enjoyed the gradually more serious adolescent interplay of Harry’s classmates at Hogwarts, particularly the drama of who asks who to go to the Yule Ball.

“Pegasus in Flight,” by the dear and departed Anne McCaffrey. This has been a part of the Talent series that I left unread for much too long, and thoroughly enjoyed, especially the initial introduction of Peter Reidinger, the first. It’s interesting that I started reading this book after I decided to revisit Star Patrol for Nanowrimo in 2011, as the character of Melissa Dempsey definitely owes much to Anne and to the character of Tirla from this series: Melissa is Irish by birth, as Anne and Tirla are not, but like many great writers Anne spent much of her life in Ireland. And like Tirla, Melissa grew up without a legal identity because of government population control. In fact, Melissa wasn’t even her birth name…

It was while I was explaining these similarities to a friend at a Nanowrimo write-in that I first heard the news of Anne’s passing.

Xanth series: I’ve tackled the return to Xanth somewhat out of order – I started reading ‘Cube Route’ because I had the Ereader.com edition loaded onto my Tungsten C, and realized that I was missing some of the series canon, but didn’t let it stop me. After finishing that book, I searched my apartment for Xanth paperbacks, and found the two on either side of it in the series, “Up in a Heaval” and “Currant Events.” I’m about half way through Heaval now. What can I say about Xanth? It’s mostly funny, a little bit inappropriate, with a feel-good moral at the end. That just about covers it.

“Castle for Rent”, by John de Chancie. I loved reading “Castle Perilous”, the first in the series, and Rent carries on with the same good stuff – crazy magical action that gets almost scientific in its level of detail and sophistication. Basically, de Chancie is Diane Duane plus slapstick – which turns out to be a great combination.

“Childhood’s End”, by Arthur C. Clarke. Another great classic of science fiction that I’m glad I had a chance to read, and enjoyed very thoroughly, except for one logical question I have about the climax of the plot which relates to the spoiler I warned you about above.

As I understand the climax, the children of Earth develop into something more than humanity as we understand it, linked together by mental powers, and the alien Overlords whisk them all away from the adults one day, to make sure that neither the adults or the children hurt each other out of fear or misunderstanding. No more children are born, and most of the adults die quickly out of something like a broken heart, suiciding or just wasting away.

My question: Were there no pregnant women on all planet Earth that day? And if not, didn’t somebody notice that beforehand?

“Tehanu”, by Ursula LeGuin. I finished reading this in San Francisco, and enjoyed the end thoroughly. Yes, the plot is a bit more laid-back and literary than the rest of the Earthsea series, but nobody could get me to say that it didn’t have an exciting and action-packed climax. I’ve read bad reviews for this book which put me off reading it for too long.


  • finished “King Kelson’s Bride”
  • Took another mulligan from Consistent Reader’s club, on my birthday.
  • Started and finished the Buffy comics omnibus volume 4 the next day, which was the day of the flight out to San Fran.
  • Read “The Burning”, first in a Buffy/Angel crossover paperback trilogy, Unseen, and started the second, “Door to Alternity.”

Have you been reading much lately? If not, why not?

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