Reading Log

April 21, 2019
books

A summary of some of my leisure reading, mostly science fiction and fantasy. Star ratings are based on my personal enjoyment of the book, not necessarily of its literary quality… which is to say sometimes I have terrible taste.

April

Misc

Heartstrikers / Detroit Free Zone

I started out just reading Minimum Wage Magic because it was a GoodReads suggestion… and then I got hooked on this world of dragons, magic, and technology. While the DFZ series looks like it’ll stay in the far-future magi-cyber-punk style, the earlier Heartstrikers series provides an amazing backstory to how the world ended up the way it is. It’s urban fantasy at its finest, with an endless supply of lovable characters and a careful mix of classic fantasy with the modern world.

I finished this series in a weekend. Highly recommend.

March

Misc

February

Misc

Golden Age of the Solar Clipper

I binged this entire series somehow, following the Ishmael Wang from his first, hesitant steps onto a ship through to multiple relationships, multiple ships, owning a company, and all the adventures along the way. One of the things I really liked about the series is that it’s fundamentally a story about shipping, transplanted into the science fictional world by the fact that it’s shipping in space. There’s no war here (or even really a proper military presence), just people and their paths through life.

Unfortunately, the series has a tendency early on to make Ishmael a bit of a Gary Stu (he doesn’t really fail at, well, anything…), but after a few time-skips Lowell manages to patch that up and make the later books stronger.

January

Wayfarers

December

Misc

The Spiral Wars

The Indranan War

Castle Federation

Yet another semi-generic military space opera. Still, I had fun – the kind of books you’ll read once but probably not again.

November

Misc

Lady Astronaut

If you liked the movie Hidden Figures, these books are for you! A heartwarming alternate history of how women might have gotten involved earlier in the space program. There’s no good-vs-evil here, just a story of people, culture, and SPACE!

Cold War Magic

The Salvagers

Gentleman Bastards

Skyward

The Murderbot Diaries

This series continues to be a great read (if a little overpriced, at novel prices for novellas).

October

The Interdependency

If you like reading complex space politics against a backdrop of pending doom, the Interdependency series is for you. The books aren’t quite page-turners in their middle sections, but the payoff at the end is satisfying. Further, I actually liked many of the characters, which is something that’s a bit uncommon in this genre. I’ll read the next book when it comes out!

Odyssey One

Super generic mil-SF. Not sure why I read as much of this as I did…

Alice Long

Warcross

Russell’s Attic

A fun series of sci-fi thrillers by a (new to me) author, SL Huang. The books are fast-paced, exciting, and dark without being gritty, a balance which is pretty uncommon in the books I’ve read in the past while. Unfortunately, they are still thrillers at heart, and the character and plot development suffer for it. Great series to read on a plane, though!

September

Salvation Sequence

The Divine Cities

After reading Foundryside, I happened to be browsing a bookstore and realized that Robert Jackson Bennet actually has another series that he’d published (to some critical acclaim, even!). I really enjoyed the first book, City of Stairs, especially in the way that it draws heavily from Indian roots rather than the well-tread English/Western canon. City of Blades kept the stakes high, but the choice to have different protagonists in each book kept me from binging the entire series in a single weekend.

Foundryside

Axiom

Villains

August

Misc

Linesman

I blew through all three of the Linesman books after seeing that S. K. Dunstall had written something new coming out later in August (Stars Uncharted) which had a fair bit of positive feedback on GoodReads. The Linesman series is some pretty fun space opera, set in a world where ships travel between the stars with the help of “lines”, biomechanical components which need skilled “linesman” to repair them. The story follows Ean Lambert, a skilled Linesman from a poor background, as he becomes a major force in an interstellar conflict. The series has a good mix of politics and action, and I had a lot of fun reading it.

July

Misc

Machineries of Empire

This series is amazing. Full stop. You should just read it. It’s written by a trans Korean-American mathematician, with all of the little details and complex exposition that you might expect from such a background. This story follows Cheris, who joined the military branch of the Hexarchate (the Kel) to find her place in society, as she learns the true underpinnings of the High Calendar. Unlike many of the other Kel, she’s also a top-tier mathematician in a world where math and belief in mathematical patterns can warp reality.

Getting into this series does require some effort – it’s not an easy read. Despite the fact that Lee does correctly use mathematical terms throughout, it’s probably best approached more like a work of Fantasy: the reader doesn’t need to know how the calendar produces “exotic effects” to enjoy the books and to understand the characters.

Besides the prevalence of multiracial characters and the clever use of non-gendered pronouns, one of the things I really appreciated about Machineries of Empire is that pretty much every character is presented as an intelligent person who makes rational decisions within the circumstances they find themselves in – and the circumstances themselves don’t feel overly contrived, either.

June

Misc

Book of the Ancestor

The Murderbot Diaries

This series of novellas follows a newly-independent security robot (which calls itself “Murderbot”) as it explores the wider world. A surprisingly light-hearted tale, these are short reads that make you smile.

May

Misc

I have to say – I really liked Trouble Dog’s story. Maybe I’m just a big fan of sentient spaceships, but even though this work is pretty obviously inspired by Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Justice and Iain Banks’ Culture series, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and am looking forward to the next book.

Powder Mage

The Lost Stars

The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier

The Lost Fleet

Vatta’s Peace

Vatta’s War

Manticore Ascendant

April

Misc

Read this because it’s well written, and read it also because it hits a little too close to home. Autonomous is as much about its own plot (action! piracy! government gone rogue!) as it is about the world we see outside (action! piracy! government gone rogue!). There’s some really interesting concepts in here, like the quasi-dystopian intellectual property rights to the quasi-utopian “free labs” in which the characters conduct their largely illegal reseach. But of course, it’s all for a good cause: drug piracy in Autonomous is much better intentioned than software and movie/music piracy in the wider world…

This book loses a half-star because I couldn’t get over the squick factor, which is entirely my fault. Most of the time, science fiction has this problem where all of the characters are men (even the women), with a certain baseline level of machisimo and a certain kind of interaction. The Stars Are Legion turns that completely on its head with a cast of entirely female characters, and a detailed look into a world in which motherhood is a little more complicated than raising a child.

Book of the Ancestor

Honor Harrington