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Read in June 2017
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Steve Coltrin
2017-06-30 03:23:36 UTC
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(Early, because I am travelling this weekend and don't care to put an
SSH client on my iPad.)

Assassin's fate / Robin Hobb
----------------------------

Fitz' unusual daughter Bee has been kidnapped - and lost forever,
victim of a botched magical teleportation. All that is left for Fitz
is bloody revenge, so he and the maimed Fool set out to the attackers'
distant home of Clerres, pausing along the way to meet most of the
other characters Hobb has written about in this setting.

The Servants of Clerres, of course, have been in the prophecy business
for ages, so not only is Fitz almost certainly expected, but any plan
he has was likely foreseen decades ago. Of course, the Fool has his
own idea of a plan, and these two old friends spend their share of the
first half of the book sabotaging each other. And after Fitz speaks
carelessly in the presence of dragons, they set off to Clerres
themselves to burn the place to the ground.

Meanwhile, a not-at-all-lost Bee is dragged to Clerres by her captors,
pausing along the way to escape and be recaptured a few times. When
she arrives, she may be stockholmed by the Servants... or become a
dragon snack.

It is difficult to stick a landing one is so clearly reluctant to be
making at all. Just as the first volume of this final (and it
promises to be _final_) trilogy suffered from Hobb's desire to give
Fitz a respite of domestic happiness, this suffers from bringing in
the entire dramatis personae for the blowoff. A good quarter of the
page count could have been edited away with little loss.

Briggs Land. Volume 1, State of grace / diverse authorship
----------------------------------------------------------

For a hundred years the Briggs family practiced peckerwood juche in
upstate New York; in more later years, they got in on the IPO of the
militia movement and became the seed crystal of a compound. Today,
the patriarch is doing hard time for attempting to assassinate a
president, but still running the operation from behind bars - up until
his wife tells him he's out and she's in charge now. It may be that
one of their three sons - the businessman, the thug, the soldier - is
their father's agent, trying to kill her; it may be that the Federal
agents looking to bring Briggs Land down are her best hope for
survival.

And it may be that her husband has grown less interested in redstatery
than he is in selling Briggs Land for mineral rights.

Soon to be a series from AMC. Expect lots of "The Walking Dead
without the walking dead" snark.

Buffalo soldier (novella) / Maurice Broaddus
--------------------------------------------

Desmond Coke was once one of the Nyabingi, the elite of Jamaica's
soldiery. Now he is travelling three of thepolities of mainland North
America - British-aligned Albion, the rough Tejas Free Republic, and
the appropriate-tech Five Civilized Nations - hoping to find safety
for his charge Lij Tafari. The lad is a clone of a _quite_ important
person and wanted by many, either to worship or to take apart and see
what makes him tick, and while not dodging Pinkertons, Coke tries to
teach the boy how to be a person.

This is alternate history, in the "the dinosaurs never died; Richard
Nixon is Regent of Albion" vein; if I were a shwithead I would
probably be wittering about plausibility. It is also steampunk of the
sort Agatha Heterodyne would be at home in - militia drive
steam-powered mecha, Smith and Wesson make blasters (optionally fitted
as prosthetics), and maglev trains cross the Southwest. On further
research, I see this is not the first time Broaddus has used this
setting; I wouldn't mind if it's not the last either.

Big dead place : inside the strange and menacing world of Antarctica
(nonfiction) / Nicholas Johnson
-------------------------------

I have never heard one person say that the most difficult thing
about Antarctica is working outside, or being cold. I have never
heard one person imply that Antarctica's tough physical
environment would be the main reason not to return. I have never
heard of one returnee who finally quit because it's the world's
highest, driest, coldest, or whatever. People leave because of the
bullshit.

Nicholas Johnson spent time on the ice as support staff for the United
States Antarctic Program, both at McMurdo and at the Pole, both summer
and winter. This is a memoir of the environment, the generally at
least somewhat unhinged people he worked alongside, the Captain Queeg
types who seem to gravitate to on-site management, and the
cluelessness emitted by the suits back in Colorado who think they know
how to run the program. Johnson was blacklisted from the USAP for
writing this book.

Good research for anyone intending to write about extreme
environments, dysfunctional bureaucracies, or dysfunctional
bureaucracies in extreme environments.

The Iron Tactician (novella) / Alastair Reynolds
------------------------------------------------

Fourth of Reynolds' stories about Merlin (not the wizard), but can be
read independently. Humanity is in a multi-kiloyear, genocidal war
with the Huskers, and Merlin is following rumors of a superweapon
which could ensure survival. His ship's almost-lightspeed frammistan
is damaged and could fail at any moment when he stumbles across a
derelict ramscoop ship, which sets him on the trail of a replacement
frammistan - last seen in the hands of one of two warring human states
sharing a solar system. The owners are willing to make a deal: the
frammistan for Merlin's help in retrieving the stolen Iron Tactician,
a military computer that can win their private little war for them.

Merlin bears the burden of the entire human species' survival; against
that, how much bloodshed it takes to get his frammistan, or how many
die in the chaos he leaves behind him, cannot be allowed to mean much.
Right?

The night ocean (not genre) / Paul La Farge
-------------------------------

Charlie Willett left the mental hospital he'd checked into and drowned
himself in a lake - or he didn't. He'd come to be there in the
disintegration of his life following his book on the _Erotonomicon_,
either H.P. Lovecraft's secret journal of pederasty or a blatant hoax.
His mistake was trusting the _Erotonomicon_'s alleged author, who was
or was not Robert Barlow, who was or was not Lovecraft's catamite, who
did or did not fake his suicide in 1951.

This is an onion of frame stories, many of which claim the stories
within are lies. Appearing are (misrepresentations of) some of
Lovecraft's coterie, as well as William S. Burroughs and the
Futurians.

La Farge does not name his research texts, but I recognized some of
them. They were better reads than this book.
--
Steve Coltrin ***@omcl.org Google Groups killfiled here
"A group known as the League of Human Dignity helped arrange for Deuel
to be driven to a local livestock scale, where he could be weighed."
- Associated Press
Robert Carnegie
2017-06-30 09:23:17 UTC
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Post by Steve Coltrin
Briggs Land. Volume 1, State of grace / diverse authorship
----------------------------------------------------------
For a hundred years the Briggs family practiced peckerwood juche
I have no idea what that means. Probably something appalling?
Post by Steve Coltrin
Big dead place : inside the strange and menacing world of Antarctica
(nonfiction) / Nicholas Johnson
-------------------------------
I have never heard one person say that the most difficult thing
about Antarctica is working outside, or being cold. I have never
heard one person imply that Antarctica's tough physical
environment would be the main reason not to return. I have never
heard of one returnee who finally quit because it's the world's
highest, driest, coldest, or whatever.
I suppose those are reasons for thoughtful people to not go there
in the first place, rather than reasons to leave.
Post by Steve Coltrin
People leave because of the bullshit.
I've heard interesting things about penguin shit. Some research that
scored an Ignobel Prize for Alliteration, or something. And more.
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