Sunday, April 17, 2011

Book catch-up: February

Only three books this month - one review copy, one birthday book and one borrowed.

The Fallen Blade, Jon Courtenay Grimwood
A review book! Yes folks, I'm back on the review train, writing up the occasional Hachette NZ release (that's Orbit books to UK readers) for the SFFANZ website. Write-up for this one can be found here. Short version: it's Supernatural Romance Othello. But I liked it anyway.

Third Bear, Jeff Vandermeer
A collection of short stories, not exactly linked but with some themes and images echoed here and there. I didn't particularly get on with this book - too many of the pieces just peter out, and while Vandermeer's brand of eldritch-ness works a treat in his novels, compressed and repeated as it was here it just started to get on my tits. Not a book that I'm likely to keep for long.

The Legacy of Heorot, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle & Steven Barnes
More of a mixed bag, this one. It's a novel about a human colony under threat from an indigenous life form, and while it's a fine example of this, being a perfectly enjoyable straight-up action adventure story, the actual tone of it isn't so great. In fact, it gets to be pretty hateful after the first few chapters - reactionary is the word I used to describe this to friends, including the one who loaned me the book. He tells me that that's the Pournelle part of the writing team that I can detect there. Apparently the man has form.
So, the humans encounter a problem, shoot it until it goes away, mess up the ecosystem of their planet, theirs, d'you hear me?! and suffer the consequences thereof. Then they shoot the consequences until those go away, too. The hero is a military man who comes across as the kind of survivalist type that just symbolises Bad America for me; he advocates a militarised colony from pretty much the moment the ship lands, but is laughed out by the colony leaders, who obviously stand for all the liberal tendencies that at least one of the writing team is presumed to dislike. Of course none of them pays a bit of attention to the very obvious warning signs until it's too late, at which point the hero is of course proved completely right and they all beg him to come back and militarise them. Ah, if only we could live in a perfect society where men love their guns and women know their place. And that's broadly the subtext that I got from this book, and the reason I disliked as much of it as I disliked.
But as I say, it is also an entertaining few hundred words of space pulp, and that much of it I liked.

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