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Recent Reading - 2016


Click the occasional spoiler buttons only if you wish to see plot-revealing material.



Jacob's Descent
232 pages
Brannan, SandraSandra Brannan

Liv Bergen is on manditory leave from the FBI and her sisters step in to provide the support Liv feels she should be getting from her mentor and friend at the bureau, Streeter Pierce. Agatha and Sister Catherine (yes, a nun) plan a weekend of drunken fun to pull Liv out of her depression. Liv feels she's entitled to the depression. After all, her boyfriend is dead. They go to Deadwood, South Dakota to the famous bar where Wild Bill Hickock was killed. But the weekend goes off script when Liv and her sisters get drawn into a local family feud, the beating of a close family friend and a 100-year-old murder case.
Highly Recommended


Parable of the Talents (sequel in the Earthseed story)
253 pages
Butler, Octavia E.Octavia E. Butler

Frighteningly like what many fear will happen after the 2016 election, Butler's story of a non-Christian religious leader in a time of intolerance is a challenging and very moving read.
Highly Recommended


Remanence (book 2 of "Confluence" series)
475 pages
Wells, Jennifer FoehnerJennifer Foehner Wells

Jane Holloway, translator/first-contact language expert, and a tiny crew of humans take control of a derelict starship stranded in the Solar system. Its sole survivor, the long-lived squidlike Ei'Brai, a Kubodera, a race of indentured ship navigators. After engaging with Ei'Brai in telepatic "anipraxia", Holloway takes on responsibility, with Ei'Brai's urging to find other Kubodera and represent humans to the Sentients of the Galaxy.
Highly Recommended


Version Control
495 pages
Palmer, DexterDexter Palmer

Rebecca eventually decides to marry Philip, a rising star in physics. Eventually she questions her life. Eventually her life changes, though she really doesn't understand why her dreams reflect such a different past. Philip's causality violation device has something to do with it.


The Death of Man in Wilmslow
354 pages
Lagercrantz, DavidDavid Lagercrantz

Leonard Corell, a young detective constable in Wilmslow, England is assigned to investigate the death of a local resident, Alan Turing. Turing appears to have committed suicide. It becomes increasingly clear that the dead man is more than a simple suicide victim. Corell gradually discovers more about Turing's past, and his illegal homosexual lifestyle, in part because of some unexplained interest in the death from the English secret service.

Today, we know the story of Alan Turing and realize his contributions to the development of modern digital computers may have happened as an outgrowth of his odd personality, the stresses of his life, and his unusual view of the world. Lagercrantz writes a story rich with conflict in his characters and an attempt to include a sense of the awesome mathematical skills of Turing and his wartime associates.


Lilith's Brood 2 and 3
492 pages
Butler, OctaviaOctavia Butler

I read all three volumes in a row. Initially I did a separate note about Dawn, but feel strongly that the three volumes belong together. I purchased the ebook as a combined item, Lilith's Brood, and in the end, I think the story holds together best as a single book. The second volume, Adulthod Rites focuses on the first boy child Lilith bears combining the genetics of human and alien. The third volume, Imago, involves the life of another of Lilith's alien/human-mix children. In all, the deep exploration of human interaction and negative reaction to the aliens and the combined children makes the combined books worth a
Highest Recommendation.


260 pages
Butler, OctaviaOctavia Butler

Lilith awakens to find herself alone, surrounded by walls and those who talk to her do so from out of sight. She cannot even see speakers from which the voices might come.

Aliens are alien in this book. Butler writes Lilith's reactions with acute, queasy, uncomfortable care. Butler's words helped me feel Lilith's discomfort and disgust as she is gradually made aware of her actual situation.
Highly Recommended


Vinegar Girl
240 pages
Tyler, AnneAnne Tyler

Anne Tyler retells Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew." It is excellent.
Highly Recommended


Quantum Night
351 pages
Sawyer, Robert J.Robert J. Sawyer

Is a psychopath responsible for his acts if his actions are driven by genetics or the physics of electron behavior in brain neurons? Sawyer asks this question while he explores the fringes of current scientific thinking in this interesting story.


Dark Run
432 pages
Brooks, MikeMike Brooks

Captain Ichabod Drift is a smuggler. He and his crew will take something from here to there in order to make money. This book is a traditional space opera with easy travel at speeds faster than light. Good fun. Light summer reading.
Mildly Recommended


The Heart Goes Last
308 pages
Atwood, MargaretMargaret Atwood

Living in a car, Charmaine and Stan have few prospects. Jobs are unavailable. They have lost their house to foreclosure. It doesn't look bright ahead for them. Then an opportunity to join an experimental community comes along. It's a little odd. They will live in a house for a month and then go into prison for a month. The "alternates" will move back into the house for their montly turn while Stan and Charmaine work for the good of the community and live in a cell.

There is a simple story here. It's a second chance, but maybe not ideal. Unfortunately, Stan and Charmaine are core characters with no apparent ability to have an impact on the story. They float along, being pushed here and there by the organizers of the Positron Project and those working to sidetrack things. Maybe that lack of personal power was Atwoods point. Still, something was missing for me. I was comparing the book to The Handmaid's Tale and didn't get what I expected.
Mediocre Recommendation


Last Days of the Condor
387 pages
Grady, JamesJames Grady

Condor is "Vin" today, if he can remember clearly. The drugs are very powerful and his watchers want to be sure he's under control. He works at the Library of Congress, but he did not always. What he used to do isn't really clear to himself. Ghosts of memories surface and fade. What is real? Why does he fear that someone will kill him when he answers a knock at the door of his apartment?


Ancillary Mercy
286 pages
Leckie, AnnAnn Leckie

Breq has infuriated Anaander Mianaai, or at least part of her. That's never a good thing to do, but Breq stays in contact with Athoek Station, to which he and his ship have been assigned. Ship AI is under his command, but Station AI and ALL citizens of the station and primary planet of the system are in line for trouble if they seem to support Breq, and yet they do not openly oppose her, despite the dangers. Of course, they also do not "support" Breq, either.

Leckie writes beautifully, exploring sincerity, sentience and significance with a deft hand.
Highly Recommended


Extreme Prey
406 pages
Sanford, JohnJohn Sanford

Lucas Davenport is enjoying a renovation of his Wisconsin cabin (even if his contractor is less happy because of all of Lucas' help). But Minnesota's governor calls to ask for help while he is campaigning in Iowa. He's met a strange supporter whose comments seem like a threat, not to him, but to a rival candidate. Lucas can't wait to get involved.
Highly Recommended


Zero World
592 pages
Hough, JasonJason M. Hough

Peter Caswell is an assassin, but he also forgets who — and how many — he has killed. His memory gets wiped after each mission. He can blissfully enjoy his time off between assignments, with an almost clear conscience. Classic style science fiction with aliens, alternate worlds with a 'conduit' connecting them.


My Real Children
320 pages
Walton, JoJo Walton

Patricia is confused. Sometimes the chart at the end of her nursing home bed says "VC" and she agrees "very confused" defines the state of her memories. Sometimes she remembers being married to Mark, and at other times she remembers a lifelong relationship with Beatrice. She does remember children, some from her teaching days and some from her family nights.

Jo Walton tells an engrossing, enriching tale of two women, split from the same flesh, one who marries and one who does not. The two stories compare how Britain and Europe might have diverged through the time from World War II to the present. I was mesmerized.
Highly Recommended


The Fireman
768 pages
Hill, JoeJoe Hill

A spore infects humans, worldwide including many residents of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The spore spreads through their systems and when the people are under stress, it causes them to burst into flames. A nurse escapes when the hospital trying to serve the infected burns down and joins a secret group who are trying to survive at a closed summer camp. Uninfected citizens hunt down the infected, hoping to remain safe.
Highly Recommended


The Fifth Season
361 pages
Jemisin, N.K.N.K. Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin gives us a story set on a planet which endures the apolalypse over and over in the form of huge volcanic eruptions or earth-shattering quakes. Great characters and their special survival skills make this story very much worth reading.
Highly Recommended


Dry Bones
306 pages
Johnson, CraigCraig Johnson

The body of Danny Lone Elk floating in a turtle pond and a nearly complete fossilized T-Rex skeleton stir up all sorts of trouble for Sherrif Walter Longmire and the deputies, friends, neighbors, highway patrol and Wyoming Attorney General's office. "Save Jen!"
Highly Recommended


The Girl in the Spider's Web
400 pages
Lagercrantz, DavidDavid Lagercrantz

Lisbeth Salander hacks into the NSA and finds that there's a connection between them and a criminal organization, "The Spiders" who plan to kill a Swedish Computer scientist. Old wounds get broken open as the Spiders begin their attack.

The book is the fourth volume of a series which started with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo written by Stieg Larsson who apparently outlined a ten-volume series. Unfortunately, Larsson died after only writing three books. A new author, David Lagercrantz, has taken over writing the series. With Spider's Web, he has done a great job. I'm looking forward to the next.
Highly Recommended


275 pages
Zamiatin, YevgenyYevgeny Zamiatin

It is a perfect society, everything in number order, even the people. Our hero is D-503. His day's cycle is predetermined. He wakes at the same time as everyone else, eats with a cadenced rhythm of chewing, matched to those in his cafeteria. Every structure is transparent, made of glass harder than steel. Everyone can and does watch everyone else. The Benefactor and the One State observes everyone, all the time.

Creepy, definitely dystopian, and it was written before the more famous 1984.


The End of All Things
384 pages
Scalzi, JohnJohn Scalzi

A brain in a box and about 200 species of aliens consorting together present problems for the Colonial Union. Planet Earth has withdrawn support for the Colonial Union and there are rebellious CU colonies.

This set of four novellas in one volume combine to tell how diplomacy trumps subterfuge, no matter what the species.


676 pages
Naam, RamezRamez Naam

"A billion flowers bloom" in China, Kade in India where something isn't quite right, Sam is Nexus-free by her own choice and the US election is a mess.

The spread of Nexus is also carrying components of hate and rage, inserted by hackers to escalate protests into mobs on command. A captive posthuman digital mind is on the loose, but isn't sane! I was engrossed in this concluding volume of Ramez Naam's trilogy and read it voraciously.
Highest Recommendation


509 pages
Naam, RamezRamez Naam

I wonder if a dose of Nexus 5 would have helped me to accelerate up to the furious pace of this book. It blazes along, taking us and its characters through flight from pursuit, captivity and escape...and violence, even death. Can Ramez Naam keep this up for a third volume? I'm going to find out.
Highest Recommendation


527 pages
Naam, RamezRamez Naam

If you take the drug Nexus, you are breaking the law. If you study it, you must be careful because your work is being watched, judged and limited. Neuroscience is not just science, it has become very political. Kade, a brilliant PhD candidate and his friends go too far, the watchers crash in and all hell breaks loose.

Ramez Naam's first novel exceeded every expectation I had. It is richly imagined, carefully crafted, startlingly violent and deeply complex. Nexus deserves at least one award, maybe many.
Highest Recommendation


Make Me
402 pages
Child, LeeLee Child

Getting off a train in the middle of endless wheat fields just to find out why a town is called "Mother's Rest" is typical for Jack Reacher. He wants to reach Chicago, but is in no rush. Reacher also gets to revise some theories after meeting private investigator, Michelle Chang. She has been waiting in Mother's Rest, waiting for the train. Chang cannot find a business partner who called for her help, but he has gone missing for a couple of days. For no obvious reason, Reacher decides to see if he will show up.
Highly Recommended


Time Salvager
380 pages
Chu, WesleyWesley Chu

James jumps back into dead-end zones of the past. Jumping back to a ship just before it sinks is okay because all aboard will die in the hurricane, but it is not okay to jump into a timeline which can carry forward to his future. The ripples of such a jump amplify and can wreak havoc to the present. He cannot kill someone who was known to survive, nor can he rescue someone from certain death. His only job is to gather salvage items to offset the decline of the present. Earth of his time is a mess. His salvaged items are not doing enough. Mega corporations dominate the solar system, demanding more and more salvage, but mainly using the spoils for narrow corporate goals instead of the general welfare of humanity.


The Last Unicorn
304 pages
Beagle, Peter S.Peter S. Beagle

Beautifully written fantasy about the last unicorn on earth. Startled from ignorance of her status by overhearing some hunters in her enchanted forest, she goes on a quest to find and rescue her kin. Beagle uses English with elegant simplicity. I wanted to memorize all manner of quotable phrases.

"I always say, perseverance is nine-tenths of any art--not that it's much help to be nine tenths of an artist, of course." --Mabruk the Wizard pg. 165 will have to do here.

I wonder if William Goldman was inspired by The Last Unicorn as he sat down to write The Princess Bride a few years later.

A rich, beautiful fantasy.
Highest Recommendation


The Boy Who Fell from the Sky
210 pages
Owen, JuleJule Owen

Mathew lives in London, but the book begins with him falling from the sky into a jungle in Siberia. Virtual reality is taking a new turn while aging nation states prepare for war and the waters of the Thames river break over their levees to flood parts of the city.
Highly Recommended


The Kingdom of Gods
529 pages
Jemisin, N.K.N. K. Jemisin

Lord Sieh, first of the godlings finds nothing really good can come from offering friendship to two children of the Arameri clan. He cannot help himself. It is his nature. The hundred thousand kingdoms face a threat not imagined since the Maelstrom birthed the first god Nahatoth. The cohesion of the universe is challenged.

A very good conclusion to The Inheritance Trilogy.