10/16 Baen Free SciFi Stories 2011
10/22 The Drawing of the Dark, Tim Powers
10/26 Baen Free SciFi Stories 2012
11/03 Baen Free SciFi Stories 2013
11/11 The Purloined Poodle, Hearne
11/15 Egg and Spoon, Gregory Maguire
12/02 Etiquette & Espionage, Finishing School 1, Gail Carriger
12/04 Curtsies & Conspiracies, Finishing School 2, Gail Carriger
12/07 Waistcoats & Weaponry, Finishing School 3, Gail Carriger
12/10 Manners & Mutiny, Finishing School 4, Gail Carriger
12/14 The Coming, Joe Haldeman
12/18 Mogworld, Yahtzee Croshaw
12/20 Jam, Yahtzee Croshaw
12/21 Monstrous Fellowship, AO3
12/24 The Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett
12/30 The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Becky Chambers
I’ve known about the Baen Free Library for a long time. They used to include CDs in the back of high-value writer hardbacks, such as David Weber. I even hosted CD contents on my web site, an act that was sanctioned by Baen. Well, I was surfing their site looking for a particular book (which I didn’t find) and came across these short story collections. I’m a sucker for short story collections, as witnessed by reading three of them in one month. While I can’t really comment on any in particular, they were all fun reads.
The Drawing of the Dark was a very cool story, basically talking about the Ottoman invasion of Austria, and stopping the Turks required a very important item: beer. Excellent story, I don’t recall if it was part of a series that I should be looking for.
The Purloined Poodle is a short novella set in Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series. While I read this series, I was unaware of this particular publication until a friend of mine turned me on to its impending release. As it turns out, it was already out, and I snagged a copy from iTunes and devoured it before my friend got his. Fun stuff if you like the Iron Druid series.
Egg and Spoon is by Gregory Maguire, the writer who brought us the alternative tale of The Wizard of Oz called Wicked. This particular book is sort of a Disney swapped princess tale where a peasant girl in Russia accidentally swaps places with a princess and a Faberge egg containing not just an image of The Thunderbird, but the actual Thunderbird itself is lost. So it’s a double adventure with both girls trying to fix things, along with guest stars such as Baba Yaga and Rasputin. A very fun read.
The Finishing Girl Series by Gail Carriger was a tremendous amount of fun. The series is steam punk set in Victorian England in a reality that encompasses werewolves, vampires, and other fun things. The heroine is from a middling status family and is quite the tomboy when she’s sent to the finishing school based on the recommendation of a friend of the family. As her tomboy antics are kind of getting out of hand, it seems like an easy thing to do. The school itself is a very large zeppelin that floats above the moors of England, never in a fixed place. And the “finishing” is more of a fatal kind: graduates are destined to be assassins or intelligencers, using the wiles they gain in their education to facilitate their assignment. I am not, broadly speaking, a steampunk fan, it just never hooked me. But this series I absolutely loved. Carriger is a wonderfully light writer, and I definitely want to check out her other books. I got the first book for $2 and immediately after finishing it I bought the next book from iTunes until I had read all four. As I understand it, this particular series is a closed episode, but Carriger has other series of similar flavor.
The Coming, by Joe Haldeman, is very cool. Take a somewhat despotic and run-down USA where people still live and work, add to it a promise transmitted from the stars that aliens are going to land at the Johnson Space Center on a certain date in the near future. The question is: are they aliens from another planet, people from our future coming back to save us, or a hoax perpetrated from another country? LOTS of interesting things going on in here, very good read.
Mogworld, by Yahtzee Croshaw, is very different. One of my wife’s co-workers recommended it to her for me, so she bought the paperback and I got it for my birthday. Unbeknownst to my wife, I already had an ebook of it, so I pretended to take the paperback to DC on my annual pilgrimage when I was actually reading it on my iPad Mini. Regardless of what format you read it in, if you’re a fan of computer fantasy games, there’s lots to like in this. It revolves around Mog, and unfortunately it’s hard to describe without giving away lots of good things that are best discovered by the reader.
Jam, also by Yahtzee Croshaw, is very strange. The scenario is a bit of a loser who can’t get his life together is sharing a second floor flat in Australia with some friends, wakes up very late one day, to discover a red jam covering everything as far as the eye can see up to a depth of over 2 meters. His flat-mate is about to go for a run, though it’s hard to see how that will happen with the stairs filled with goo. Well, it turns out, to the detriment of his soon-to-be-former roomie, that the ooze is carnivorous. No one knows where the goo came from, though an American weapon system gone wrong is a popular conjecture, and the book rapidly becomes a survival at all costs farce. Communications are out, utilities are out, and the only way to move around seems to be from roof top to roof top and forget ground floor shops for looting! Survival seems a tenuous proposition until the stalwart team witnesses a helicopter crash nearby and pull a nattily-attired woman and her extremely buff male companion from the wreckage. The woman is from the CIA and clearly is the commander of the man, the CIA connection only firms up the theory that it is an American weapon run amok. This is a very bizarre book, but lots of fun. It makes you think about what would happen to you in similar circumstances.
Monstrous Fellowship is not a book, per se, but a very long fanfic available on Archive Of Our Own (AO3). Take Terry Pratchett’s book, Monstrous Regiment, and populate it entirely with characters from The Hobbit. It has all of the elements of Tolkien but with Sir Pterry’s light sense of humor. An excellent read, and AO3 has direct download of epub and mobi formats for easy reading on the tablet or device of your choice.
The Wee Free Men, this time by Terry Pratchett, is the first of the YA Tiffany Aching books, and it is such a wonderful addition to the Diskworld series. In fact, the last book that Terry completed before his passing was the final Tiffany Aching story. In this story, young Tiffany, the daughter of a sheep herding family in The Chalks, learns that she is destined to be a witch when her youngest brother, who can walk and is perpetually sticky, is kidnapped by the Queen of Fairies. She is aided by the Wee Free Men, a group of Pictsies, a bunch of 4” tall Scottish picts who believe that they died and are now in heaven. Their group was bonded with Tiffany’s grandmother, who passed a few years previous and was the previous witch of The Chalk. Will they rescue the sticky brother and defeat the fairy queen? Well, of course: you’re not going to have a downer ending in a Pratchett YA novel. The entire series is a wonderful read, and if you’re a Diskworld fan and haven’t read these, you’ve really done yourself a disservice.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is the debut novel by Becky Chambers and is a trilogy. I know the second book is out in paperback, I’m not sure if the third has been released yet. This book has a lot of ‘feeling like’ elements, mostly Firefly. Known space is not quite as authoritarian, but it still has a Firefly vibe. A young woman joins a ship that ‘punches’ through space, in the process it is building hyperspace routes. The young woman has a past from which she is hiding. The ship is full of non-humans, so I guess it would look more like Farscape as far as visuals is concerned. She signs on as the ship’s accountant as they need to be better organized for them to get a better class of contracts and more profit. Needless to say, her past begins to mess with the ship’s working. It’s really an amazing read, and I’d have to say one of the best books that I read last year. Becky’s writing paints amazingly vivid pictures of what is going on and you can almost see it in cinegraphic detail in your mind as you go along. It would definitely make a fantastic movie or two, no doubt about it, and I’d be there opening day if it ever came true.
All said and done, 47 books read recreationally last year! That’s definitely a record. Losing your job half-way through the year and finding an amazing series certainly helps.
I plan on posting a 'favorites' list after I do my last post of movies seen last year.