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Wow. That pretty much sums up my feelings about this book. I may go reread it tonight. Just, wow.

Spoilers! Continue and an ad-hal might get you!

Ok, so I think this is book 3 in the Innkeeper series. A chaotic ... something or other shows up as a courier and tells her her sister is in trouble. So off she goes to rescue sister and niece. She recruits the vampire to help her out, and the vampire's reaction to her sister is ... really fucking entertaining.

All these books with Team Wolf vs. Team Vampire, and this is the _first_ resolution that involves answering the question, "Do you have a sister?"

The main storyline -- why is it the Draziri have it in for the smelly guys -- is telegraphed pretty early on and pretty overwhelmingly. But who cares, when you get things like Mr. Rodriguez's son is a what?!? And the magic answer turns out to be a name that matches the initials on the cat's tag?!?

Most of the time, gimcrack stuff like this makes me eye roll. But I was cheering. If Ilona Andrews is your kinda crack, this was _really good crack_. I am so looking forward to the next entry.

Also, I _love_ the cop now! All this trouble with what to do about the cop and the answer is simple. Give him a copy of the relevant law and appropriate arms and boom. He's now enforcing the treaty FOR them, instead of interfering with them. Awesome.
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Actual title: _The Lost Fleeet: Beyond the Frontier: Leviathan_

SPOILERS! The Black Fleet is Coming to Git Ya!

Executive summary: don't start the series here! Jack Geary and what's left of his fleet after parts are carved off to protect the government jump to Super Sekrit Binary Star System to deal with the Black Fleet (AI base and fleet). They are successful (sort of).

Long form: After tangling with some weird, stealth ships that seem to have been built by his own team, Geary concludes that there must really be an alternate home base somewhere (Unity Alternate), and that's where the Black Fleet is based. Step 1: distribute software patches that will enable the Good Guys to "see" the Black Fleet (officially distributed software is blinded to the ships. And, it turns out, a lot of other stuff, too.). Step 2: disrupt civilian government efforts to cover up the existence of the Black Fleet/return to status quo. Step 3: fund repairs to the Fleet. Step 4: figure out where the Black Fleet/Unity Alternate is. Step 5: Go there and try not to die while Step 6: destroying Black Fleet and its ability to rebuild.

The expected supporting plot is ably presented: where could it possibly be hiding! Oh, at a binary star. _That's_ what the Dancers were talking about (important preceding step -- improve communications with the Dancers. Of course, in haiku!) But then how can you get there? Via a Super Sekrit Hypernet Gate. So then they have to convince someone In the Know to turn over access credentials.

Rione gets her husband back, but there's not much left there, so she gets one of the Best Deaths Ever pulling the plug on the Hypernet Gate to destroy everything at Unity Alternate that isn't hiding behind ... the other star of the binary system.

I keep wondering if Campbell is gonna be able to pull another convincing Bad Guy out of his hat for Geary to fight. And yet, he keeps coming up with more. This was a good one, altho Out Of Control AI That Is Nonetheless Kinda Boneheaded is a little overdone. But that's okay. Campbell isn't trying to do new stuff; he's reworking old material in a new context and it's always a pleasure (for me, anyway) to read. (Well, okay, the duct tape jokes a few books back when we first met the Dancers were a little lame.)
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Amazon's detail page for the book says this is Book 12. I have no reason to disbelieve, altho I have no idea if that includes the Vicky Peterwald book(s) (probably not). If you want to read entertainingly silly military sf with a female lead and you are okay with the author being male, this series may be for you, but don't start with this book.

RUN RUN RUN YOU VERMIN WE WILL DESTROY YOU AND BRING YOUR HEADS BACK TO OUR HOLY OF HOLIES

Oh, wait, it's been desecrated by a Longknife. *sigh*

Shepherd has actually done some really weirdly interesting things in this entry. Of course we don't know if it is possible to have a space faring empire much less conduct wars, and all speculation on this topic is a bunch of foolishness, but it's fun foolishness. In this outing, Shepherd has taken on some tropes (crazy powerful alien race won't communicate and is annihilating everything in its path, wackadoodle mutineer/mutiny, feeding an armed force "off the land" in while space faring) and I think he may have actually come up with some genuinely new explanations.

I am _so not kidding about the spoilers_. Just leave now.

All right. Let's start with the wackadoodle mutineer. Someone comes out to Alwa, and then wants to go home, but of course no one is going home lest they be followed by the crazy powerful alien race which won't communicate and is annihilating everything in its path. Said someone hijacks a ship and hightails it. This is wackadoodle for a variety of reasons (obvs, the Longknife will give chase, more importantly, a very high risk run home unescorted plus the crew doesn't include people with the right skill set to keep the ship running all the way home), and the person who conducts the mutiny comes from a wealthy background and is a high ranking officer. So, why? Brain tumor! Great explanation! I like this _way_ better than some other author attempts to explain The Cray Cray which they had someone commit for plot purposes.

Shepherd doesn't stop there with the, Why Are You So Crazy? answers. Once Longknife and the boffins get to the alien home world and do their Sherlockian detecting, they start looking at the hunter gatherers hanging out on the home world and conclude from brain analysis of them (and listening to their sagas) that the earliest trophies in the Holy of Holies (the royal family right down to the twin babies, encased in plastic for all eternity) were the folk who enslaved the crazy powerful (before they were crazy powerful), and part of that enslavement process atrophied (okay, this part is weak) that part of the brain that let's people feel like they are part of something bigger than them. This both provides an explanation (oh, they don't listen because they can't see any connection to anyone who isn't them, wait that doesn't make sense, but Shepherd explains it as sort of monolithic groupthink? Okay) and a potential fix (maybe we can fix their brains!).

And about that Holy of Holies. It's a TV/movie/fiction serial murderer trophy collection, only for entire species. Unfortunately, when you take the repulsive ick factor of a serial murderer's trophy collection and cross it with ALIENS WILL KILL YOU AND EVERYONE EVOLUTIONARILY RELATED TO YOU which is pretty horrifying, it turns out (at least for me) to be sort of boringly overwrought. But I applaud it on a technical level, because I Love Genre Smooshing.

Also in this book: matriarchal cat people! Really, the cos play opportunities here. Divine!

The best part of the book, IMO, is the How Do We Feed Everyone problem. It makes a great contrast between the planet-independent space faring crazy people and the planet-dependent space faring rescuer types.

At times, I get confused about which crazy powerful alien race that will destroy you and everything evolutionarily related to you right down to the microbes I am reading about. I find that if I remember King Arther Duct Tape = Jack Campbell and the heroine is related to everyone and hangs out with a bunch of birds = Mike Shepherd really helps keep it straight in my mind. If you stick to reading either Campbell/Hemry OR Shepherd, that'd work, too.
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Korval's Game contains two novels, _Plan B_ and _I Dare_.

These books just get way more complicated as the series goes along. Seriously, do not start with either of these.

AND I REALLY FUCKING MEANT IT ABOUT SPOILERS.

First, everyone arrives on Lytaxin. As a result of shenanigans instigated by the Commander of Agents, Lytaxin is recovering from a barely unsuccessful coup attempt. Clan Erob, long time allies of Korval who have a Tree of their very own, is winding down the merc operation when Miri and Val Con arrive in the ship they stole from the (deceased) Agent of Change sent to retrieve them from Vandar. There are some Gyrfalks on planet, altho the main group of mercs has left. Miri is Seen by Delm Erob and there is a big party that Miri and Val Con don't enjoy but at least they get to sleep in a bed with aphrodisiac flowers after (LIKE THOSE TWO NEED APHORODISIACS).

Alas, some ambitious Yxtrang sort of saw the coup and figured now would be a good time to take a planet away from Liad. They show up with a battleship and a bunch of other ships and Troops and so forth, including some disgraced Explorers (= Yxtrang Scouts), including, YEAH THEY WENT THERE the one captured so long ago by Val Con and then turned loose. That guy recognizes Val Con's ship and speaks out of turn (guess what, a big deal among these nut jobs) to say hey, that ship is super dangerous deal with it pronto, in the middle of Captain's Mast (they don't call it that, but that is what it is). He gets into several shades of additional disgrace and is dumped on planet to scout and, duh, be captured AGAIN by Liaden. Meanwhile, Val Con's ship fires back when attacked and does some damage to the battleship and a lot more to some other ships.

Meanwhile, Shan has worked out the meaning of the location that Val Con would like to meet, and arrives in system. Alas, on the way, they discover that one of the weaponified additions to Dutiful Passage has been sabotaged extensively. They figure out a way to get it separated from the ship in jump, but upon arrival, some damage occurs to Dutiful Passage which must be repaired. While Shan is working on that, they are attacked by still more Yxtrang ships ("fleas") and Shan separates and goes down to the planet to meet his brother.

So, to recap: on Lytaxin so far are Shan, Val Con, Miri, Beautiful (the aforementioned Explorer whom they turn and he becomes an armsman -- they don't call him that, but that is what he is), Jason (with the Gyrfalks). But that's not nearly enough for a party!

First, the Yxtrang must be dealt with, which involves clever things like Shan, Beautiful and Val Con stealing some airplanes from the Yxtrang and them doing a bunch of damage with them and retaking the airfield along the way. While this is all going on, one jump out from Lytaxin, people have figured out there is an attack in progress, triggering every merc in existence to go rescue the mercs stuck on planet. Nova, attempting to track down Val Con and Miri, finds Liz Lizardi, hires her, and they go to hire mercs and run into all this activity and hook up with Suzuki.

But that's not nearly enough for a party!

Ren Zel, up on Dutiful Passage, tho clanless, becomes First Mate when Priscilla becomes Captain because they are short handed as a result of Plan B. Ren Zel is having weird dreams involving Merlin (he doesn't realize it is Merlin -- HEY LOOK THE WITCH HAS A FAMILIAR!). Merlin gets Ren Zel and Anthora to hook up (BEST FAMILIAR EVER!), and Anthora registers Ren Zel as lifemate and thus he is no longer clanless. Guess how Nova feels about this when she realizes that Shan and Anthora have now both announced lifemates. Any hope of dealing with the complex politics on Liad itself have basically been completely torpedoed -- which at this point in the series you should start to be thinking was maybe authorial intention.

Do we have enough for a party?

The Yxtrang decide to leave, turtles arrive, also Jen Sar Kiladi aka Daav arrives with Clonak (NOT DEAD) and Shadia (ALSO NOT DEAD).

But we have big suspense because in the course of the climatic ending of one novel, Val Con was turned into neurotoxined hamburger, and the med techs are making a real hash of him with the autodoc because they have suppressed the cerebral manifestations of the lifemate bridge. (REALLY IT IS LIKE PEOPLE IN THIS UNIVERSE ARE IDIOTS.) Turtles to the rescue.

WE NOW HAVE ENOUGH FOR A PARTY!!! Big reunion scene. Awkward! Also, interrupted by the party of Agents of Change sent to retrieve Val Con and/or Miri. Agents dead. Ship has an oops and reunion continues.

MEANWHILE, the Department of the Interior commissions a fake ring (perfect emeralds. Ooops.) which they offer to Pat Rin saying his whole family is dead. They fail to mention the kids and obvs the ring is fake, but Pat Rin still decides they might be telling the truth so he offs them, hooks up with a Juntavas Sector Judge who is super hot and they all take off for Surebleak to build a base of operations suitable for using to effect Balance against the Department of the Interior. Pat Rin/Conrad sets up as a fatcat, becomes fatcat of fatcats, finally becomes a pilot, goes off to retrieve a bunch of mothballed Korval ships, and comes back to an attack by the Department of the Interior in Surebleak space. Bam bam bam, Pat Rin/Conrad is a Hero and they all head off to Liad.

BECAUSE PARTY TIME!

Everyone goes to Liad. I mean everyone. Turtles. Korval. Pat Rin. Mercs. You name them, they all leave Lytaxin or wherever they have been and go to Liad, where Anthora is having her own troubles with the Department and the Council of Clans and all the tools brought along get used, including those mining ships that were mothballed.

In the end, not too unexpectedly, Liad decides that Korval is a lot of trouble, terminates the contract and tells them to leave. Which they are ALL TOO HAPPY TO DO.

Lots of fun scenes. All the backstory is important (and I suspect I'm missing some backstory, because I haven't read the Kiladi books). Tons of narrative momentum. Again, don't start here, but arriving at the end of _I Dare_ is pretty amazing.
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Wow this book will make zero sense if you haven't read a bunch of the other books first.

It functions mostly, but definitely not exclusively, as a sequel to Agent of Change. Miri Robertson and Val Con land on Vandar, an interdicted planet, and walk to a village where they use basic gestures to exchange work for food and a place to stay. They (mostly Val Con, but eventually Miri as well) pick up Benish, the local language (and you know, I could totes believe I'm spelling something wrong here). After a while, their benefactor, Estra Trelu, takes them into town for new/warm clothes, and there Val Con hooks up with a musician, Hakan and they learn there is a piano-like instrument in a locked room at the Trelu house that can be tuned. Hakan and Val Con practice in order to compete at the upcoming Winterfair.

Meanwhile, the turtles have made it to the top of the Juntavas hierarchy. Predictably, they wind up killing the guy at the top, and the next person at the top turns out to be willing to make a Real Different Deal with the Clutch, thus taking the pressure off Miri, Val Con and the turtles, at least from that one threat.

However, one enemy is replaced by another. Nova attempts to understand the Department of the Interior, which has apparently been behind multiple generations of attacks on Clan Korval and has just sent an agent after Val Con and Miri. Nova's efforts trigger a direct attack on Korval's clanhouses. Korval sees this coming, in part because of communication between Miri/Val Con and Priscilla/Shan and gets everyone off planet except the elder Dea'Gauss and Anthora. Anthora deals really effectively with the attackers from the Interior.

We get to see the Interior at work, as the agent is sent off to deal with Val Con and Miri, and also as the Interior attempts to grab the Scout who was checking interdicted planets and found the ship abandoned by Val Con and Miri. Clonak has a cameo in that segment, with a cliffhanger ending.

At the end of the book (I DID MENTION SPOILERS. I DISTINCTLY REMEMBER DOING SO.), Val Con and Miri are in the Dept of the Interior's Agent's ship, since He Won't Be Needing It Any More. So that's pretty cool. But there are more books in this arc, so I feel confident that Lee and Miller will have an opportunity to annoy me by killing off more people they have offered up for me to feel affection for.

ETA : things I left out. Val Con, Hakan and Miri, were robbed, I TELL YOU ROBBED, at the Winterfair music competition. Also, the trio prior to that gets all kinds of awards and gifts and shit because they foil a dastardly invasion at great personal risk. Further, Val Con has another Loop/brainwashing induced crisis, Miri once again helps him out with it, and as a result, their Lifemate psychic connection is greatly strengthened. Shan turns out to be a wizard too! Etc.
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This is a _much_ more recently written book. But it fits in relatively well with the older books -- much better than typically happens when a series is written over a very long period of time and publication order and internal order aren't great matches.

This starts off slightly before the tail end of _Scout's Progress_ and follows the development of Aelliana and Daav's stunted lifemating. With Ran Eld "dead" and no on else to really be Nadelm and so forth, Birin would like to make Aelliana at least do all that work if not actually have the title. WHICH IS RIDICULOUS. Birin is another Petrella: she doesn't actually make any sense. If she were even remotely better behaved, she'd get way more of what she wants (Kareen is the same, altho not nearly as over the top). But, you know, villains. Gotta be villainous.

Mizel is very backgrounded for the first chunk of the book, but then shows up to put pressure on Aelliana and Daav: sues to kinstealing. Where being lifemates pretty much checkmated (er) Petrella (Anne Davis didn't have a clan to get in on the political action), here being lifemates doesn't actually resolve the Clan-specific issues. And, of course, Kareen has to try to disrupt things by PROVING how EVERYONE is going to have CONTEMPT for Aelliana. Yeah, Kareen. Sure. Queen Bee stereotype much? Mary Sue action ensues, right down to Daav thinking repeatedly, Aelliana conquers all. (No, really.)

Once the lifemating issues are resolved and shopping has happened and Samiv is maid of honor (not precisely) at the impromptu ceremony (AT KAREEN'S PARTY TO MAKE AELLIANA LOOK BAD. Because.), you would sort of expect the end of the book to happen fairly shortly, but no, it does not. We still have to (had pregnant woman visiting gangster) (cute kids playing in ways that foreshadow their adult selves in chronologically later but publication order earlier books) kill Aelliana off to make one final point about lifemating, which is Aelliana will live on in Daav's head, even after he "dies" and goes off to live Kiladi's life.

I was not real impressed with that ending. YMMV. I'm on pause for the moment while I try to figure out how to deal with this. I still kinda want to know what happens to Val Con and Miri, tho, so I will probably be back. I'm just gonna go read about distributed energy generation and pricing reform for the grid for a while.

Oh, and Daav is just about the worst King (I know, not really) ever, in terms of his obliviousness to major political movements both on and off Liad. He spends way too much of his time hanging out at the spaceport reliving his glory days as a pilot, or getting more degrees as his alter ego Kiladi. (Apparently Kiladi shows up in chronologically later but publication order earlier books. Hmmm.)
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Moonhawk/Priscilla is kicked off her planet/ostracized/treated as if dead by family for unclear reasons. She spends some years kicking around space, working her way up on ships. She's so happy to get a gig as Cargo Master she doesn't think about it too hard, and winds up on a Liaden ship run by people shipping contraband. And they are very Not Nice people. The only decent person breaks contract to leave, and things go way downhill for Priscilla thereafter. She's tricked into a warehouse, bashed on the head and abandoned. But from there, she gets a job as Pet Librarian on the Dutiful Progress, currently captained and many more things by Master Trader Shan yos'Galan ("sparkles!" kid of Anne Davis and Er Thom, who are apparently dead by the time of this novel). She learns a lot, but is continually dogged by the Not Nice people from her previous ship, mostly Dagmar, who keeps attacking her, taking hostages, etc. until Priscilla invokes some magic to put an end to that nonsense.

So we have another abuse survivor story. Priscilla is a dramliza and apparently somewhat crazy powerful, altho a little uncertain about the status of her powers because of complications associated with the obscure Moonhawk thingie. As is apparently typical of a Lee and Miller novel, she gets better clothes, friends, eats a lot of good food, develops romantic relationship(s), etc. as part of the process of getting her Happily Ever After. Honestly, in the Liaden universe, you'd _better_ enjoy yourself as you go along, because your HEA probably won't last very long. I digress.

It isn't just Dagmar, tho. For somewhat obscure reasons, probably having to do with Shan doing some things that threaten Priscilla's previous employer's Trader license, they are attacked and Priscilla is crucial to saving the ship (should have been a boring exit from Jump but it wasn't boring at all). That part kind of felt ST:TNG Wesley Crusher-like, but that's okay.

In the end, Liaden family structure is invoked to put a stop to the Evil People Causing All the Trouble. A meeting is called to Balance, and it turns out the Horrible Bigoted Trader elf hasn't just been _dealing_ the dope. This results in an especially nice moment for Priscilla to demonstrate her Special Powers. I hope we get to see more of this. I liked this bit.

I think this is the book where I started to realize how short the lives of most of the main characters in these books turn out to be. I'm not real happy about that. That's just entirely too much realism for Elves in Space with Psi or Magical Powers
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Not kidding about the spoilers. You should scoot.

By the time of Scout's Progress, Anne Davis and Er Thom have hooked up and Er Thom has become Thodelm since Petrella has finally moved along. So that's a mercy, anyway.

Being a pilot involves a bunch of math and math references works: tables. The tables were revised by Aelliana Caylon some years before the events of this book (I want to say eight, but that would mean she did the revision in her late teens if my math is right, so I could absolutely believe that I misunderstood something. OTOH, maybe she did that as a project after her horrible marriage ended. *shrug*). Aelliana Caylon teachs a Math for Survival course mostly taken by Scouts-in-Training. She teaches the class at a small town technical college, which is a little weird but is explained in _Mouse and Dragon_. Basically, she's too depressed to actually pursue her career as a career with any avidity.

The depression is because her mother Birin, Delm Mizel, is mostly absent and shows wildly bad judgment. The Nadelm is her brother Ran Eld who if you read the subject line you now know is physically and in every other way abusive. Turns out he set up the marriage with a friend of his who was more of the same plus a bit more. So this is a real classic of the romance genre: super smart, utterly beautiful, graceful, strong person aggressively hiding their light under a bushel because of relentless abuse is rescued by a Rich, Powerful, Super Cool Guy who is pretending not to be Rich, Powerful, etc.

It's a pretty good entry in that genre. The Rich etc. person is Daav yos'Phellium, Delm Korval, and about half the book is set at the port among pilots everyone hanging out being mostly equal and a lot of the highly structured Liaden stuff in abeyance. That's all fun. Aelliana gets sucked into helping some of her students get revenge on one of those classics of the Regency novel: rich guy who suckers youngsters out of their money at the gambling table is in turn suckered himself. She wins his ship, and Lee and Miller actually go to the bother of explaining what else happens to the guy to explain why he doesn't just come around and beat her up and make her sign it back over to him. Nice!. Then she works through the requirements to become a pilot (she's done a lot of it already, with a plausible reason given connected to her job and that seminar she teaches). Her family slowly figures out what is going on, and then the conflict with Ran Eld spills over to the port and things get really ugly. There's a bunch of pressure on Daav to sign a marriage contract, but the Tree turns out to not like the lady in question. And then one more severe beating, a trip to the Healer's, a hug, and a satisfying if abrupt ending.

I'm not a huge fan of the abuse-victim theme. OTOH, this version did a really detailed development of getting from a really bad, trapped place to a much better one, and while there are some miraculous elements (Daav), mostly Aelliana does it on her own.
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Last month, I posted a review of _Agent of Change_: http://walkitout.livejournal.com/1177154.html

While on vacation, I felt a need for some trashy reading, so along with some Gaslight Chronicles and Turner series, I read some Liaden. When I got home, I read some more Liaden. Gosh there is a lot of Liaden.

In this outing, we meet Anne Davis who had a fling with Er Thom and, without telling him, stopped using contraception and had his child, Shan yos'Galan. This sort of does not make sense. In the Liaden universe, it seems to be the case that there is fertility control that is fully internal and available to both men and women and requires conscious effort to turn off. It doesn't make much sense that Er Thom would have been shooting other than blanks, whatever Anne decided to do -- unless Er Thom _also_ decided to turn his off. Tree involvement at that distance seems unlikely. I chalk this up to the fact that _Local Custom_ was written and published early on, before the universe was more completely developed.

Er Thom is supposed to produce a child with a contract-wife, and he doesn't want to. He wants Anne. He goes to University, where she is (another planet), and discovers the kid. Obvs, Er Thom sucks at Liaden-style cyberstalking. His brother Daav has no trouble discovering the existence of the kid and the kid's name and assumes that is why Er Thom went to see Anne. But nope, Er Thom had a Focus and the kid is a surprise to him. I found this confusing. I feel like the presentation was intended to be a Secret Baby story but with Daav as this sort-of-omniscient Here's What's Going On person.

The next thing that happens is irritating: a comprehensive misunderstanding occurs between the Liadens and Anne about the implications of Shan being Seen by Delm Thorval. I find this unlikely. Anne teaches Liaden; Er Thom is a Master Trader. And yet they don't apparently know basic stuff about each other's culture's marriage and family raising customers. Seriously? Are you guys adults? On the other hand, young women wander the world and marry young men from Saudi and similar and are surprised at what happens next. And a FOAF married a woman who was sufficiently Missouri Synod to have attended Concordia University (the Portland, OR one) -- and then was surprised at how religious she was (and the kind of religious). So maybe this happens a lot, but I still don't have to respect it.

When Anne works out what has just happened, it calls into question all the rest of her interactions with the Liadens (reasonable), and that opens her and Shan up to an attack and the resolution of that helps everything get explained. The mechanics of the plot are really creaky through this bit (seriously, at what point is someone going to realize that CompLing getting all blowed up might have been related to Anne's work?). Once everyone is back down on planet, they still have to deal with gratuitously stupid and evil (bigotry edition, complicated by a strong desire to make everyone else as miserable as she is) Petrella, Er Thom's mum.

Er Thom's mum (and, for that matter, Birin Mizel in other novels, not to mention Kareen) does not actually make any sense to me. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are consciously writing a Regency Novel (with elves!) in space, but they really went way over the top with Petrella. I don't think there is anyone in Georgette Heyer as gratuitously horrible as Petrella, in a way that runs counter to Petrella's own interests.

You might think from reading this review that I really didn't like this book. That would be wrong. This book has amazing narrative momentum. I really, really did want to know what was going to happen next, and given that is Prime Directive in novels, Lee and Miller for the win. There are enormous weaknesses in characterization: smart people doing stupid things that are inadequately motivated. There are weaknesses in worldbuilding (one more room in Liad or elsewhere piled everywhere with booktapes and I think I really will scream, and of course the above mentioned contraceptive confusion). Loose ends abound (I'm several more books in at this point, and I still don't see any indication that anyone has followed up on the CompLing explosion and honestly that really makes me nuts). And there are well respected Healers all over the place that people are really resistant to making use of. But, you know, for Narrative Momentum, I will put up with a lot worse than any of this.
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This is, I believe, the first book published (written?) in the Liaden universe. I have been not reading any of this constellation (?) of books since basically when they first came out, by which I mean, I was aware of them and largely not interested. This is especially weird, given that I was active enough on rec.arts.sf.written and rec.arts.books in the 1990s to get a "So _you're_ [my name at the time]" from Vernor Vinge when I was in line for a book signing at a con. (Did I cringe? Yes, I cringed. Worse, I think I've lost the copy of Tatja Grimm's World that I had him sign. Sad face. But he was really nice about it and we did get to chat later.)

But when the Smart Bitches produced a positive review of one or more elements of the Liaden universe, I went, oh, sure, what the heck. Altho figuring out where I wanted to start was tricky, I figured I might as well start where the authors started and go from there.

First, I was warned, and you should know: these books really do have a tendency to end on cliffhangers.

Second, this is decades old science fiction. Presumably my readers are old enough and experienced enough to be aware of the issues associated with historical visions of tomorrow. The really grating ones here, for me, were "booktapes" piled all over the place and the conspicuous absence of portable communications. Lee and Miller have a Telzey-universe (James Schmitz) type autovalet, which is pretty fun!

Third: do I really have to say this? SPOILERS RUN RUN RUN if you haven't already read this come on it was published quite a while ago now.

Onto what might pass for a review. I expected a substantial romance subplot and one was delivered. I felt mild affection for both members of the proto-dyad and found their mutual attraction and skittishness to be believable. They have significant violence in their chosen careers and their backstory, and that was all good, too, even tho there was potentially trigger-y stuff in Miri's backstory (she flashes back to an attempted rape) so watch out for that.

This book contains an Oops We Got Married By Accident. I used to totally love these. There is usually (and there is one here) a really developed other culture/species/wtf and then one of the humans somehow is adopted into it and then the human does this thing which has one meaning to humans and another meaning (Getting Married) to the other culture and shenanigans. Basically, Val Con gives Miri a knife to wear in her hair when they go out to eat and dance at The Grotto (OH COULD THIS BE MORE OF A CLICHE) because a gun is too conspicuous and giving a knife = getting married. (PRETTY SURE I MENTIONED SPOILERS)

I don't totally love these any more. Now, I actually feel sort of offended on behalf of the non-existent, entirely the product of the authors' cultural group for being vultured into a pair of people who can't own their own desire enough to say, hey, wanna? Yeah, wanna! Okee, that was super nice. Wanna do it on the reg? Sure! Paperwork? Absolutes! Maybe some of the wee ones? Yeah, but we gotta work on how many . . . (IT IS NOT THAT HARD. SHOULD NOT TAKE MORE THAN 3 CONVOS. TOTAL MINUTES DEVOTED ON THE ORDER OF A HALF HOUR.)

Here's my theory on why I don't love these any more. Because I've actually done this. I loved the Oops Married By Accident when I hadn't done this. YMMV.

Next: this book is actually a romantic suspense novel that happens to involve space drive and some aliens. Specifically, it is that kind of Romantic Suspense novel that I think of as "On the Run" (many of these books actually work the word Run into the title -- sometimes _as_ the title, which is profoundly unimaginative). For reasons that are basically not that important, one or both of the proto-dyad are running, usually interspersed with downtime hiding out somewhere, patching themselves up, figuring out who is chasing them, trying to create a new identity for a new, quieter life, etc. which downtime is always interrupted by more chasing. These novels typically end somewhat abruptly, when something makes it possible for them to quit running (either everyone chasing them is dead and/or called off, or they finally convince everyone they are really dead, no, really, nothing to see here, and then they have to hide, at least until the next book in the series).

This novel is an unexceptional entry in this category of Romantic Suspense.

Here's what Lee and Miller did well: the Liaden universe is actually pretty cool, especially when the characters -- good guys and bad guys -- are Doing Research. Whenever they get a few minutes to read up on the other people in the book, Awesomeness Occurs. Like when the Juntavas guy notices that the Yxtrang avoid the turtles. Cue suspenseful music. Scary race of pirates avoids encounters with the Turtles!!! Turtles Must Be Terrifying!!!! Auuugh. Call off the enforcers. Who are out of contact. Ah, shucky darn.

Highlight of the book: the Juntavas army which is chasing Miri is led by Miri into the Police army which has cornered Val Con. Antics ensue.

Second highlight of the book: when Watcher gets told to go think about what he did by Edger.

Will I read more? Almost inevitably. However, there is a new Kris Longknife entry and a new series starter by Ilona Andrews sitting on my kindle so probably not today.

ETA: _Agent of Change_ was free on Amazon for kindle when I got it.
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Mixed reviews for this so far over on Amazon, but not very many.

I guess the first thing I would say is, don't start with this book. The first series was _The Lost Fleet_, and then there was _The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier_, and then there is _The Lost Stars_, and this is by no means the first entry in that series. This series is told from the point of view (mostly) of ex-Syndics now forming the independent system at Midway (maybe soon to be rebranded "Phoenix"). A few of the events in this book were mentioned from the perspective of Geary in one of the other series (please don't pin me down on this). There is at least one error in this book, in which Drakon is meant and Geary is named. Oops!

Some communications loops are finally closed in this book: Gwen finds out about Morgan and Malin's relationship and what happened between Morgan and Drakon to cause Morgan to be On the Outs. This is actually really good. I don't like it when people who are supposed to be working together closely don't communicate important stuff and it causes problems. I think people who are supposed to be working together closely should communicate important stuff and have _that_ cause problems. Better story telling all around.

Because someone goes missing (presumably permanently, but given the person she is based on, I wouldn't bet too much on it, any more than Drakon is willing to) in the battles at Ulindi, Drakon needs a new assistant and he picks one out -- at Ulindi, natch. Maybe that's her on the cover of the book?

Gwen gets a real Eva Peron moment, which is kinda cool. And Togo disappears. So _that's_ interesting.

Lots of nice moments, a clear depiction of how Drakon and Iceni's moral cores are fighting through lifetimes of conditioning to try to figure out how to find security for themselves and others. Very much a series entry, however.
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This is a fictional entry in Castle/Krentz' long running Harmony series, the third in the Rainshow series within the Harmony series, and Harmony itself is part of the Arcane books. So, basically, don't start here.

What it has going for it: dust bunnies in Halloween costume, collecting hoards of candy and then sharing them with more dust bunnies.

What is unfortunately somewhat weak: the romance between and the characters of Cyrus Jones and Sedona Snow are not strong. And the many generations on connections between the Jones clan and the descendants of Arizona Snow are not enough to make it interesting.

On the other hand, I _did_ read this on vacation while I was so tired I couldn't sleep immediately (never a good thing!), so it's possible I would have had more positive feelings about it if I weren't quite so tired. If you're looking for a Castle/Krentz' novel set in the San Juans, you'd probably be better off with one of her earlier efforts, but if you really want the Harmony version of the San Juans with forays into the green (and this time, blue!) caverns left by the Aliens', well, enjoy!
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The Kris Longknife series is getting kind of leggy; it has moved into oooo super scary big bad guys out on the edge of the known universe and we must unite with our multi-generational enemies to have a hope of surviving territory. So just as Hemry/Campbell's Black Jack Geary series has a series of novels written from the point of view of some ex-Syndics, now the Longknife series has a series? written from the perspective of a Peterwald from Greenfield.

If you cannot figure any of this out, you definitely shouldn't start with this entry.

Vicky is like a slutty Kris, altho unlike Kris, she completely misplaces her entourage in book 1. Which is weird -- I kept waiting for them to reappear but maybe they never will. Hope they are okay. Longknifes and Peterwalds alike are subject to repeat assassination attempts. In Vicky's case, it is a lot more about family and a lot less about galaxy-level rivals. Step-mom, or step-mom's family really just will not stop. It would be funny -- I think it is intended to be funny -- but there is so much collateral damage that it is mostly just disturbing.

I had mixed feelings about Vicky's sluttiness. On the one hand, I whole-heartedly approve of sexuality being detailed in novels, preferably in the service of relationship development, and I have no warm, fuzzy feelings for monogamy. On the other hand, I am not a fan of The Player, and I _am_ committed to the idea of consent. Consent is compromised in a _lot_ of the sex in this book. If you have any rape triggers, you might want to stay away. It is mostly empowering, from Vicky's perspective (and I did HEY SPOILERS RUN THE FUCK AWAY ALREADY DON'T YOU REALIZE WHOSE BLOG YOU ARE READING?), especially the central event where her cute dead gets mowed down and she has to slaughter her would-be rapist/torturer/murderers and then ride the bus around town until she can find some Navy people to help her escape. And to Shepherd's credit, Vicky primarily uses sex as a basic need, an enjoyable activity and a stress reliever/way to get to sleep. If you're not going to use it to develop relationships, this is definitely a second best in character development.

The politics of the Peterwald empire don't make much sense. That palace didn't sound that expensive, compared to the number of planets they are collecting taxes from. The tax collection system sounds pseudo-ancient-Roman, sort of pre-Soviet era Tsarist Russia. And the dinners at the palace and the clothing sound straightforwardly ancien regime. Kudos for picking some classy historical sources, but it's a bummer they aren't integrated better into a total picture of culture of the Peterwald worlds.

As with Hemry/Campbell, Shepherd uses a lot of idiomatic language that is difficult to believe would still be around in a far flung space faring future. On the one hand, it is usually in the service of the story. On the other, it is jarring.

If this is the kind of thing you like, you're probably already reading the Longknife series. I don't think this would make much sense as a standalone, but it might be fun anyway, if you like an appealing anti-heroine.
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Spoilers AND this is crazy deep into a multiple arc series. So I honestly cannot imagine why anyone would read this review. If you're already reading the series, why would you spoil it for yourself? And if you aren't reading this series, it's not going to make a bit of sense.

As for why I am posting it, well, I frequently need a little reminder about things I read to get the rest of the memory back and these reviews help with that.

Black Jack and his companions are about to leave Earth. Tanya and Jack are finally going to get a little Alone Time when they learn that (a) they are about to be attacked and (b) two of their compatriots have been kidnapped. Oh noes. Their shuttle is further targeted on their hasty return, but they get through that okay, only to follow the kidnappers to quarantined Europe. They successfully use extreme measures to extricate their missing companions without contracting or spreading The Plague (or letting anyone else do same) and are then relieved to return home.

At home, they learn that Jane Geary was sent off on a mission, leaving Badaya in charge. Fortunately, Jack's efforts to convince Badaya To Behave were successful. Jane's okay, but Rione's husband is missing. Jack is sent off to deal with a refugee situation that turns out to be somewhat complex, but which is resolved successfully, all the while illuminating all the funding cuts and budget cuts that have occurred since the war is over. Upon returning home, the Dancers are in an Almighty Hurry to go somewhere else, so Jack and Tanya hastily follow with a few small ships. The Dancers are seen off at Midway, which is suffering from some unrest, but the Dancers emphasize the need to return home quickly, so they return to Indras which is mysteriously under attack. After detecting and resolving the official software changes that made these attackers invisible (not an enigma worm this time!), they follow the attackers to Atalia, where the "invisible" attackers are behaving in completely incomprehensible ways until Jack engages them, at which point they start working plays straight out of his playbook. Tanya saves the day (yay!).

The moral, as always, is really heavy handed: dude, don't build a big weapon/fleet and put an AI in charge. The cliffhanger has everyone chasing off to the jump for home. The assumption the team is working on is that the indiscriminate attacks are the result of malfunctions; I have more sinister suspicions.

Looking forward to more of the books from the Midway perspective, altho of course I love Jack and Tanya.
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I was really excited to see this mid-80s sf series become available on the kindle. I was somewhat less happy about the quality of the transfer (lots of "Royt" where "Floyt" was meant, especially in the first couple books), but am still happy to have them and optimistic that over time, the OCR errors will be fixed.

Sadly, the author is dead.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Daley

I have not reread the Han Solo series (altho I'm thinking about it) and I'm unconvinced I ever read the Coramonde books. Oddly, as I was about to write this book, I thought to myself, self, you used to post on Usenet under another name. Did you ever post anything about Brian Daley? Yes! Weirdly, I responded helpfully to a Where Is He Now query in 1994 -- with information I have long since forgotten.

https://groups.google.com/d/msg/rec.arts.sf.written/1lk-mochiRk/tCCrET9RglwJ

Ah, back in the days when I had a sig file with randomly selected clever things, or, in this case, actually not that clever ("It's this or sheep"). I haven't read any of the Jack McKinney, either. I don't think, anyway.

So what has happened to me in the 20 ensuing years (well, almost 20 -- short by two months)? I got divorced, got a new job, got another new job, retired, etc. And along the way, I kind of quit reading for a while, in favor of hiking and travel and writing, and then I got married and had kids and read a lot of trashy romance and paranormal and, starting sort of last year shortly before ReaderCon, have lately been attempting to rekindle my love of sf. It's not going well.

But this -- wow, I still love this. I have some problems with it (why is everyone so young? Even the old guys aren't that old. Oh, wait ...), and the whole Strange Attractor thing, which made little enough sense at the time, makes even less now. I have to wonder, tho, if the reason I was so excited to see this pop up on the kindle is Hobart Floyt's genealogical obsession, which honestly, if you'd asked me to list genre fiction with genealogy in it, I would never have come up with (probably would have come up with Isaac Asimov's Foundation series before this one).

OH, BY THE WAY SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS RUN FAR AND FAST OR LANGSTRETCH WILL GET YOU!!!!!

Alacrity Fitzhugh arrives on difficult to visit Earth and is mugged and accused of a crime he did not commit. Hobart Floyt is assaulted, and then told he has inherited something and must travel offworld to go retrieve it for the benefit of Earthservice.

Here is one of my problems: far-future Earth has become a backwater, and some sort of tyrannical bureaucracy brainwashes everyone on Earth to fear leaving and makes it incredibly difficult/dangerous for offworlders -- descendants of people from Earth -- to visit. It's kind of a boring cliche of the 1990s. Not sure why -- might have had something to do with the Cold War, because many of these books are about that tyranny being toppled and free exchange/trade resuming.

Fitzhugh is brainwashed to like Floyt and help him. Floyt is brainwashed to want to go get his inheritance. They depart and almost immediately start breaking rules and deviating from their itinerary.

Daley has a descriptive tic that works fantastically well for world-building. His descriptions -- nouns and adjectives -- use made-up words with no explanation. Names of jewels, decorative (fashion, architecture, etc.) styles, kinds of food, drink and drug just dropped out there with very minimal explanation. It's a Thing that mostly works, but it is definitely a Thing.

Obvs, there needs to be Plot, so they are being followed and attacked by people who want to make sure they never reach their destination.

Book 1: _Requiem for a Ruler of Worlds_ is getting to the destination, learning about the Inheritance and interacting with a Precursor artifact. They acquire allies and enemies, and Fitzhugh finds his True Love. We get to know both characters, they gain skills, they develop a bond and fight to modify their conditioning.

Book 2: _Jinx on a Terran Inheritance_ is getting to the Inheritance, with a detour into torture, slavery and genealogical research. (Love love love the bit where the squidlike creature is magnetized. That is hysterical.) There is a Conspiracy to explain what is going on galaxy-wide/on Earth, detailed proof of which is part of the Inheritance and which they then deliver to Earth, toppling the current ruling clique and generally opening things up. Fitzhugh is relieved of his conditioning along the way but discovers he liked Floyt and really likes actually having a friend, and they continue their partnership; I forget at which point Floyt is relieved of his conditioning -- it happens a little later but with roughly the same effect. Super weird that they find a bunch of art and artifacts supposedly a couple hundred years ago on Earth during the Srillan war. And they it probably gets destroyed for real. *sigh* Also, very cliched for 80s/90s sf.

Book 3: _Fall of the White Ship Avatar_ is leaving Earth a second time. This time around, Floyt's relationship with his wife is definitively over, freeing him up to Have a Good Time and Meet Someone New. They are even less well-prepared and funded this go-round, and the target of an even more vicious attack. Amusingly, they overcome their opponent by using his "knowledge" of them gained from reading pulp fiction about their special wtf, then they steal his spaceship. They drop in on a Wild West Show run by an imposter, are kidnapped by the person they were in search of, encounter another massive Precursor artifact (wow, genealogy), are saved once again by Floyt's Inheritor belt (this happens a lot) and then have to walk back out of a desert. There's a whole Antking like bit that's creepy as fuck -- but then, killer insects that swarm was another one of those 1980s/90s things. This time, largely because of total time spent together and the lack of sex, the woman prefers Floyt to Fitzhugh; go team Middle Age! Woot! Anyway, off to Spica for drinks with a 50 foot woman (not really, but kinda) and the expected showdown with the guy who has been tailing them since the beginning of the book, then off to the board meeting, which they win, but Fitzhugh loses.

Dincrist dies. But wow, it took a while.

The trilogy ends, appropriately, with the Dynamic Duo headed off in search of ... it's not totally clear. Floyt wants to track down Paloma. After that, basically, they're just looking for trouble (= Precursors) which is sort of the ideal non-ending for a trilogy which is simultaneously spoofing and updating pulp fiction of many eras, a pastiche, an homage, even a tribute to plot driven Fun Times.

Daley is not lazy with the worldbuilding -- quite the contrary. He does a good job of it and he doesn't bore the reader, either. One of the reasons I wanted to reread this series was the proteus (I misrecalled these as aureus), a small portable data storage and accessor and posssibly communications unit that current technology still can't replicate (in particular, Alacrity's version has a projector that is Super Cool). I wanted to calibrate my recollection of how amazingly awesome this thing was vs current tech and it is definitely awesome. However, it's not at all clear that Daley had any idea of a radio network to support data communication.

He is perfunctory with relationships. This is endemic in sf, and a large component of why I switched genres some time ago. His depiction of women in general feels very off, now, altho certainly not as offensive as some sf of the time.

Plot is _everything_. OMG. It is just one fucking puzzle, disaster, attack, run, recover and plan the next stupid idea, lather, rinse, repeat. Give it a rest. See comment about relationships in the previous chapter.

The conception of governance and how to dismantle corruption is particularly silly. Create a big scandal. Then a Miracle Occurs. Really?

And the What Rich and Powerful People Do is also kind of silly, altho the head of the church of the irreducible I thing was kind of funny in a sick sort of way.

I can see myself rereading this series again, altho not soon. I am really happy, once again, that e-books mean that wonderful stories like these can remain available to a wide audience; the economics of paper books made it hard for this kind of fiction to find its audience in space, never mind time.
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I think there's another novella out in the series that I missed reading (Bloodhound -- I've read the other two that I know about). And if you want to know which number this is in the series, the wikipedia entry says it is #11. The usual rules apply: don't start here.

Oh, and SPOILERS! Seriously.

There were moments in this book -- lots of them -- where I sincerely felt like I was reading someone attempt to write an E.E. "Doc" Smith novel. And there were other moments where I felt like I was reading a Jack Campbell novel (fewer of those, and mostly just because there are references to Jack Campbell/Dauntless -- but not Black Jack, so they really do seem to be just in-jokes). It felt less like a Kris Longknife novel than any of the others, which is not actually that bad of a thing.

I am not _certain_ I have ever been this disappointed by sex scenes before. I've certainly been _way_ more pissed off by sex scenes (that were badly written, unrealistic, horribly sexist, irresponsible, wtf), but I didn't have any specific issues with these scenes (well, beyond the usual: hey, implantables, because there are no STDs, just the risk of pregnancy -- guys, seriously, your golden age of post-pill pre-AIDS is not coming back. Ever. Also, only a 96% efficacy rate? Wow. I would _hope_ we could do better than that so far into the future. Oh, wait. We already do.). But these were just very _meh_. I mean, if you are going to involve computers you can talk to in your head, I'd be using them for more than keeping time on the massage length. Seriously.

Reinforcements arrive, twice, at Alwa. Kris uses them to accomplish worthy goals. She brings the tech level of the human colony up. She establishes system defenses. And she retrieves Phil Taussig's remaining crew and what's left of his ship. At the end of the book, a mother ship shows up and Kris destroys it with Hellburners. While this is happening, watcher ships that are recognizably from other, let's call them swarms, are hanging out at the jump to watch what happens, so we can expect future battles, maybe a _really big one_ if multiple mother ships team up to pick on Kris all at the same time.

Great-grandma Rita sends Kris and Jack off to get to know each other a lot better, then sets up a wedding. Again, incredibly annoying to have these highly limited traditions exported to such a distant time and place, but you know, whatever. Right down to who is getting married next.

Kudos to Shepherd for bothering to actually _develop_ the relationship between Kris and Jack and not just have it be mostly un-acted upon sexual tension. And it's both rare and pretty awesome to have mil sf tackle the nonsensical nature of no-sex-on-the-boat rules.

I'll keep reading.
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In the past, I have really enjoyed Tamora Pierce's books. But I didn't much care for this one. And I wonder how much I would enjoy the others if I went back to them.

In this particular outing, Rosethorn (still suffering health effects from events in earlier books), Briar and his student Evvy hang out in the Himalayas, er, Gyongxe. Then they go to China, er, Yanjing. They visit the Emperor, and he is Mean. Actually, he's cat-petting Super Villain Evil.

Oh, by the way, I believe in spoilers. Go away now! Run in fear! Aaaaahhhhh!

There's a bit about killing all the gardeners in the middle of the night by burning them in the garden; one of the characters, wakes after dreaming parts of it and then realizes it's really happening, altho not to them personally. There are at least three crucial sequences in the book like this: truly horrific episodes of torture/murder occur while the characters dissociate, or dream part of it and then awake for more and worse, or whatever. The other two are when Evvy is being tortured to what the torturers believe to be her death (but she has dissociated), and when Briar goes to sleep and wakes up after three days to discover Weishu has conquered the city. Sort of.

These transitions -- especially Briar's three day blackout -- are confusing and jarring. On top of that, Rosethorn's Pope, er, First Dedicate Dokyi, insists she's the only person who can undertake a perilous journey to a secret mountain temple hideaway wtf to secrete the elemental Treasures of their faith. She does, but because she's had contact with such Heavy Duty Magic, she starts seeing all kinds of stuff -- as does Briar who touches her pack and gets tossed a ways by the power in it, and the Gyongxe God-King, presumably because he's part God. So throughout the book, these three characters can see paintings on walls move around and moon them and so forth. Also, super cheap having the paintings that they can see move but other people can't see move get "caught" by other people looking obviously different than before. "And then I woke up, but I could smell the scent of roses and wondered if it had all really been just a dream."

Between the blackouts/dissociative episodes, seeing stuff that no one else can see, magical powers (and not magical powers like anyone else, they are special, ambient magical powers) and the cartoonishly evil Weishu, this book is such a catalog of psychotic breaks, hallucination, delusions, etc., that the necessary suspension of belief necessary for me to engage with a fantasy novel became completely impossible for me to achieve.

Evvy has had a pretty amazingly awful life already, depicted in earlier books, and there's just something so over the top about the torture sequence, how she gets away from the pile of corpses she wakes up on, finding the dead cats, being welcomed into the magical mountain, and then the depiction of her friends mourning her death, followed up by her PTSD and her friends continued demands on her to save them. I mean, I _get_ that this is YA and all, but I feel like I am Too Old to be reading this stuff. I just can't take it any more.

By the end of the book, they are relieved at the prospect of returning to comparatively ordinary and well-administered Emelan. Upon their departure, they are informed that while they will continue to dream about the events that transpired in Gyongxe, they won't be able to consciously recall what happened to them there -- that's sort of a protective veil that happens to everyone who goes there. But again, kind of a cheap feeling to it all. "And then I woke up and everything was normal again, but I kept having nightmares."

Maybe this wouldn't bother me so much if I hadn't just been reminded of the horrifying rapes in the Bolivian Mennonite colony that took so freaking long to figure out were happening and then prosecute (and which may not have even stopped). As it is, I just don't think this is the kind of thing I can have fun reading any more. *sigh*
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Mil SF series by an author also known as John G. Hemry. This is set in the "Black Jack" universe, and Geary makes an appearance here; much of the book overlaps with earlier books by Campbell, however, this is told from the perspectives of President Iceni and Artur Drakon of Midway, Rogero and Bradamont (and some ancillary characters as well).

The threats to Midway at the beginning of the book are internal and external: Syndic CEO Boyens' has a fleet hanging out at the hypernet gate. Iceni and Drakon are trying to figure out how to protect their star system, and also to avoid dying at the hands of unknown internal threats. The assumption through most of the book is that the various attempts on the lives and goals of Iceni and Drakon are sponsored by the Syndicate Worlds and/or their Internal Security Forces, the "Snakes". But the character of the attacks suggests otherwise, and eventually, the default assumption is finally questioned by the targets opening their eyes to alternative possibilities.

In choosing to describe a multi-generational war, Campbell took on a task in which it was almost inevitable that everyone would wind up Behaving Very Badly. The initial series, "The Lost Fleet" depicts a Man Out of Time from the beginning of the war, dropped in for a heroic last stand, and then having to deal with the aftermath of a recognizably democratic system that has been perverted in its century plus of warfare. "The Lost Stars" tells the story of the other side: a dictatorial system built upon layers of betrayal and corruption and backstabbing, violent from the top to the bottom. You would think this would be an ugly, horrifying story, but in a lot of ways, it is even more appealing than the first series. It is the story of people who, having identified the worst of the abusers, feel their way, step by step, to a better way of doing things, always at risk of sliding into chaos, and whose programming from birth is to assume the worst in every situation. Needless to say, everyone in the book has done awful things (sometimes to each other); believably describing how people in this situation can find a way to work together cannot have been easy.

I have a weakness for mil sf in which women and men equally hold positions in all areas and at all levels. There are some quirks in Campbell's writing that I don't find particularly believable (if everyone has already forgotten the horse in the "free rein" metaphor, no one is going to be making farm animal analogies in space. Seriously. Altho he does play it for laughs, on occasion: "Get out of Dod".). But I enjoy Campbell's willingness to write complex characters who struggle to negotiate and compromise, yet set limits effectively.
walkitout: (A Purple Straw Hat)
Both the kids had regular (summer session) school days, R. was still on his sabbatical and we had after-school care lined up for both of them as well. Honestly, if I hadn't left the house to go do something all day, that would have constituted proof that I wasn't a homebody because I was needed there at certain intervals, but because I had agoraphobia or something similar.

Which I really do not.

Anyway. I dropped A. off, stopped briefly at the bank and then headed over to the Burlington Marriott. I had hoped to go the night before, as the kids had been jetlagged enough to be out cold around 8 p.m. (thus allowing me a shot at the 9 pm sessions and possibly the last half of the 8 p.m. sessions). Alas, T. recovered and didn't want to go to sleep until 9. I missed the Readercon book group for _American Elsewhere_, and yet I read the book, easily the worst possible combination.

Anyway. I got to the hotel well in advance of registration opening at 10 a.m., so I got a cup of coffee and then tried to connect to hotel internet, which I did not have a passcode for, and for whatever reason my iPad wasn't able to access cellular data well within the hotel. So back into the backpack with that. The phone's data was working fine (this makes no sense; they share a plan), which was helpful for note taking and googling. I got in line, a different line than pre-registration; it took about the same amount of time to get through each (I had a friend, H. in pre-reg). I didn't pre-register, because at the time I was by no means certain I'd have everything lined up to really attend even one day.

After a nice chat with H. on a bench on a side corridor, we headed off to our first panel, which turned out to be inspired by a Guardian article from a couple years back.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2011/oct/17/science-fiction-china-mieville

It was not apparent to H. or I from the panel description that that was the case, so we were at a bit of a loss as to what they were talking about. It _was_ entertaining to finally see James Morrow and John Clute were like in person, since I've been dimly aware of them (I don't read Morrow, and of course Clute is sort of unavoidable in his editor/essayist incarnation). It's so hard to predict which people are going to be radically different in person than in writing that it's always risky to predict, but they matched my imagination very, very well.

Our second panel was Gods and Goddesses, partly because H. had an online acquaintanceship with at least one of the panel members. Pretty awesome to see Patricia McKillip. I've never been a fan, but she's been in the background of my reading life, and so many of my friends have loved her work forever and ever it was a real pleasure to be in a room with her. The panel as a whole was a bit meh for me. The themes are certainly familiar ones, and I've read books that covered a lot of what they were talking about -- but my favorites weren't ever mentioned even in passing (Tamora Pierce, obvs, but also Crusie's _Dogs and Goddesses_, Michele Sagara's Elantra series, etc.), which is very okay, of course, but at several points generalizations were made that those books do such a nice job of violating that, well, meh. Nice shout out to PC Hodgell's _Godstalk_ and sequels, which J. would surely have appreciated.

I probably would have gone to the 1 p.m. Predicting the Future and been incredibly annoyed by it, but H. and I had the presence of mind to instead go down to the hotel restaurant and eat. I also had an Ommegang Hennepin, which my Dutch instructor recommended. It was indeed tasty.

At 2 p.m. we went to the Disability panel, which was really interesting. Aging and adult-onset disability (subsequent to military service) were touched upon, along with disability from birth/a young age. The interaction of disability and reproduction was not ever mentioned, a bit of a bummer, but you know, 50 minutes is pretty short when you get right down to it. Nice people, well moderated. Very enjoyable.

At 3 p.m., Characters who break the binary only barely mentioned polyamory, but did get into transitioning in spec-fic (_Cycler_? Got highly mixed commentary, as in, more negative than positive. I haven't read it). Steve Berman was really a ton of fun to listen to, and it's probably safe to say I now have a massive crush on Alaya Dawn Johnson. A lot of the discussion was devoted to how to do research and one of the panelists (possible JoSelle Vanderhooft?) talked about different perspectives based on birth cohort, and how that would likely change the kinds of stories available to publish in the future.

At 4 p.m., my last panel (because I could tell my brain would explode if I tried to stick it out much longer) was Race as a Social Construct. The best for last! And I'm so excited that Andrea Hairston will be a Guest of Honor next year! The discussion moved quickly. No one stepped on each other through interruptions or picky argumentation. They built on each other's ideas and descriptions. They used a combination of their own work and the work of others to illustrate their points. It was so polished and compact and informative, complete with specific things to do and not to do when writing -- Daniel Jose Older's advice to work out the power relationships in the world you are building, _explicitly_ think them through, rather than allow them to seep in from elsewhere, is _so_ good.

I had a great time. The venue was welcoming and functional (that is, enough bathrooms and they were kept clean, there were a couple of options for food -- cheap/quick and sit down and eat, coffee was readily available, water was _always_ available). The rooms were big enough for the people in attendance, at least on Friday. The start 5 after the hour, end 5 before the hour and don't take audience input until the last 10-15 minutes was consistently adhered to. Audio systems worked well. The people running the con were clearly trying throughout to learn from anything that wasn't working perfectly well and there were double-checks built in everywhere (like making sure the guy had the sign for the 5 minute and stop warnings and was seated where the panelists would see him).

If you used to go to cons mostly for the programming, and quit because cosplay and so forth kinda got you down, Readercon is like a Dream Come True. Well, other than the difficult decisions associated with which panel to attend in any given hour long block. I'll be there next year, for at least one day and hopefully more.
walkitout: (Default)
Oh, SPOILERS! Seriously. Go away if you don't like spoilers.

It turns out that I don't really care if something is incredibly predictable and displays an overly simplistic view of politics, as long as I like the participants and think they are basically good human beings. Jack returns home with two living (but heavily sedated) Kicks, their enormous ship (which seems to be haunted), a bunch of Dancers and their ships. There's a detour through a bunch of traps that almost snaps shut on them, but Jack decides to hand all the intelligence briefings over to a green-haired engineer with superior pattern matching skills and she saves the day by figuring out the Really Bad Thing just in time.

They get home, and by this point, Alliance politicians are not longer actually that scary, but starting to seem like unusually argumentative paper dolls. The Dancers want to go to Kansas, so Geary, Desjani, assorted others on the Dauntless, go Home, where they encounter a Very Silly Occupying Force. (Fins!)

It is not actually a spoiler, if you have any brains at all, to tell you that the two Kicks die. I mean, duh. The image Dr. Nasr paints for Jack is very, very cartoonish. I sort of liked that he brought coffee to that meeting -- it's the kind of thing that would stereotypically involve alcohol.

It's comic-book fun, if you like that kind of thing, and apparently I do, at least when the right author is producing it.

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