Jonathan Barnes: The Somnambulist

Barnes’ first novel is promising, if less than entirely satisfying, and certainly not lacking in ambition nor scope. It’s set in a fantastic London peopled by flamboyant, unlikely charactersat the close of the 19th century. Several folk are Not As They At First Seem, including the narrator, who does, it should be noted, remark inContinue reading “Jonathan Barnes: The Somnambulist”

Charles Stross: Missile Gap

Good golly, I love libraries. I was delighted to have a chance to read Stross’s Missile Gap, a novella published in a small print run without coughing up its hefty price tag. I enjoyed Missle Gap, but truth to tell, if I’d paid the asking price, I would have been kinda bummed. Missile Gap sharesContinue reading “Charles Stross: Missile Gap”

Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

There is so much that’s good, even excellent, about this novel that I feel a little churlish for stating that the primary impression it left me with was one of disappointment, but that is the case, and the disappointment doesn’t arise solely as a consequence of the many accolades and awards heaped on it (althoughContinue reading “Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell”

Neal Stephenson: Cryptonomicon

Cryptonomicon has several attributes that will be familiar to readers of other Stephenson novels like Snow Crash and The Diamond Age. There’s the crazy see-saw between action that’s basically naturalistic and surreal, exaggerated sequences. If Cryptonomicon were a movie, I feel like most of it would be live action, but many of the scenes featuringContinue reading “Neal Stephenson: Cryptonomicon”

Lindsey Davis: The Iron Hand of Mars

Don’t worry, I’m not going to write about every single volume of Davis’ Marcus Didius Falco series. But this one is interesting because it both is and isn’t a major departure from the preceding 3 novels. The basic ingredients are the same: historical fiction, hardboiled whodunnit, comedy of manners, political intrigue, and romance. But theContinue reading “Lindsey Davis: The Iron Hand of Mars”

Lindsey Davis; Venus in Copper

With this, the third novel in Davis’ series of mysteries set in the Roman empire and featuring professional “informer” Marcus Didius Falco, I became an unabashed fan. A library request for the next volume was delayed by the long holiday weekend, and as my impatience grew, I cleaned Kate’s Mystery Books out of their entireContinue reading “Lindsey Davis; Venus in Copper”

Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers (eds); Slipstreams

Pretty much ever since the genres science fiction, fantasy, and horror have existed as distinct marketing categories, there have been periodic movements seeking to un-define them as such. In the 60’s there was “The New Wave.” In the 80’s some bruited about the awkward, demi-hemispherist phrase “North American magical realism.” And more recently, an unrulyContinue reading “Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers (eds); Slipstreams”

John MacLachlan Gray: The Fiend In Human

I think the first time my friend Marty and I had a conversation about books, he said something like “I read classic literature [which gave us substantial common ground] and thrillers about serial killers.” [which didn’t much increase it] and he expressed a distinct lack of fondness for modern “serious” fiction. We’ve spent plenty ofContinue reading “John MacLachlan Gray: The Fiend In Human”

Lindsey Davis; Silver Pigs

Silver Pigs is a hard-boiled historical mystery set in ancient Rome, specifically, in the reign of Vespasian, just after the turbulence that followed Nero’s death. I’ve frequently enjoyed historical mysteries, but they rarely succeed for me on both levels — either the period detail is compelling and the mystery is a bit slight, or theContinue reading “Lindsey Davis; Silver Pigs”