April 30, 2013

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, April 2013

Attention conservation notice: I have no taste.

Seanan McGuire, Midnight Blue-Light Special
Mind candy, continuing the story from Discount Armageddon.
"Paula Brandon", The Traitor's Daughter, The Ruined City, The Wanderers
Mind candy; but mind candy worthy of comment.
"Brandon" is, if I can trust Wikipedia, a pseudonym of Paula Volsky. To indulge in a bit of self-plagiarism, Volsky is herself the poor person's Jack Vance: she has a similar talent for creating self-referential social worlds which are very compelling to their inhabitants yet provide endless possibilities for irony to the reader, and for placing grandiloquent rhetoric in subtly inappropriate mouths, without ever quite reaching the same pitch of accomplishment as Vance. Since Vance is, by common consent, one of the greatest stylists in science fiction and fantasy, I do not regard this as damning with faint praise at all; to be almost as good a Vancean as Vance is really remarkable. Volsky's novels have given me with a great deal of unalloyed pleasure, but no more appeared after her (very good) The Grand Ellipse in 2000.
The Traitor's Daughter is a return to form, with a complex multi-stranded plot set in a well-realized fantasy world, whose social intricacies and harsh realities are of primary concern to the viewpoint characters, even as something much vaster — a novel sort of zombie apocalypse rooted simultaneously in Lovecraft and Childhood's End — unfolds around them. The major protagonist, Aureste Belandor, is, in his combination of determination to not just come first but to dominate, scheming manipulation of everyone around him, and sheer grasping self-centeredness, one of the most vivid characters Volsky has ever created. (He ranks with Vance's Cugel the Clever, though the comparison would pain Aureste.) His affection for, and anguish over, his kidnapped daughter Jianna is portrayed quite convincingly --- and it comes across as being driven by his seeing her as a possession, or, perhaps more charitably, as an extension of himself. But while Aureste is unquestionably the most vivid character here, they are all compelling. I recommend this series very strongly, if this makes it sound at all interesting.
(Inexplicably, or only too explicably, the blurbs for the books makes it sound like they focus on Jianna's romance sub-plot, which, while well done in its way, isn't even the focus of Jianna's part of the story.)

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur Scientifiction and Fantastica

Posted at April 30, 2013 23:59 | permanent link

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