The Goblin Emperor - Kate Addison (Tor Books)
Maia is the despised halfbreed son of the emperor Varenechibel IV, exiled to an outlying estate under the sadistic rule of his abusive cousin. When the entire royal family is killed in a dirigible 'accident', Maia unexpectedly becomes emperor. He is babe in the woods, thrust into the maelstrom of court intrigue, where he has to pick up the threads and master his new environment, lest he succumb to coups, assasination or banishment.
It is a story about learning adapting and growing. A story of hope. Some say that this is not 'doing' anything, and have critized the quiet and reflective tone as lacking in action. They miss the point entirely. There are any number of tales which glory in externalised conflict. A well written story, with a clearly 'good' hero whose struggle is internal, and with the self is a breath of fresh air.
The Three Body Problem - Cixin Liu (Tor Books)
Three Body Problem was added to the Hugo 'Best Novel' Ballot after Martin Kloos declined his nomination. It begins with a powerfully written prelude from the Cultural Revolution, where Ye Wenjie is introduced. We learn that she has reasons to despise the human race. Then she receives a mysterious warning from the stars, which gives her the opportunity to provoke a moral awakening of mankind. The bulk of the novel is from the viewpoint of passive 'good man' Wang Miao as he investigates a mysterious series of murders of prominent scientists. Wang Miao's best scenes are drawn during the VR game 'Three Body', which models the travails of a civilization beset by unpredictable and severe climatic variations. And turns out to be real. The final third of the story reveals a major plot twist, and a substantial infodump of physics neepery. There is enough here to raise the novel above the run of the mill, and although flawed, it is a worthy contender.
Ancillary Sword - Anne Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
I enjoyed 'Ancillary Justice', but found the sequel less satisfying overall. With the mystery of Breq's identity and history revealed, the story marks time as the next move in Emperor Mianaai's warring and shattered hive mind is awaited. On an isolated system of Athoek, strategically important because of its location close to a number of wormhole gates, Breq is is now allied with a part of Mianaai, and must now navigate the byzantine politics of Athoek's station. The tone of the storytelling is close focused, terse and intense, and drives the narrative forward, keeping the pages steadily turning. As the middle chapter of the trilogy, it leaves many questions to be answered. I am eager to find out what hides behind the Gates, and just what the Presger are up to.
Skin Game - Jim Butcher (Orbit UK/Roc Books)
Harry Dresden is in thrall to Mab, the queen of the faeries, and must collaborate with one of his worst enemies to secure a bauble from the vault of Hades himself.
A team is assembled, violence and mayhem ensue in pursuit of the heist. The plot twist which saves our hero is perhaps abit too convenient.
It is difficult to justify awarding the Hugo for best novel to the 15th book in a long running series. That said, I enjoyed reading the story, and did not feel that not being across the backstory was a great disadvantage.
The Dark Between the Stars - Kevin J Anderson (Tor Books)
It took me a week or so to wade through this monster. It is an easy and undemanding read, with plenty of action, and pretty much no surprises. The major plot points are telegraphed way in advance. It is a return to Anderson's 'Seven Suns' Universe, where following the resolution of the travails of that septology, a new menace from the Ildiran race's nightmares makes a return.
I'd recommend it for reading on a long flight or train journey, where page-turnability is more important than characters you can care about. Maybe KJH is the Dan Brown of SF.
- The Goblin Emperor
- Three Body Problem
- Ancillary Sword
- Skin Game
- The dark Between the Stars