Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Unincorporated Man

This one was another loan from Smartypants and Cookie Monstress, who were rightly convinced that I would like it. It's fun and often smart, but my feelings about it swung around dramatically: it opens strongly and does some great conceptual work, but it meanders enough to mute the bright spots at times. 

Many thanks to my friends for passing on this instance of truth being just as strange as fiction. Mike Merrill, an adventurous entrepreneur, decided to sell shares in himself and let his shareholders vote on everything from his sleep schedule to his dating life. The consequences for his personal life were about what you'd expect, but the ways that people voted, arranged their priorities, and manipulated share prices bore an uncomfortable resemblance to this book's speculations.

Rating: 3 stars
Length: Extensive (490 pages in trade paperback)
Publication: April 27, 2010 from Tor Books
Premise: Three centuries in the future, humanity is at peace: nanites have conquered aging, war is a thing of the past, and humanity is slowly spreading across the solar system. All of this has been made possible in part by the system of incorporation. Every child is made into a legal corporation at birth, and others can buy shares that entitle them to some measure of control and profit in that person's life. Justin Cord, a billionaire from our own time, is woken from suspended animation as the only unincorporated man in existence. His ideals of freedom don't mesh with society's hard-won happiness, and the future of humanity hangs in the balance.
Warnings: virtual reality simulation of children dying, zero-gore mass death
Recommendation: If you're at all into science fiction with a sociological bent, this might be for you. It's long and can get lost in its own tangents, true, but the payoff is likely worth it if you're willing to be patient.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Right Hand Magic

Rating: 2.5 stars
Length: Compact (289 pages)
Publication: December 7, 2010 from Roc
Premise: Tate, a welding sculptor trying to make a name for herself without her wealthy family's backing, is out of a home and finds herself moving to Golgotham, New York's murky supernatural district. Her new landlord is Hexe, a warlock trying to survive by using only the healing and mending Right Hand magic against the traditions of magic users in general and his family in particular. When they find a were-cougar in the backyard, they're both forced farther into the dangers of the supernatural underworld than they had planned.
Warnings: torture in the backstory, mild to moderate gore
Recommendation: If you have a craving for something set in New York with a twist, this isn't bad, but it tends towards the simplistic and doesn't quite pack the punch necessary to make up for that.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Way of Shadows

My dear friend Death Glitter mentioned that she was reading this a month or so ago, so I decided to pick it up after about a year of thinking that I'd get around to it later.

Rating: 3 stars
Length: Somewhat hefty (677 pages)
Publication: October 1, 2008 from Orbit Books
Premise: Azoth is just one more guild rat among the slum children until he encounters Durzo Blint, the city's foremost killer for hire. When he becomes Blint's first and only apprentice, he is told to rename himself Kylar Stern and forget all traces of his old identity. But the ties of the past are hard to escape, and Kylar finds himself drawn back to old friends and old enemies as he tries to forge himself into the perfect killer. The city hangs in a perilous balance-- Kylar must navigate his way through a web of tangled loyalties and half-truths if anyone is to survive.
Warnings: rape, attempted rape (in one instance of a child), sexual assault, murder of civilians (including children), implied cannibalism, gore, deliberate mutilation of a child, torture....if you are easily disgusted or upset, this really isn't your cup of tea. These are just the warnings that stand out most vividly in a scan through the plot.
Recommendation: If you're really interested in assassins and morally ambiguous main characters, you might enjoy this one. That said, it can get a little lost in its own darkness at the expense of a streamlined sequence of events.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Various people have been mentioning this one to me for the better part of a year now, and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it.

Rating: 4 stars
Length: Hearty but streamlined (373 pages)
Publication: October 1, 2009 from Orbit Books
Premise: Alexia Tarabotti is a spinster with no soul-- neither fact distresses her, but it can make things dreadfully inconvenient, especially when she's attacked by a rogue vampire. Lord Maccon, the local werewolf Alpha and assigned investigator, doesn't want her to involve herself in more danger...which naturally means that she's determined to learn as much as possible. She has to steer herself through a storm of threats, including everything from a mysterious wax man to her best friends truly awful bonnets.
Warnings: offscreen torture
Recommendation: Soulless excels at smashing genres together into a satisfying whole; it blends steampunk-fantasy, mystery, comedy (of manners), and romance. If romance isn't your cup of tea at all, might be best to steer clear, but it's a satisfying secondary plot that doesn't take a bit away from the puzzles in the main arc.