It’s been a while since I reported. I didn’t manage to make the time for reading over the weekend that I had planned, and a earlier in the week various other projects ate into my reading time.
- I finally finished A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson’s wonderful layman’s overview of the current state of scientific knowledge. The structure of the book starts with an overview of what we know about the universe at large, then focuses on the history of the planet, and finally on the evolution of life on the planet, going from the widest possible perspective down to the very narrowest. Definitely worth a read if you’re at all interested in science or the history of science, and especially if you are not in fact a scientist yourself — Bryson’s prose style is conversational and very accessible.
- Winterfair Gifts by Lois McMaster Bujold
This is actually one of six stories in a collection called Irresistible Forces, which is some sort of SF/Romance crossover. I’m a huge fan of Bujold, so I had to get this as soon as possible — it was the first thing I picked up in the Boskone dealers room.
This story is part of the Miles Vorkosigan universe and covers the period of his marriage to Ekaterin, but the story actually focuses on two minor characters, Armsman Roic, last seen slipping and sliding through gallons of bugbutter in his underwear in A Civil Campaign and Sergeant Taura, the genetically engineered soldier that Miles rescued from Jackson’s Whole in Labyrinth
It was obvious early in the story where it was going, but it was an awful lot of fun watching it unfold. As kitanzi pointed out, it’s like really good fanfic, except in this case it’s actually written by the author herself.
Recommended if you like Bujold’s Vorkosigan series. For those who like LMB’s writing but cannot stand Miles, I’ll note that he’s almost a minor character in this, the story of his own wedding.
- Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
I’m a huge fan of Terry Pratchett, and at one time had all of his books up to the point where I didn’t anymore. I’ve been recollecting them ever since. So you can imagine my delight when I got a box back in October containing the UK hardback edition of his newest novel, Monstrous Regiment, a joint anniversary gift for me and kitanzi from bardling, filkerdave, and djbp. I promptly set it aside to be read and didn’t get around to it for 5 months (In my defense, I didn’t read much else in those five months either.)
My loss. Monstrous Regiment is another fine addition to the Discworld canon. Pratchett is one of the few authors I can think of who is 25+ books into a series and keeps getting better. One of the reasons for this, I think, is that he stopped writing broad parody and started writing fairly direct and biting satire. Pratchett is clearly unhappy with a lot of things going on in the world lately, and is using his books to express that.
This book uses the age-old framework of “girl disguises herself as a boy in order to join the army” plot to send up both gender identification issues and the nature of modern war. The main character, Polly, is quite likeable, and is surrounded by the usual motley crew of irregulars.
There’s maybe one too many twists at the end, but as a flaw, it’s a small one. While this isn’t probably the best ever Discworld book, it’s certainly one of the better ones.