Whoops, 2 months since the last of these, sort of explained by the disruptions of two holidays and the need to get Graveyard Shift
ready for Pitchwars
The disruption means I haven't been doing as much reading as usual, or as planned, so there's a significant number of books on the To Be Read list as I was buying on the assumption I'd be doing more reading, not less.Books Read
The Night Watch,
Another of the Watch books, with Commander Vimes waiting for Sybil to deliver their child when he gets the call to go after Carcer, the murderer who has been weaving a bloody trail through Ankh-Morpork, a trail which includes two of Vimes's men. Inevitably it comes down to Vimes vs Carcer on the roof of Unseen University, in a thunderstorm, and when the lightning clears Vimes isn't where he started, or when.
He's still in Ankh-Morpork, but in the years before Lord Vetinari, with Homicidal Lord Winder on the throne, and days before the revolution of the Glorious Revolution of the 25th of May and the short-lived Republic of Treacle Mine Road, a revolution whose 30th anniversary Vimes has just been attending, in the cemetery at Small Gods. The Watch are about, including a very young, very green Sam Vimes, and Sam Vimes the literally elder finds himself forced into the role of his own mentor, the newly arrived Sergeant John Keel (also newly killed, by Carcer). Keel may have been brought in to help shape up the normal arm of the Watch, but Snapcase's watch also has another arm, a dirtier arm, the Cable Street Unmentionables, a not so secret police dedicated to stamping down on, and torturing, any opposition to Snapcase, which makes them the sort of organisation to take in Carcer with open arms. They are led by Captain Findthee Swing, who believes the nature of a man can be determined by measuring their skull. Vimes, he proclaims, has the head of a mass murderer.
Vimes quickly runs across a selection of his old acquaintances, all 30 years younger. Fred Colon is still a copper, but not yet an old soldier, Sam Vimes, is, as mentioned, an even younger copper, while Nobby is a ten year old Artful Dodger clone. CMoT Dibbler is just starting out in business with his pies, and Reg Shoe is a young and idealistic activist, not yet a zombie. He also runs into, and into the debt of, Rosie Palm, not yet Mrs Rosemary Palm, the power of the Seamstresses Guild, and her room-mate, Sandra, who, confusingly, is an actual seamstress. Never directly met, but often in the background, is the young Havelock Vetinari, the future Patrician, who is studying to be an assassin (and doing so well in his studies that no one else realises).
As Vimes establishes himself in the Watch, Carcer is digging his way into the Unmentionables, and Lord Winder is convinced that the city is about to erupt into revolution. He's right, Vetinari's aunt, Lady Roberta de Meserole, is putting together a coalition of nobles to replace him with Lord Snapcase (known in Vime's own time as Mad Lord Snapcase). And, moving in the background, are the History Monks, who promise Vimes they can get him home, if he'll just keep on playing Keel for a while longer.
Winder unleashes the Unmentionables and the military on the city, resulting in rioting and massacres, and Vimes is forced to take action, throwing up barricades to protect a small area around the Watchhouse. But first he takes the Watch to clear out the Cable Street station, killing Swing for what he finds there. While he's asleep Fred and the others extend the barricades to cordon off a quarter of the city, an area so large they have no means to defend it. Perceived as a potential threat because things are so calm, the military are sent in to reconnoitre and conclude two things, one that Vimes isn't a threat, and two that Vimes is clearly so competent they don't want him as a threat. Unfortunately Snapcase orders them in anyway, but Vimes handily defeats them by turning their own siege engine against them.
Then Vetinari makes his move, assassinating Winder unseen in a room full of people, and Snapcase's first order is to send the surviving Unmentionables, under Carcer, now Captain of the Palace Guard, to kill Vimes as a potential rival. Vimes and the Watch face off against Carcer and the Unmentionables, and all those fated to die by the original history do in fact die, including the surprisingly heroic death of Reg Shoe. When Vimes fights his way through to Carcer the History Monks make their move, transporting them both back to their proper time, and dropping in the body of the real John Keel to take Vimes's place.
I really did like Night Watch, it's Vimes at his most Vimesian, able to concentrate on being a copper, but I found it irritating for the way it handled the female characters. Lady Sibyl not so much, she's mostly going through a difficult birth, which the time loop provides a solution to, but Lady Roberta's, Rosie Palm's and Sandra's roles all feel strangely incomplete, we never do find out why Rosie and Sandra are so deeply invested in Lady Roberta's revolution, nor why Lady Roberta wants one. The Winter Long,
Eighth book in the Toby Daye series, this is a book about finding your place. Toby has found hers, she's just been named an official hero of the Kingdom of Mists, but that is taking her farther from the friends who formed her, Sylvester, her liege and substitute father, and especially his wife Luna. And now there's a new power in town, someone capable of reducing series-scary-monster the Luidaeg to a bleeding chew-toy, and Toby is going to have to put the pieces together, because everything says this is a figure from her past, a figure capable of taking control of half the nobles in the kingdom at will, and a figure who wants what is hers back. The problem for Toby is figuring out just which one of her friends she never really knew.
As if that wasn't bad enough, someone else from her past is back, Simon Torquil, Sylvester's twin, the man who turned Toby into a fish for 14 years and sent Sylvester's daughter Rayseline half-mad, and, confusingly, Simon seems to want to be on her side (not that Toby is about to let that happen easily). So it's gather up the allies and try to gather up information on the run, and hope that there's a loophole in the information they're getting about the powerful-enough-to-scare-the-Luidaeg newcomer.On The Go Right Now
Accessing The Future,
ed Kathryn Allan
The anthology of disability-themed SF I nearly succeeded in getting a story into. I'm most of the way through, with mixed feelings, and I need to figure those out, because I think some of them are about what I wanted from the anthology, and that doesn't seem to have been quite what the editor wanted.
Cold Magic, Spirit Walker Book 1
, Kate Elliott
This came up in conversation somewhere I was reading, intrigued me enough to look it up and I'm glad I did. This is a fantasy alternate universe in which Carthage, Qart Hadast, fought Rome to a standstill, but later fell to the Persians, but also a world in which ice rules over most of the North and trolls, clearly a form of sapient feathered dinosaur, evolved in North America, while most of Africa has fallen to an outbreak of ghouls from deep salt mines. 20 years after the defeat of a Napoleon-figure power, Europa has returned to the traditional division of power between petty princedoms and the Cold Mages, whose magic-wielding clans have the power to break princes at need and rule as despots in their own lands.
Catherine Hassi Barahal is the almost 20-year-old orphaned scion of a Carthaginian merchant clan, though actually they're more in the line of soldier-spies, taken in by her aunt and uncle and raised as near-sister to their daughter Beatrice. Cat and Bee are students at the local university in Adurnam, somewhere around our Southampton, though as it's an ice-age scenario we're probably closer to the southern edge of the Isle of White (there is a map, but Kindle's habit of opening at the first page of the text means I've only just found it). Cat's main occupation is keeping them out of the trouble Bee keeps getting them into, having been told from the moment she arrived after the death of her parents that she must protect the younger Bee (even though the difference in age is only a couple of months).
Then a mysterious Cold Mage arrives on their doorstep, arrogantly forcing his way inside, and before Cat knows quite what is happening she finds herself caught up in a bargain between her clan and the mages, a bargain that possibly predates her birth, a bargain that seems to have promised her to them if they should claim her before her majority on her twentieth birthday. With no time for anything but a reminder from her aunt that she must protect Bee, she finds herself married to the man, and dragged off across country on an unexplained journey of sabotage and flight.
I'm only half-way through this one so I'm still not sure where things are going. They are becoming clearer, but I'll leave that for when I've finished it. What this half-summary can't give is a flavour of Cat's voice, it's a first person narrative and I find her extraordinarily compelling. I'll definitely be seeking out the rest of the series.Web Comics
I've started following several new web-comics lately:
The new comic from Jeph Jacques, the author of Questionable Content, this revolves around the eponymous dungareed Alice, who is the local witch for a small, low-tech, post-apocalyptic town. It initially revolves around the (unheard of) arrival in town of two visitors from the orbital colonies, Ardent, who is blue and tailed, and mostly interested in the possibility of sex, and his sister Gavia, mostly interested in protecting Ardent/keeping Ardent out of trouble. Despite the initial comic notes there are hints this is headed in a much darker direction than QC. Having mentioned QC, I can't help noting how much Ardent and Gavia look like QC characters/protagonists Marten and Hanners, though they're fairly different characters.
Line drawn and inked,
updates once or twice weekly.
I stumbled over this one. It's a furry comic, but there are hints that the evolved animals are inhabiting a post-apocalyptic version of our world, and that the powers that be are covering this up. The protagonist is Jill, a dog who was washed up on a beach as a teen, with no memory of where she came from. 12 years later she's a scientist with a metallurgical firm, living with her adoptive brother Pete, a slacker hare, and his childhood friend Alex, a hyper and utterly irresponsible female cat. Then one night she's mugged, and zaps her attacker with some kind of electric shock.
Then there's the other protagonist, Trilby Dobler, a snarky mechanic with some kind of vision impairment, living in a military base, a base that experiments on people that its agents are sent out to snatch, and that kills them when they've outlived their usefulness. We haven't seen how the two storylines are going to intersect, but the hints are there.
Line drawn and shaded, updates weekly(?)
This one focuses on Alex Wilde, a writer who throws up his life in Chicago to move to the sticks and ends up renting a haunted house from a Miss B. Yaga, which should hint at the sort of town he's moved to. So far he's encountered a very friendly ghost, a grouchy teen who's a werewolf, less than friendly werewolves, spiders who may also be some sort of bear-spirit, and the juvenile ghostly daughter of his pregnant neighbour. Each is worked rather neatly into chapter length tales with some ongoing story development. Line drawn and inked, updates weekly.Scurry and Cover
The one I've picked up most recently, this is about Nozomi Sasaki, a 15 year old Japanese girl moving to Tokyo for school, the difference being that she's 1/4 rat (ears, tail, sidewhiskers), and is being accompanied by her 100% rat grandfather, the back story being that the Noble forms of the animals (sort of a herd for their individual species, just as the ents were tree herds) have re-initiated contact with the humans because of concerns over pollution and are gradually integrating. So you've got a slice of life tale, with hints of discrimination, and suggestions that there is more going on than we understand, a job interview has turned into surveillance, and I don't think she's learning ninjutsu just for entertainment. I find the story intriguing and the art rather gorgeous. Lined and shaded, updates weekly.