2002’s Hugo-nominated Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril is the posthumous autobiography of noted writer/editor Judith Merril. Merril having passed away in 1997, the work of turning Merril’s notes into a book fell to her granddaughter Emily Pohl-Weary. Better to Have Loved is also a forthright and frank reply to a few sanitized histories of science fiction published in recent years.
I picked Diana Rowland’s 2012 novel Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues o read after a painstaking selective process: I needed something to read and it was the first book I saw at eye level in the library. Why more authors don’t arrange for their books to be in the sweet zone  I don’t know.
You may remember that I was recently sent a Big Box of Books. I was elated to discover John F. Carr’s 2008 H. Beam Piper: A Biography in the box. I had been wanting to read the book ever since I discovered it existed. It was inevitable that at some point I would review this book. Even if nobody paid me to do so! I am just that dedicated!
Anyone who (as I did) discovered Piper thanks to the late 1970s reprints learned certain facts about Piper from book introductions, magazine and review articles, and (eventually) online discussions about Piper. We learned that he had killed himself believing his career was over, unaware the check was literally in the mail. We learned that he had been a detective for a train company and that he had been victimized by a selfish ex-wife. We read speculations that the H in his name stood for Horace…
Piper did kill himself, but (as Carr discovered) a surprising amount of what is supposedly known about Piper is flat-out untrue. Not entirely because people got their facts wrong: Piper himself went out of his way to obfuscate the facts. In this short biography, Carr sets out to put the facts right, even when they do not reflect well on Piper.
2015’s State Machine is the third book in the Rachel Peng series . The protagonist, Peng, is among the survivors of an ill-conceived experiment in neural prosthesis. Having struggled back to sanity, the surviving cyborgs have banded together under the banner of the Office of Adaptive and Complementary Enhancement Technologies for mutual support and protection. They offer their services to the government in an attempt to convince society in general  that the cyborgs are more useful than dangerous.
Rachel Peng’s personal contribution to the cause is serving as OACET’s liaison to the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police. She uses her unique array of senses to crack baffling cases. Her latest case, a murder, is notable because it took place in a heavily secured section of the White House and because the only apparent motive for the murder is theft. But theft of what?
This review came about because Romantic Times editor Regina Small very considerately assigned me Zen Cho’s upcoming novel Sorcerer to the Crown (of which more later, over at Romantic Times, which if you are not reading you should be). The wheels of reviewing grind slow but sure. Today I woke up thinking “I am really in the mood to read an unfamiliar to me Zen Cho work!” but … alas, the book is still on its way to me.
Then I remembered: the author has a website and on that website she has links to works of hers one can buy in ebook form. While I have read and reviewed Spirits Abroad], I had not yet read her 2012 novella The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo! Which, to be honest, is an epistolary historical romance, a genre in which I am not well read and with whose conventions I am unfamiliar. There are many pitfalls for reviewers dabbling in new genres, but, in the same bold spirit that led Napoleon to Moscow and Vercingetorix to Rome, I forge onwards!
Among my many charming quirks is a general dislike of “back-swing” novels. That’s Andrew Wheeler’s term for novels where the author kills off billions of humans to make room for the protagonist’s sword’s back-swing: your Dies the Fireses, your Directive 51s, and so on. I am also not keen on most modern dystopias; I find most of them shallow and trite, with hilari-bad world-building. Station Eleven looked exactly like the sort of book I would hate.
Sometimes my expectations are totally wrong.
Sometimes commissions arrive as “N possible choices, chose one.” Even when a suggested title doesn’t make the first cut, I often leave it on my reading list as a possibility for an unsponsored review. I’m particularly likely to do this if it is a title I’ve not read but that looks interesting or is critically acclaimed. Novels like Frances Hardinge’s (Carnegie Medal short-listed) Cuckoo Song are the rewards I get for expanding my reading list.
The Great War came and went, taking Triss Crescent’s brother Sebastian with it. The post-war era brought material prosperity to the Crescent family, but nothing that could compensate for their long-mourned loss. Money could not bring Sebastian back; nothing could bring Sebastian back. No method known to mortal man, at least.
[I am aware the title and credit for the two books is somewhat munged at present]
Publishers like Tor send reviewers like me free books because they hope a review will result. Mission accomplished! Tor sent me a copy of Steven Gould’s latest book Exo and as a direct result of that I am writing a review featuring not one but two books. OK, one of them is of a different Gould book, 1993’s Jumper, and the other is of 1981’s The Journeys of McGill Feighan: Book 1: Caverns, a book by an author whom Tor has never to my knowledge published, a book that predates Tor’s very existence but still … book goes in, review goes out. The system works.
2012’s Lost Things is the first installment of Scott and Graham’s ongoing historical fantasy series Order of the Air, whose fourth volume was published just this last February.
March 18 is my birthday and as a birthday present to myself, I am going to be enormously self-indulgent and review Harry Connolly’s A Key, an Egg, an Unfortunate Remark. Not just because it’s a pacifist urban fantasy, although it is (and that’s quite remarkable all on its own), but because I am mentioned in the acknowledgments.