neutral

Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo. Fantasy.

A novella that was pleasing to read but left me disappointed because it could have been so much more. (Even while remaining a novella, yes: I’ve read some incredibly evocative novellas and short stories.) The prose is aesthetic, but lacking in any unexpected detail and self-contradiction which would make the setting and the characters feel real.… >> Read more

Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for The Identity Thief by Alex Bryant. All ages fantasy.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I read it pretty much in one sitting, so certainly I found it engaging. And I laughed quite a few times. But did I really find it enjoyable? I’m not sure. What I was thinking, as I read, was: This is a book I would give to a kid as a bang-up fictional example of how discrimination spreads throughout a populace, and what role the media plays in shifting public opinion.… >> Read more

Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke. Science fiction.

I think I’ve passed the point where I can read classic science fiction without noticing how much it creaks. I didn’t hate reading this, but I didn’t particularly enjoy it, either.

The person most immediately affected had been George Greggson. He could never forget his feeling of terror as Jean pitched into his arms.

>> Read more

Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for Bellwether by Connie Willis. Science fiction.

A comedy about a statistician trying to figure out the genesis of fads (specifically, 1920’s hair-bobbing). Plus a little bit of romance. This book seemed like it was made for me! And it was enjoyable, but…I wanted to be charmed more than I was. Academic/office politics satire is…well, it’s been done quite a bit, hasn’t it?… >> Read more

Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. Science fiction.

I can imagine how this would have made an excellent and terrifying radio show. As a book, it’s pretty tedious. Not that it doesn’t have some moments, and I do generally enjoy Wells’s writing, but a lot of this book collapses down to “masses of people rushing to and fro across the countryside, with every town and village itemized.” (Do the inhabitants of Chipping Barnet get a special thrill when they are stomped on by aliens?) I’m not sure I would have stuck with it except that (a) the edition I was reading (NYRB) had marvelous chapter-heading illustrations by Edward Gorey and (b) the introduction I read in a different edition (Barnes & Noble Classics) reflected a fascinating, cringeworthy light on Wells’s technocrat agenda, and I was curious to see how that played out in the book.… >> Read more

Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for Naked in Death by J. D. Robb. Science fiction romantic suspense.

This is going to be one of those reviews in which it seems I didn’t enjoy reading the book. That is not the case. It was an immensely fun page-turner, which I plowed through in three sittings. Nora Roberts knows how to tell an engaging story.… >> Read more

Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for Hidden Universe Travel Guides: Vulcan by Dayton Ward. Science fiction.

A nicely done fake travel guide to the planet Vulcan, for hardcore Trekkies only. The author must have put in a lot of work. I appreciate the callbacks to a couple of the better novels, such as Uhura’s Song by Janet Kagan, as well as the reference to Mark Gardner’s Vulcan Language Institute (very politely sourced, even!).… >> Read more