The Grief of Stones

Monday, September 26, 2022

The Grief of Stones
Katherine Addison, 2022

Premise: Sequel to The Witness for the Dead. Thara Celehar thinks his life in Amalo is becoming routine when he is presented with a possible murder, an unexpected assistant, and a secret message asking for help. 

A few days after I finished this book I went back to the beginning and read it again. It's been a while since I liked a book enough to do that. 

I love this world and these characters and this style. What a fantastic series. And this one adds just a touch of subtle pining. Thara is still too raw after his personal tragedy to think of pursuing any kind of romantic entanglement, but surely his friendship with the flamboyant and brave opera director, one of only a few people who seem to care about Thara for himself, will remain only friendship... so our protagonist tells himself, anyway. 

There's a moment that's going on my list of top all-time emotional literary moments, is all I'm saying. 

More tangled plots and subterfuges, more supernatural dangers and mundane dangers, more shades of everyday life in a big city full of elves and goblins at the start of an industrial revolution.

I loved it so much.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book

Redshirts

Monday, September 19, 2022

Redshirts 
John Scalzi, 2012

Hugo Winner - 2013

Premise: Andrew Dahl and four other new crew members on the starship Intrepid soon learn there is a reason no one wants to go on away missions...

Reading this book in 2022 instead of 2012 comes with one gigantic problem: I've already seen two seasons of Star Trek: Lower Decks. And it's hilarious and fantastic. So Redshirts now has a bigger challenge to convince me that these characters are worth caring about. And that's actually the only place it fails.

There's a smart stylistic choice made here that is both necessary for the plot and the only big flaw in the book. The characters are largely featureless and interchangeable, exactly the way minor characters tend to be on shows like Star Trek. In fact, this very fact is important for some late twists in the plot.

However, being smart and necessary doesn't actually keep it from feeling like a flaw. It means the book is more philosophical exercise and intellectual puzzle about the nature of free will and storytelling than it is an exciting adventure. I don't actually care what happens to the characters except insofar as their presence is required to reveal the next part of the central conceit.

However, it's still a really fun read, and that central idea is good enough that the journey is worth taking. Not exceptional or completely unique, but enjoyable all the same.


4 Stars - A Very Good Book

The Secret, Book, & Scone Society and The Whispered Word

Monday, September 12, 2022

The Secret, Book, & Scone Society and The Whispered Word
Ellery Adams, 2017, 2018

Premise: Nora loves her bookshop, but doesn't really have many friends until a customer turns up dead.

I have been really into series and cozy mysteries in the last few years, so when this one caught my eye I decided to try it out. The description I got really emphasized that the books are about a group of female friends, and that sounded like something I was in the mood for. Unfortunately, that wasn't really what I got. 

Instead, these are fairly by-the-numbers cozies, with their wacky minor characters and their main character with a crush on someone in law enforcement. The group of friends (the society in the title) become close in the first book because they're all interested in a murder in their town and they're all women with some sort of secret in their past. So they decide to fast-forward their bonding by spilling their backstories one after the other like they're playing an awkward drinking game. And then they're besties forever! I guess?

None of the women get much development except the main character, so it's lacking that group friendship angle I was hoping for. I tried the second book in the series to see if it would be better now that the setup was done, but that just focused even more on Nora's maybe-romance. 

The mystery plots were fine, nothing exceptional. Sometimes people acted entirely nonsensically, which isn't that uncommon in this subgenre. It's sort of the literary equivalent of a middle-of-the-road sitcom - if you don't have anything else to do, it's enjoyable enough, but why would you seek it out over something else?

2 Stars - Okay Books

The Singing Hills Cycle Books 1 and 2

Monday, September 5, 2022

The Empress of Salt and Fortune
When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain

Nghi Vo, 2020

Premise: These lightly linked novellas follow Chih, wandering cleric from the Singing Hills, in their capacity as collector of histories, stories, and the space between the two. 

Perfect. Divine. Breathtaking. If you love fantasy, if you love stories, stop what you're doing and read these. 

They can be read in either order (and there are more to come in the series), although I think starting with the first (The Empress of Salt and Fortune) might give a better introduction to the world. 

And what a world! Deeply fantastical and deeply Asian-inspired, it's a marvelous place to visit, if dangerous to live there. 

Each novella includes a frame story about Chih and a secondary story being told by one or more characters. In The Empress of Salt and Fortune, an elderly handmaiden cleverly reveals to the cleric the secrets behind recent power struggles in the empire of Anh. In When the Tiger Comes Down the Mountain, Chih tells a story they were taught about a long-ago romance between a tiger demon and a scholar, but there is another character with a competing version of the tale. 

The situation for Chih is rather different in each book, but both are completely engrossing, complex, and gorgeously written.

Highly, highly recommended. 

5 Stars - Awesome books. 

Among Others

Monday, August 8, 2022

Among Others
Jo Walton, 2011

Hugo Winner - 2012

Premise: Mori was a twin. Mori lived in Wales with her mother and her relatives and the fairies. Now facing boarding school in England due to the demands of her father's family, she must navigate her family, the world, her responsibilities, and first love—alone.

This shouldn't work. It's a fictional diary chock full of references to novels from the '60s and '70s. The fantasy is delivered mostly with an incredibly light touch. 

It's amazing. I adored it.

I love the voice. She's authentically a bookish teenager who can debate the morality of a sci-fi novel in one breath, make fun of an adult's fashion sense in the next, and despair both over a cute boy and a deep family trauma. The magic she's experienced is explicitly vague and coincidental, raising all sorts of fascinating questions both about reality and about ethics. 

The narration even felt just potentially unreliable enough to keep me guessing through much of the book. Due to the diary structure, the plot seems like it's meandering sometimes, but it's just as fun to read about her relationships with the girls at school as her attempts to contact fairies, etc. And everything serves the same ends - following along as she rebuilds her relationship with the world and everyone around her after a nearly unthinkable tragedy.

I wanted to go read all the books she's read (those I haven't already), and I feel like I know the characters well. It's just a fantastic book all around.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book

Tracks

Monday, August 1, 2022

Tracks
Robyn Davidson, 1980

Premise: A memoir of one woman's solo journey across the Australian desert. 

I tried to start this book a few times, but the beginning didn't really hook me. This time, fortified by some recent recommendations on a forum for outdoorsy women, I pushed on and quite enjoyed it once the story picked up. 

I wish I'd realized earlier in the book that it was released in 1980 and took place in 1977. (I knew it wasn't a modern book, but I didn't realize it was quite that old when I started reading.) Aspects of the relationships between people and the political situations and people's attitudes make much more sense with that context.

I think I was initially frustrated because much of the first part of the book chronicles Robyn's struggles to prepare for the trip she wants to take, but it takes her a long time to actually make much progress toward her trip. Eventually, the narration acknowledges this (including her feelings of ambivalence, aimlessness, mixed feelings about actually taking a trip, etc.), and I felt more connected to her character. 

I liked her descriptions and impressions of the Australian wilderness and the camels she used to cross it. I liked her attempts to convey the altered mental state she felt making that journey, mostly alone.

Overall I liked the book, but I didn't love it.

3 Stars - A Good Book

Light from Uncommon Stars

Monday, July 25, 2022

Light from Uncommon Stars Ryka Aoki, 2021


Premise: Katrina knows anywhere has to be better than her parents' house. Shizuka must find another prodigy or lose her soul. Lan Tran needs to pretend she doesn't have a spaceship hidden under the family donut shop. Intrigued yet?


So there's a semi-immortal woman with a contract with a demon, a family of intergalactic refugees, and a trans teenage runaway with a talent for music. None of this is hidden from the readers, or even from the other characters, for long. I love that this book doesn't waste time on setting up complex twists for the reader or much in the way of interpersonal angst. There's enough going on with each character without worrying too much about secrets and lies. 


The story is funny and touching, with enough drama and tension to stay interesting, but no real stress. The main characters are extremely interesting, and the book is full of little side stories and characters. 


Honestly, the only reason the book isn't quite a slam dunk for me is that it's a little too easy for some of the time. I appreciate the lack of angst, but it's just a smidge too far the other way for the satisfying moments to be fully satisfying. The characters are always interesting, but there isn't a lot of change or growth for most of them. The heavy parts don't quite hit completely right for me either. 


That said, the writing is lovely, the misunderstandings between Shizuka and Lan hilarious, and the descriptions of music and musicians perfect throughout. I liked the mash-up of fantasy and science fiction, and I found the ending (complete with multiple climaxes) charming and wonderful. 


4 Stars - A Very Good Book


A Marvellous Light

Monday, June 27, 2022

A Marvellous Light
Freya Markse, 2021

Premise: Edwin Courcey and Sir Robin Blyth are both men who don't quite fit with their peers. Edwin is a scholarly magician without much magic. Robin has inherited a title but little cash, and he has no interest in living like his late parents the social climbers. When a bureaucratic error brings them together (and to the attention of a dangerous group seeking a mysterious power), sparks fly. 

I've been reading a lot of historical romance-adventures lately where one partner is magic and the other isn't (or is much less so), but this might be the best one so far. 

I loved how complicated the magical society was, realistically including all the same problems and bigotries as non-magicians. I loved that Edwin and Robin's objections to each other felt rooted in their personalities. They had to struggle; there was nothing that was too easily swept aside for the sake of romance, but there also weren't any problems that felt too overly melodramatic. 

Plus the adventure part is top-notch. They're working against time on multiple intertwined problems and mysteries, and both the journey and the solution are so satisfying that I read the whole thing twice. 

This book opens a series, and it looks like it's doing the romance-series thing where each book centers on a different couple. I don't always love that, but the secondary characters in this book and the overall unresolved plot are definitely interesting enough for me to be very sad that I can't read the sequel right now (coming out later this year).

5 Stars - An Awesome Book


Blackout/All Clear

Monday, June 6, 2022

Blackout/All Clear
Connie Willis, 2010

Hugo Winner - 2011

Premise: Takes place in the same world as Doomsday Book (my rating: 3), and To Say Nothing of the Dog (my rating: 1). 

Oh joy. Another one of these books. 

Reading this award-winning duology has finally crystalized for me why I find this series so frustrating. I find the very premise so idiotic that I can't stand the characters. Oh no, these historians are trapped in the Blitz and maybe messed up the timeline!

Why were you there, you dummies? I was willing to sort of accept Doomsday Book, assuming that a time traveler could gain some actually meaningful information about that time period that they couldn't gain any other way. But these morons seem just like any pompous grad students studying something "fun" for the heck of it. Observing people suffering and dying like they're on safari, and then freaking out when things go sideways. Why, why, why is this a good use of time travel? If there's even a chance that something could go wrong, why on earth would you send anyone to WWII, much less this group of insufferable, incompetent academics? 

Yes, the historical part of this book is well-researched and beautifully written. But I can't concentrate on the bravery of Londoners during the Blitz because it's constantly being compared to our main characters. Said characters spend most of the time knowing when and where to be to avoid danger (because time travel), but then fall apart emotionally when their plans go awry. Then they finally "learn" the "true" bravery of the people who kept living their lives despite not knowing when the bombs would fall... etc. etc. I've spent the last few hundred pages waiting for you to get your act together, Polly. If you are only learning this now, you are bad at your job. 

Besides which the whole thing is told in these alternating storylines in different times with just enough vague details that you are supposed to be in suspense about what happens to the characters, but I didn't care about these characters, so the fact that it took forever to reveal that one character did that or the other thing was just annoying. 

PLUS it did the one thing that I hoped it wouldn't do and gave the most annoying entitled asshole of a character who was just in the beginning a heroic arc and the girl he wanted. Nope. Just Nope.

The historical stuff is interesting, and it probably deserves at least 3 stars. But I'm reading this as a Hugo winner, and the time travel is inane. Yes, of course I knew what was going to happen, because I read the Pern books when I was a teenager in the 90s. It's just a closed loop. It's not that hard to understand or predict. 

And because of the way it works out, the very existence of the time travelers completely cheapens the actions and bravery of the people actually of the time that the book was trying so hard to champion. 

1 Star - Frustrating throughout. 

Protecting the Lady

Monday, May 30, 2022

Protecting the Lady
Amanda Radley, 2021

Premise: Eve quit being a bodyguard, but she's drawn back home for one more job that demands her talents. Falling in love with her client has never been a problem before...

(It's time for a short reaction to a short book!) 

After enjoying her holiday-themed Humbug, I decided to try another light romance by this author. Unfortunately, this time I was disappointed. 

I don't have any inherent problem with a bodyguard/client romance, or a romance between an aristocrat and an anti-monarchist, but neither of these dynamics were compelling or convincing to me in this book.

Eve's hatred of the monarchy was presented as this deep-seated part of her life, as was the past trauma that had led her to initially quit working in security, but all of this was waved away very quickly once the plot demanded it. Katherine's discomfort with her own background and exceptional ability to turn her family ties to good causes was more convenient than convincing. 

For me, it was all just a bit by-the-numbers and boring, unfortunately. Ah well. 

1 Star - Didn't like it much

Oak King Holly King

Monday, May 23, 2022

Oak King Holly King
Sebastian Nothwell, 2022

Premise: Shrike is trying to make a name for himself in battle, but it goes too well, and now the traditions of Faerie decree that he shall die within the year. Wren Lofthouse has never heard of fae or actual magic, although Arthurian romances provide some of the only comfort to a man who must hide his attraction to other men. Of course, they're perfect for each other.

It's been a long while since I've taken a chance on a book because of a lovely cover. (Of course, this being an ebook, the cover led to a sample, and only then to the full book, but the point still holds.) Happily, I liked this quite a bit. 

It's longer than a lot of romances, but I liked that, actually. It's a fantasy novel where the A plot is a romance, not a romance set only vaguely in a fantasy world. It had space to dig into the details of the two characters' lives and how they fit (or didn't fit) together. The story wasn't just two people getting together; it took time to have them grow and learn from each other. Sure, the main thing they're learning is just "someone likes me for who I am, and therefore who I am is valuable" but that's not a bad thing. 

It's full of sumptuous descriptions of society, adventure, and action. However, the romance is fairly simple; it's the world that provides the complications. 

My only significant quibble was that the ending was a bit vague (in some ways - REALLY not vague in others). Let's just say that the actions characters take during the climax may have some significant long-term effects on the way the faerie realm functions, and possibly the mortal realm as well. However, the rush to a happy ending for our characters completely skips any information about how that is expected to play out, unless I missed an explanation earlier in the book. 

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

The City & the City

Monday, May 9, 2022

The City & the City
China Miéville, 2009

Hugo Winner - 2010 (tie)

Premise: Borlú is a detective in the city-state of Besźel, a unique place to live and to keep the peace. One investigation leads him to the edge of what can be seen and understood.

My final takeaway on this book is that it's a cool premise that doesn't really go anywhere satisfying.

The two cities of the title occupy much of the same physical space, but the occupants of each train themselves not to see the other. Some streets and buildings are officially in one city, some in the other, and some are "crosshatched" or overlapping. The inhabitants are very careful only to "see" what is in the city they are currently in, and "unsee" anything in the other. Yes, this means people are avoiding traffic accidents with cars they can't admit that they notice and other bizarre behavior. 

Breaking this rule draws the attention of Breach - both the name of the crime (acting/perceiving across the city borders) and the name of the secret force that enforces the boundaries. 

The story starts out entirely in Besźel but grows to involve both cities, political and financial conspiracies, and various groups in each place pushing for either the supremacy of one city or the unification of both. 

But in the end, it's just a decent detective story in a weird setting. And Breach (the organization) isn't all that interesting once we learn more about it. There's no reveal about why these cities have developed in this way. 

For a while, I thought the book might be building some sort of metaphor about how subcultures or ethnic groups can live alongside each other and never interact, or about how people in most cities can ignore others. And you can read it that way, but the city separation is never interrogated or elaborated, so I'm not entirely sure what the point is, other than just saying, hey, you probably "unsee" things every day too.

The resolution of the story involves this consensually split reality, but in a rather mundane way. So I'm left with, as I said, an okay detective story in a weird setting, but not one weird enough for my personal taste. 

2 Stars - An Okay Book


Witchmark

Monday, May 2, 2022

Witchmark
C.L. Polk, 2018

Premise: Miles is a doctor, trying desperately to help the soldiers coming back broken from the war. But there are so many, and he might be the only one who sees that there's more going on under the surface. And it's his magic that lets him see that; his magic that he must keep hidden for his own safety. 

There's a lot to like about this book. The characters are mostly interesting. The malady that only Miles can see is a compelling mystery. The romantic interest (a mysteriously beautiful man named Tristan) is charming and sexy.

And yet it wasn't a slam dunk for me. I think the world-building was a little too vague, the magic a little too vague, and the ending a little too vague. 

For example, this book isn't set in Edwardian London, although it often feels like it is, or maybe was in some previous draft of the book. I'm not sure why it isn't, honestly. Yes, not-England and not-(Germany? Austria? It feels like France except that it also feels like WWI, so it's not a perfect parallel) are engaging in complex magical warfare, but I found it occasionally odd to remember that it's not just a paranormal historical romance/mystery, it's actually set in a fantasy world. 

But we could assume that a reader knows things about England that we don't know about Aeland, and occasionally I stumble over those things, or other missing bits of knowledge. 

Another small nitpick is that the cover art is beautiful, but it doesn't feel like it connects to the story. 

The solution to the mystery was largely satisfying, although I did feel like some things were (again) underexplained. The final denouement was definitely weirdly short, especially for a book without a sequel focused on these characters.  

Still, it was an enjoyable read overall, although I'm not sure I found the world and the secondary characters interesting enough to follow them into the sequels. 

3 Stars - A Good Book

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

Monday, April 11, 2022

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo
Zen Cho, 2012

Premise: This epistolary novella chronicles a young woman's adventures in the London literary set in the 1920s.

This was basically a sampler-size candy box of a piece; full of delightful moments, but it didn't outstay its welcome. 

Jade is an aspiring writer who finally achieves notoriety by writing a scathing review of a popular book by a popular author. The novella follows her diary entries for the time that immediately precedes this act and all that follows from it. (Her unexpurgated diary entries, I should say. There's a humorous moment where she reminds herself to delete the explicit descriptions of sex if she decides to publish her diary as an instructive experience for others.) 

So she gets tangled up in society (romantically and otherwise), makes some perhaps unwise but completely relatable choices around taking your chances where you can, and has to eventually figure out how to thrive with the hand she's dealt. 

For a short piece, it touches on a lot of ideas. What's worth protecting, and what's worth taking a chance on. Can you work outside of what society says you can have without adapting all the morals or worldview of others who are outside of that society? 

Jade's voice is hilariously precise and so much fun to read.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book

Joliffe the Player Mysteries

Monday, April 4, 2022

Joliffe the Player Mysteries
Margaret Frazer, 2004-2011

I wrote last year that one of the series that was getting me through the pandemic was Margaret Frazer's Dame Frevisse mysteries. Spinning out of that comes this shorter, slightly more active series, following a group of traveling players in the 1430s. It's a delight. 

The Frevisse mysteries have to occasionally find excuses for the main character to leave her home abbey to end up wherever the plot takes place, but Joliffe and his companions are naturally on the move. They come into contact with people from every walk of life. As travelers, though, they are often mistrusted, giving the naturally sharp-witted Joliffe an additional motivation beyond his own curiosity for solving whatever murder is at hand. 

The depth of the author's research is constantly clear, and anyone writing anything set in a medieval society could do a lot worse for their own research than reading these books. Of course, I especially love all the details about how the troupe functions: how their plays are written or adapted, how quickly they're learned and performed, and for what kinds of audiences in what kinds of settings.

The players start out with very little, but their circumstances change over the course of the series, partially due to Joliffe's habit of being more perceptive than average and not letting things go. This eventually leads him into more direct investigative work, which he has decidedly mixed feelings about.

All the characters are interesting, but Joliffe is a particularly sympathetic soul for me - he left behind a potential scholar's life to follow wanderlust, art, and curiosity, but the intelligence that brings him success also brings him to the attention of those in power who might compel him to use his skills in more dangerous ways.

I've enjoyed every book in this series, and I'll probably even read them all again at some point.

Magic in Manhattan Trilogy (Therin)

Monday, March 28, 2022

Magic in Manhattan Trilogy (Therin)
Spellbound, 2019
Starcrossed, 2020
Wonderstruck, 2021
by Allie Therin

Premise: In Prohibition-era New York, Rory is hiding his real name and his past, but most importantly, his magic. When he meets a handsome rich man who needs his help and leads him into a larger community of magicians, he doesn't know how much danger he's walking into.

I had to add the author's name to the title of this post because apparently there's more than one series with this (fairly generic) title. 

I enjoyed these books quite a bit, even if I spent some time during the first one musing on the nature of tropes, genre conventions, and originality.

You see, this is not the first fantasy-historical-action-romance series I've read in which the leads are a tall, non-magical, well-traveled aristocrat and a short, poor but powerful magician. Who comes into possession of a magical artifact (a ring) of significant power over the course of the first book. And the rich guy wants to help his poor boyfriend be less poor, but he's too proud. 

Despite the similarities, this collection of tropes is not enough to say that the Magic in Manhattan series is definitely inspired by K.J. Charles' fantastic Charm of Magpies. In fact, a list of similarities that might have readers looking askance at two sci-fi books will just land two romance novels on a list of "if you liked X, read Y!" The idea that you can read many authors' different takes on the same basic tropes is a feature of the genre. 

The two series have a lot of differences as well; the older one is set in England, the new one (obviously) in New York. The stories themselves are pretty different, other than a few relationship bumps and twists that both probably have in common with dozens or hundreds of other romance books/series.

However, as a relatively recent convert to reading more romance, it took me briefly aback to read something that had so much in common with another series.

I did end up liking this series and read through them all rather quickly. The books weren't as packed with interesting characters or plots as my favorites in the genre, but they were a lot of fun. I was occasionally kicked out of my enjoyment by character stupidity or excessive plot contrivance, and I like my romances a little spicier, but still - fun reads. 

3 Stars - Good Books on average for the lot. 

Shatter the Sky

Monday, March 7, 2022

Shatter the Sky
Rebecca Kim Wells, 2019

Premise: Maren always planned to travel the world with Kaia once they came of age, even though she would have been happy just living in their small village forever. But when Kaia is taken away, Maren will risk everything to go after her. 

So... this isn't a bad book. I found the style compulsively readable. 

It's just really, REALLY not for me. Or anyone looking for complex stories or characters. It's YA to the point of pain, for my taste. 

Yes there's a twist at the end, sort of, but it's not really unexpected at all, and everything up until then is not even YA-caliber plot, it's middle-grade. The outside world the village elders teach Maren is evil? To my honest surprise, it's... evil, except for her super-special new friend. Huh.

Everything is what it says on the tin. Characters who seem trustworthy are trustworthy. Characters who seem evil are evil. Hurting dragons is wrong, man! Because... it seems like it should be! Maren has super special dragon powers because she comes from the dragon village! Her lost girlfriend is (at least through the end) mostly worthy of her undying, kind of unhealthily obsessive devotion (even though Maren's also into this cute lost prince character, but I had this book recommended off the strength of another polyamorous-friendly YA, so we know where that's going.)

Despite all that, it was still mostly enjoyable to read, which really tells you something about the level of prose skills on display here. The bombastic save-everything-with-one-last-minute-deus-ex-power ending even worked surprisingly well, although I don't know that I care enough about the next part to read the sequel. I hope this author eventually writes something with a more interesting plot and world. 

2 Stars - An Okay Book

The Windup Girl

Monday, February 28, 2022

The Windup Girl
Paolo Bacigalupi, 2009

Hugo Winner - 2010

Premise: In the near future after some kind of economic and ecological collapse, forces of corporate greed, national pride, personal honor, fear, self-preservation, and self-discovery clash in Thailand. 

I had trouble starting this review. I kept telling myself that I was conflicted about the book, but I actually just have two simultaneous opinions:

1: Despite a slow start, I found the world and plotlines fairly compelling by the end.

2: Holy heck, I did not need that much extremely violent rape to understand the dystopia, thanks.

It also hurt the book that it took forever to introduce a viewpoint character that wasn't (at least at first glance) a greedy asshole. However, despite a pretty bleak and violent worldview throughout, many of the characters get what they seem to deserve in the end, which I appreciated. 

However, as soon as any character seemed to be about to do something important or emotional, at least half the time the narrative cut away, only for us to find out later through someone else's perspective what happened. I can't decide whether that was an effective technique to create a sense that no one knows what's really happening or whether it was just really annoying. 

The titular wind-up girl was both kind of awesome and played into some truly weird and worrying stereotypes. Before you go, oh, but of course she (as a genetically engineered person) was built to be weirdly submissive and involuntarily sexual because the people who built her wanted that,  the thing about fiction is, someone's writing that situation in the first place. The author decides that the fictional people who created this fictional race of "New People" would behave like that, for the purposes it serves in this story. Which are unpleasant to say the least, and sometimes a little racist against the Japanese. 

At the same time, when she was awesome, it was probably the best writing in the book. Which is why it was frustrating to keep being yanked out to read about Anderson the corporate villain or Hock Seng spinning his own plans. Jaidee and Kanya are fine, their plots were good.

The ideas are cool, although we only learn about the world in glimpses. Something collapsed global trade. Something ongoing is causing many crops to fail except for the ones controlled by a corporate oligarchy. 

So some good, some bad, some weird. 

2 Stars - An Okay Book