Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I've finished two books since I returned from vacation.

The first is Juggler of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner, sequel to their earlier Fleet of Worlds. Like the previous book, this one's greatest weakness is it's relationship to Niven's other Known Space stories. In fact, this one has that weakness worse. Time and again, just when the book gets interesting in it's own right, it digresses to show a new character viewpoint on a previous story, or to add some twist or new knowledge. The result is a mish-mash that doesn't stand well on its own, and undermines the earlier stories.

The second was Freedom & Necessity by Steven Brust and Emma Bull. I had read this one before, many years ago, since I am a huge Steven Brust fan, but didn't like it that much. I picked it up again because I was on a thirteen hour plane ride and had finished the book I was reading. Stacey was reading this one, so I started re-reading it anytime she was sleeping, and I enjoyed it much more this time.

It's told in epistolary form, mainly of letters between the four main characters, James Cobham, his step-sister Kitty and their cousins Richard Cobham and Susan Voight. The novel is set in the mid 19th century, after the Chartist movement has failed. James was involved in that movement, and in various violent acts, and his past has come back to haunt him. We find this out slowly, as well as further complications, as more and more letters develop the back story and characters.

The novel makes good use of it's epistolary nature, having some letters reveal different details or mis-representations that various characters have told in previous letters, but it does make it a longer read than is strictly necessary for the plot. Fans of Brust and Bull should know what they are getting into before they read the novel, to avoid disappointment. (Possible spoiler alert) Although there are earlier hints that seem to lean in this direction, there are none of the fantasy elements that occur in their other works.

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