What I’ve Been Reading – September 2017

Wow, September went by really fast. I’ve just taken a look at my reading list and I only read 10 books this month (my average is closer to 15). Some of that I’m sure was catching up on a few animes. But I’ve also been knitting and spinning quite a bit to get ready for the colder weather.

Here’s what I was reading in September:

New Books

Duchy of Terra Series by Glynn Stewart: The Terran Privateer, Duchess of Terra, and Terra and Imperium
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Neogenisis (eArc) by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Magic Steals (short story) by Ilona Andrews (I’ll review this next month, as I’ve started October off on an Ilona Andrews kick)

Rereads

Starship’s Mage series by Glynn Stewart: Hand of Mars, Voice of Mars, Alien Arcana, Judgement of Mars. (Not read was the first book, Starship’s Mage. See the note below)

 

Mini Reviews

Glynn Stewart‘s books have grown on me over the last couple of months. They are a fairly nice mix of space opera and adventure, with a well thought-out magic system underlying the modern technology.

Damien Montgomery, is a jump mage, a mage who has mastered the art of teleporting starships, a rare ability which holds together the Martian Imperium. When his ship is attacked, Damien uses a unique skill to turn the ship’s jump matrix into a military power amplifier, something that’s top-secret and supposedly impossible. Suddenly criminals and the military alike all want that ship, and will do anything to take it from them.

I read Starship’s Mage back in September of 2016, and almost didn’t read the next one. The book is weirdly structured because it is actually an omnibus of five shorter episodes that Glynn wrote to get himself writing. It worked, but the results are a little clunky, and the main character Damien showed tendencies toward Gary Sue-ism with extremely strong powers and a tendency to discover forbidden technologies. What saves the book is the really unique worlds and characters who manage to be charming, despite their shallowness in places.

I’m glad I took a risk on the second book however, because the later books toss out the episodic mode for a much more normal novel structure. That plus some writing experience means they are tightly plotted, seat-gripping action/mysteries with some serious power being thrown around. Damien still has problems with being super strong, but this has been built into the structure of the narrative in an intriguing way, and Glynn has added personal elements which cannot be solved by brute power to plague his hero. Overall, if you enjoy space operas or unique magic systems this is worth a read.

So, having read through the Starship’s Mage books, I tried out the Duchy of Terra books this month. The Terran Privateer starts out with Earth being annexed by an alien empire after they suddenly develop faster-than-light travel. Earth’s only surviving faster-than-light military ship is cut loose to become a privateer after the battle, and must gather resources and knowledge in order to liberate Earth from their conquerors. Or so they think.

This is another series with a smart twist, which begins with early flaws and saves itself through good writing. There is more than a bit of David Weber fanboy-ing in the battle scenes and the names of ships, weapons, and people are obvious homages to the Honor Harrington series. It’s not fanfic though. It’s got its own thing going on, and the aliens are weird enough, and different enough culturally, to carry the thing until it starts working on its own merits. The second and third books develop the premise quite well and build on the original problems in interesting ways. I’d say if you read Weber but hated all the long-winded politics, but loved the space battles and wished there were more aliens, then this is the series for you.

 

The War of Art is one of those writing books you keep around to give you a little pep-talk now and then. It’s not really much of a writer’s manual, more of a how-to to keeping yourself writing. Worth the read, with short peppy chapters which mainly discuss overcoming “resistance” both internal and external and sitting down to write.

 

I think I’m going to have to write about Neogenisis in a separate post. There’s just too much going on to write a mini review. Meanwhile, here’s what I wrote for Goodreads: “If you’ve been complaining that none of the plot threads have been wrapped up in the last few books, complain no more. Just about everyone gets some serious screen time in this one. Answers are to be had left and right. But wrapping old plotlines simply introduces new problems.”

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