It was staycation. Here are the books I read on the couch.
1. Infidel (The Bel Dame Apocrypha #2) – Kameron Hurley
The Bel Dame Apocrypha has been my favorite SFF series from recent years. The books are an amazing blend of assassins, shape shifters, pistol-packing magicians, and giant insects on some sad sack, craptastic, hellscape planet. They have great world building and a great cast of characters, and I say both those things as someone who hates in-depth world building and large casts of characters.
2. The Record of a Quaker Conscience – Cyrus Pringle
Pringle was a Quaker and objected to the Civil War on religious grounds, refusing to pay anyone to be his substitute upon being drafted. He refused to fight and was sent to prison on one of the islands in Massachusetts Bay. Later he got moved down to Virginia where he ended being tortured. His case and that of his companions would reach Lincoln and he would excuse them from service. Later, Pringle would go on to become a renowned botanist making expeditions into the American South-West. The book is available via Project Gutenberg and you can read about Pringle on wikipedia.
3. Sword of Fire and Sea (Chaos Knight Book #1) – Erin Hoffman
An enjoyable summertime read that reminded me a lot of the enjoyable summertime reads of my youth. It’s secondary world fantasy with elemental magic, gryphons, and stalwart sea captains. Also Hoffman can summarize action so you don’t have to be led about by the hand.
4. Poets in a Landscape – Gilbert Highet
A series of biographies of Roman poets mixed with an Italian travel guide circa 1957. Highet’s a classicist of the urbane over-educated type, but he has a passionate love of his subject, an inviting style, and the ability to share why he feels so passionate about his subject matter. Plus, he gives the occasional “fuck yeah, books!” battle cry that I love. An example:
“History is a strange experience. The world is quite small now; but history is large and deep. Sometimes you can go much farther by sitting in your own home and reading a book of history, than by getting onto a ship or an airplane and traveling a thousand miles. When you go to Mexico City through space, you find it a sort of cross between modern Madrid and modern Chicago, with additions of its own; but if you go to Mexico City through history, back only 500 years, you will find it as distant as though it were on another planet”
“These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves. From each of them goes out its own voice, as inaudible as the streams of sound conveyed by electric waves beyond the range of our hearing; and just as the touch of button on our stereo will fill the room with music, so by opening one of these volumes, one can call into range a voice far distant in time and space, and hear it speaking, mind to mind, heart to heart.”
5. A Pretty Mouth – Molly Tanzer
A collection of horror stories documenting the history of the decadent Calipash family. It can be read as a novel or historical inquiry, and while the stories might begin as pastiche, they rise above their source materials by subverting and playing irreverently with them. I definitely recommend it. It reminded me of Caitlin Keirnan’s Dandridge Cycle of stories.
6. Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness – Edward Abbey
Great nature writing by a combative anarchist misanthrope, Abbey mixes an outdoorsman’s contradictory elitism (more people need to see nature – tourists ruin nature) with a poet’s eye, while reveling in the simple necessities of being a living and highly fallible creature on this ball of dirt we call home.
7. Memory – Linda Nagata
I totally enjoyed this book. It’s set in a world that might be a computer simulation, but also might not be since it’s set far enough in the future that the words they use to describe their existence might not completely match our definition for those words. It’s an adventure story about a young woman searching for her brother in a world haunted by a strange mist that reshapes the land each and every night.