Wednesday, November 30, 2022

From Every Storm, by Sharon Lee (author), Steve Miller (author)

Pinbeam Books, ISBN 9781948465212, November 2022

This a collection of three stories from the Liaden Universe, all focused on coming through a human storm to a happier place in life.

"Standing Orders" reaches back to this universe's past, the time when the AI Wars have just recently ended, and the ban on complex logics (which created so much trouble for the intelligent ship, Bechimo, during what I think it's fair to call the main time period of the series) has been enacted. The decommissioning of the Admirals, and of other complex logics, including those designed to look like humans, and to think and act as much like humans as possible. Meggie Rootfir and her team have escaped from their former allies, and fled to a system where they can set up a hospital for other fleeing and wounded/damaged AIs and any human team members who accompany them. It's rewarding, successful work, until a hijacked Admiral arrives carrying an AI instance of an officer assigned to decommission all the AIs--and he's got a hostage he thinks will let him control Meggie.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Tales from the Folly: A Rivers of London Short Story Collection (Rivers of London #1.5, 1.6, 2.5, 3.5, 4.6, 5.1). by Ben Aaronovitch

JABberwocky Literary Agency, July 2020

This is a collection of short stories, including some "moments," short pieces that Aaronovitch doesn't want to call stories, set in the Rivers of London world.Not all of these stories feature the major characters in the novels. Several feature side characters, and characters whose stories were intended to be one-offs, but perhaps won't be.

Well, in at least two cases, clearly won't be.Tobias Winter and Vanessa Sommer, two young German police officers, met in The October Man, In Tales From the Folly, Tobias has a Moment in which he first learned disturbing news about the UK's magical establishment. Vanessa has a short story in which, with her new knowledge, she returns home at Christmas time, intending to check out some of the peculiar features of her childhood community.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

A post to set up verification on Mastodon

 For real, that's all it is, and let's hope it works


Unmasking Autism: Discovering the New Faces of Neurodiversity, by Devon Price

Penguin Random House Audio, ISBN 9780593507353, April 2022

This is an insightful book about about being autistic, masking (bluntly, pretending to be neurotypical as well as one can), the important reasons to stop masking, and the risks and benefits of starting to unmask.

Dr. Devon Price is a social psychologist, a professor at Loyola University, and his work is published in peer-reviewed journals in the field. He's also autistic and transgender, and can fairly be said to have a deep personal understanding of the issues of difference, alienation, isolation, and denial of self that he discusses here, along with a professional, scholarly understanding of them that's surprisingly rare in psychological and psychiatric professionals. Autism has mostly been defined as a medical problem to be solved, by getting autistics to behave like neurotypicals, rather than helping autistics to understand and use our differences, and prompting the neurotypical world to make room for our differences and our strengths.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Doctor Ice Pick, by Claire Prentice (author), Chanté McCormick (narrator)

Amazon Original Stories, May 2022

Dr. Walter Freeman was a neurologist, and  the man who invented the transorbital lobotomy, performed with surgical picks and a medical hammer.  The picks looked like ice picks.

It's not the equipment used, of course, that makes the procedure horrific.

This is a short audiobook, about two hours, but it packs a punch. Freeman began actively, even aggressively, promoting and performing lobotomies in the 1950s in the overcrowded, underfunded mental hospitals of West Virginia. 

Friday, November 18, 2022

Isle of the Dead / Eye of Cat, by Roger Zelazny

IBooks, May 2014 (Eye of Cat, original publication 1982) (Isle of the Dead, original publication 1969)

The protagonist of the first short novel in this omnibus--which is in fact Eye of Cat--is William Blackhorse Singer, a Navaho born in the 20th century, and still alive, and fit and healthy, almost two centuries later. This is at least in part due to Singer making use of his tracking skills to hunt and capture alien animals to stock interstellar zoos, as soon as that became a possibility, and thus spending a good deal of time in relativistic travel, 

But Singer is now retired, and is very, very reluctant when Earth's government comes calling to recruit him to protect an alien diplomat on her way to Earth, being pursued by a deadly killer from her own world. He recruits in turn one of the last of the alien "animals" he captured; he has realized that this one was actually a person he badly wronged. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson

Grove Press, ISBN 9780802120205, June 2012

Alif is a young man, a "gray hat" hacker, selling his skills to provide cybersecurity to anyone who needs that protection from the government. He lives in an unnamed city-state in the Middle East, referred to throughout simply as the City. He's nonideological; he'll sell his services to Islamists, communists, anyone.

Alif is not his real name, but it's what he goes by, online, and among his friends. He hates his given name because it's so common. He lives in a very modest neighborhood, in one half a duplex, with his mother. In the other half is another family that has lived there as long as they have, and among the members of that family is Dina, a young woman his age, his friend, who has defied her family by going veiled. He's in love, though, with Intisar, a young woman of much better family.

Everything seems to be going well, until Intisar tells him that her father has betrothed her to an important man in the City's government. She doesn't want to see or hear from him again. And everything starts to go wrong, in unexpected ways.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

A Blessing of Unicorns (Sub-Inspector Ferron Mysteries #2), by Elizabeth Bear (author), Zehra Jane Naqvi (narrator)

Audible Originals, October 2020

Sub-Inspector Ferron and her partner get a relatively rare summons to, not come to police headquarters, but to join an immersive virutal reality replay of a citizen's recent visit. A virtual reality influencer star came in to report that she is being stalked online by someone threatening her with death if she goes online. And if she doesn't go online, of course she can't do the influencer work that provides her livelihood. It's not just an empty threat; another influencer, her close friend, was getting similar threats and has now disappeared.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human, by Siddhartha Mukherjee (author), Dennis Boutsikaris (narrator)

Simon & Schuster Audio, ISBN 9781797147093, October 2022

Siddhartha Mukherjee is a cancer physcian and researcher, and gives us a fascinating history  of cell biology and cellurlar medicine. Though cancer is a central interest for him, he clearly makes the case that most of modern medicine, not just cancer research and treatment, is cellular medicine.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

In the House of Aryaman, a Lonely Signal Burns (Sub-Inspector Ferron Mysteries #1), by Elizabeth Bear (author), Zehra Jane Naqvi (narrator)

Audible Originals, October 2020

A half-century in the future, in Bangalore, Police Sub-Inspector Ferron is called to the home of scientist with a checkered past, who has been reported missing. What she finds is a toroidal mass of meat that, when DNA tested, is identified as the missing scientist. She also finds the only witness, his parrot-cat--a genetically engineered talking cat.

Whose memory, unfortunately, has apparently been wiped. Ferron talks to the cat, gives her food, and calls her Chairman Meow, and the cat imprints on Ferron. This isn't what Ferron intended or inspected, with no previous expereince with parrot-cats. Besides, she already has a pet--a domesticated silver fox, the pet her mother got bored with. Anyway, she has a murder to investigate!

Monday, November 7, 2022

A Night in the Lonesome October, by Roger Zelazny (author), Matt Godfrey (narrator)

Recorded Books, ISBN 9781705061329, August 2022

Snuff is our narrator, here, and he's a smart, interesting, likable dog. He's the friend and partner of a man called Jack, and they are preparing for a major event. Jack has a very sharp knife, which he and Snuff use in gathering the necessary ingredients for the ancient and deadly ritual that will be performed on Halloween.

But Jack and Snuff aren't the only participants preparing for what they call "The Game."  Crazy Jill and her cat, Greymalk, The Count and his bat. Dr.Frankenstein, Rasputin, The Wolfman, and others--all (except The Wolfman) with their animal companions. Sherlock Holmes is very interested,  but not, himself, a player.

Friday, November 4, 2022

The Neuroscience of You: How Every Brain Is Different and How to Understand Yours, by Chantel Prat (author, narrator)

Penguin Random House Audio, ISBN 9780593584774, August 2022

Chantel Prat, a professor at the University of Washington, says neuroscience's focus on how brains work "on average," while obviously valuable, is getting in the way of the research that helps us understand the differences between us, and our individual strengths and weakness.

She writes and narrates in a lively, informal tone, and in each chapter focuses on different areas and functions of our brains, in which we can identify ways in which different people can function very differently.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Ringworld (Ringworld #1), by Larry Niven (author), Tom Parker (narrator), Grover Gardner (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, ISBN 9781441760415, March 2005 (original publication October 1970)

Louis Wu is 200 years old, and he's bored. It's his 200th birthday, and he's using transfer booths to extend the celebration of it for a full twenty-four hours, and he's really bored.

Then, when transferring from one birthday location to another, he winds up someplace else entirely. An entirely mundane hotel room, occupied by an alien. Specifically, a Pierson's Puppeteer, a being with two small heads on snake-like necks, three hooved legs, and its brain housed in its main body, rather than either of the heads. When Puppeteers are speaking in their own language, the effect is often orchestral. This particular Puppeteer has chosen the human-pronounceable name of Nessus. Nessus has a plan to alleviate Louis' boredom.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

The October Man (Rivers of London #7.5), by Ben Aaronovitch

Subterranean Press, May 2019

This entry in Rivers of London is, for variety, set in Germany, and involves a German river. Or two. And river goddesses.

Tobias Winter is an investigator for  Abteilung KDA, the German version of Britain's Folly. He's on leave when he gets summoned to Trier, to investigate a possible "infraction." A man has been found dead, his body completely covered by a strange fungus, which has also invaded his lungs, causing his death.

(Tobias is Germany's equivalent of Peter Grant, not Thomas Nightingale; he's the relatively new practitioner recruited because "you can't trust the British to keep an agreement over the long term." Yes, there's competition and distrust between the magical law enforcement operations of Britain and Germany.)

Tobias Winter's liaison with the Trier police is Vanessa Sommer, who is intelligent, ambitious, and very interested when she learns that Tobi can actually do magic.

Sommer is also her unit's expert on wine and the local wine industry, more by accident than intention, and the dead man was found near a winery, and was a member of a social group called The Good Wine Drinking Association--half a dozen middle-aged men whose lives were at a standstill  in various ways. The fungus is one that is sometimes used in the wine industry.

Winter and Sommer are soon visiting the winery. The owner is the granddaughter of the last man to run it as a working winery, and has spent years in California learning the ways of the California wine industry. This doesn't include her grandfather's annual gift of wine to the local river goddess, Kelly, goddess of the River Kyll.

Investigation includes talking to Kelly, to the kindergarten-age new goddess of another river, to every surviving member of the Good Wine Drinking Association--and investigating a court scandal from more than a thousand years ago, when Kelly had taken a mortal lover.

There are more deaths, and the deaths have the inconvenient effect of eliminating suspects while not helping them zero in on the real killer, who might be an illegal practitioner, or something more frightening.

I like the characters, the story is interesting, intricate and satisfying. It's also quite fun to get the German perspective on the British and the Folly, including Tobias' study of every detail the Germans have on Detective Constable Peter Grant. It seems there's a lot of possibility for both rivalry and cooperation between the two magical law enforcement organizations. I'd really like to see some of that.


I received this book as a gift, and am reviewing it voluntarily.