Brief reviews of books I've read.
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... and finally we get a story starring O'Mara. General opinion seems to be that this is one of the strongest books in the series, and I'd agree; there's considerable skill both in plotting and characterisation at work here.
Sector General from a patient's point of view.
I was pleased to have worked out the mystery fairly early on in this one — although I did have the advantage of having read the preceding books recently...
I suspect James White might have felt the series was getting a bit too serious after the last two books. In this story, Gurronsevas — who appears to be Traltha's answer to Alexis Soyer — resolves to improve the standard of Sector General's catering. Mixed results ensue. Suitably amusing stuff.
I'm not going to spoil the premise of this alt-history detective story (unlike every other review I've seen). I thought this was pretty good, verging on excellent in several places; there are some lovely twists to the worldbuilding, and the last few chapters have some great imagery — I could imagine this working really well as an anime film...
The third Sector General omnibus. As the introduction points out, Conway is now (mostly) too senior to have adventures, so we have two new protagonists, and more of a focus on O'Mara's psychology department.
Code Blue — Emergency (1987) has substantially stronger
writing and characterisation than the earlier stories (helped by not
being a fix-up novel), and I really liked the setting.
It even passes the Bechdel test!
The Genocidal Healer (1991) is excellent — it goes off in a
surprising philosophical direction, albeit one that would have been
quite topical at the time, given that James White was from Belfast.
It was nice to see Khone getting some of the best lines here.
Again, a POD book; variable print quality and some OCR errors, but probably better on average than the previous two. There's no in-print omnibus of the rest of the series, so I've ordered individual copies...
I've never been very good at reading series in the right order — this is the first Sector General anthology, not the one I read a couple of weeks ago, and it includes the only one of the novels that I'd read beforehand.
The science and engineering stands up very well; the gender attitudes less so,
Star Surgeon (1963).
Will we ever find out Murchison's first name?
This is also a POD book, and the print quality's fine this time, but the text suffers badly from missing words and typos.
Revolution in New Crobuzon — and a truly epic train journey. This reads as rather less enthusiastically strange than the previous two books, and the Wild West-inspired settings didn't really work for me, but the parallel stories are very effective and the ending's neatly-engineered.
Unfortunately, Miéville hasn't written another novel in this universe in the
last decade (although
Railsea looks promising).
My recommended reading order for this series:
Perdido Street Station,
The second anthology in the current edition of the Sector General novels, set in the central hospital of a galactic civilisation with a combination of easy FTL travel and an enormous variety of intelligent alien species. We follow human doctor Conway and his only-occasionally-human colleagues as they work out how to cater to the unusual medical needs of their patients.
The characterisation is paper-thin, and I still don't really have much idea of what a Hudlar or a Tralthan actually looks like, but that's not really the point; the author's interested in what you can do with a space-opera-like setting where conflict is rare, and there's some nice consideration here of how unusual alien civilisations could work.
The only complaint I've got is that this is a print-on-demand book — and as usual, the quality is appalling! Anyone would think Amazon were trying to kill off the paper book...
Published in 2013, this is an impressive collection of fantasy short stories — there was only one here that didn't really grab me.
K J Parker's
The Dragonslayer of Merebarton (set, peripherally, in the
Engineer universe) is excellent, as expected. Ellen Klages'
Sponda the Suet
Girl and the Secret of the French Pearl features some highly entertaining
alchemy. Several others — e.g. Ellen Kushner and Ysabeu S. Wilce's
Last, Great Adventure and Jeffrey Ford's
Spirits of Salt —
play with the fairy-tale form. All in all, good stuff, and highly recommended;
I'll be seeking more from all the authors here.
Reboots of sci-fi universes: not always a good idea. Scalzi's style — and especially his sense of humour — works beautifully in this setting, though. This is an updated Zarathustra with a tighter, more compelling story than the 1962 original. Very good stuff; recommended.
John Scalzi's web site has various excerpts and interviews. And a power ballad. Just in case.
- A Land Fit For Heroes
- Assiti Shards Series
- Baroque Cycle
- Brigadier Gerard
- Carlotta Carlyle
- Cities In Flight
- Culture Series
- Eschaton Series
- Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser
- George Smiley
- Halting State
- His Dark Materials
- Honor Harrington
- "I, Robot" Universe
- James Bond
- Lake Wobegon
- Little Fuzzy
- Lord Peter Wimsey
- Mars Trilogy
- Martin Beck
- Merchant Princes
- Miss Marple
- Platform Studies
- Precious Ramotswe
- Realm of the Elderlings
- Revelation Space
- Sector General
- Sherlock Holmes
- Soldier Son
- Starbuck Chronicles
- Takeshi Kovacs
- The Dresden Files
- The Flashman Papers
- The Grail Quest
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
- The Laundry
- The Owl
- The Pendragon Cycle
- The Tales Of Alvin Maker
- Wheel of Time
- Zones of Thought