The Rising

by Ian Tregillis

The three-sided conflict comes to a head. The Dutch threaten to wipe the French from the face of the New World. The French try not to let them. And a new Clakker threat emerges from the frozen north.

Plus a bit of philosophizing on the nature of souls and free will. But less than in the first book; this is more a straight-up save-the-world adventure. I enjoyed it, if not quite as much as the first book. But like Empire Strikes Back, it’s clearly a connector to the finale, which I will be starting … now.

The Mechanical

by Ian Tregillis

Artificial intelligence, but with alchemical robots—Clakkers—instead of computerized ones. Instead of enslaving Africans to build the New World, the Dutch use alchemy to create mechanical slaves and take over Europe, driving the French into exile in their North American territories. French catholics who believe Clakkers have souls help rogue Clakkers escape on the ondergrondse grachten, the “underground canals.” New France barely survives by wielding advanced chemical weapons and defenses.

With plenty of references to the actual colonial history of North America, this is fundamentally an adventure story about a Clakker fugitive from injustice, a French spymaster’s quest to restore her country, and a French agent forced to betray his conscience and country. I liked it a lot, and I’ll start reading the next book in the series right away.

(Ian Tregillis’s other series, The Milkweed Triptych, is also a creative alternative-history series, about Nazis super-soldiers during World War II.)

Wake, Siren

by Nina MacLaughlin

How a bunch of women turned into trees, flowers, birds, and an occasional fantastical creature, constellation, or small body of water. Ovid’s Metamorphoses, retold from the perspectives of the women and not at all sympathetic to their divine rapists (or merely antagonists, in rare cases).

And so they called us dangerous. When it’s they who lack control. And so we’re known as monsters.

The Sirens, p. 307

Like the original, it’s a collection of stories, some of which are better than others. Overall, it’s good stuff. And some of the stories may stay with you for quite a while. I loved the last one in particular—Eurydice and Orpheus reimagined as an abusive indie rocker relationship.

The Last Emperox

by John Scalzi

Something I forgot to mention when reviewing the previous Interdependency books is how much I enjoy Scalzi’s exuberantly irreverent writing style. I love it when it feels like the author was chuckling at their own cleverness while writing. Tamsyn Muir is like that, too. And Jasper Fforde. And Douglas Adams, obviously.

In this, the last installment, the characters (Kiva Lagos is my absolute favorite) rollick towards a tidy but unpredictable conclusion.

If you didn’t get it from my previous reviews, I really enjoyed this series!

Jovah’s Angel

by Sharon Shinn

This book is a sequel to Archangel only in the sense that it takes place in the same setting, and later in the timeline. The characters are new, and they must confront a disabled Archangel, a malfunctioning god, the emergence of the industrial age, and the legacy of the settlers of Samaria.

The central mystery of Samaria is revealed by the end of this book. Although for it to have remained a mystery to the residents of Samaria for 500 years the settlers must have surgically removed curiosity from their bloodlines.

I liked it and I’ll keep reading. Shinn has created an interesting world and populated it with engaging characters, and the future will only get more interesting. (I’m pretty sure at some point Samaria has to become like a replay of the Star Trek: Voyager Episode, “Blink of an Eye.”)


by Sharon Shinn

Humanity—or a part of it—traveled to a distant planet, where their ship—or perhaps something aboard it—called itself god and sent humanity down to the surface to worship it. Some are even—genetically engineered, I assume—angels. And apparently everyone has to sing a lot, because that’s how you talk to god. It’s a caricature of religion, deployed as overt social control. And everyone goes along with it because this is a vengeful, Old Testament god that will smite anyone who doesn’t.

Or will it?

I’m a sucker for fantasy about gods and angels and demons (as long as it’s not just Christian fan fiction), and I liked this. And by the end of the book I’m no wiser about what’s floating above the planet changing the weather and smiting things, so I’ll keep reading the series.

The Golem and the Jinni

by Helene Wecker

A Jewish golem and a Syrian jinni become friends in New York City.

I didn’t feel invested in any of the main characters, which made this book tough going. And I was taken by surprise by the plot twists that started coming more than two thirds through the book–because they came completely out of nowhere.

I thought it was just OK.

Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine, 1921–1933

by Anne Applebaum

A history of the Holodomor–the famine deliberately caused by Stalin’s Soviet government that killed almost 4 million Ukrainians.

The famine of 1932–33 was needed by the Soviet government to break the backbone of the Ukrainian opposition to complete Russian domination. Thus it was a political move and not the result of natural causes.

S. Sosnovyi, on p. 386 of Red Famine

How was it deliberately caused? Simple. Soviet agents took all the food—from the crops in the fields to the food on Ukrainian peasants’ tables.

Just being alive attracted suspicion: if a family was alive, that meant it had food. But if they had food, then they should have given it up—and if they had failed to give it up, then they were kulaks, Petliurites, Polish agents, enemies.

p. 272

Famine is an abstract concept to most readers, but I won’t soon forget Applebaum’s haunting descriptions of people driven mad by hunger, dropping dead from one moment to the next, and even turning cannibal to survive. And the world accepted Stalin’s lies and all but refused to take notice of the Holodomor for more than 50 years. It only became generally known and acknowledged in the late 80s. Ukraine declared its independence in 1991.

Red Famine is not easy reading, but it is worthwhile reading.

A History of the Barricade

by Eric Hazan

A chronology of the barricade as a tool of civil insurrection, from its birth in the streets of Paris, then spreading briefly to the rest of Europe before being rendered ineffective by artillery. I had hoped to read more about the barricade as a tactic—what made them effective or not. Instead they are nearly a footnote in this book about (mostly) Parisian uprisings. It’s not until the epilogue that the author says anything about the significance of barricades themselves. Disappointing.