Translation State

by Ann Leckie

An exploration of the limits of identity, plus legal and political intrigue and a bit of space magic.

I read Leckie’s Imperial Radtch series a few years ago and loved it. I enjoyed the story, but also the way she omitted gender signifiers and used she/her pronouns for nearly all the characters. In Translation State she introduces some new pronouns, like e/er and xie/xir. This time I found it distracting and tiresome.

Perhaps for that reason I found this book hard to get into. It had a long, slow start for me. I wouldn’t recommend it, but it does have me very curious to read more about the aliens in Lecki’s universe.

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!

Last Argument of Kings

by Joe Abercrombie

The decrepit king finally dies and his successor surprises everyone. The kingdom is threatened by a peasant revolt. And before the army can return from the North the massive Gurkish army attacks the city with one hundred Eaters on their side.

On the one hand, this is a fully satisfying conclusion to the series. On the other hand, by the end you’ll hate—or at least be very disappointed by—every single character.

Before They Are Hanged

by Joe Abercrombie

The stage was set in The Blade Itself. Now the story splits into three: all-out war in the North, a hopeless battle in the South, and a quest for a world-saving magic item in the West. A connector that substantially develops the main characters.

A worthy sequel. Just remember: the more you start to like someone, the more likely it is that they are about to do something terrible.

The Blade Itself

by Joe Abercrombie

The plot is a pretty familiar fantasy epic. A central kingdom threatened from abroad. A cast of main characters with important roles to play in the war to come. Supernatural forces pulling strings in the background. A quest to the edge of the known world.

What sets it apart is the cast of characters. There are no heroes in this story. Among the main characters in this book are a career murderer, a selfish dandy swordsman, a bitter torturer, a drunk sister and her brother, a ruthless manipulative wizard. And so on. They are all compromised, but you’ll end up starting to like each of them—right before they do something terrible again. Nobody is redeemed.

And it works. The storytelling is great, you’ll get into the characters, and you won’t want to put the book down. I didn’t.

The Consuming Fire

by John Scalzi

You know how climate change is a thing and we could probably do something about it but we can’t even agree it’s really happening, much less what to do. Or how COVID-19 is a thing that we can prevent with masks and vaccines but lots of people think it’s a hoax, or that vaccines are a hoax, or that anyone who gets sick is lying. That’s basically the Interdependency once the imminent collapse of the Flow becomes public knowledge.

It’s not like humans are going to stop being human just because of an imminent threat to humanity.

Good sequel.

The Collapsing Empire

by John Scalzi

Humanity has spread out with the help of the Flow—sort of like faster-than-light rivers through space. Each human world specializes in one thing the others need, so that no world can survive without the other. Hence, the Interdependency. When the Flow starts changing, a scientist, a starship captain, and the reluctant new ruler of the Interdependency rush to salvage what they can.

Well written page-turner with likable characters. My one complaint: interdependency is a really clunky word.

Warbreaker

by Brandon Sanderson

Look, Brandon Sanderson is one of the best fantasy writers there is, and this is the start of a promising new epic fantasy series with an innovative magic system, strong women characters, and plenty of adventure and political intrigue. The only bad thing is there isn’t a second book in the series, yet. I hate getting into a new series only to have to wait for the next book.