Book Recommendations?

Just finished the Valor series, by Tanya Huff. She's been around forever, but I'm not sure I've read anything of hers before. This series was pretty good, enough to stick through all five. It never quite gets to "great", and IMO peaks in about Book 3, but they're all worth reading.

Basic synopsis: this is a form of military SF, following a female sergeant in a spacegoing Marine Corps unit. Watching her navigate around her officers and get them pointed in the direction she wants them is pretty amusing. In Huff's Marines, it's the sergeants that make the Corps work, and the officers are almost, but not quite, hangers-on. Sergeant Torin Kerr endeavors, through pure force of will, to keep her platoon alive and moving when a whole lot of entities have strong objections to that idea. I don't know how well any of this correlates with real-life Marine units, but within the confines of the book and without much outside knowledge, things feel entirely plausible. (I want to use 'authentic', but how the heck would I know?)

Sergeant Kerr is exceptionally clever, and while that doesn't matter that much in the first two books, by the time the third has rolled around and her unit is in the sh*t again, she starts to twig to the fact that Something Is Going On Here, and she starts to get pissed. The nature of the books changes substantially after that; it becomes much less focused on the military and much more on Sergeant Kerr and her attempts to figure out just what, exactly, is wrong. Why does all this crap keep happening to her people specifically?

Occasionally the plotting can get a little obvious; Book 4 didn't surprise me much, and I was definitely ready for it to be over by the time it was done. But then Book 5 was almost totally different again, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

I realize I'm being vague to the point of near-uselessness, but the larger story is quite interesting, and it'd be a shame to spoil it. Something is going on, but it's not quite like any other plot I've seen, and it would be poor form to give any of it away.

There's lots of military-focused SF out there, and an awful lot of the stuff is bargain-basement crap. (especially the stuff the Sad Puppies are into, yuck.) This isn't like that. It's quite solid, and I think it's extremely unlikely that you'll guess where she's going with the plot until she gets there.

Again, the series never quite gets to "great", but it's consistently good. If you'd like to read some military-style SF but want to avoid the schlock, and won't mind being taken in a very different direction over time, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Ther's a whopper of an unresolved plot point at the end of Book 5, and it looks like it's the launch point for a second series called Peacekeeper. I was okay with stopping where I was, but only just now realized that there was more available, which was a pleasant surprise. I find I'm quite interested to see where she goes with the story.

The first book is here: Valor's Choice.

Malor wrote:

Just finished the Valor series, by Tanya Huff. ....

I've been recommending that series forever here :). Glad to see somebody else read it, Malor. They're just fun with all the military humor.

The two new Peacekeeper books are fairly recent after the series being dormant for awhile. The new books are good, but I enjoyed the first series more I think.

Another series that I kind of put at that same level of quality and enjoyment for me are Elizabeth Moon's Vatta's War series, which has also started getting new books in a follow on series years after the first ones were released. They may start off feeling a bit more YA than Huff's books though IIRC.

Robear wrote:

McDonald is amazingly talented at world-building, and also at building characters and setting them loose. If you have not read his other work, it's all up to this standard. Largely he focuses on Brazilian and Indian settings.

I finished the first two of the series last week only to find that the third has been delayed (!) until mid-March. The Brazilian and Chinese influences make so much sense as the "colonists" of the moon since the colonists we've seen historically have been in similar positions; viz, well-educated and hardworking, but held back by entrenched elites & societal lag.

Overall - I really like them. The first book doesn't really start to move until about 2/3rds of the way in, but holy crap does it get going.

I liked the vast majority of the second book, but

Spoiler:

I'm not certain how I feel about the introduction of Alexia from Brazil as "The Iron Hand." It might just be me, but it's a bit late in the series to start introducing new characters for me to care about. Maybe it's McDonald having just killed off the majority of main characters and needing someone to tell his story, but for Lucas to have found a surrogate for his mother in Brazil smacks of deus ex machina to me. On the other hand, it looks like Lucas is getting set up as the villain of the third book and maybe Alexia will be his henchperson.

Either way, I'll pick up the third in March.

Also - incredibly excited for Neal Stephenson's new novel. The premise seems amusing enough and I trust Stephenson to give us something thought-provoking. The fact that it's coming out the week before I'm on vacation is perfect. Having to call in sick because I stayed up all night reading Seveneves was inconvenient.

Tanya Huff started writing supernatural books in the early 90s. Blood series. One of them freaked me out and I had my husband hide the book so I wouldn't see it for a time.

I enjoyed Enchnatment Emporium series and Keepers Chronicles by her too.
The Torin Kerr series is the one she's written most in (Valor and then Peacekeeper). Book 3 of Peacekeeper series came out last year.

MathGoddess wrote:

Tanya Huff started writing supernatural books in the early 90s. Blood series. One of them freaked me out and I had my husband hide the book so I wouldn't see it for a time.

I keep meaning to try the Blood series, but always get sidetracked.

I read them as they were published. I don't know how they'd hold up now but it's been over 20 years now and the last bit of book 4, I think, still disturbs me. May be personal issues but ewww! Might be interesting to reread. And it's wild that I still think of supernatural genre as "new" when it's decades old.

I started with "supernatural" series in early 90s with Mercedes Lackey's Diana Tregarde books, then Laurell K Hamilton when her books had a plot, and Tanya Huff. Kelley Armstrong started her series a bit after that. I was in grad school then.

If you enjoy the urban fantasy genre, definitely check out Charles de Lint. He was one of the earliest working in the form, and his books are always interesting. The various tales are, typically, only loosely connected, but most of them are set in a medium-sized fictional city called Newford. Older characters may peek in at the edges of later books, but are there for color rather than for plot development, so you can pretty much pick up anything he's done and be fine.

The norm for urban fantasy seems to be fairly hard edges with reasonably well-defined magic systems. de Lint is much more mystical and fantastic; the various things that happen and the creatures and entities that populate his city are wildly different from one another, often seeming to have no relation to anything else. One character can paint things that come alive, for instance, and her area of the city is populated with these entities, some of which are functionally human. But there's also a few gods of a local Indian tribe wandering about, at least one of whom apparently dates back to when the world was first created. There's hobs and fairies, and I believe Sidhe as well, although I'm a little blurry on that bit. There's magic-via-pure-willpower, humans three inches tall, classical witches that make bargains with demons, and doors into alternate realities.

You just have no idea where on earth he's going to go with each novel until he gets there.

Thanks to whomever recommenced Lovecraft Country. I hadn't looked at the description on here again before diving in. It was just on my list, so I downloaded it from the library and started reading. Not at all what I expected!

For those who haven't read it, it's a somewhat-supernatural story set in the 50s. The book follows the lives of a family of African Americans in that day, with a strong focus on the non-supernatural parts of their lives. It's kind of brutal to read the treatment they receive at the hands of White America at the time. Good to read it to think about what it must have been like, but brutal. The supernatural part focuses on practitioners of "natural philosophy," i.e., magic. It's an interesting combination.

The book is really several interconnected stories focusing on several members of the extended family. I sort of wished when I read it that the story had followed one single thread, but the stories were tied together at the end.

I recommend it!

Lovecraft Country is a great book.

I'm rereading "Skagboys", Irvine Welsh's prequel to "Trainspotting", in preparation for the new book in the series coming in a few months. I'll probably reread the whole set. Reading it for the second time, I'm struck by the subtle clues he gives as to why each of the main characters has the issues they do. There are the overt problems, of course, but then there are some pretty deep things buried in dialog or in the choices they make at important times, and some of those are more compelling than the surface level stuff he has going on. I'm always amazed at the sheer detail and depth Welsh is able to put into his characters with a seemingly minimalist style, often obscured by dialect and assumed cultural understandings. Truly a master of dark social realism as well as humor and drama.

MannishBoy wrote:
Malor wrote:

Just finished the Valor series, by Tanya Huff. ....

I've been recommending that series forever here :). Glad to see somebody else read it, Malor. They're just fun with all the military humor.

I just picked this up and started it based on the conversation here. About 15% of the way in, so far so good.

Robear wrote:

I'm rereading "Skagboys", Irvine Welsh's prequel to "Trainspotting", in preparation for the new book in the series coming in a few months. I'll probably reread the whole set. Reading it for the second time, I'm struck by the subtle clues he gives as to why each of the main characters has the issues they do. There are the overt problems, of course, but then there are some pretty deep things buried in dialog or in the choices they make at important times, and some of those are more compelling than the surface level stuff he has going on. I'm always amazed at the sheer detail and depth Welsh is able to put into his characters with a seemingly minimalist style, often obscured by dialect and assumed cultural understandings. Truly a master of dark social realism as well as humor and drama.

I was just talking about the poop contest today. When's the new one due?

"Dead Man's Trousers", Feb. 26 in the US. Apparently it's been out for a year in the UK. Similar situation to that of "The Blade Artist" which still is unavailable on Kindle in the US (and expensive on Amazon even in paperback, leading me to believe it's an import). Not sure what's going on with his book distro but I'm disappointed in the release lag.

Worth noting the next Expanse novel Tiamat's Wrath is releasing on 26 March this year. This is the penultimate novel in their series. Also it seems Amazon picked up the Expanse TV series so it's not dead yet.

I won't link to places like Book Depository which have the blurb up and it contains content that could be spoilerish for those who haven't caught up yet.

Spoiler:

Looks like it's going to focus a lot on the alien mystery that wiped out the precursor aliens who designed the protomolecule, some Holden philosophical arguments with the first human immortal, with a smattering of the Rocinate crew mixed in to again demonstrate how humanity keeps killing itself despite bigger issues threatening the entire species.

Bfgp wrote:

Worth noting the next Expanse novel Tiamat's Wrath is releasing on 26 March this year. This is the penultimate novel in their series. Also it seems Amazon picked up the Expanse TV series so it's not dead yet.

I won't link to places like Book Depository which have the blurb up and it contains content that could be spoilerish for those who haven't caught up yet.

Spoiler:

Looks like it's going to focus a lot on the alien mystery that wiped out the precursor aliens who designed the protomolecule, some Holden philosophical arguments with the first human immortal, with a smattering of the Rocinate crew mixed in to again demonstrate how humanity keeps killing itself despite bigger issues threatening the entire species.

I read all of the main novels the year before last and I am not sure I am ready for another yet.

Rykin wrote:
Bfgp wrote:

Worth noting the next Expanse novel Tiamat's Wrath is releasing on 26 March this year. This is the penultimate novel in their series. Also it seems Amazon picked up the Expanse TV series so it's not dead yet.

I won't link to places like Book Depository which have the blurb up and it contains content that could be spoilerish for those who haven't caught up yet.

Spoiler:

Looks like it's going to focus a lot on the alien mystery that wiped out the precursor aliens who designed the protomolecule, some Holden philosophical arguments with the first human immortal, with a smattering of the Rocinate crew mixed in to again demonstrate how humanity keeps killing itself despite bigger issues threatening the entire species.

I read all of the main novels the year before last and I am not sure I am ready for another yet.

I've been thinking about a re-read of the series

Just finished Into the Drowning Deep - so, I'm clearly continuing my love affair with the works of Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire - this one is essentially Aliens set aboard a deep sea research vessel, but it rises above that premise by having well drawn characters, good dialog, and a great sense of tension.

Sounds really interesting! Recommend as a buy for audiobook or put on the library list?

Robear wrote:

"Dead Man's Trousers", Feb. 26 in the US. Apparently it's been out for a year in the UK. Similar situation to that of "The Blade Artist" which still is unavailable on Kindle in the US (and expensive on Amazon even in paperback, leading me to believe it's an import). Not sure what's going on with his book distro but I'm disappointed in the release lag.

Yeah that sucks. Well I'm onboard too Robear aka one other person that has read this much Welsh I know.

One of us! One of us!

SallyNasty wrote:

Sounds really interesting! Recommend as a buy for audiobook or put on the library list?

Aside from a possibly sketchy Australian accent, I liked the audiobook

I'm reading Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee at the moment and have The Wind-up Girl next.

I cooled a little on The Engines of God by the end, as I was hoping for more space archaeology and less random peril. Still glad I read it though, it was a good time.

Due to all the love for it in this thread, I started The Bear and the Nightingale. It took a little while to get going, but I'm a third of the way through it now and am enjoying it.

The Reality Dysfunction became available from the library. I picked it up and.. that is a heck of a tome. Been a while since I read a 1000+ page epic. Hopefully I can finish it in time.

boogle wrote:

I'm reading Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee at the moment and have The Wind-up Girl next.

Oof. The Wind-Up Girl was a series of gut punches.

Tanglebones wrote:
boogle wrote:

I'm reading Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee at the moment and have The Wind-up Girl next.

Oof. The Wind-Up Girl was a series of gut punches.

I found it well worth the experience in the end, but I can’t disagree.

So, after "The Engines of God", McDevitt did not produce another book in the series for seven years. But he then had a creative flurry, and wrote several followups, releasing one per year. I'd respectfully suggest that they are more interesting than the others, having a theme that recurs in each of the next few books. I'd suggest continuing with the series. (He does, however, continue to use peril as a challenge for his characters. But the puzzles get bigger and more weighty, compared to the first book.)

Tanglebones wrote:
SallyNasty wrote:

Sounds really interesting! Recommend as a buy for audiobook or put on the library list?

Aside from a possibly sketchy Australian accent, I liked the audiobook

And purchased. Next one one after Rosewater!

Robear wrote:

So, after "The Engines of God", McDevitt did not produce another book in the series for seven years. But he then had a creative flurry, and wrote several followups, releasing one per year. I'd respectfully suggest that they are more interesting than the others, having a theme that recurs in each of the next few books. I'd suggest continuing with the series. (He does, however, continue to use peril as a challenge for his characters. But the puzzles get bigger and more weighty, compared to the first book.)

Thanks! I'll check out the later ones once I get through some of the others on my plate.

Instead of following up on some great recommendations here, I'm re-reading (again) The Name of the Rose, because it hits all of my literary pleasure centers. I really need to finish one of the other books Eco wrote.

"Foucault's Pendulum" is a great one, Natus. Classic maze-of-mirrors stuff.

Reread Name of the Rose a couple or three years ago. It's wonderful!

One of these days, I'll get around to reading Foucault's Pendulum. It's actually the first of Eco's books I read way back when.