i can't say i get excited about cixin liu, despite the hype. everything i hear about the book suggests it is a retro style, harking back to american writers i never read. and the dryness of the material outweighs the ideas. i've read a number of chinese novels/shorts, and i think enough of those cover the material that i'm not so inclined to bother.
in meantime, I've read:
alien separation - gini koch - this was bought in an import book store, had never heard of it, cover looked decent, description sounded like a fun read. it is 500 page slab, book 11 of an ongoing series. aliens have come to earth, they aren't that different from humans, adventures happen. the main character is just back from one adventure, in which she discovered who her nemesis really is. but before she can do anything about that, her and her team are whisked off to an alien planet and split up. there are about 200 pages of fast paced, quick smart, page turning adventure here. unfortunately the other 400 (yes, it feels like she crammed an extra 100 pages in there) of back story and digression and tangents about characters not even in this book, do little to hold the interest. it was decent enough, but i feel this one was enough and there is every chance i'll never read another.
ack-ack macaque - gareth powell - despite playing late night games of cards against humanity with powell and a load of other folk in the glasgow con bar, i'd never read any of his stuff. this, or its sequel perhaps, co-won the best novel at that con (split with ancillary justice). while the idea of a hard smoking/drinking, gun toting monkey fighter pilot seems to be enough for many people, and is the main selling point, it is i admit a little off putting to me. however, it is much more complicated that that. in the 1950s britain and france formed an alliance, other countries in europe joining over the years to form a kind of common wealth. 100 years on and there has been an attempt on the king's life. an ex-journalist has been rebuilt as a mostly cyborg after a helicopter crash, she arrives in london to follow up her ex-husbands murder. and the monkey. it is a good fun read, full on cyberpunk, brimming with ideas. over brimming even.
the sorcerer of the wildeeps - kai ashanti wilson - one of a new series of novellas coming from tor, aiming for the 100 page range, reasonably cheap ebooks. seen some decent stuff about it, but it was the following blurb that caught my eye:
"THE SORCERER OF THE WILDEEPS reads like Gene Wolfe and Samuel R Delany trying to one-up each other on a story prompt by Fritz Leiber. That means it's good. Read it." - Max Gladstone
a merchant caravan is travelling across the desert with a group of bodyguards/warriors for protection. the main character is a man from another country who has been nicknamed the sorcerer, this is because being a child of the gods marks him as different. the gods being some mythical/science hybrid - so that he has strange knowledge that no one else understands. except perhaps the captain - another child of the gods, but from a different family. to reach their destination they need to go through the wildeeps - a place a of strange magics that should be safe, except something has crept in. a pretty fun read, a mishmash of textures, woven in so that it feels solid and coherent. reflects on the characters relationships, teases in the worldbuilding, before gradually coming to the big adventure stuff.
sorcerer to the crown - zen cho - a malaysian author who lives in london. i previously read her collection of short stories - spirits abroad - which is a good collection of mostly contemporary fantasy/fairy tale, heavily influenced by malaysian culture. this is her debut novel, something a tribute to her love of "mr. norrell and jonathan strange". which means it has some of the same issues - the novel is set in britain, it is the british government, the british crown, britain at war, but all the references to england and english magic are somewhat off-putting. apart from that, it is a light, fast paced read - a fraction of the size and density of the influence source. zacharias has become sorcerer royal after the death of his mentor. freed from slavery as a baby and raised by the previous sorcerer royal society is up in arms at this black man taking such a prominent role. which makes him the perfect scape goat when it comes to finding a source for the decline of magic in britain. zen manages to mix in elements of malaysian cryptomagical references here, and of feminist texture and potential for magic. clearly she is tackling race and gender roles in a historic setting with interesting results.
twelve tomorrows - the second of these annual MIT fiction specials to be edited by bruce sterling. contains stories by stross, harkaway, beauman, kessel, and sterling himself. some average ok stuff, and some ooh that is quite nice stuff.