May 29th, 2010

_Victorious_, Jack Campbell (kindle)

Published by Ace, and therefore I got it a little late as a result of the Penguin/Amazon war. When it did come out, pricing was "set by the publisher". I was able to get it a couple days before the other two books I was waiting for (which were new-in-hardcover, whereas the Lost Fleet novel is a paperback original -- your guess is as good as mine as to whether this is a fluke or somehow relevant).

This is book 6 in the Lost Fleet series and as the title indicates, things go well for the No Longer Lost Fleet and Black Jack Geary. While his grand-nephew Michael does not reappear (*sniff*), Jack has a couple heart-to-hearts with Jane. Step one is checking in with the leaders of the Alliance who of course are expecting him to want to take over. He doesn't and even manages to convince (most of) them that he doesn't. His reward, inevitably, is to be sent back out with a few more ships and replenished ammo etc. to finish off the Syndic leadership and then go find out what is up with the aliens.

Which he does. Throughout the book, people on both sides of the war (and the aliens) persist in wanting to use the hypernet gates to destroy star systems -- and Geary keeps having to figure out ways to stop them, either by talking them down, showing them the results at Kalixa or revealing their intent and thus motivating other people to prevent the dastardly deed. Once the Syndics are in sufficient disarray, a confrontation with the aliens occurs as they arrive to take over a Syndic system now that the Syndic reserve flotilla (blown away in book 5) is gone. That's almost an anti-climax, involving the weird worm introduced earlier in the series.

Having neatly dealt with all the Big Bads, Geary artfully dodges his re-promotion to Admiral long enough to chase down His True Love and declare himself. Awwww. So cute.

A satisfying conclusion to an enjoyable series. RHI their will be related novels. Here's hoping those rumors are true. In the meantime, if you're looking for more Campbell, track down John G. Hemry's JAG in Space series; you can get it in non-DRM'd electronic format from Baen's website.

_Dead in the Family_, Charlaine Harris (kindle)

This is the second of the three books that I've been waiting for in the wake of the Penguin/Amazon pricing war. Pricing for the kindle version when I bought it was $12.99 (set by the publisher). Apparently this is book 10 in the Sookie Stackhouse series, which is somewhat daunting to even contemplate. No, I would not recommend starting this series with this book, and no, it does not work to attempt to watch the HBO series True Blood as a way to get to know the characters and then re-insert into the series -- the divergence is too great.

This outing is Sookie re-visiting a lot of family relationships. Her relationship to Jason improves dramatically: with Crystal gone and his new lady-love considerably more stable, and Jason settling into being two-natured, Sookie can actually count on Jason to help her out of a tough spot when Eric's maker shows up with his most recent in tow. That most recent is Alexei Romanov (yup, that one) and wow is he crazy. Eric's maker is trying to figure out what to do about Alexei and hoping Eric can help. Meanwhile, Eric's immediate boss in the hierarchy, Victor, makes no direct appearance, but his presence in the background crystallizes Sookie's acceptance of her bloodthirstiness. No, I don't mean Sookie becomes a vampire. But Sookie's conception of herself, her values, her morality, what have you, has been at odds with what she actually _does_ for most of the series. In this book, that stops being the case. It's a wonderful development.

Despite the return of most of the fae to their world and the portals being closed, Claude's continued presence -- and, it turns out, the continued presence of another full-blood sky fae and another half fae who is related to Sookie -- complicates Sookie's life in a variety of ways. That takes the entire book to figure out and resolve, as it was interrupted by the arrival of Eric's maker and Alexei.

Paralleling the story of Eric's maker, Eric and Alexei, Bill continues to suffer from silver poisoning (the result of a bite from a fae with silver tipped teeth in the previous book, when Bill helped rescue Sookie from the evil fae who also murdered her parents -- oh, and we find out why Eric didn't come to help out). As Eric's maker hopes to cure Alexei by having him hang out with Eric (which doesn't work), Bill could be cured by his maker, Lorena (who Sookie killed a few books back) or Lorena's second vampire. Sookie tracks her down to see if that will help and that turns out much better than things do with Alexei.

The final scene in the book is an odd one, as the really quite traumatized in many, many ways Sookie finds comfort in the arms of two fae (but not sexually). But then, Sookie's pretty odd, so I guess that makes sense. I _really love_ that Sookie's cousin's kid (Hunter) comes to spend parts of two days and one night. Watching Sookie get completely wiped out by taking care of one five year old (who is remarkably well behaved and who likes her a lot for believable reasons) after all the supernaturals she has successfully dealt with is entertaining.

Fun stuff. I'll read more.

ETA: Looking at the Amazon reviews, I'll add a couple more remarks. There is some awesomely weird book-ending in this entry. One character (Alexei) starts out really charming and turns out blazingly creepy. Another character (Dermot) starts out horrifying and winds up being cuddly. There are a lot of parallel developments like this, and for me they added up to a cohesive theme, if not a coherent plot. Another example: Sookie acting as Shaman for Alcide's pack let her participate in the pack through its emotional life in a way she has never participated in any group before. The story in this book is the un-isolating of Sookie, a story that is as good a recovery from the torture of _Dead and Gone_ than the therapy Sookie is unlikely ever to get. I was a little puzzled by the comments that she recovered from those events in a single chapter, when quite clearly they were influencing the entire book, both directly (Bill finding his True Love and Sookie trying to cope with that) and thematically (Alexei).