February 25th, 2012

"Inside Job", Connie Willis (kindle)

The 2005 Hugo Award winner for Novella, this is another of my attempts to get back into reading sf.

If you googled your way here, SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS. I do believe in telling absolutely every damn detail so you should go away now. The thing won in '05, so I ought to be able to describe it in '12 without catching shit for it.

When exactly did pomo hit sf? Obviously, as with every other literary trend, it gets to sf last (okay, _that's_ not fair. I suspect post-modernism hasn't made it to romance or erotica yet -- but please feel free to give me examples of how wrong I am). I haven't tried reading Connie Willis in over a decade but again, I've got friends who love her and I figured I really should make a concerted effort to read women writers of sf as part of this project.

"Inside Job" is available as a stand-alone novella through Amazon and probably elsewhere. This is super cool (even at $4.99) and I hope it means that our world will contain more e-format novellas, because novellas require a lot less time commitment than a novel and thus whatever issues I might have with them are more likely to be issues than Issues. Willis took a sort of noir context: instead of a private investigator, a Debunker who writes and publishes a magazine called the Jaundiced Eye, and the Dame is an independently wealthy, rich retired (but youthful) actress who is annoyed by the gullibility of all Hollywood. She takes a job for our private dick, er, magazine writer/publisher and finds a channeler who might be channeling H. L. Mencken. Antics ensue, with the dialog at times more screwball comedy than Noir. Also, there is this massive amount of stuff about Mencken in it.

The protagonist's theory (that this is all a setup to help the channeler make it big by conning him) is too creaky to be believable. That's the central problem with the story. I just couldn't believe that he'd be _that_ narcissistic and still like him (that is, if he was really that narcissistic, I just couldn't like him). However, it's a novella so I could mostly ignore it.

Given the amount of infodumpage about H. L. Mencken, Willis does an uber-competent job of making the dialog snappy. And I was kinda charmed by the way the Dame reacts to the Dick accusing her of being part of the con. Of course the Twist is that she isn't part of the con (even though she has been lying to him) -- but the other fraudster the Dick has been pursuing _is_ part of the con (but not trying to con the Dick).

It's very pastiche-y, altho in a somewhat different way than Charles Stross. The infodumpage is the same (but this is sf -- that's what we're expecting when reading this stuff). The cut-and-paste multiple-genres is the same. The details are too subtle for me to capture with this small a sample. But I might like this a little better than Stross; perhaps I'll try Blackout/All Clear. Then again, maybe I'll pick up some more of her short fiction.

_A Perfect Blood_, Kim Harrison (kindle)

I think this might be number 10 in The Hollows. The series is still improving, but I can't really recommend starting in the middle; it would be insanely confusing (it's confusing enough just with the gaps in publication).

If you arrived via the googley, SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS! Go away! Run! I like to ruin the whole thing and this book is new -- it's really just immoral and wrong of me but I'm going to do it anyway.

In this outing, Rachel starts out with Trent's silver bracelet keeping her hidden from the demons but simultaneously cutting her off from using any ley-line magic. She can still do earth magic, but her blood will no longer kindle some of the more complex charms. Meanwhile, because she is Out as a demon, she's having all kinds of trouble: getting her car registered in her own name, getting a driver's license, dealing with the lawsuits, not being listed as dead, etc.

She's called in by I.S. (her former employer) to look at a crime scene, only to discover that this is the third in a series and she hadn't been called in to the other ones because they were suspicious she was the one committing the crimes. Once she (and the rest of Vampiric Charms) are on site, they realize it's a human hate group, HAPA. She tracks down one of their sites and finds another body, which enables her to find a third site where they are still working on another victim, Winona. At this point, she is kidnapped and she gets to spend some time contemplating really why she didn't have Trent remove that bracelet sooner, as her captors take her blood and use it to commit still more mayhem while she remains comparatively powerless.

As usual, Rachel is mourning past/failed/changed relationships (in this case, worrying some about Pierce, feeling a little sad that Glenn and Ivy are moving on, watching Belle and Jenks work together to keep the pixie clan going) that no longer involve her intimately (and getting Kisten's pool table repaired) while simultaneously stringing along other possible relationships (Trent, notably, and the body guard Were Wayde, sent along by Takata and Rachel's mum to keep her from getting jumped while she's going about the more ordinary parts of her life).

Al's gone for most of the book and shows up mostly at the point where Rachel finally decides to come out of hiding/get back in touch with her powers and then again at the end, where it is finally driven home to a variety of people that Al is not as powerful as he would like people to believe.

We learn in the course of the book that neither Pierce nor Jonathan are dead, relieving Rachel of some small fraction of the guilt she likes to beat herself up with when things are going along too well.

I have one small quibble with the book: wow, did they all take way too long to figure out that whole Dr. Cordoba thing. That was completely obvious right from the beginning. Cranky creaky plot engine moving people along.

I'll keep reading The Hollows.