October 5th, 2012

_The Lost Stars: Tarnished Knight_, Jack Campbell (kindle)

For background purposes: Jack Campbell is John Hemry (of JAG in Space). Campbell wrote The Lost Fleet series, then The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier series (when the Lost Fleet goes home, it gets sent out again), and now _The Lost Stars_. This book relies upon the other series for background, but you could possibly read this book without that background.

The Syndicate half of the guard/prisoner relationship which was mostly background in the previous series is active in this novel (Colonel Rogero), but while he is important, he is not central. The central characters are Iceni (mobile forces) and Drakon (ground forces). They are each independently moving to liberate the Midway star system from its oppressive Syndicate hierarchy, partly to advance their own interests, partly because they actually have a moral core and don't like the way the Syndicate does things. They stumble upon each others efforts, coordinate, and succeed -- which isn't really giving away any of the story, because the story is about what to do after the revolution succeeds.

Some of the events of the most recent (IIRC) Beyond the Frontier series (when Jack Campbell faces off against an Enigma fleet and a Syndicate fleet at Midway) are just starting to occur at the tail end of this book.

Black Jack Geary is such a huge figure, and not just within the Alliance, that a large chunk of the Lost Fleet series is about the repercussions of _being_ a Hero. Drakon and Iceni have small amounts of the same thing going on, but while they both have a strong moral core for their time-and-place, the Syndicate's ethical structure is so wildly Not Like Ours that in some ways they feel like anti-heroes. Anti-heroes groping for redemption, but still. The primary theme developed in this context is the downside of doing everything to be Secure. While you could make the case that Campbell beats this particular drum a bit stridently, he does some really interesting things with it that I found thought-provoking.

I'm looking forward to the next entry. I can't believe I'm saying that, but I am. Campbell/Hemry has done a lot to keep this universe feeling simultaneously lived-in (with enough day-to-day to make it Real) and fresh.

_Cast in Peril_, Michelle Sagara (kindle)

I believe this to be book 8 in the series.

In this outing, Kaylin's attendance at the West March is requested by Lord Nightshade in exchange for him helping out with the Exchequer corruption case. SPOILERS! Seriously, you should run away now.

Bellusdeo is being an annoying tag-a-long and while Kaylin and Bellusdeo are at Kaylin's very tiny apartment, a bomb comes in through the shutters. An Arcanist bomb. The egg Kaylin has been watching since the travelers arrived and the portal opened and weird things happened with births hatches and the somewhat translucent lizard like creature mostly defuses the magic in the bomb and definitely saves Bellusdeo and Kaylin. Paperwork ensues.

Kaylin and Severn are sent to find out what happened to the young man who, on a dare, crossed into Tiamaris' fief. They discover he's not the first to disappear and help Tara and Tiamaris figure out how they are disappearing. Kaylin goes to Nightshade and accuses him of selling his people to whoever is disappearing people from the fiefs. The lizard, which has been hanging around on Kaylin (literally) and Nightshade face off (lizard wins).

Kaylin, Severn, and I've-forgotten-her-name-but-she's-a-Barrani-Hawk all leave to go to the West March. They stay in weird places that Barrani stay at and which Severn has some familiarity with. Kaylin gets a Cool Dress which is magical and means she will be part of the ceremonies at the West March. The Barrani Hawk turns out to have all kinds of history with those ceremonies, some of which involved watching her dad kill her mom, who was trying to stop her dad from including her in the ceremony -- a ceremony which did Very Bad Things to the other youthful Barrani participants.

Then we get to meet one of those formerly youthful Barrani participants.

Anyway. The weird places are Hallione(s) and they are being attacked/need to be saved. The missing people are found, but cannot be returned. The lizard helps out a lot. It turns out the guy who bombed Kaylin and Bellusdeo is also the guy making all the trouble on the trip to the West March and with the missing people (are you surprised? Why would you be surprised?). Etc. This is _very very much_ a in-the-middle-of-a-series book. They are not yet to the West March and Kaylin has not yet named the lizard (altho the lizard did eat one of Kaylin's runes).

Sagara better put the next entry out in a timely fashion. I feel like this was one of those movies that got split into two because it ran long. As always, I enjoy tagging along with Kaylin, altho I sort of missed the late night calls to the midwives. Only sort of, tho.

Retail and Recall

Recalls produce an interesting tradeoff: it'd be nice for someone to say, oh, by the way, that thing that you bought, bring it back, throw it away or repair it with this kit. On the other hand, registering every product you buy is a grindingly boring exercise and may put you on a bunch of marketing lists. Online retail has the opportunity to get this right, and I've gotten a number of recall notices from Amazon over the years.

The current crop involves peanut butter I buy from them (you try to find no-salt-added peanut butter at your local grocery store. Please! If everyone asks, maybe they'll start stocking it everywhere), which apparently had a salmonella contamination issue under their Trader Joe's brand, which then spread to all their other labels, including the Sunland no salt added Valencia creamy. I got several emails about this, which drew to my attention just how fast we go through the stuff (a pack of six every two months? Really? That feels ... wrong, somehow. I'll blame the children, knowing that I'm eating most of it). I got it as I was on the last jar. I shrugged, and we finished the jar; it didn't seem likely we were going to have a problem with it now, right?

I had started out looking up each order by order-id, then realized I could search historic orders by keyword. At some point in the distant past (maybe three or four years ago?), I was trying to go back through old orders for some project I've now forgotten (probably involving how-much-do-I-buy-from-the-Big-6-publishers), and it took forever and there wasn't a mechanism for searching. Now, it's zippy and searchable. Keen!

So I went to look up my Very First Order from Amazon, which I remember well. It was in-print at the time, but the various chain and independent bookstores who tried to order it for me failed. I wanted to buy it as a Xmas present for my then boyfriend.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0948353767

The publisher on that detail page is Oldcastle Books; I don't know if that's what it really was or not.

Amazon got that book for me. I placed the order, according to their records (mine aren't good enough to know at this point) 22 December 1995. (<-- Not a typo.) They delivered it in January. I went to work for them a couple months later, and part of the draw was that they had delivered a copy of a book that I knew was in print, and which no one else had managed to get to me.

The book is still available at Amazon, but things have changed. You can get a kindle edition for $9.99 with the publisher listed as Simon & Schuster with a publication date in 2009 and the usual range of used copies but not physically in print if I read the page correctly.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Education-Poker-Player-ebook/dp/B002GP6VB4/

I feel like there's an important lesson here, and one which directly relates to my current struggle to predict what's going to happen to the USPS. But damned if I can figure out what it might be.

Kinda cool, tho.