#2: 11/22/63 (Stephen King)

I’ve said it before: I’ve lost the ability to actually review Stephen King novels. Any rating I gave this book is pretty much a cheat; of course I really liked it. The one thing I can say is this: all the stuff that happens around the main plot of this book is much better than the actual main plot. I mean, I figured the twist pretty much right away — is there any other way for this story to unfold?

#1: The Abyss Beyond Dreams (Peter F. Hamilton)

First book of 2015!

The entire last third of this book was a series of surprises. This book is excellent at setting up one thing and then abruptly shifting to another, either in a brute-force way or through a change in viewpoint and information. While I have some quibbles, it was a very enjoyable ride, and the end has left me kind of gob-smacked. At the end of the last chapter, I was like, “Well, what happens now? What CAN happen now?” At the end of the prologue it was more “How in the world will that work?”

I’m definitely looking forward to Night Without Stars…

#18: The Bone Clocks (David Mitchell)

The Bone Clocks’ main narrative trick is not as amazing as Cloud Atlas’ — that’s the only other David Mitchell book I’ve read. (I want to read more after these two, though.) Still, it is an amazing unfolding of a book, throwing out a coil of story and then reeling it back in, over and over. Like the book I read before it (Acceptance), it doesn’t have an ending that resolves everything, but it does have one that feels like a real ending and resolves enough.

#17: Acceptance (Jeff VanderMeer)

I should’ve known when I started this series that it would end like this: half satisfyingly and entirely without answers or resolution.

Not that those are necessarily bad things, for the type of story being told. I got enough out of it to give this volume (and the series overall, as well) four stars. I did really like it. I just wanted the Hamiltonian ending…

#16: The Player of Games (Iain M. Banks)

It’s here, in the second Culture novel, that Banks figures out how to tell a story with the Culture. Consider Phlebas, somewhat problematically, is narrated by someone not from the Culture, which flattens some of the most interesting aspects of the Culture itself.

This book, which only mentions the war in passing and by implication, gets at something more interesting because it is the story of a Culture citizen. Besides the main character, Gurgeh, the Culture also becomes a proxy for the reader — it’s not the kind of society we have, but it is the kind of society we (and here, I mean SF fans) love to believe we could have; the United Federation of Planets taken to an extreme, if you will.

The rather narrow focus of The Player of Games vs. the Cugel-style travelogue of Consider Phlebas also allows far more focus on the themes, the impact of society, societal assumptions and language on people, for the most part.

As an avid fan and collector of boardgames, it’s oddly thrilling to read a book where the protagonist is a gamer, renowned for his skill at games. The gaming sequences are couched convincingly in the language of action, so the few shifts to actual action feel quite natural.

One of my favorites of the Culture series, and the only one I have read three times. (I will also have read Excession three times by the time I’m done with it.)

Up next in the re-read: Canal Dreams, which I have never read, do not own and do not know the slightest thing about… but Acceptance comes out tomorrow, and there’s this copy of Lock-In I bought last week at that new bookstore downtown, and a dungeon to read and prep besides.