#8: Dragon (Steven Brust)

A more complicated framing story than most and plenty of distractions left me feeling like I missed some stuff, but various articles about the book online say that I didn’t. The second of the “here’s how I got involved with all these folks” stories. Not my favorite entry, and not just because it does nothing to address the double-what?! from the end of Orca.

This is the last one I read back in the day, so now I’m going to start on the ones I haven’t read: Issola, Dzur, Jhegala, Iorich, Tiassa.

#7: Reamde (Neal Stephenson)

I’m kinda conflicted on Reamde: on one hand, a fun globe-trotting techno-thriller; on the other hand, silly terrorist buffoonery. I really liked Jones’ initial reveal, but grew very tired of that aspect of the book by the end. Still engaged enough with the characters to see it through and enjoy it.

#6: Cloud Atlas (David Mitchell)

One of my favorite types of story is the multithreaded tangle; a lot of disparate viewpoints that slowly grow closer together until they are all satisfyingly tied up at the end. Cloud Atlas is a bit like that, except that the threads are kept resolutely separate; touching on, referring to and echoing each other, perhaps, but never crossing.

One of the best books I’ve read in years.

#4: The Long Earth (Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter)

I was predisposed to like The Long Earth. I’ve always been fine with SF travelogues, and that’s what this is, with a couple of asides that really deserved more attention. My main problem is that it just wasn’t very well-written, which is not what I expect from a book with Pratchett’s name on it; purely workmanlike is how I’d describe it. Flat characters, impactless action, not enough detail on interesting things found along the way, and an ending that goes “pfft”. A couple of great ideas mired in here, to no good effect. Ah well.

#2: Great North Road (Peter F. Hamilton)

Great North Road has a different shape than other Peter F. Hamilton books I’ve read. It’s a huge, sprawling SF story, sure, but a focused one; there are two main story threads going, and two protagonists. Viewpoints occasionally diverge, but not for long, and they stay fairly close to the main story. The two threads are entirely different kinds of stories but are tightly intertwined. The pacing of the book is relentless, always moving forward, never idling or spending time with a meaningless thread.

Because of this focus, there’s not much room for the usual Hamiltonian ending. The endings we get, though — all three of them — are fairly perfect.

The book is so well done that I forgave it some things that might’ve killed another book — the endless flashbacks, for instance. I don’t even mind that Hamilton worked in two different long-distance driving sequences, something I’d thought he got out of his system after Judas Unchained.

After struggling through the last third of the Night’s Dawn trilogy even after uttering the Eight Deadly Words and ending up peeved that I’d taken the time to do it, it was really nice to be utterly captivated by this book.

#1: Cold Days (Jim Butcher)

It’s been a long time since I curled up in my overstuffed, well-worn purple chair and read, purely to see where the story went. It was pretty fun.

Another Dresden files novel; you either like ‘em or you don’t. Butcher gets away with exactly the things that annoy me in other long-running urban fantasy series — power creep, friends repeatedly in jeopardy, etc. etc. I think the characterization helps wonderfully, although it wouldn’t hurt if some of the secondary characters got a bit more of it these days. This one also pretty much pushes the big red reset button — though I’ll give it to the next book to see if it’s really as bad as all that.

This book gets a whole extra star because it has more Bob in it than the last three books combined. I’d take away half of one if I could because he’s still pushed offstage halfway through without even a “see ya”.