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32. Fellside by MR Carey

A ghost story set in a women's prison. I'm a big fan of Carey's work and attended an interview with him at Waterstones where he talked about this book & the research he did before I read it, so I know that he has become a passionate advocate for prison reform and against the privatisation the prison services and the cutbacks that make life worse for inmates and staff alike.

He had wanted to write about drug addiction so it almost inevitably became a story about prison. A woman who has committed arson whilst under the influence of heroin, which resulted in the death of a child living in the same block of flats, is committed to Fellside, an enormous and corrupt prison for women in the middle of nowhere in the north. She is haunted by the ghost of her victim.

But mostly it's about prison life and survival in prison (for staff and inmates alike). It's not much like his previous work at all. I hate to use the terms literary and serious, but it is, and is more character than plot driven.

I liked it very much, but still not nearly as much as The Girl With All The Gifts. And although I saw the ending coming, I still didn't like it.
inulro: (Default)
Wow, I am spectacularly bad at this. Once again I had a lot of thoughts at the time but have undoubtedly forgotten everything I wanted to say.

55. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Or That Book What Won All the Awards This Year.

It's space opera, which is really not my thing unless it's by Iain M Banks or Ken Macleod. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy the world building. I didn't find the use of all-female pronouns as distracting as I feared, and I totally get what Leckie is doing there. For me, however, that wasn't the most interesting thing about the society described - it's a massive culture on a Culture-level scale but built on class and family and clientage. That was interesting as in theory it shouldn't work at that scale. Also the use of dead bodies as vessels for an AI was interesting, as was the AIs' development of personality.

Having said that I didn't care much about the plot (big honking space gun, whoopee), the scene where the two main characters fall off a bridge is a treat; really visceral. Ow.

I'm not going to run out and buy the sequels but will probably grab them at the library at some point.

56. The Girl With All the Gifts by MR Carey

ie Mike Carey, author of Lucifer, Hellblazer, the Felix Castor novels etc.

This one is hard to talk about without massively spoilering, but it's fair to say that it is a zombie apocalypse story that is very tender and human but violent and horrific at the same time. The ending is predictable on one level but with the most wonderful twist.

I can't recommend this highly enough, it is beautiful.

57. Women in the Crucible of Conquest: The Gendered Genesis of Spanish American Society, 1500-1600 by Karen Vieira Powers

I thought this was going to be academic and difficult, but it is a very good basic introduction to how women's roles changed in the Aztec and Inca empires after the Spanish conquest, and then goes on to discuss the roles of Spanish and mixed race women in Latin America. I knew most of the introductory part about women's roles in the Aztec and Inca worlds; the rest was new to me. It's clearly told and really, really depressing. It left me wanting to know more, but there are not a lot of English-language sources and my Spanish is a long way from being up to that.

58. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

December's book club book.

I expected to hate this because I don't play video games, but it's a pretty good ripping yarn about a disenfranchised youth in a distopian near-future playing a video game to become the richest person in the world, and then to save his life. It is oddly paced and so there are parts I ripped through and parts that dragged, but a good waste of a few hours.

It probably didn't help that I figured out where the first part of the puzzle would be found because I knew that ludus means game as well as school and was waiting for the character to catch up.

59. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

The BBC were making a big thing out of their production over Christmas, and I hadn't read the book since I was about 13, so I grabbed one. It takes about 4 hours to read. The characters are cutout stereotypes but the plotting and tension are first rate. Good fun.

So far I've only watched the first part of the adaptation. It's pretty good but the changes made have all been completely unnecessary, and it looks like there are more, and stupider, changes in the concluding two parts.

60. The First English Empire: Power and Identities in the British Isles 1093-1343 by RR Davies

This is all a bit High Middle Ages to be in my comfort zone. I meant to read it when it came out over a decade ago and I came across it in the library recently. It's the write-up of a series of lectures so it is more a collection of essays than a comprehensive narrative of how the English put their stamp on the rest of the British Isles - culturally as well as politically. Also why, unlike other European countries as they expanded and cohered in this period, why Wales, Scotland and Ireland remained culturally, linguistically and politically separate. My interest is in the north of England which, at the time of the Norman conquest, was not necessarily destined to be part of England (or Scotland) at all.

Recommended, if this is Your Thing. It's a reasonably easy read for the non-specialist but with good notes if you wish to follow anything up.
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3. The Naming of the Beasts by Mike Carey

The premise for the final volume is set up in the last book. I couldn't put it down, and thought that it tied up the series nicely. A lot of other people didn't, apparently.

What impresses me most is the sense of place, for reasons I am unable to articulate. Not just because it's set in a city I know reasonably well. I think it's because place is very important to the story line, as in this fictional universe spirits tend to be bound to a particular place. The use of locus in books is something I've been thinking about lately
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2. Thicker than Water by Mike Carey

I had problems getting into the second book in this series, but not with this one (this is the fourth. I read the third a couple years ago). It gripped me right from the start.

This one ends on a cliffhanger - well, the demon is vanquished, but then something even worse happens. Fortunately I had the final volume and was able to start in on it right away.
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76. Vicious Circle by Mike Carey

The second Felix Castor novel. Maybe it was me, but I didn't like it as much as either the first or the third. Still read the second half in two days.
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71. The Devil You Know by Mike Carey

When I reserved London Falling from the library, it reminded me that I never got around to reading the rest of the Felix Castor novels after reading and loving Dead Men's Boots some time ago. So I reserved the lot (there are only 5 in total).

Read this one on the train to and from London last weekend.

It's closer to the Dresden Files than London Falling or the Peter Grant series in that Felix Castor is a freelance exorcist rather than part of an official institution. It's a world just like ours, except that just before the turn of the millennium, the dead started to rise, and they're everywhere, in various forms (ghosts, zombies).

It definitely suffered from being read so close to London Falling, but on the other hand it's a quicker, easier read with some good one-liners and some thought-provoking points. Although it's still pretty dark, it's less - for want of a better word, malevolent - than London Falling.

Good clean fun, as it were.


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