Courtney Milan, Unveiled: Ash Turner’s machinations made him the heir presumptive to a dukedom—he revealed the current duke’s marriage as bigamous and his supposedly legitimate heirs as illegitimate. Now he’s come to look at his future holdings and confront the duke who treated him (and his family) so badly before. But he doesn’t know that the duke’s putative nurse, Margaret, is actually also his daughter—whose prospects and dowry have been destroyed by this revelation, and whose mother died, devastated, not long before. Too bad they fall for each other, right? As usual, Milan focuses on situation-driven clashes between men and women who are passionately attracted to one another and don’t deny it.
Richard Kadrey, Sandman Slim: Stark was sent to Hell by a fellow magician who didn’t like him. In Hell, he became a demon general’s pet human and assassin, and it enabled him to crawl up to Earth seeking revenge. And that’s just the first few pages—heavy on the hard-boiled LA vibe, plus angels and demons and some other things that were created when God screwed up. Enjoyably over the top.
Richard Kadrey, Killing Pretty: Stark investigates the murder of Death, which is preventing people from dying around the world. (Supposedly not everyone knows about the supernatural in this universe, but it’s hard to imagine why not.) Nazis and vampires turn out to be involved. Reasonably clever.
Richard Kadrey, The Getaway God: Stark investigates a serial killer who makes churches out of body parts, plays head games (badly) with his nemesis, and deals with fragments of God.
Richard Kadrey, The Perdition Score: Stark investigates an offshoot of the war in Heaven, a substance called black milk that seems to have both healing and destructive properties, and works like speed for angels. This involves a return trip to Hell and a major change in his status right at the end.
Ilona Andrews, Magic Binds: The latest Kate Daniels book has a lot happen, at long last. Kate prepares for her wedding, goes on a few side quests, and starts to learn about the power in her blood and what it really means to claim Atlanta as her land. There’s a huge confrontation with her father and a predictable but still interesting stakes-raising ending. I liked her struggle to avoid becoming as power-mad as her father, and also liked the trick she pulled to get useful information about her bloodline from a source other than her father.
Connie Willis, Crosstalk: There must be a word for the specific sort of sadness you feel when the things that you used to love about a creator now annoy you. Briddey works for a communications company designing a new phone, and is part of a big Irish family of women who are constantly barging in on her and demanding her attention. Her boyfriend convinces her to get an EED, an operation designed to let them feel each other’s emotions and bring them closer, but instead it turns Briddey telepathic, which turns out to be horrible because she can’t keep the flood of voices from overwhelming her. It’s about trying to disconnect in order to preserve one’s own personhood and ability to make meaningful choices to connect, see? Anyhow, the creepy guy in the basement of her company, who tried to discourage her from getting the EED, turns out to be another telepath, and he rescues her and starts to teach her how to protect herself, but this necessitates so many convoluted lies to Briddey’s boyfriend, her company, her doctor, and her family that crazy situation piles on crazy situation. I found the family’s unwillingness to listen to Briddey (and her reciprocal unwillingness to listen when it was actually important) annoying beyond belief; the satire of modern communication too broad; the constant interruptions just when Briddey was about to get important information too clever by half; and the romance too mawkish, because I didn’t need another story about a woman who falls in love with her rescuer.
Frederik Pohl & Jack Williamson, The Singers of Time: Earth has been subjugated by the alien Turtles, through trade more than force; they suppress Earth science, including quantum mechanics. Also they bring with them bull-like humanoids used as servants and food. When the Turtle mother planet disappears, however, they rely on rebellious humans and human science to figure things out. So, it plays on hard sf theories with an overlay of weird gender politics, perhaps summed up in the cover that has a slight blonde girl sitting on the shoulders of her bull-like friend, because love is what motivates women and discovery motivates men.
Yoon Ha Lee, Ninefox Gambit: In a universe where math and weapons depend on the calendars and rituals observed by people, a math genius/captain proposes a wild strategy to recapture a heretic fortress, and ends up inhabited by the ghost of a disgraced general. The rituals include torture, though it’s never seen or described in any detail, and there’s a lot of emphasis on protocol and different castes, as well as on the exotic effects of exotic calendrical weapons like the amputation gun. A little An Exchange of Hostages, a little Ancillary Justice, a lot unusual and ultimately compelling, though it took me a little while to get used to the weirdness—which may explain why I liked this much more than I liked Lee’s recent book of stories.