Stephen King & Richard Chizmar, Gwendy’s Button Box: Short novel about Gwendy, who becomes the custodian of a mysterious box that dispenses magical chocolates and coins and may have the power to destroy the world. Slight but recognizably King-esque, a little more hopeful than I would have expected.
Madeline Ashby, Company Town: Hwa is one of the few genetically unmodified people even in her relatively poor community, a former oil rig. She’s got a “stain”—misplaced tissue that makes her (according to her mother) disfigured and unloveable, prevents her from seeing out of one eye, and gives her seizures. When she’s hired as a bodyguard for the son and heir of the new owners of the rig, she gets involved in intrigue that might include an answer to the mystery of how her beloved, perfect older brother died. Interesting worldbuilding, though things wrap up rather neatly, and if you’re looking for disabled characters, fair warning that a cure is Hwa’s desired endgame—which is perfectly understandable given how she was raised plus the seizures, but may turn off some readers.
Genevieve Cogman, The Burning Page: The Library is under even more direct assault from Alberich, while Irene struggles with a local plot to kill her and the continuing illness of her dear friend Peregrine Vale, the morphine-abusing consulting detective, whose resemblance to a certain icon is part of his illness—he’s contaminated with chaos and if it goes too far he will lose his free will and instead embody the archetype. The plot advanced nicely and Irene’s dragon apprentice Kai tells her he’s totally down for a poly relationship, yay. Alberich lets slip a crucial piece of information that helps explain why neither he nor Irene seems to have figured out a plot point that seems obvious to the audience, though I’m still not sure I’m convinced that neither of them would twig to the possibility.
James S.A. Corey, Babylon’s Ashes: In the wake of the near-total destruction of Earth, the remains of Earth, Mars, and the Belt scrap it out, with our favorite characters trying to hold together what Marco Inaros tried to destroy. It’s a hopeful entry in the series, despite all the preceding death, which we really needed at this point. General comment: I want someone to talk to about TV show Amos v. book Amos; it seems to me that the portrayal changed by becoming visual/physical, but maybe others disagree. Here’s a quote that seems unduly timely: “They underestimated the anger in the Belt. And the desperation. People want Inaros to be a hero, and so what he does, they interpret as heroism.” This book also has some set pieces that seem designed for filming, such as a hilarious montage in which a politician goes around telling people exactly what they want to hear about James Holden, directly contradicting whatever he said last (of course, he—did you think that Chrisjen could ever do such a thing? Fuck you, then).
Mishell Baker, Phantom Pains:Millie is settling in to her life as a movie star’s assistant, but then her former job comes calling. It seems that the evil plot to destroy fairyland that she stopped isn’t actually all the way stopped. Plus, there’s the small matter of her Echo—a kind of soulmate who inspires creative genius in humans, except she can’t get the usual benefits because of all the iron in her body from her failed suicide attempt. And the traumatized child in charge of her branch of the Arcadia Project has been falsely accused of murder. All in all, it’s a busy week—and an enjoyable read.
Laurie Penny, Everything Belongs to the Future: Novella about a life extension technology available only to the rich due to intellectual property laws. Lots of think-worthy stuff here, including the point that elite perspectives on global warming would change fast once they expected to be alive 200 years from now. Class rebels, infiltrated by a corporate stooge, try to change the world; it doesn’t go the way they expected. I enjoyed it a lot and will be reading more by Penny.
Joe Haldeman & Jack C. Haldeman, There Is No Darkness: Carl is a student from Springworld on a tour of many different planets. When he’s charged a ridiculous entry fee to Earth because of his large size, he begins an attempt to earn the money back that leads him to fight animals, men, and his own stubborn pride. The end kind of whirls off in a very different direction due to an alien encounter; didn’t hold together very well.
Ben Aaronovich, The Furthest Station: Rivers of London novella involving ghosts on a mission and a newly born river who’s been adopted by normals. Didn’t seem to move the ball much.
Max Gladstone et al., Bookburners: Another multi-author world helmed by Gladstone. The Vatican has a secret division dedicated to protecting humanity against magic; Sal, a NYC cop, gets sucked in when her brother reads a book he really shouldn’t have read. Danger, gore, office politics, and other troubles follow. Some interesting ideas, but like many serials it was probably more exciting in serial form—that was a lot of pages all at once.