Books (#SFWApro)

HAVE HIS CARCASE by Dorothy Sayers (I presume the spelling was good English back then, but I’ve never seen it that way) opens with mystery writer Harriet Vane (of Strong Poison) stumbling across a freshly bleeding corpse on an empty beach. It’s obviously suicide … but before long she and Peter Wimsey discover they have a perfect murder victim and a perfect plan for murder but there’s no way to tie them together. The character bits are a lot of fun (Harriet shamelessly uses the murder to promote her own writing) as is Peter and Harriet’s constant banter and awkward relationship (the fact she’s so grateful to him for saving her life in the previous book makes her perversely resent saying yes to his proposal). However the murder scheme is so absurdly elaborate, it’s close to idiot plot. Seriously, clonking the victim on the head would have made so much more sense. Overall a win, though, and the fact the relationship is spread out over several books (it’ll be three volumes before Harriet returns) makes it feel a lot more real to me.
DERYNI RISING was the first book in Katherine Kurtz’s long-running Deryni series, set in an alt.Wales where the Deryni are a human race endowed with innate magical power (and, of course, persecuted). When Prince Kelson’s father is murdered by a Deryni monarch, Kelson and his trusted aide Morgan have to negotiate anti-Deryni political factions and find some way to develop Kelson’s latent magical abilities. Rereading for the first time in years, the level of info-dumping is really appalling and the villain bland in her evil. However the political struggles are still interesting and I do like that some Deryni have positions of power rather than just hiding in fear. That may be why this doesn’t trigger my usual gag reflex at stories of Persecuted Mutants (or whatever)—though later books in the series which played up the persecution certainly did.
DREADNOUGHT by Cherie Priest is an entertaining steampunk set in an alt.19th century where the Civil War has lasted into the 1880s with both sides fighting with mecha and other advanced tech. A Confederate nurse trying to reach her father on the West Coast has to cross the country despite battles between North and South and a plague of zombies. The result is closer to a straight alternative history (it wouldn’t be that hard to remove most of the tech and turn the zombies into outlaws); a fun one, though not so much fun I feel the need to read more any time soon.
HEDY’S FOLLY: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World by Richard Rhodes chronicles the life of screen star Lamarr and compser George Antheil who met in Hollywood and found a common interest in inventing. While Lamarr had a number of flop inventions (a bouillon cube for creating instant soft drinks for instance), the Nazi sinking of a boatload of refugee children pushed her and Antheil to develop and patent a radio-controlled torpedo with randomized frequencies that couldn’t be jammed by the enemy. This unfortunately sank into bureaucratic obscurity, apparently because the Navy’s torpedo program was floundering so badly that testing a new and improved torpedo seemed like too much to take on. However Rhodes’ research shows that while many later inventors used similar principles, Lamarr got there first. A neat little book.

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3 responses to “Books (#SFWApro)

  1. Pingback: Whither steampunk? Reading Stormdancer (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Is Our Writers Learning? Six-Gun Tarot (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: The Deryni, Orientalism and More Bond: Books (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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