I noticed when I sat down to write this that there has been a definite pattern to my reading lately. I’ve been reading books about people who are who are incredibly gifted and about how those gifts haunt them. The gifts take different forms, ranging from a facility with languages to a an ability to travel through time and space.
Here’s a look at what I’ve been reading:
Lexicon by Max Barry
Incredibly gifted people are trained in the fine art of word usage for the purpose of manipulating others. Once they have completed their training, they are given the names of poets. The stronger their abilities, the more finely-honed their skills, the more notable the poet they are named for. In the end, it’s a showdown between Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, and W.B. Yeats. There’s also the outlier, Harry. He’s the one person that seems impervious to their influence. There are extremely powerful words that don’t make sense to the average person, and a word so powerful that it destroys a whole town. Super cool. The, book, I mean. The whole destroyed town thing? That’s sad.
BUY. Any intelligent discussion of morphemes always gets my motor running.
Brilliance by Marcus Sakey
In the year 1980, children were born that displayed unusual gifts. They were brilliant. It’s more than 30 years later, and those first children are now adults. They are the best in their fields. They are both revered and feared. Society does what society has so often done – they have banded together against what they perceive as a common enemy. That’s the response after a massacre carried out by one of the brilliants- and it gets worse. Nick Cooper is a brilliant, but he’s also an agent for the government agency that is charged with keeping their brilliance in check. The book is about Nick switching sides. That’s not giving anything away, because it turns out that the sides aren’t as clear cut as one would have thought.
BORROW. It’s a good story, and it was a pretty decent listen, but I don’t know that I’d need to own it. Of course, there’s a sequel that I haven’t checked out yet…
The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler White
This is a story about a group of people who possess all the knowledge of the world, from the past to the present. Because they have this knowledge, they are able to influence world events, but they do so in small, subtle ways. The bodies have changed over the years, but the players are essentially the same. Their personalities move along with the memories. One member, however, is not content with doing things slowly. The shifting narrators, the Vegas setting, and the garden where the world’s secrets are kept are all pretty engaging elements. I’m not sure I would have loved it in print, but the audiobook (narrated by Ray Porter and Mary Robinette Kowal) is pretty boss. It made the story for me.
BORROW (and LISTEN). Definitely go the audiobook route on this one.
The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord
This one is a little different. It’s about a race of aliens who sound like they could be distantly related to Vulcans who find themselves depending on the charity of a neighboring world after their own is destroyed. They must depend on the kindness of their new neighbors to survive and to continue their race. The transition to this new world is, to say the least, an interesting one. What is really awesome about this story is that, even though it takes place on a distant planet in the distant future, it’s a story that will seem familiar. In a lot of ways, it’s a love story. And it’s a good one.
BUY. Ladies writing stellar SciFi with heart is a good thing. A very good thing.