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Books 2019

Created/Modified: 2019-12-05/2019-12-08

It was an odd year for books. I read more popular fiction than usual, some of it good, a lot of it less so, or at least less to my taste. I'm only going to talk about the good stuff here.

I caught up with the Gabriel Allon series, I think, or very nearly. They're tightly plotted Israeli propaganda as much as the James Bond books were tightly plotted British propaganda, and aren't dissimilar in other respects: super-agent protects nation under threat. They're structually a bit formulaic, especially the middle books of the series so far, but continue to be engaging and entertaining.

Phillip Kerr's final Bernie Gunther novel, "Metropolis", was in some ways a throwback to the origins of the series, and gives us an uncanny view of Berlin before the fall. It's sad there won't be any more, but what a note to end on.

"Beneath the Roots" is an odd little fantasy by W. K. Greyling that was quite entertaining.

"The Conquest" by Elizabeth Chadwick was an excellent tale of post-Conquest Britain that I thoroughly enjoyed.

William Deverell's "Trial of Passion" is a wonderful story about a man trying to retire from the cares of the world, which might just resonate with me a bit. Strongly recommended.

"So Big" by Edna Ferber was something I really enjoyed, and for the life of me I'm not sure why. It's a bit of a walking tour of Chicago and environs around the end of the 19th century, and I just thought the whole thing was well done. Careful descriptions and interesting relationships and believable characters. It reads a bit more like history than a novel, or it would if it wasn't so interesting.

Pat Barker's "The Silence of the Girls" is really good. The story of the Illiad told through the voice of Breisis, the woman who was taken from Achilles by Agamemnon, thus triggering the former's wrath. It's an incredibly stale and boring premise, but Pat Barker is a genius, and understands men at war. Or maybe just men. Wonderfully well-told tale.

"The Highest Tide" by Jim Lynch is a lovely coming-of-age story set in my general locale that was easily one of my best purchases of the summer, bought at the Pollen Sweater Company in Lund, which is also a bit of a bookstore.

Chris Brookmyre's "Fallen Angel" was a good, solid read.

And finally, I "discovered" John Birmingham, whose early work is more straight millitary SF and techno-thriller, but whose "The Cruel Stars" is easily the best space opera I've read since the peak of the Vorkosigan series (which would probably be, I dunno... "Memory"?)

There was a bunch of non-fiction too, which I'm not going to go into, and I still have a few things left on my to-read list that I might get to this year. We'll see.

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