Book Reviews 2005 (52-56)

A passel of small book reviews this time around:
ReVisions, edited by Julie Czerneda and Isaac Szpindel
The Eternal Frontier, An Ecological History of North America, by Tim Flannery
Witches Abroad, a Discworld Novel by Terry Pratchett
The Hidden Family, Book Two of the Merchant Princes, by Charles Stross
Chill Factor, Book Three of the Weather Wardens, by Rachel Caine

Revisions edited by Julie Czerneda and Isaac Szpindel
An alternate history anthology, this anthology focuses on technology and inventions as its points of divergence. What if movable type were invented by the Sumerians? What if the US went for Deep Sea exploration rather than Space? What if Tesla tried to avert World War I with his inventions?
The anthology is a hit and miss affair, some stories are worthwhile, others seem extremely unlikely to me and didn’t resonate as pieces of fiction, either. So I cannot recommend the anthology to others, except for the strongest of AH enthusiasts.

The Eternal Frontier: An Ecological History of North America and Its Peoples by Tim Flannery
A book recommended to me by my friend Bridgette, this book takes a look at the ecology of North America, from an arbitrary starting point at the end of the Mesozoic, until the modern era. From geologic upheaval to Ice Ages to European colonists, Flannery explores the effects various forces have had on the flora and fauna of North America.
While I disagree with his cavalier dismissal of the idea of pre-Clovis man in North America, that point does not impact on the main thrust of the book. Flannery definitely has a point of view as an environmentalist and makes no bones about it. You don’t have to agree with this point of view in order to enjoy and take away a lot from Eternal Frontier.
Highly Recommended

Witches Abroad (Discworld, Book 12) by Terry Pratchett
The twelfth Discworld novel brings us back to the Witches of the Ramtops, led by Granny Weatherwax, as they journey across the continent in order to stop a Fairy Godmother who has, shall we say, overstepped her bounds. With a strong leavening of humor, both situational and reference (for example, one of the witches has a house fall on her, although she survives unlike her Oz counterpart).
This is my favorite of the Witches books thus far, although I think that the reader would do best starting with an earlier Witches novel rather than here. Its almost a given that most of the Discworld novels henceforth will have this caveat, as characters and settings appear and reappear.
Recommended, but don’t start here.

The Hidden Family (The Merchant Princes, Book 2) by Charles Stross
I reviewed the first Merchant Princes book on this blog earlier this year (Book 11 of the year). At the time, I didn’t give it a highly recommended rating because that first book stops abruptly.
This second book forgives a lot of that sin. In point of fact, taken together as a unit, the two books move into the Highly Recommended category, especially for Amber gamers. Although he might not have explicitly set out to do so, Stross shows us what an ordinary Earth person could do, when faced with the fact of discovering her place in a world-traveling family.
While threads are tied off at the end of this book, there are plenty of loose ones, and plenty of unanswered questions that could fill a few more novels. I would not hesitate to pick up said novels, and I now want to read more of Stross’ work, aside from this series.
Taken with the Family Trade, both books together are Highly Recommended

Chill Factor : Book Three of the Weather Warden (Weather Warden) by Rachel Caine
An outright gift, like the first two, from my good friend Deb (although she bought this one new for me, rather than passing on her copies), I reviewed the first two books in this series, Ill Wind and Heat Stroke, as I read them this year, eagerly.
The third book does not disappoint. Caine complicates her world, and her main character’s life, as we follow her into Nevada, and a confrontation from her past proves to be the key to the present problems.
Caine is not afraid to have bad things happen to her characters and put them through hell, emotionally and physically. I still think, though, that these books resonate strongly with me and remind me of my friend, and future novelist, Deb.
You’ll want to start with Ill Wind, but if you like that, and Heat Stroke, Chill Factor will not disappoint and is recommended.