Dead of Winter, by Lee Collins


Summary: Cora and her husband Ben are bounty hunters who make their living by killing various supernatural shit in the old west. I fuckin’ love supernatural shit in the old west.

It’s rare to see established relationships in fiction, so I was curious to see how he would handle it — answer is, unfortunately, not particularly engagingly. It’s a hard thing to pull off, since the quickest shortcut to audience-engagement in a romance is unresolved sexual tension. Barring that, it seems like the best way to sell an audience on an established relationship is to give them an excellent team dynamic (ala Zoe and Wash in Firefly, or Rickey and G-man in Liquor), so that the reader gets a clear sense of why these two people like each other, how they work together as a unit, and how staunchly they’ve got each other’s backs. I didn’t get much sense of that here.

Partly it’s because Cora is an asshole. Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally okay with that — she’s arrogant, aggressive, impulsive, and a full-on alcoholic, which would make her a tired stereotype if she were a man, but it’s a combination that takes on a very different (and rather interesting) feel in a female character. I just wish we’d been given more to like about her, in addition to all her less savory qualities.

Anyway, I read Dead of Winter because it turned out that She Returns From War was the sequel to this. I’ll give SRFW a spin later too.

Plot – 4/5 (brisk, with action and stuff)
Prose – 3/5 (utilitarian)
Characters – 3.5/5 (Cora is not lovable, but she is somewhat different)
Novelty – 3/5 (can “Supernatural in the old west, but with less drama” be called novel?)
Emotional engagement – 2/5 (nope, not feeling it)

Counter-recs, if you’re lookin’ for more weird west: The God Eaters by Jesse Hajicek or A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files. (But only if you like a side of hot gay sex with your supernatural shit in the old west. And if you’re not — friend, you are reading the wrong books blog). Territory by Emma Bull, not queer but with interesting atmospherics; think magical realism in the Weird West.

Libriomancer, and first-person smartass POV in urban fantasy

(Current excuse for not reading much fiction: thesis-writing. Jesus H Christ.)

I’m not much of one for impulse-buying books that I haven’t read before, particularly not new, because they’re expensive and I’m broke and choosy. But this weekend I went nuts and bought five of them, which hopefully I will read, and then hopefully I will write about:

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay
She Returns from War by Lee Collins
Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
Grim Company by Luke Scull

As usual, these are not book reviews, just me chatting about what jumped out at me as notably good, bad, or unusual.

First up: Libriomancer

Last Light of the Sun, by Guy Gavriel Kay (40/107)

This book is okay. I started off liking it quite a bit, thought it was going to rank up there with the Sarantine Mosaic, but then my interest lagged in the middle, and I probably would have put it down and let it stay half-unfinished forever except for the 107 books initiative, that says finish it or quit it decisively, and I feel like a loser when I don't finish books. So.

It's another of Kay's historical fantasies, this time set in Britain at the cusp of centralization and Christianization, about the tribal skirmishes they have with each other and with the vikings (called Erlings, in this) that regularly plague their shores. It has the ensemble cast that Kay's books are famous for, giving you a panoramic view of the conflicts and how they affect people at all levels of society, it has the excellent prose and mythic resonance that make lit-crit people sit up and take notice when Kay writes a book, and it has a number of capable and influential female characters. But really, the same could be said for all of his books (except possibly Ysabel, which was mind-numbingly dull), and this one didn't stand out. The characters couldn't compare to The Sarantine Mosaic, and the plot couldn't compare to Tigana.

So let's talk about his women.

Predictably Irrational, by Dan Ariely (31/107)

Another pop psychology book of the genre I enjoy, the ones that look at human behavior and attempt to spot patterns, so that we can better understand why we do the things we do. This one has more of an economic focus than others I’ve read, specifically examining the logic (or illogic, as it turns out) behind various purchasing habits. This is less interesting to me than other kinds of human behavior analysis, but it did open my eyes to some superior marketing strategies that I might try out if I were keeping my shop open longer.

It had some sporadically cool insights, but it covered a lot of the same ground that Cialdini’s Influence did, and I think Cialdini did it better. Influence, Made to Stick, and Freakonomics are getting hauled along when I move again; Predictably Irrational is not.