Other Books I Have Read Recently

Freelancer, by Jake Lingwall
I’m not a fan. I like the idea of this book a lot. It takes place in a near future, where the U.S. is undergoing political change and certain technologies like 3D printing and drones have taken off. But the actual execution? The revolution in 3D printing and assisted software development kicks them to Star Trek replicator-and-holodeck levels. We learn in passing that the 2nd amendment has been repealed and this is not a big deal, in a world where a random teenage girl can print up literally thousands of aerial attack drones armed with lethal weaponry. (Yes, you can 3D print full machines with batteries and circuits and stuff. No, no one asks “Why don’t we start 3D printing 3D printers and go full Von Neumann up in this schizzle?”)

The protagonist is…well, I’ve been in recap mode of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books, so she doesn’t seem as bad as she would have otherwise. We keep getting told that she’s a genius, but we never see it; we only see that the people who oppose her are morons. And she also has that Spiderman-esque “Although I am looked down on in my high school for being strange and weird, I have a complicated and fulfilling inner life as a superhero weapons designer for anonymous clients!” going on, which just makes me roll my eyes. Because I’ve been the too-smart awkward guy, and one of the things I learned is that actual, genuinely smart people either learn to harnass their smarts into learning how to perform the basic fitting-in steps and making themselves minimally likable, or do the cost-benefit valuation, determine they’re surrounded by ignorant assholes, and proceed to ignore the status games around them and get on with their lives. The protagonist, being an obvious, obvious teenage-girl stand in, does neither.

There is promise here, though. A lot of the questionable things seem like they might actually be set-up. We might be getting sequels in which the protagonist learns that being the smartest person in suburban North Carolina makes her a small fish in a very big pond, and there is room for her “Look at me, I’m so adult and clever!” decisions in this book to come back to haunt her. My problem is…well, after reading Mercedes Lackey, I no longer have a lot of trust that this kind of set-up is intended, versus the author just not noticing or caring that their protagonist is doing things that, absent protagonist-glow, look deeply sketchy.

The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass, by Jim Butcher

This is a fun read. It has an interesting world (although one that will be very familiar to anyone who’s read Weis and Hickman’s Death Gate Cycle), airships, crystal-based magitech, monsters, mystery, intrigue, and talking cats.

The one thing I don’t like about it relates to those cats, however. The cats are, as you would expect, arrogant furry bastards who won’t shut up about their superiority, and eager and willing to lash out with physical violence to ensure their social dominance. That’s all well and good, but the book also tries to play the prickly noble house what duels as a drop of a stylish Victorian stovepipe as an antagonist, and part of a significant subplot, and the dissonance between the two asshole groups just because one is cute and fuzzy is telling, especially when the story evolves and you see more and more parallels between cat culture and the nobles. This might be deliberate, but it doesn’t come across that way.


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