I somehow managed to get through two books on my vacation. The first book I read was John LeCarre's The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. This was LeCarre's third book back in the 60's and it is the one which really made him famous. It is the story of a British spy, a former great one who is in the downswing of his career. He had great successes but now everything has been failure. He is brought back to England in supposed disgrace and is put out to pasture. At least that is the story being presented. The real deal is that he is going back in the field one more time trying to be recruited by the East Germans to eliminate one particular man who is causing great trouble for the Brits. But as the rather slim novel progresses (200 pages) things are not quite what they seem.
It's a good book. I was surprised by how much I liked it. I'm going to read more LeCarre in the future and I appreciated how slim a volume this was compared to the 500 page monsters I expect from folks like Tom Clancy. Actually with Clancy I expect an 800 page monster, but that's another point.
The other book I finished was Ian MacLeod's The Light Ages. This one is an urban fantasy with a feel for the Victorian Age of England even though I think the timeline is more modern than that. But three hundred years ago a substance called aether was discovered that allows people to augment machines and tools to make them stronger and better. It is in this Third Age of Industry that our story begins. There has been no real innovation in decades if not a century because with aether, why bother? Robert Borrows is a young man we see grow up from a poor family to be a man seeking some answers about who he is and what some of the secrets of his family's past are.
There are fantasy elements here, but not they are not exceptionally strong. The fantasy imbues the setting, the kind of world this is and how England had changed.
There is no question this book is very well written and is high quality. The only problem is that it wasn't that engaging and that I couldn't get swept up into the world despite blurbs from Tim Powers and Michael Moorcock saying how much they were swept away. The story felt real and natural, but I didn't care what happened or who the characters were. It's a flaw that may be as much me as it is the novel. I tend to not prefer the urban fantasy and would rather read the fantasies set in a more midieval world with swords and magic and stuff like that. There are more modern and urban fantasies that I've loved, but in general...