104: The Clan Corporate - Charles Stross. I have come to believe that it is only with every other book of The Merchant Princes will Charles Stross deliver a good book. The reason for this, I suppose, is that I had heard that Stross was originally planning a trilogy and Tor required the novels to each be split, so every two novels was originally concieved as one book. That is the story I heard, and if that is true, and it feels true, then it means that each book is only half a story. It also explains why The Hidden Family was so much better than The Family Trade and why The Clan Corporate felt empty and almost like very little actually happened to advance the story. This novel felt like it was setting up the second half of the book (due next year and titled A Merchants Revolution).
Blah blah. So what is the book actually about? Miriam, the tech reporter from our world who we met in the first book and who turned out to be part of the noble ruling class from an alternate mirror world to our own which uses some of our technology, but is otherwise lo-tech...well, Miriam discovered the existence of a third world which is approximately a hundred years behind our own with a different set of history and she set up a company to give her family a different revenue stream than the drug trafficking they had been doing.
Well, when we start The Clan Corporate Miriam is suffering under the restrictions her family has put on her because they do not really trust her. Meanwhile, the United States Government has an informant from that noble ruling family and is working to put a stop to this drug trafficking and they also view this as a rogue state which presents a danger to the United States.
There should be so much going on here in this novel, but there really isn't. The Clan Corporate does not take off at all.
Which means that hopefully A Merchants Revolution is better.
105: Fledgling - Octavia E. Butler. Fledgling is Butler's final novel before she died and it is a vampire story. But, it isn't like other vampire stories. The heroine is a 53 year old vampire who looks like an eleven year old girl and is still a child in vampire society, but she has otherwise the intelligence and mannerism of an adult.
The novel follows Shori, the young vampire as she recovers her memory. We first meet her after she has been brutally attacked and without much of her memory. She slowly recovers knowledge of what she is and who she is, but much is left unknown. With the help of a human, who becomes her symbiont, Octavia Butler draws the reader into a world of vampires unlike any we have previously experienced before in fiction. This is not Anne Rice and this is not Joss Whedon. This is something vastly different and it is outstanding.
106: The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006. I have been getting progressively more and more disappointed with each Nonrequired collection that comes out. The first one was outstanding and I still remember a couple of the stories (Journal of a New COBRA Recruit? Genius!). The first collection had some clever and funny pieces that were unlike any traditional short fiction I had come across. Each subsequent collection became somewhat less clever and less funny. I know this isn't Best American Humor Writing or anything like that, but some of the fun had been taken out of the collection. Not sure where it went. Every now and then there was a story or a piece that really connected and there are essays and stuff mixed in and there is some good quality here. Some of the nonfiction here is excellent, in particular the excerpts from a soldier's blog while serving in Iraq. But really, I'm a little disappointed here.