June 9th, 2002

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"Diplomatic Immunity" by Lois McMaster Bujold

This is the most recent of Bujold's books about Miles Vorkosigan, and I was pleasantly surprised. Although I enjoyed the earlier books, the one before this ("A Civil Campaign") was primarily a comedy of manners and didn't really leave me wanting to read any of the other stories. This book was much better, though.

Miles is called upon to mediate in a tense situation between the Barrayaran Navy and a Quaddie space station. There are Navy personnel in jail, the freighters they were guarding have been refused permission to leave, and a Quaddie ballerina with a broken arm - and both sides claim to be the injured parties. As Miles starts to bring his diplomatic skills to bear on the problem, things start (as always) to get much much more complicated. Why are some of the passengers on the freighter quite so desperate to get back on board? Where did the missing security officer go? And was that his blood in the airlock?

This was definitely back to the old style - lots of derring do and only Miles can save the day. Of course, in some ways it was clear how it was going to end - but the interest is in how we get there, and there are some unexpected plot twists along the way.
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"The Warmasters" by David Weber, Eric Flint and David Drake

This is a collection of novellas, one by each author, each of which is an incidental story in the world of their main war series.

The David Weber story is set early in the career of Honor Harrington. She (and her treecat Nimitz) are just setting out on her midshipwoman's cruise - the last stage in graduation from the Academy. Predictably, things don't go as smoothly as could be hoped and Honor faces political and physical difficulties, whilst very convincingly displaying the abilities as a commander that she will grow to have. And like all the Honor stories it's good fun :)

The Eric Flint story is set in the Belisarius series, and tells the story of a young officer blinded in the war with the Malwa, and his wife. Very typical Flint characters and situation in many ways. Although I always get caught up in the stories he tells, they seem to be populated by particular types of people. The wife is a strong minded woman married against her will to a man she considers boring and typical. As the story progresses she not only comes to terms with her marriage, but turns her anger at her situation into a drive to be of practical help in the war zone.

The David Drake story is a change of pace that made it, at first, hard to get into after reading the other two. It is set in the Hammer's Slammers universe, which is much more gritty. Both Weber and Flint have a sense of whimsy about their stories, there are moments of humour and of peace. For Hammer's Slammers war is unrelentless and runs roughshod over personal feelings and desires. No happy ending here, though there is a resolution of sorts. The main character, Lieutenant Huber, is re-assigned to a deskjob away from the front lines after a disasterous ambush of his platoon that has lead the government to question if they should have hired Hammer's Slammers to fight in their war. The war is, of course, no respector of re-assignments and Huber is drawn back into the conflict.
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"The Warslayer" by Rosemary Edghill

Glory is an ex-Olympic gymnast and plays Vixen the Slayer a 16th Century equivalent of Buffy, and she is currently on a promotional tour of the United States when a trio of mages materialise in her dressing room and ask her to save their world. It seems all the other heroes they've asked have turned them down and she is their last hope. Glory stumbles through an explanation that she isn't really Vixen, that Vixen is just a story, made up for entertainment. The mages sadly prepare to depart but their magic goes wrong and brings Glory with them.

In some ways this is a typical 'growing up' story - Glory finds out things about herself, and meets the challenges set before her. There are some good plot twists, and the feat she must do is not, in the end, the one you expect - indeed it is ambiguous if she has done the 'right' thing. It also manages to avoid the cliched love story (though if you pay attention there are hints there). A fun, and somewhat whimsical, story - and I suspect if I had watched more Buffy there would be more in-jokes to notice.
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"The Lighter Side" by Keith Laumer (edited by Eric Flint)

This is a collection of short stories (some shorter than others) by Keith Laumer. As the title suggests these are lighter, more comic stories. And this is probably why I wasn't so keen on them (as I'm not a great fan of comic SF). I prefered the shorter stories - for instance the opening story (The Queue) which makes its point with cleverness. However some of the longer stories in this collection seemed to have run away with the author - Time Trap spans 12 chapters, and although it initially has an interesting pretext (people trapped in 24 hour loops of time) it gradually seems to descend into cliche after cliche (i.e. gender stereotypes shown by hero and heroine swapping bodies) and the ending leaves you unsatisfied.
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Lazy day today. It wasn't supposed to be, but the plans we'd had went down the pan quite early on - I got up at about 9am coz I'd woken up needing the loo and after that was wideawake. J stayed asleep till 11am - I made him a cup of coffee then, and he came downstairs. We had lunch (pizza and garlic bread) then about 1:30pm we decided it was probably about time we got properly dressed and faced the day. I've pretty much just spodded and read Webscriptions books all day - and wrote some book reviews, as you might've noticed. J's played PS2 demos, and finished Gauntlet mode on BG:DA, and is now playing VibRibbon with the DJ Shadow CD he bought last week.
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    DJ Shadow and VibRibbon