Uglies by Scott Westerfield

A very fast read, the author does a great job of building a plausible world with interesting issues. The idea of Pretties, a vapid beautiful people as a class or role you pass through in life was fascinating. There are a lot of good ideas buried in here about attraction, physical attribute manipulation, freedom and individuality, and more. For a long time I thought he was going to skip over the Rusties altogether after teasing, but I like the end he cooked up for them.

It looks like it’s at least a 4 books series; I look forward to tackling the next in line soon.

A Confederation of Valor by Tanya Huff

This was originally two books, Valor’s Choice and The Better Part of Valor. They are fast moving military sci-fi, with a great main character and interesting roles. The brief afterward, where the battles are analogized to historical battles, are interesting but kind of suck the wind out of the story’s sails.

I’m eagerly looking forward to checking out the next books in the series. (They’re on request now!)

Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber

Off Armageddon Reef is an interesting book with two distinct parts. The first part is a brief tale of humanity’s end, as the Gbaba destroy Earth’s last war fleet. The Gbaba are implacable and not really detailed– it’s enough to know that they’re the creatures in the night.

The book transitions to the other half of part one for a while, telling briefly about the terraforming and colonization efforts to establish humanity’s last colony. There’s an interesting tale of hubris and terrible decisions, as the survivors are almost all mindwiped and led around by a false religion, where the unimpaired humans use technology to establish themselves as angels and make their decrees inviolable. While it’s done for (mostly) good reasons, it makes the reader queasy– and sparks a rebellion among the unimpaired. In the end, the religious decrees are established and the angels fade into the background.

All of the above is background for the bulk of the book. This chunk is a mostly first person tale by Nimue Allen, an android with memories from the end of Earth’s empire. Nimue decides to right wrongs and nudge the world’s development towards the best technology they can reestablish without the Gbaba sensing it.

Her struggle is interesting and mirrors a lot of Renaissance and Reformation history, altered for the new world and experiences. It’s compellingly written, with slightly progressive allies and a lot of worries about deception and the effect of their actions. The characters come across as clear and strong, making me look forward to its sequel By Schism Rent Asunder. It’s on request at the library now.

The Consciousness Plague by Paul Levinson

An interesting blend of elements, and evidently the fourth book starring Phil D’Amato. [Another review calls it book 2; it sounds like this is the first full novel following a collection of short stories.] It feels like a detective story much of the time; Phil is trying to find a serial killer and his bosses are on him to produce the killer. The other half of the book, however, is an interesting complication (memory loss, possibly drug or disease induced), which twines into the serial killer plot in interesting ways.

Phil travels a lot for his job– to Scotland, Los Angeles, and Chicago, which surprised me given that he’s an NYC detective. Along the way he interacts with a number of interesting people– thrown at him from both sides of the case. The memory subplot is clearly the heart of the story, with interesting characters and conundrums, and a lot of information passed to the reader about the structure of the brain, bacteria communication, and more.

The end is satisfying and properly links up the plots; while victory is secured, it’s not a white hatted hero who makes it all come together. The shifting alliances and trust are interesting throughout. I liked his girlfriend, but her depth seems to depend on earlier stories– while I liked her, she didn’t pop the way other characters did.