So, I basically didn't read anything for the last six months due to being unable to do anything but what seemed absolutely essential in that time. This eventually came down to two things: 1) not dying, 2) not losing my internship. There were also a couple things that for whatever reason were more do-able, which were reading and responding to email (in 15-minute chunks, with hours or sometimes days or even weeks in between), watching TV (ditto), reading anything other than email (ditto), writing fiction (ditto) and… nope, that was about it.

However, before this I was reading normally, and so acquired a backlog of books I would have written up had I been capable of doing such things. Is anyone interested in probably-brief reviews, or rather impressions, of books that I may not recall accurately, given the circumstances? (You are of course more than welcome to comment with factual corrections.)

Poll #17235 Brief and possibly inaccurate review poll
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 91

Would you like to see me review...

View Answers

Frances Hardinge's "Cuckoo Song" (probably my favorite YA of the year)
50 (54.9%)

Handcuffed to the Bear, by Lauren Esker (Sholio), a charming paranormal adventure with romance
28 (30.8%)

The Space Queen books by Isla Sinclair, filthybadwrong noncon femdom porn with a Space Queen and a square-jawed hero straight out of the pulps, very very hot if you like that kind of thing
35 (38.5%)

Every Patient Tells a Story, by Lisa Sanders, inspiration for Dr. House. Not actually what it says on the tin.
24 (26.4%)

Nor Iron Bars a Cage, by Kaje Harper. Sweet fantasy MM h/c romance with an actual plot
26 (28.6%)

TS Joyce's "hillbilly bears" paranormal romance series. Believe it or not, these were actually my favorite PNR discovery of the year.
28 (30.8%)

Golden Witchbreed, by Mary Gentle (worldbuilding anthropological sf; re-read)
34 (37.4%)

Stephen King, The Long Walk. Flawed but vivid early book.
18 (19.8%)

Barbara Hambly's later James Asher vampire novels (repetitive plots, excellent atmosphere and characters)
26 (28.6%)

Amends, by Eve Tushnet. I beta'd this. Satirical literary novel about a rehab reality show but actually about larger social and psychological issues; really excellent prose.
21 (23.1%)

No Dreams Allowed, by Sonora Sheldon. Unusual take on the billionaire romance genre, very nice voice.
12 (13.2%)

Dragon menage romances by Terry Bolryder. Exactly what it says on the tin.
15 (16.5%)

Fool's Assassin, by Robin Hobb. I don't even know what to think about these books, they are SO WEIRD and just keep getting weirder.
35 (38.5%)

Penric's Demon, by Lois McMaster Bujold. Slight but charming novella in the Chalion world.
26 (28.6%)

The Philosopher Kings, by Jo Walton. I REALLY wish I had written this up earlier, because it was extremely worth detailed discussion
31 (34.1%)

The Last Dive, by Bernie Chowdhury. Diving and disasters.
10 (11.0%)

Nine Minutes, Twelve Seconds. Detailed account of a plane crash.
12 (13.2%)

Flight 232. Another detailed account of a plane crash.
9 (9.9%)

The Light of the Moon, by Randy Styner. Ditto
5 (5.5%)

Rocannon's World, by Ursula Le Guin. Re-read
40 (44.0%)

I’ve been meaning to write this up for a while, ever since I pulled it off a dusty Little Tokyo shelf and bought it for a quarter, but it’s hard to do it justice.

The cover features an embossed black-clad ninja against a black background, with only his (rather Caucasian-looking, and light brown) eyes and katana visible. The title is in red. Above the title, in white underlined caps, it says The incredible true story! Below the title, also in white caps: In the quiet of a whisper, come the deadly soldiers of the dark.

Here’s the back cover: The amazing true story! From the ancient world of the Shogun to the modern terrors of Shibumi, here are the ninja and their arts of sudden death!

The overleaf claims that modern ninja are even better fighters than the old ones, because they have access to a wider range of techniques.

The book begins at a modern seminar on ninjutsu, taught by modern ninjutsu master Stephen K. Hayes. Hayes asks everyone what would make them willing to kill someone. Most give idealistic reasons; one says he’d do it for profit.

What we had seen impressed us. What we had heard in those last moments from those who attended from all parts of the country (we have no idea how many of them were truly ninja) was an introduction to the diversity of ninja thought—a microcosm of ninja philosophy.

Weiss and Philbin backtrack to do a decent, albeit totally lacking in citations, history of the ninja. Having cunningly laid down their four-page groundwork of history mixed with historical speculation, they promptly begin erecting an edifice of crazy (albeit rather touchingly enthusiastic) fantasy.

During World War II, for example, the Japanese high command had ninja-trained troops deployed to assassinate General Douglas MacArthur if and when the opportunity arose.

I confess, I would love to see a movie or manga about that.

But the ninja did not fail very often. Information on their specific World War II activities is scant, but according to Ron Duncan, a ninja practitioner living in New York, there were many strange incidents which had a ninjaesque quality…

But do not think that the ninja are a thing of the past!

In 1948, some ninja switched sides, or at least became employed by the CIA, says Duncan. … “As far as I know, there are still ninja in the CIA.”

He recounts the assault on the Iranian embassy by the SAS to rescue hostages: …the core members are in black, only their eyes showing through the hoods covering their heads. In short, they were in the uniform of the ninja.

“They were ninja,” says Duncan. “Absolutely.”

But wait! There is even more compelling evidence for the existence of modern ninja!

Someone told us that he was in Kyushu two summers ago and went into a room where there were five or six businessmen standing around talking. “It was only later,” he says, “That I learned they were all ninja.”

The rest of the book recounts ninja folklore, stories about ninja, and ninja techniques, interspersed with photos of black-clad guys sneaking around and climbing trees. The jaw-dropping chapter “I Am Ninja!” is about a boy ninja who gets revenge on an enemy by having sex with an insane prostitute and so infecting himself with a fatal venereal disease, and then presenting himself to his enemy as a catamite. But he rejoices at the success of his plan, even though it gets him tortured to death.

After all… he is ninja!


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