Incubus Dreams, Laurell K. Hamilton This is the latest in the Anita Blake series, which I had thought was suffering from too-many-sequel-itis, where the author keeps writing increasingly awful sequels just because people keep buying them. I keep reading them because Anita's commentary on her own life, both aloud and internal, still has some wonderfully amusing moments. I was very pleasantly surprised by Incubus Dreams, however. The implausibility didn't ramp up much further, and neither (in my opinion) did the power levels. Meanwhile, there was some actual character development in the supporting cast. There wasn't much overall plot, of course, but on the other hand, I think the entire book fits within about 72 hours. Even for Anita, there's a limit to how many events can transpire in such a short period.
Now, as expected, there's a hell of a lot of sex, and it continues to get farther away from "normal". I won't bring these books to work, or in fact out in public somewhere, and I was even a little embarrassed to be reading this one in a roomful of friends who'd read it already. But, again, I'm finding it more believable in this book than in the previous ones. And if I'm going to be reading sex scenes, this is both better sex and a more interesting overall premise than the typical romance novel.
Going Postal, Terry Pratchett I honestly wasn't very impressed by Terry Pratchett and Discworld for a long time. They were worth reading, and funny, but I never thought they were nearly as good as some of my friends seemed to feel. The most recent three or four books, however, have been really good books in their own right. Going Postal, as might be expected, takes on the Ankh-Morpork postal service. There are cameos by some of the established characters, of course, but it really stands on its own. Very good, but also very difficult to talk about without spoilers, so I'll leave it there.
A Creed for the Third Millennium, Colleen McCullough This one was a re-read, but I hadn't read it in at least five years if not more. Colleen McCullough is my other favorite author, and was my favorite before I discovered Bujold. She's best known for The Thorn Birds, and most of her recent work has been historical fiction. Creed isn't recent, however; it was published in 1986.
It's set perhaps 35 or 40 years from now, in a United States where abrupt global climate change has forced a great deal of internal change. The population as a whole is suffering from low morale, negativity, and depression. The government conducts a search for a man (or woman) with charisma, to become a leader to improve the psychological climate. They find a man with a message of his own, of hope and of faith. The remainder of the story, and the bulk of it, follows the two parallel but separate purposes, and their effects on the man and his family.
It isn't an easy read, at all. If someone wants to find out why I like McCullough, I'd recommend starting with almost anything else she's written. I think it would also be particularly difficult for anyone struggling with their own faith, although perhaps valuable at least for those who remain within the Judeo-Christian background. It isn't preachy, and it isn't trying to convert anyone to anything, and in fact the message within the story is explicitly non-denominational.
I didn't consciously pick it up for this, but it dovetails rather well with some of what I had to say yesterday about the current political situation, and about Obama. I do feel that there exists a need for a message of hope, although perhaps not the one from this book.
The fourth book, I'm intentionally omitting the name. It's non-fiction, on ethical relationships, and it came highly recommended from several sources. I don't think I really learned anything new from it, between my own experiences and choices, and what I've read or observed elsewhere, but it was reassuring to have some of my thoughts affirmed by complete strangers. Parts were also somewhat timely, but then again, that's why I finished it now.
Next up: Artemis Fowl