19) Merrill R. Chapman – In Search of Stupidity: Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters.
This is a history of the development of the personal computer software industry, with a focus on all the companies that didn’t make it – or are barely getting by today – due to making big mistakes along the way. From WordStar 2000 and Paradox for Windows to PS/2, this book says the answer to the question "How did Microsoft get so big" is "everybody else made stupid mistakes. Microsoft never really did." Well, actually they did (think US justice anti-trust prosecution), but they were already so big by then it wasn’t fatal.
18) Robert B. Parker – Rough Weather.
This is the latest Spenser novel, which I was surprised to find on the shelf at the library. Usually you either have to put in a request or wait a year or so for them.
This one is better than the last one I read, having some serious action early on, and a reappearance of one of the most threatening characters from a couple of earlier Spenser novels, the Gray Man.
This looks like a pretty cool way to put up shelves.
17) Sean McMullen – Voyage of the Shadowmoon. Book 1 of the Moonworlds Saga.
This is a standalone story, and a good one. It’s basically a fantasy world, where a powerful magical weapon has been discovered and abused (it’s hard not to abuse it, the way it works) to destroy an entire continent. Some of the main characters include a priestess, a vampire (spelled vampyre, barf barf), and an incognito eunuch king. Despite the mass destruction, it’s largely a light fantasy and a fun read.
16) Grant Callin – Saturnalia (1986). A fun romp through the solar system. Well, earth orbit and the moons of Saturn, anyhow. This is one that I re-read every few years.
15) Alfred Bester. The Stars My Destination. A classic tale of despair, anger, revenge, and a man driven to change the world.
14) Robert B. Parker – Now & Then. A Spenser Novel. Time for a change of pace. When I picked this up at the library, I wasn’t entirely sure I hadn’t read it before. Now I don’t think I had.
It’s entirely typical late Spenser. Maybe a bit longer than average, at almost 300 pages, but of course it still has the wide margins and double-spacing they’ve been printing them with for a while now. In small, closely-spaced type like my old Spenser paperbacks, it would probably go 200 pages or so.
I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re a die-hard Spenser fan. If you’re curious about Spenser, go find one of the early novels. If you really like it, work your way forward until you get tired of them. (And yes, the early novels are better than the TV show was, although the show did borrow some of the plots.)
13) John Meaney – Bone Song. I’ve read several of Meaney’s recent SF books. This is… something else. It’s a sort of noir cop story, set in a world with similarities to ours but with some very fundamental differences. This is not our world with magic grafted on. It’s another world, one that humans share with wraiths, direwolves, zombies, and other beings, and where autopsies are done by specialists who can read a person’s final moments by touching their bones. A city that runs on giant reactors powered by extracting the pain from the bones of their dead.
Meaney is definitely getting better. He could already spin a story that drew you in and kept you turning pages. The world in this book is more thoroughly conceived than that in his earlier books, and better presented. His previous series was a bit of a travelogue, exposing the world by dragging the protagonist through mile after mile of it. In this book, it’s just there, the background against which the story plays, accepted by the characters without question, but still a fundamental part of the story and integral to it.
If there’s one thing Meaney could still improve, it would be having characters who undergo believable change through the story. I’m not saying that’s an easy thing to accomplish, far from it; just that he’s already doing a great job in other areas, and this would be the next step (IMHO).
12) Matthew Hughes – The Spiral Labyrinth: A Tale of Henghis Hapthorn. Another more recent author who has a talent for making something new and interesting from some of the characteristics of classic authors – in this case, Jack Vance, and a bit of Arthur Conan Doyle.
11) Jeffrey E. Barlough – The House in the High Wood. This is Barlough’s second melding of Dickens and Lovecraft. Residents of a small isolated mountain village begin to experience strange, disturbing dreams, as the consequences of events 28 years in the past begin to overtake them. Highly recommended if you like that sort of thing.