My Month in Reading, November 2019

We moved to a new apartment at the start of November, and that meant a longer commute for me and of course a whole lot more time for listening to audiobooks while I drive. Almost all of my reading in November was done via audiobook.

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Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell

I barreled through this book while packing to move. The narrator is especially good, and it made me wish I’d listened to the first book in audio (although the hardcovers have such wonderful covers that I’d be sad to miss out).

I didn’t love this book quite as much as the first one, but it’s still a hell of a lot of fun spending time with these characters, and I’m always game for authors playing with what happens after the “chosen one” saves the day.

Can’t wait for book three.


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Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill

This book reads a lot like the novelization of an unproduced screenplay. You’ve got post-apocalyptic sci-fi about a misanthropic robot who helped exterminate humanity wrapped up in a road movie punctuated with firefights and explosions.

None of the characters are particularly pleasant or sympathetic, but they are at least sort of interesting. I never believed for a minute that they sounded like robots, though. They’re constantly foul-mouthed, sarcastic and quippy, and they mostly just feel like humans verbally sparring in a nineties B picture.

Compare that to Martha Wells’ Murderbot series, which features a main character who feels just inhuman enough that you believe them as an AI construct, but so compelling that you completely buy into their character.

This book was action-packed, and I did generally enjoy reading it, but I felt like the characters never redeemed themselves, and the setting and tone wore out their welcome.


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Randomize by Andy Weir

This is a solid sci-fi heist that relies on an old-fashioned what-if premise: What would happen if quantum computers existed, and how long would it take before someone figured out the criminal applications?

In this case, an enterprising engineer figures out how to defeat the random number generators at a casino and complications ensue. There isn’t a lot of plot to this story, since it’s mostly a thought experiment hung on a little bit of narrative, but the execution is well-done and I enjoyed reading it.

Randomize wasn’t amazing, but it was possibly my favorite from the Forward collection so far.


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Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory by Raphael-Bob Waksburg

I love short story collections read by more than one narrator. They’re always a good palate cleanser after a longer novel.

This collection is a good mix between comedic sketches and more traditional short stories, and a number of the pieces land little emotional gut punches, much like the disarmingly absurd Bojack Horseman. The narrators include a few famous names, some of whom are friends with or have worked for Waksburg.

I think my favorite story was “Up-and-comers,” about the members of a band who all get super powers that only work when they get drunk. “We men of science,” about a man who invents a door into an alternate universe where everything is the opposite of his own, was a close second. “You want to know what plays are like?” was especially devastating.

Highly recommended, especially in audio.


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Unnatural, Volume 3 by Mirka Andolfo

I read Volume 2 back in May, but enough time had passed when I read this that I forgot everything about the series, including character names, relationships, and what the hell was even happening.

This volume doesn’t make any overtures to help readers like me. Instead, it just dives right into the thick of things as Leslie fights the albino wolf ghost trying to take control of her body. A big chunk of the volume is also taken up with exposition and backstory from the villain, who has a complicated relationship with the main character.

Although I did like the first two volumes of this series, this final volume didn’t click for me. The dystopian social commentary was heavy-handed to the point of absurdity, and the sexiness of the first two volumes was largely dropped in favor of a lot of non-stop fighting. I’d still be down to read something else by Andolfo, but this one does not stick the landing.


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Kill All Angels by Robert Brockway

Brockway finished his trilogy of gonzo punk horror novels in fine form. Our ragtag heroes take the fight back to the angels and empty ones, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

In this installment, the gang teams up with a surprisingly helpful empty one named Zang, who used to hang out with Carey back in the day. One particularly great sequence happens in a dilapidated fancy suburb that fell off the side of a cliff after an earthquake, where barely functional unnoticeables go through the motions of daily life in absolute darkness.

My only regret in finishing this is that I want more books with this combination of humor, horror, and surrealism all thrown together in a narrative blender, and I’m not sure where I’m going to find that kind of experience. I may pick up Brockway’s earlier books, but he doesn’t have a particularly deep body of work yet.


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Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Hot damn, but does this book live up to its many rave reviews. The main character, Gideon, is one of the best protagonists in anything I’ve read for a long time. She’s a foul-mouthed, dirtbag, horn-ball, sword fighting lesbian goth with a necromancer named Harrow for her best frenemy.

The galactic emperor calls Gideon and Harrow to represent the Ninth House in an important ceremony. This means traveling to a dead planet full of walking skeletons so that they can learn how to ascend to his right hand, along with members of all seven other houses. Problem is, someone keeps killing house members in new and gruesome ways, and Gideon and Harrow have to put aside their differences to stay alive and keep one step ahead of the killer.

Muir builds a fascinating world that feels incredibly unique, all while telling a good old-fashioned murder mystery. I can’t wait for the sequel.


The Survivors, Episode 1
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The Survivors, Episode 1 by LEO

A ship full of young colonists crash lands on an unknown planet after mysterious quantum anomalies destroy their colony ship. The unfamiliar location and lack of more experienced survivors lead to power struggles and divides in the group. I liked the art and enjoyed the story enough to keep reading, but the second volume is where things get interesting.