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Out of sequence

Picked up a variety of books at the library yesterday, but not the third volume of The Last Lion or Amity Shlaes' Coolidge, which I had on reserve but forgot to pick up until it was already gone. Ah, well. I do have the second volume of The Last Lion, Tim Powers' The Drawing of the Dark, A Rising Thunder, a Honor Harrington novel, and finally When the People Fell, which is a collection of Cordwainer Smith's stories about the Instrumentality of Man, though not a complete one.


I took a long break from the Honor Harrington novels a few years ago after At All Costs, or maybe it was Crown of Slaves*...anyway, it was getting hard to keep track of everything that was going on, especially since Weber seems to have had the same feeling and resolved his problems by splitting the Honorverse into three tracks. A Rising Thunder is in the main line, but unfortunately I missed the intervening novels (Mission of Honor, Torch Of Freedom, and Storm From The Shadows) so that the whole plotline of A Rising Thunder gives me the distinct (and probably correct) feeling that I missed a few things. Anyhow, this book covers the formation of the grand alliance between Haven and Manticore against the Solarian League and the one-sided slaughter of an SL fleet intended to force Manticore's surrender thanks to a toombie** aboard the SL flagship. Welp. Lots of political and bureaucratic dialogging on all sides of the conflict, all laying the foundation for what looks to be a nasty great fight to make the Haven/Manticore Wars look like brushfires.


Cordwainer Smith is one of the rare, unique voices in SF, and it's a damn shame he died so young. He is, of course, best known for the Instrumentality of Man stories such as "Scanners Live In Vain", "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard" and "The Ballad Of Lost C'Mell", but quite aside from the depiction of life in the far future (14,000 years from now) when True Men, Underpeople, Manshonjaggers, Fighting Trees and other such oddities exist, his stories have a very different feel to them than any SF I've ever read from anyone else. How much of that is due to his growing up all over the place and being fluent in six languages (aside from Chinese), I don't know; how much of it is due, as Fred Pohl claims in the foreword, to his writing eschatological SF, I don't know either. Certainly Olaf Stapledon didn't write like this, and H. Beam Piper, whose basic assumption was that man wouldn't and couldn't change his basic nature, definitely didn't. There is something magical and lyrical about the fantastic (and sometimes quite horrible) tales Smith tells which make them very much worth remembering and passing on. When the People Fell is dirt cheap for a mass market paperback, and well worth the price.



*Okay, I did go back and re-read the first five novels, since three of them were free on the Kindle and all my copies are packed up.
**Since I first saw the concept in Weber & Ringo's March Upcountry, where the mind control is exercised through hacking the victim's brain implant as opposed to a nanotech hacking of the brain itself, I'm sticking with their word for the sake of brevity.

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