An Infamous Army
by Georgette Heyer
My first Heyer, in defiance of cahn
's prescription that one's first Heyer ought to be Cotillion
. An Infamous Army
is a regency romance set immediately before and during the Battle of Waterloo, among the English gentry clustered in Brussels. Napoleon has escaped Elba and it's the 100 Days, and the rich in Brussels anxiously debate fleeing back to England, and in the meantime there are many elaborate balls, including balls thrown by the Duke of Wellington. Which is bizarre and delightful in how bizarre it is, especially because of how true it probably all is. I can easily believe that 19th C. British gentry were really this awful.
Tens of thousands of people die and mostly are left on what Heyer calls the charnel fields, but our romantic hero is fetched to his hospital bed from the battle in an expensive coach and Heyer seems to consider it a happy ending that, one-armed and feverish, he gets re-engaged to the flighty, spendthrift flirt who has already jilted him once when he was of sound mind and body. There is something about the principles of romance novels I will never understand.
That being said, I mostly enjoyed this book. As long as you forgot the brutal context, the characters were likable and amusing, particularly Earl and Lady Worth, supporting characters who were apparently the romantic leads in a different Heyer regency romance I now wish to read. And Heyer's commitment to historical realism is apparent and quite effective. All the characters felt real.
But be prepared to be thrown by the hundred page long battle description, which barely has any of the characters from the rest of the book. It's very strange, though kind of cool.Naked in Death
by J.D. Robb
I've dipped in and out of this series of SFF police procedurals for years. I don't exactly enjoy them, but I'm fascinated by them, on several levels. First, that they're strongly SFnal without being of genre... the fans who've made them bestsellers are not, I think, by and large SFF fans. They're not people who seek out the latest Gaiman or the latest Bujold or whatever, but they read the in Death series. Second, that they're SFF stories where the SFF technology tends to fail its users... stories where the expensive VR software doesn't make it easier to solve crimes because the criminals have adjusted, stories where space travel just means being farther away from your lover and flying cars means traffic congestion in three dimensions. Third, that Eve Dallas rescues herself. She has men rushing to try to protect her, but she never needs their protection. It's the saving grace of her strange relationship with the fantasy creature that is Roarke.Naked
is the first in the series, which is odd to read in an episodic series where you've read other books. You're supposed to doubt Roarke's honesty and intentions, which is impossible when you know that he ends up married to Eve. This is one of the reasons for my canon completism, by the way, so I can avoid situations like this.Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline
It's well-paced and well-plotted, which made me want to like it, but the world building is horrendous and that kept annoying me. Cline posits an energy scarce world where everyone mostly spends their lives in a hugely energy intense cloud-based virtual world. Cline's ludocracy is ludicrous.