5. Toast by Charles Stross.
Early Stross short stories. I rather liked this. I wonder if any SF author destroys the world / universe / life on Earth in as high a proportion of their stories?
6. Other Worlds, Better Lives by Howard Waldrop.
One of the many perceptive points in Breakfast In The Ruins by Malzberg is identifying the 'famous person story' as a distinct subgenre. Waldrop is, of course, the main exponent of the famous person story. However... my feeling is that the FPS is something that has to be finely balanced or it veers off into the irksome, a key rule is 'mentioning people by their real names and or their earlier married surnames or other pseudonyms is not a substitute for plot'. There are a number of stories in this book that just didn't work for me, there is a tendency for nothing much to happen in his stories and I can forgive that where the chrome matches up with my obsessions, but in quite a few stories in this book it doesn't, particularly. The short story collection that came out last year was much more engaging in my opinion.
7. Shambling Towards Hiroshima by James Morrow
A novella in structure (if possibly not length), this has a straight forward plot. The high concept is that the Americans were working on a plan to breed giant fire-breathing lizards to unleash on Japanese cities in parallel with the Manhattan Project. To show the Japanese the terror weapon to encourage their surrender without loss of life, the idea is to show some senior Japanese officials a smaller lizard destroying a model city. Unfortunately the smaller lizards are quite tame, so a horror B-movie actor has to wear a costume to play the part of the smaller lizard. Quite amusing, but there's not really that much more to it.
8. Dead to Me by Anton Strout
9. Dead Again by Anton Strout
I came across Strout because he was blacklisted during the ludicrous apocalyptic fannish race-shitstorm. I wouldn't say I bought the first book BECAUSE he was on the black-list, just that it brought him to my attention. The hero has the psychic power of reading the history of objects, he used this as a minor criminal but turned over a new leaf and joined New York's Department of Paranormal Affairs (or something, I forget the exact name). One of the reviews describes it as part Ghostbusters, part Men-In-Black which I think is a good description. I believe this is known as 'urban fantasy'. They are written with quite a light touch and do not outstay their welcome. (Hmm, they are better than this might suggest, I am not damning with faint praise, honest).
As you know, professor, I am great believer that modern fantasy needs a certain lightness and pace to distract the reader from the fundamental implausibilities, Strout has that. The first book is better than the second which perhaps suffers slightly from flaw 2 of modern fantasy, reading a bit like a write-up of the author's RPG scenario.
10. Devil Bones by Kathy Reichs
They are what they are. Holiday reading. Rather better than the last few I thought.
11. Doors Open by Ian Rankin
This is his most recent novel, there is an oblique reference to Rebus having retired, and whilst set in Edinburgh it has another detective. It is written from the view-point of multiple characters including some of the villains. This was, I thought, a return to the form of the earlier Rebus novels, i.e. better than they have been for a while. It is grittier than the more recent ones too, we are to a certain extent in Brookmyre territory thematically (art theft) and stylistically (quite hard-boiled). Better than the more recent Brookmyres for that matter.
12. The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
I am sure that on some level this is well written but it bored me silly.
13. The Worlds of Herman Kahn: The Intuitive Science of Thermonuclear War by Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi
I am still ploughing my way through this from time to time, but have rather stalled. A book about Herman Kahn, the RAND corporation and its war games, simulations etc. It appears to be well regarded but for some reason is not engaging me. It has some wonderful photos in it.