More book recommendations

I was recommending some reading material for a friend and it occurred to me that I should just turn it into another book recommendations blog post. So, here you go. Some books I have read recently and enjoyed.

Note: If you care, I am using affiliate links in this post. Feel free to bypass them if you object. It’s mostly by way of an interesting experiment, and doesn’t influence my recommendations at all. I expect to make all of like 50p out of it.


My non-fiction reading continues to be lighter than I’d like. Two recommendations from it though:

Sexuality in medieval Europe: Doing unto others

This is exactly what it sounds like: An account of sexuality in medieval Europe. It’s interesting both in and of itself, but also in terms of how it highlights the difficulties of using a modern world view / system of categorisation when talking about the behaviour of historical societies.

I confess I’ve stalled about a third of the way into it, but I do intend to pick it up again. It’s not a problem with the book so much as a thing that usually happens when I read non-fiction books outside my area.

Mathematical methods in the theory of queuing

This is a lovely short little monograph about the basics of queuing theory. It’s only about 100 pages long, and contains a nice overview of most of the elementary results in the subject. I picked this up browsing around in Foyles and decided it would be an interesting thing to learn. It’s been about half refreshing my knowledge of Markov processes and probability and half learning the applications to queuing. If that’s a thing that interests you, I recommend this.

It could unfortunately have used a bit more proof-reading. The actual prose is fine, but some of the equations are slightly confused. I haven’t found this a major problem for understanding though, it just requires staying slightly on your toes while reading it.


The Martian

This is a remarkably enjoyable book given how much of it is iterations on the theme of “Oh god I’m going to die. Wait. MATHS. OK maybe I’ve got a shot at this”.

Basic premise: Astronaut gets accidentally left behind on Mars with equipment designed for a 31 day mission. Has to figure out how to survive to get rescued, which involves waiting a lot longer than 31 days. It’s mostly a story about engineering and ingenuity.

On utilitarian grounds I rather think NASA should have just left him there to die, mostly because I’m a cold-hearted bastard, but it’s still a really enjoyable book.

Things of Interest

Things of Interest isn’t a book, it’s just some guy’s site. He writes good fiction though. Principle amongst it:

  • The Ed Stories (also available for free on the site if you prefer). These start out as pretty light-hearted “college guy builds giant robots in his basement” stories which take a turn for the serious later. They’re mostly mind candy, but they’re tasty mind candy.
  • Fine Structure – I’ve got to be honest, I’ve read Fine Structure twice and I’m still not exactly sure what it’s about. But the basic premise is that a being sufficiently advanced that we might as well call it a god turns our universe into a prison for its enemy. In order to do this, it regularly edits the source code of physics in order to prevent advanced technology that would allow it to escape from being developed. Interesting and worth reading.
  • Ra – Magic as science. Or possibly science as magic. It’s an ongoing story, and the big reveal is in the process of happening as I write.

Brood of Bones

(also in this series: Fox’s BrideGravity’s Revenge, Dream Storm Sea).

Hiresha suffers from Narcolepsy. This is bad for obvious reasons, but in the fantasy world she happens to live in does come with at least one compensation: Enchantment can only be performed whilst you are asleep. Thus spending a lot of time asleep causes one to accrue a lot of power. Power she can hopefully use to cure herself of her disease. In the mean-time however there are all these other people who need her help.

Interesting, if not exactly ground-breaking. I thoroughly enjoyed these. If you like adventure fantasy these are worth a read.

The best of all possible worlds

I don’t really know how to describe this book other than that it’s remarkably charming for a book about the aftermath of a world being destroyed. It’s set in a galactic civilization where all the different races are more-or-less human despite coming from different worlds. They’ve clearly been watching earth and occasionally importing humans from it (there’s a lot of reference to earth culture, and people being of Terran descent), but we appear to be mostly ignorant of this fact.

Which is mostly beside the point of the story. The premise of the story is that the homeworld of one of the human races, Sadiri, has recently been destroyed, and the survivors are trying to rebuild their civilization. Some of them come to Cygnus Beta, which is a world with an incredibly mixed background, looking for people and cultures of Sadiri descent there. Grace Delarua, a civil servant there, acts as their guide in doing so.

Half exploration story, half love story. Not really the book I expected given the premise, but definitely worth a read.

Ancillary Justice

This is a story about a woman (probably. She’s a little confused about gender and refers to everyone as “she”) who used to be a spaceship seeking revenge on the people responsible for killing her.

It’s both a very good sci-fi novel and an interesting exploration of identity. You should go read it if any of that sounds remotely appealing.

The Coldest War (The Milkweed Triptych)

Alternate history and magical Nazis. Quite good if you like that sort of thing. Fairly dark, with very few unambiguously good characters.

Among Others

Somewhere between inverted Harry Potter (a witch gets sent to a boarding school for normals), a collection of Jo Walton recommending her favourite sci-fi and fantasy novels, and magical realism.

Again, charming. I totally recommend this one if you like sci-fi and fantasy at all, even if you don’t think it sounds like you would enjoy this one.

Three Parts Dead

(also Two Serpents Rise in the same sequence)

I’ve got to be honest, between reading this interview in which the author discusses why one of his characters is a gay skeleton (answer is basically “some people are gay, some people are skeletons. These two can intersect. Get over it”) and the tagline “A God has died, and it’s up to Tara, first-year associate in the international necromantic firm of Kelethres, Albrecht, and Ao, to bring Him back to life before His city falls apart” there was no way I wasn’t going to read this series. I wasn’t disappointed.

It’s basically magic as a metaphor for economics and contract law, with gods as a metaphor for corporations. Even if you ignore that they’re well written and enjoyable stories. Strong recommendation.

I think that’s it for now from recent reading. I still need to mine a whole bunch of older stuff I’ve read for recommendations. That might happen at some point.

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