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2019-12-15Books round-up: The Watch series, Trek, crossover, 40K, etc

Tags All Personal Fiction

I do tend to read and keep up with book releases, even if belatedly, however busy things get.

Let's start with Sergey Lukyanenko's Watch series -- modern fantasy mostly set in Russia about 'Others' who are magic-users, vampires, shapeshifters, etc. The particular conceit of his universe is the twilight: layers of reality that more powerful Others can move through, although that makes it sound like a bigger part of the stories than it is, for the most part. Although characters talk about the mechanics of magic in their world, it's more about characters, the author's worldview, nods to politics and history, etc.

The series is complete as of 2016, with the sixth book (literally titled Sixth Watch) being translated and released by HarperCollins. However, long before that other authors had made it a shared universe. A couple of those I've posted about before, and since then I've discovered that Black Palmira's Face (or Face of the Dark Palmyra) has been translated and released in Polish as Oblicze Czarney Palmiry way back in 2005: https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrole_(cykl)

https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/202222/what-is-considered-canon-in-night-watch-cycle also notes that https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Vasilyev_(writer) wrote another novel or novella in 2012, Time of Inversions, and that yet more tie-in fiction has recently been published with a Dozori (Watches) branding; http://lukianenko.ru/cyclebooks_rus/

Some summary of these is listed by https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/NightWatch

So it's anyone's guess if any of this will ever turn up in other languages, and it could be the same sort of watering down that suddenly popular series like Dragonlance experienced when other writers got involved, but there are some intriguing titles.

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With the Picard series incoming, it looks like the Pocket Book extended Trek universe is winding down. They've been publishing continuing adventures of Next Gen, DS9, Voyager etc characters for years, also putting out more original stuff such as New Frontier, Corps of Engineers, Titan and Department of Temporaral Investigation novels. Whilst from what I've read they'd gotten themselves into far too many 'event' series (much like the comics industry) there are some quality titles to track down, such as Articles of the Federation (a characterful if light look at the presidency and political landscape).

Following big stuff such as the Borg threat being ended and a schism of Federation member planets, what may be the conclusion is driven by revelations about Section 31 and unlawful secret missions that Picard was involved in. I've picked up Available Light and Collateral Damage, by Dayton Ward and David Mack respectively, to catch up.

Whereas the Picard TV series, in addition to suffering from modern production auto-tint and desaturation, appears to follow the boring conceit that after the badly-written events of Nemesis that most of the characters quit and/or settled down and did nothing. So I can't say I have any real interest in watching this, however excited Patrick Stewart seems about it. Nor in the alt-universe original series films or Discovery, when it turned out the latter was doing a mirror universe arc.

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I'll group the next lot together… I made some dips into crossover series (i.e. work that builds on other literary canons) mainly inspired by the sale sections of London's Forbidden Planet, which regularly clears out slow-moving overstocks of some great books and sometimes even includes signed copies. It's a worth a trip if you're in the area.

Michael Kurland's Moriarty series, five volumes reprinted by Titan Books. Mostly true to Doyle and you're reading for texture rather than surprises, but if you enjoy the original Sherlock Holmes stories that's only going to be a plus.

Kim Newman's Anno Dracula series, which I'm about a book and a half into and the rest waiting. The recent Titan editions are nicely presented and although I don't usually like historical or alt-history fiction vampires do provide enough difference to the conceit (plus there are enough literary references) that it holds interest. The first book suffers a bit from the ending having been written before the rest in a different style.

I also made a limited foray into Jose Farmer's Wold Newton universe, having read Time's Last Gift but not touched the other three (Lord Tyger, A Feast Unknown and The Wind Whales of Ishmael) I picked up.

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And I've been dipping into Warhammer 40K fiction, particularly the return of Roboute Guilliman and Cawl material, although more https://www.reddit.com/r/40kLore/ than actual books. The sub is getting samey though, due to the Horus Heresy setup leading into the "current" era and Games Workshop defining the setting as a whole as locked in stasis, and due to the same handful of questions quickly cycling.

What I will mention is that there are now three collected volumes of Ciaphis Cain stories, which are basically Blackadder or Wodehouse meets Warhammer 40K and show that the company still sees a place for not taking things seriously. If you're noddingly familiar with 40K already from White Dwarf magazines or some of the rules books or even the 1d4chan wiki, Cain is where I'd start.

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On a more personal note, dredging fragments of memory I managed to pin down a book I was lent by an English teacher (Mrs Jones, who also lent me Bored of the Rings) as The Illusionist by Anita Mason, probably the white Abacus paperback. It was at a time I was attached to escapist shared-universe fiction even more than I am now, magical realism being less of an easy sell than Vancian magic, but it's probably about as suitable for kids as Anne Rice (one reviewer summed it up as magic, religion and kinky sex) so am looking forward to being in the right frame of mind to re-read and better appreciate.