Lock In by John Scalzi: Spoilers for this book follow Let me sum up my feelings on this book in one word: conflicted. Scalzi writes smart commercial SF that is not a pain to read, and I usually quite enjoy his books without feeling like they’re necessarily doing anything groundbreaking. I zipped through this one, and though he was doing interesting things. But I called not just the solution to the mystery, but parts of how it was done. I realized quite early on that Chris wasn’t gendered, and that Marcus Shane was black, and the treatment of both of these aspects didn’t really work for me. I feel like I’m in the minority here, and I would be interested in non-binary/genderqueer voices on this book. But, even if Chris doesn’t identify as either male or female, that’s still an identity; that identity still has bearing on that person’s interactions with other people. And, perhaps more fundamentally, I felt like Lock In was telling an expected story. I feel a bit weird saying that, considering that the protagonist is black and disabled and probably genderqueer, and those things don’t get enough representation. But compared to Leckie or Hurley? This is just the same old story with new characters slotted in. It was entertaining enough, but it felt safe. It felt like the lowest difficulty setting.
The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan: Last in the Brothers Sinister series. I had to mention this one because it’s so good, even though I don’t normally review romance books here. I loved the two main characters, and I loved the way they supported each other. Milan is good at writing characters and plots where the obstacles that have to be overcome are realistic and understandable (not much “You don’t understand my paaaiiiin”). I also loved the sense of family, and the insights we got into other characters from the series. This was a deeply satisfying book, and one of Milan’s best.
Lab Rat One by Andrea K Host: Second in the Touchstone Trilogy. I liked this one a bit better, I think, mostly because Cassandra starts to feel more comfortable in her surroundings and becomes more active and competent. It is definitely a detail and character oriented story, partly due to the diary format, I think. It makes sense for diaries to include all kinds of everyday details and in fact they almost have to. But things definitely happen, some of them worrisome and some happy-making.
The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton: I hadn’t read this one and I felt like it was important to read at least one book by Virginia Hamilton. If you want to sum up the story in one word: atmospheric. It’s a pretty tight third person narration, focusing on Thomas Small, who is a sensitive kind of person and conveys the eeriness of house and town quite well. I appreciated the way Hamilton draws on the idea of history, and more specifically the history of slavery, as present and important to the story and the characters. It underlies everything in this book, and she never lets us forget it.