What are you reading?
Ignition! by John D. Clark, a history of the development of rocket fuel. I first heard of this book in Sand Won't Save You This Time
, an article on why the author refuses to work with chlorine trifluoride ("a stronger oxidizing agent than oxygen itself ... it'll start roaring reactions with things like bricks and asbestos tile"). Indeed, chlorine trifluoride is only one of the many many overly dangerous substances (red fuming nitric acid, high-concentration hydrogen peroxide) that Clark takes a relatively cavalier attitude towards while describing their specific hazards in detail.
The book itself is a delightful combination of chemistry, history, and "and then they tried this mixture and it sat inert / froze too soon / corroded everything / blew up" (mostly the last), interspersed with color commentary and anecdotes. It's a great read, and I remember either just enough or not quite enough chemistry to make it more or less comprehensible. Not that that matters much: Clark does a good job of explaining the chemistry in layman's terms: mostly "this stabilized it so it wouldn't blow up when we jostled it" or, more commonly, "but that still had a disconcerting tendency to explode."
Ignition! is long out of print and used copies command ridiculous prices. Thankfully it can be found in PDF form at this link
.What did you just finish reading?
NK Jemisin's Dreamblood duology, set in a fantasy Egypt-inspired culture with dream magic. I read The Killing Moon several years ago, and started The Shadowed Sun and just could not get into it. So it sat on the shelf until I decided to try again... and the same thing happened. I have no idea why, either. This time I pushed through, and it picked up again for me around the 20% mark.
They're good political fantasies with culture clashes, and they do a fine job of making the cultures different not only from each other, but from what you, the reader, expect. The second book is also unexpectedly rapey: one highly nonconsensual kiss, two attempted rapes and a third threatened, and two actual rape scenes. This is not at all what I had expected. Still pondering whether I want to keep them around.
Also read eBear's steampunk western Karen Memory. It feels... minor, by which I guess I mean "not my thing." Karen's got a great voice and the characters are well-developed, it just felt... light. I dunno.
Also, some time ago (including for okrablossom
) John M. Ford's Scholars of Night is an only-okay spy novel and a decent Mike Ford novel. Fun and worth reading but not something whose praises I'll be singing to the heavens. It's no Dragon Waiting, is I guess what I'm saying.What do you think you'll read next?
Jo Walton's The Just City, because uilos
has been bugging me to do so so she can rant at me about it.