Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Nanoreviews: The Physicians of Vilnoc, Isolate, The Immortal Conquistador

Bujold, Lois McMaster. The Physicians of Vilnoc [Subterranean]
This is the plague novella that was supposed to come out before The Orphans of Raspay (the pirate novella) but was delayed because of, well, the real world pandemic. I'm pretty sure I have that right. Regardless, one Learned Penric is happy and content with his life when his brother-in-law asks for Penric's help as a physician. Apparently there is a touch of plague at the military fort and perhaps Penric (and his demon Desdemona) can help.

The question, of course, isn't whether Penric will stop the plague it's how Penric will stop the plague. Which is good, it's always nice when someone is able to stop a potential pandemic. It's interesting reading Physicians of Vilnoc during an actual pandemic where we're not sure how far things will go - though reading Vilnoc in 2021 might have been a different experience than if I read it earlier in 2020.

Listen, this is the eighth published Penric and Desdemona novella. You can mostly jump in wherever and Bujold gives enough context to figure it all out but the richer context is from having read more of the series of very linked stand alone novellas. Lois McMaster Bujold doesn't miss and she doesn't miss here. Physicians of Vilnoc is excellent
Score: 8/10

Modesitt Jr, L.E. Isolate [Tor]
Isolate is a fantasy novel from L.E. Modesitt, Jr. That sentence is doing a lot of work and it is important because if you've read any of Modesitt's fantasy novels you have a pretty good sense of the shape and style of Isolate. If you've read more than one of his fantasy novels, you have a really good idea what sort of novel this is.

Isolate is set in a somewhat more modern setting - there are cars (though steam powered) and buses and the primary city of the novel just feels more modern than anything we've seen in Recluce or Imager or the Corean Chronicles. Steffan Dekkard is somewhat older and more accomplished, which is something I appreciate when Modesitt writes full adults rather than the youth who needs everything explained - though Dekkard is a political neophyte and as the security for a councilor, he is getting new political lessons as he is going to be coming up in that world. It's not that much different than any of the Recluce protagonists reading The Basis of Order and working on theory. Here it's a lot of political conversations, local politics as well as some that touch a wider nation. If you like all of that, if you like the slow burn and the day to day interactions and meals (and meals) and theory and even some political campaigning and that does build to a larger conflict that is oh so slowly being revealed - Isolate is for you. It's the first novel in a new series that is completely unrelated to any of Modesitt's other works. L.E. Modesitt, Jr writes a L.E. Modesitt, Jr novel and for me, that's exactly what I'm looking for.
Score: 7/10

Vaughn, Carrie. The Immortal Conquistador [Tachyon]
Rick has never been my favorite character in the Kitty Norville series. Long time readers know Rick as the vampire Master of Denver and eventual friend / ally of Kitty. I never thought much about it in these terms when reading the series as it was published, but I was very much Team Werewolf. The vampires were either antagonists or a nuisance in some fashion, not counting the ultimate evil of Dux Bellorum. But likewise, I also never wondered about Rick, and how he got that way. If Rick and his vampire hijinks are your thing, this is the collection for you!

With that said, The Immortal Conquistador is a short story collection (with a linking interstitial storyline) written by Carrie Vaughn and she's a fantastic writer. Though Rick isn't necessarily my favorite, the collected origin stories of Ricardo de Avila are as delightful and charming as I've come to expect from Vaughn. These are smoothly told and, frankly, the idea of Rick befriending and briefly adventuring with Doc Holliday works far better than it has any right to and I wouldn't wanted to have missed it. Come for a vampire who wants nothing more than to never meet another vampire, stay for "Dead Men in Central City"
Score: 8/10

Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 5x Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan. He / Him