I had a job interview, so I bust out the eReader. And being delayed by mechanical issues (that lead to half the passengers having to take the bus for three and a half hours because the only plane available was half the size of the original) meant I could read a lot.
Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison
This is a re-read. Basically, the premise is that Maia, the half-goblin fourth son to the Emperor of the Elflands, raised in semi-exile thanks to his dad having Issues with him and his mother, is suddenly made Emperor as his dad and three older brothers die in an airship accident. And he knows nothing about being emperor or politics, or more than the basics of manners. So, he has to investigate what looks like sabotage, run the court, manage his family as the head in a patriarchal society, deal with conservative advisers in a civilization in the middle of an Industrial Revolution, plan the visit of his maternal grandfather (the head of state of a neighboring country), and ensure the royal succession (since the closest thing he has to an heir is his teenage nephew, who might have known this stuff, but would get eaten alive).
One thing I noticed on the re-read is exactly how unreliable a narrator Maia is. Since his mother's death, his guardian was a resentful distant relative (also in semi-exile thanks to a disagreement with Maia's father) who was emotionally abusive. Maia is convinced that everyone is out to get him and hates him, so much that he has to remind himself that sometimes people are nice for no reason. A lot of the story is him coming into his own, and using the fact that he was raised with much less relative privilege than most rulers to make changes.
The Three Body Problem, Liu Cixin
A SF novel, set in modern China and originally published in Chinese for a Chinese audience. It's a bit of a slow burn, since we're introduced to two characters as our primary POV and it takes a while for them to meet up. Ye Wenjie was a young astrophysicist during China's Cultural Revolution, who slowly became bitter and disillusioned by humanity. As it happened, she entered into a project by the Chinese government to look for and send transmissions to aliens (under the belief that aliens shouldn't only get the US and Soviet views of the world).
Wang Maio is also a physicist (it is the sort of book that isn't shy about using physics: the title is even an allusion to a problem in celestial mechanics), but he works with developing new materials. He's asked by a mix of police and military forces (that include US and European members) to help investigate a strange rash of suicides of prominent theoretical physicists, with the suggestion that they found that physics just doesn't make sense on some fundamental level. As Wang is a scientist, he's more likely to interact with the same people. Then Wang starts seeing these things himself. He also notices the presence of a strange Internet game (Three Body) played by one of the people who he's investigating that seems to have the same theme: a world where you don't even know if the Sun will rise.
It's interesting, because I have a strong knee-jerk to 'surprise, the universe doesn't make sense' because I am a scientist. There were enough puzzles to get me past that and carry me through, and the science seemed pretty solid*. I also wish I knew more about the Cultural Revolution, because it plays such a strong role in shaping Ye Wenjie.
Neptune's Brood, Charles Stross
Basically, it was a story set in the far future, where humans (well, artificial post-humans with brains patterned on ours) have colonized space and mostly travel by beaming their consciousnesses to new bodies around other stars (because FTL travel doesn't exist). Our Protagonist, Krina, a historian-slash-accoutant is chasing the bureaucratic equivalent of buried treasure, a transaction stalled due to the fact it takes years to exchange a handshake between star systems. Only people keep trying to kill her (it is a very large amount of money).
I don't know if I'm just dumb about money and investment, but I read Stross's musings on the economy of colonization and it all makes sense, but I can't explain why (as is a big plot point) faster-than-light travel would cause a major economic collapse afterward. But I appreciate a book that is both a classic space opera, a good adventure, and ultimately about economics and debt and chasing down con artists. And also mermaids and communist squid-people uranium miners.
* Spoilers: Fb, gur erirny vf gung Lr Jrawvr qvq pbagnpg nyvraf sebz Nycun Pragnhev (gur Gevfbavnaf). Gurve cynarg vf va n punbgvp beovg nebhaq nyy guerr fgnef, jurer gurer ner crevbqf bs frzv-crevbqvp zbgvba naq crevbqf bs 'jub xabjf'. Gurl qrpvqr vg'f bayl n znggre bs gvzr orsber gurve cynarg trgf gbffrq vagb n fgne, naq gurl arrq gb trg ng yrnfg fbzr crbcyr bss vg.
Fvapr V qb qlanzvpf sbe n yvivat (sbe n gval nzbhag), V guvax gurer'f n ovg zber fgnovyvgl va gur flfgrz, hayrff gur Gevfbavnaf erdhver zhpu pbbyre grzcrengherf guna Rnegu. (Va juvpu pnfr, jr pna yrnfr gurz Znef be Gvgna be fbzrguvat.) Va trareny, jura lbh ner pybfr rabhtu gb bar fgne, gur bgure fgne bayl npgf nf n zvabe punatr sebz gur abezny cynarg-nebhaq-fgne beovg, naq gur Nycun Pragnhev znva cnve vf jvqryl rabhtu frcnengrq gung Rneguyvxr cynargf fubhyq unir n fgnoyr beovg.
Gur fgbel jnf tbbq rabhtu gung V jnf jvyyvat gb cergraq gung gur flfgrz jnf fbzrguvat bgure guna vg jnf.