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Ermahgerd. Berks.

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James S.A. Corey
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The Iron Duke (Iron Seas Series #1)

The Iron Duke (Iron Seas Series #1) - Dear dad, I know you follow and read my goodreads reviews, which I appreciate, really, but I just wanted to let you know that while this is a sci-fi/alternate history book that is pretty interesting in a lot of ways it is also a romance novel that I read for a book club and it has lots of VERY EXPLICIT sex parts that I might mention, explicitly, in this review. So it is ok if you don't want to read this one. Sincerely, your sonThe Iron Dukes sits at the intersection of everywhere and nowhere in terms of my reading habits: it's science-fictiony, which is a genre I enjoy and read a decent amount of (I even have a dedicated book club!) and it's a romance, which I have never read at all unless you count just reading the sex scenes in books I thought might be dirty when I was about 11. Which I think we can agree is really not the same thing.I certainly had some preconceived notions about romance books that I can't say have been proven or disproven by this one, because being an alternate-history steampunk story that is actually a rather ambitious yarn, I wager it makes an effort in terms of narrative that something like Wicked Harvest perhaps does not. That said, there are also sex scenes that are, if anything, rather raunchier than what I expected to read, forgoing polite euphemisms almost entirely (Search Results: Showing All 24 Instances of the Word "Cock"). And it still has a rippling, shirtless male chest on the cover -- thanks for the save, Kindle edition!So first let us discuss the part of the book I liked, which was the non-romancy part: Steampunk is a genre I have a passing familiarity with, having read quite a few books often categorized that way (though like most sub-genres of sci-fi, categorization is somewhat arbitrary). It's also the hot fad right now, which is why it totally makes sense that an author who just got done cashing in on paranormal romance would give it a go. And as a genre effort, The Iron Duke is... surprisingly good. It creates a pretty interesting alternate Victorian era in which Europe has been ravaged by a mysterious force known as The Horde that has infected the populace with tiny nanomachines that allow them to be controlled via radio towers, and The Iron Duke is lauded as a hero for saving the populace from the mind control menace. There are a bunch of well imagined extraneous details that I loved, such as the fact that cats infected with nanoagents have become armored, unkillable predators, and also there are steel sharks and giant kraken (!).This is all absolutely ridiculous, of course, but steampunk almost always is -- I haven't read one book yet that truly justified how such advanced technology could be invented so long ago with just a few tweaks of the timeline (did you know if Abe Lincoln hadn't been assassinated, for example, by 1900 the U.S. army would have defeated Mexico with the aid of robotic exoskeletons? It's true, look it up). The important part is that it is fun to read about, and the book does a pretty good job of sketching this world without going into exhaustive and unnecessary detail (which might have resulted in me not entirely understanding the plot, but based on other reviews, that was my fault). And it actually has a well-developed (not like that!) (No, really, not like that, we are told) and interesting female protagonist for the most part. Police inspector Mina is strong-willed and opinionated and unwilling to sit back and act pretty in proper Victorian fashion, and she is a lot more fun to read about than the bland heroine of Boneshaker, which was one of the most-celebrated sci-fi novels of 2009 that I happened to find very nearly terrible. She's investigating a murder that will come to involve politics the world over, as well as, of course, The Iron Duke!Because yes, it is also, unfortunately, a romance novel, and why? The answer seems to be that romance is the kind of book the author can sell, because she doesn't seem particularly into creating a nuanced relationship between Mina and the Duke (who has a name but it totally doesn't matter). Because while Mina operates in an interesting political and social sphere, where we can see how the influence of Horde control has changed the ways traditional gender roles are perceived, with many women freely allowed to be badass and promiscuous without anyone batting an eyelash, the attraction between the leads is rote and unmotivated and totally uninteresting, like instantly HE MUST HAVE HER and even though she wants to resist, the Duke just makes her feel all HOT DOWN THERE and this goes on for pages and pages, often stopping the very interesting thriller/murder mystery plot cold.At first the purple prose is just annoying ("No armor. No buckles. Only a few layers of cotton and ten feet of parlor separated his mouth from her breasts."), but then the sexytimes really kick in and the author just starts cutting and pasting and rearranging stock phrases like "rigid" and "lips" and "wet" and "suck" and "arching" and calling them sex scenes, and they aren't particularly interesting. I couldn't stop thinking of "I put on my robe and wizard's hat", which if you have not read you really must go and read RIGHT NOW (and then go read all of these). I mean, this: "Her musky scent threatened to drive him out of his mind, more heady than any perfume, any wine." Or this: "You inspired me... You didn't have to fight when you destroyed the Horde. So I decided to make your tower explode." Or, god, this one: "His heavy sac (?) buffeted (!?) her clitoris with each annihilating (!?!) stroke." I mean, come on, get back to the giant squid attack.And I haven't even touched all the really odd gender dynamics at play, and the way Mina is independent but really appears to want to be dominated and the Duke is a caring dude but also pretty much a rapist by the end (and he is doing it for her own good question mark?). Ceridwen's review made an interesting point about how Mina is trying to come to terms with a past sexual violation through her experiences with the Duke (the Horde used to use their tower to whip the populace into sex Frenzies so they would produce more worker bees), and that aspect makes their interactions a bit more compelling, but I don't think it is developed consistently enough to be interesting rather than just... off-putting (unless you like to read about rape). I know some people who have been sexually abused can certainly become aroused in recreating those situations through sex play (thanks for the info, Dan Savage's Savage Lovecast!), but it didn't quite work for me here. I needed more of Mina than her lame internal struggles if I'm going to give the book that much credit.Um, so this is getting pretty long. I will say that for my first romance, it was A LOT better than I was expecting it to be, and I think toning down the explicit sex, reducing the emphasis on the myopic leads' hormones and beefing up the sci-fi elements a bit more could have made this an excellent genre entry. Instead it's a weird hybrid, but a pretty good read.Search Results: Showing All 13 Instances of the Word "Rigid"