So I've read a few things and now I should probably talk about them. There's a bit of a dearth of new material (or at least, new material I'm actually interested in checking out. Come October that's going to change with a vengeance, but for now I'm scrounging about and going through back catalogs trying to find new (to me) material.
I started off with The Two-Headed Eagle: In Which Otto Prohaska Takes a Break as the Habsburg Empire's Leading U-boat Ace and Does Something Even More Thanklessly Dangerous by John Biggins. So this is the third in a series of books about Otto Pohaska, WWI Austro-Hungarian U-boat ace and his adventures just before and during the war. I credit the first book in this series, A Sailor of Austria, for sparking my interest in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Balkans and WWI stuff in general.
This particular book concerns the five months where Prohaska served as an observer for a naval flying squadron, although he spends most of his time flying and fighting over the border with Italy. As always the book is extremely well written with good pacing, evocative descriptions and Prohaska is an interesting POV character. As happens in these types of stories, Prohaska runs into a number of historical personalities who would go on to become famous (or infamous) later on. Not quite to the degree in the previous book where he shared a train with Archduke Ferdinand's assassin, but still interesting.
All of these books have been charming reads with a handy dollop of comedy mixed in with the adventure and tragedy of the war. Sadly, there's only one book left in the series, so I'll probably wait awhile before diving into it.
From WWI to the far future, I next read Thousandth Night by Alastair Reynolds is a short story that is a prequel or a precursor to his full-length novel House of Suns (which I thought was brilliant and well worth picking up). The basic premise is that a brilliant scientist cloned herself and her personality into 1000 separate beings. All of them took a spaceship and lit out into the universe. Every 100 million years or so they all regroup and have a party lasting 1000 days where they review each other's memories of the intervening time and the best memories become incorporated into everyone's mind. The winner of this contest must also host the party the next year.
As in House of Suns this book follows Campion and Purslane. Campion is hosting the Thousand Nights gathering and hoping everything goes smoothly and that he doesn't get the job again. Purslane gets interested when Campion's memories don't quite synch up the way they should with another member's. So begins an investigation into the rest of their line and a mysterious Great Work that other major Houses are working on.
I really like Reynolds's writing. I particularly like the fact that his starships never go FTL and he makes that work for him. It's one of the things that helps address some big picture themes in SF that often get hand-waved away in transhuman sci-fi. It's clearly a sort of "first draft" for House of Suns (that whole Great Work thing never gets picked up in Suns for example), but it's a fun read and if you're not sure about jumping into Suns this is a nice sampler (but do rush out and get House of Suns).
Finally, I picked up one of the classics of military Sci-Fi: The Complete Hammer's Slammers Vol. 1 by David Drake. So this is a collection of short stories and novella's all centered around the galaxy's most fearsome and successful mercenary unit, Hammer's Slammers. They cruise around on fusion-powered, iridium-plated hovercraft (with steel skirts). The stories, however, focus on the men and women who crew the vehicles and fight the regiment's battles (and sometimes cover their activities off the battlefield). I'm reminded of a lot of the personal memoirs of modern day soldiers I've read/seen over the past few years. These people aren't saints, they aren't demons, they're just people who fight and they're very good at their jobs. The mercenary angle removes even the veneer of patriotism or noble cause and reduces it down to people in combat.
It was a nice set of stories, but like a lot of classic sci-fi, once the trail was blazed, there were a lot of refinements and advances. The stories feel a bit creaky and the tech feels a bit dated. Still, there was a lot of thought put into the background and choices were made to deliberately drive the kinds of stories Drake wanted to tell and all of this doesn't get in the way of those stories. I'm probably not going to pick up additional volumes, but I'm glad I read through this one.
So that's it. More stuff as I finish them.