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Pump Six and Other Stories
Paolo Bacigalupi

The Pagan Stone

The Pagan Stone - Nora Roberts Ah, finally the book in the trilogy that lives up to the promise of the first two. I stopped reading after the second book for a good long stretch, just because the hero and heroine in that one irritated me so badly, and the plot wasn't enough to keep me going. In this one, the plot that drove me through the first two books sort of withers on the vine (bad shit! still happening! oh noes will they save the town!), but the hero and heroine are by far the most interesting of the three, and what the plot brushes away with handwaves, Roberts makes up for in tension and atmosphere. I mean, yes, it was never going to be It, no matter how similar it felt at times, but this one really did sacrifice substance for atmosphere.

And, hey, here in the context of a primarily romance novel, it works. The real substance and depth is in the emotional relationships between all the characters, and that's clearly where Roberts spent most of her time. Cybil and Gage are the most dynamic and interesting characters to me, defined by their senses of adventure and coolheadedness, and theirs is the relationship I find the most appealing. Certainly much of this is personal bias (book one is ruined for me by Quinn's constant, constant fixation on her weight; book two is ruined for me by Fox's dickishness and Previous Fiancee Whose Only Distinguishing Characteristic Is Her Tragic Death And How Much That Hurt Fox), but I also like to think that these two are genuinely more well-rounded. I like that, even as they fall into the inevitable long-term relationship they both avoided like the plague, they don't suddenly become small-town people. That it's still okay for them to not want to live in the Hollow. So often happily ever after gets equated with setting up shop in the small town and renouncing Big City Ways, and I like that this doesn't go there.