March 31, 2008

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, March 2008

I slacked off on posting this until mid-April, if anyone cares about why it's out of sequence.

Joss Whedon, Fray
Comic book. Mmm, candy.
Simon Oliver & c., Exterminators, vol. 1: Bug Brothers
Comic book mind candy. LA low-lives hold the line against the forces of chaos, embodied by vermin and large corporations. A bit of a come-down for the combat myth from Python, perhaps, but I'll be reading the others.
Sandra McDonald, The Outback Stars
Aussies in space, after a never-quite-spelled-out ecological collapse on Earth, with mysterious ancient alien artifacts and naval-procedural elements. Mind-candy.
Warren Ellis et al., Apparat: The Singles Collection
Four "issues" from four different otherwise-nonexistent comic books, each imagining a different line of descent from early twentieth-century pulp fiction to sequential graphic story-telling, without the invention of the superhero genre. Angel Stomp Future revisits the future-shock and technology-driven social liquification of Ellis's glorious Transmetropolitan; it's more deliberately shocking that Transmet (which is saying something), but not as good (which says little). (That sentence also applies, mutatis mutandis, to Ellis's stand-alone City of Silence.) Frank Ironwine is a detective/cop story, almost a dry run for the (excellent and continuing) Fell. Quit City descends from aviator stories (by way of confrontation with personal, and perhaps I should add metaphorical, demons); Simon Spector from old detective serials like The Shadow. They're all not just clever exercises in genre bending and para-literary archaeology, but also well-told and well-drawn tales.
Update: see also Aetheric Mechanics.
Margaret Maron, Southern Discomfort and Shooting at Loons
Sequels to Bootlegger's Daughter. Continues in a light-hearted, quirky-semi-rural-stories vein, which ought to clash with the fact that they're really stories about poverty, attempted rape and multiple homicide (Discomfort), and the collapse of traditional livelihoods and the values they supported (Loons), but, somehow, doesn't.
Phil Rickman, The Fabric of Sin
Latest in his Merrily Watkins series of "procedural ghost story" mysteries. A haunted house story, involving family feuds, the fiction of M. R. James, and people with obsessions about the Templars. Less of a supernatural element here than usual, everything is satisfactorily explicable as people being either creepy or creeped out. (Previous installments: here, here, and here.)
Jorge Cham, Piled Higher and Deeper, Chapter 3: Scooped
If the idea of a comic strip about the travails of geeks in graduate school appeals to you, then you are probably already reading Ph.D. Comics, but should buy this anyway, as a contribution to the fund for the support of cartooning roboticists. If, on the other hand, that sounds dreadful, reading this would probably only confirm your darkest suspicions about the lumpentechnocracy.
A. E. Stallings, Hapax: Poems
Highly formal (sonnets!) but also very good poems, many with classical themes, ranging in tone from the funny ("XII Klassikal Lymnaeryx") and the drily amusing ("Dead Language Lesson") to the darker "old standards" of transience and loss (e.g. "Arrowhead Hunting") — or amusement and sentiment, as in "Last Will". The "Antiblurb" on the back cover may give some idea of the contents:
This is not necessary. This is neither
Crucial nor salvation. It is no hymn
To harmonize the choirs of seraphim,
Nor any generation's bold bellwether
Leading the flock, no iridescent feather
Dropped from the Muse's wing. It does not limn,
Or speak in tongues, or voice the mute, or dim
Outmoded theories with its fireworks. Rather

This is flawed and mortal, and its stains
Bear the evidence of taking pains.
It did not have to happen, won't illumine
The smirch of history, the future's omen.
Necessity is merely what sustains —
It's what we do not need that makes us human.

Some other poems are available online here and here, and there's a version of "Recitative" (not in this collection) charmingly illustrated by R. Kikuo Johnson.

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur; Scientifiction and Fantastica; Learned Folly; The Commonwealth of Letters

Posted at March 31, 2008 23:59 | permanent link

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