May 31, 2009

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, May 2009

Attention conservation notice: I have no taste.

Chelsea Cain, Heartsick and Sweetheart
Psychological thriller with psycho killers and local color for Portland. (How accurate the color is, I couldn't say.) Very well written, especially the characterization of the plucky-yet-self-destructive reporter, and the extremely creepy situation of the lead detective. There are some graphic scenes of torture, which honestly I skimmed through because I really couldn't take it. — Updated: The sequel is also good, but not, I think, quite as good. The explanation it gives for the central relationship makes sense, but I feel that relationship worked better in the previous book, where it was left mysterious (at least to me; maybe I'm slow).
Andrea Camilleri, August Heat
Jason Aaron and R. M. Guera, Scalped: Casino Boogie, Dead Mothers, The Gravel in Your Gut
Indian Country noir. Getting better, which is to say harder to read, as it goes. (Reading volume 1 would help.) — Sequel.
House of Mystery, vol. 1: Room and Boredom
Tales from the bar, a la Jorkens or the White Hart. Only the bar is in the dreamlands, or somewhere else between the worlds, and some of its regulars are actually trapped there, in a house one of them seem to have designed in her dreams... (I will be very upset, yet somewhat impressed, if they turn out to be winging the story, rather than taking it somewhere.)
Jamie McKelvie, Suburban Glamour
Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli, The Last Temptation and The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch
Faith Erin Hicks, Zombies Calling
The most charming, life-affirming, self-referential zombie movie ever; naturally, it's a comic book.
Shockingly smart, scary, and blackly funny, horror movie. (It reinforces every negative impression I have had about team-building exercises.)
Larry Samuelson, Evolutionary Games and Equilibrium Selection
How to figure out which equilibrium your game will end up at, under some not-too-laughably-implausible assumptions about individual decision-making, learning and imitation. I suspect that a lot of the results could be generalized to much broader classes of models, particularly in the large-population limit. (Cf. Kurtz below.)
Thomas G. Kurtz, Approximation of Population Processes
Like a kindergarten version of Ethier and Kurtz. This means that the reader is still expected to understand measure-theoretic probability and Markov processes pretty well, but not to necessarily care about the intricacies of the various Skorokhod topologies...
Sarah Graves, Dead Cat Bounce, Triple Witch, Wicked Fix, Repair to Her Grave
Brain-candy mysteries. Good for when one is lying in bed with the flu.
It's surely not an original observation, but there is a severe problem with setting a mystery series in a small town. These four books cover, if I recall correctly, two years of narrative time, featuring about three homicides a piece, in a town of under 2000 inhabitants, meaning the murder rate is about 3 per 1000 per year, which is 50 times the national mean, and almost half of the Lancet survey's point estimate of the 2003--2006 death rate from the invasion of Iraq. (Anyone who takes that as an invitation to try to drag me into the Lancet controversy will be ignored.) The only remotely plausible explanation is that the series' amateur sleuth is really a serial killer, and the novels are her elaborately-coded confessions. If anyone has approached the problem from this angle, I'd be interested in hearing about it. (The closest approach I can think of is Dexter.)
Sequels: 5, 6--8.
Jane Haddam, Living Witness
Haddam tackles Intelligent Design creationism, with her usual compelling characterization. (Some of the characters whose viewpoints the reader takes on are rather unpleasant people.) — It strikes me that Haddam has been writing this series for longer than some of my students have been alive, and I wonder whether (if it weren't for the marketing hook) the stories she's telling nowadays really need the continuity of the recurring detective...
(Minor continuity/background errors: here in Pennsylvania, we don't have "package stores", we have state-run wine and spirit stores; "Leibniz" is mis-spelled as "Liebniz"; in one passage the only number in Gregor's speed-dial is Bennis's, later the only two numbers are his voice-mail, then Bennis's. Obviously none of these matter at all.)
Justine Musk, Blood Angel
Brain-candy. — I believe this was a first novel, which would make sense of the fact that there's enough material in here for at least three books...

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur; Scientifiction and Fantastica; Pleasures of Detection, Portraits of Crime; Enigmas of Chance; The Dismal Science

Posted at May 31, 2009 23:59 | permanent link

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