Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, October 2010
Attention conservation notice: I have no taste.
LaValle, The Devil in Silver
- Mind candy: literary fiction about life in a mental hospital. Enjoyable
and humane; I'll look out for more by LaValle.
- Mind candy, at the border between literary fiction and several genres. A
recurring theme of epic fantasy is that the great days are past, and yet some
echo of them comes through at the last desperate moment. This captures that
exactly, only it's all mad science (well, mad technology) and the secret
history of the British Empire (minus
in the name of ideology), British technology developed along a
Lovelace-Ruskin axis that ought to have existed, and London
- Johanna Bockman, Markets in the Name of Socialism: The Left-Wing Origins of Neoliberalism
- This feels like three rather unequal and not-altogether-related books:
The first endeavor seems pretty successful to me. The second is decent but
spends so much time establishing that Yugoslav and Hungarian economists were in
contact with the profession in the rest of the world, and that many of them saw
no conflict between being market socialists and being neo-classical economists,
that it never really explains their positive ideas, or how their countries'
economies actually worked, much less the relations between the ideas and the
workings. The third is just sketchy; I don't think it goes anywhere near far
enough either within any one country or comparatively to actually explain
- A history of neo-classical economics's engagement with theoretical models
of socialism, including the role of "social planners" in welfare analyses of
capitalism. It's a fairly explicit, and I think successful, attempt to argue
that there is much more to the story than Hayek's self-serving account
of "the socialist calculation debate", or even
than Lange's equally
self-flattering if more intellectually honest account.
- A history of the market socialist tradition in the Communist countries,
especially Yugoslavia and Hungary, with some glances at the actual economic
institutions in those countries.
- An attempt to explain how eastern Europe went from aiming at some sort of
market socialism in early 1989 to disaster capitalism by 1992.
- Even with this, and the fact that Bockman's style is the sort of thing
people mean when they complain about "writing like a sociologist", there is a
lot of valuable and original information in here, and some important insights
about the relations between economics and ideology. It'll be required reading
for anyone seriously interested in the history of market socialism and the
political role of neo-classical economics. (Bockman might've been a good
- M. F. Bloxam, The Night
- Mind candy, psychological horror division. In which a seriously messed-up
Italian-American academic specializing in anthropological micro-history may or
may not con her way into a small town in Sicily whose inhabitants may or may
not be living out one
Ginzburg's anthropological micro-histories. In the classic tradition of
English-language ghost-stories, it is systematically left ambiguous whether
anything supernatural ever happens, but there's no doubt that lots of subtly
horrid things occur, and the atmosphere of oppressive secrecy and reckless
despair is skillfully invoked.
- Disclaimer: I got a review copy of this book through
LibraryThing, way back when
it was published.
- Kelley Armstrong, Omens
- Mind candy contemporary fantasy. I liked the sections where other
characters gave their perspectives on the one who's usually the first-person
- Daryl Gregory, We Are All Completely Fine
- Mind candy: group therapy where every one of the patients was the sole
survivor of a different supernatural outrage. The group dynamics are funny,
and there are some genuinely creepy bits, though the climax is more
conventional and less effective than some of the earlier chapters.
- Harry Furstenberg, Stationary Processes and Prediction Theory
- I wrote a long exposition of this, but then saw
that P. Masani
said it all
already, and better, in 1963. (Though
I see more application for
predicting finite-valued functions of finite-state Markov chains than Masani
did.) This book
is intensely relevant
to my interests, and I really ought to have read it in graduate school, but
I'm pretty sure it didn't need to be quite so hard going as it was.
- Kathe Koja, Skin
- Literary fiction with the look and feel of a horror novel, but no spooks.
Instead it's just — just — a story about two underground
artists, one who works in metal and robots and the other in performance art and
body modification, in an unnamed rust belt city (*). They meet, they form an
intense emotional bond and artistic collaboration, they drive each other on to
new heights, and then it all goes too far, which is to say rapidly and
excruciatingly to hell. I had to force myself to read through the climax, not
because it was bad but because I knew something awful was coming, and I could
hardly stand seeing that happen to the characters.
- The book is now old enough to buy liquor, but the only respect in which it
really feels dated is that now there would surely be viral video of the
Surgeons' shows, and less shock about mere piercings.
Monsters.) The other stuff is still (still?) beyond the pale.
- *: I suspect Detroit, because the characters call
stores", but it doesn't really matter.
- Lauren Willig, The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla
- Mind candy, drawing on the vampire stories of the early
Leckie, Ancillary Sword
- I re-read Ancillary
Justice to accompany this, and was even more impressed with it on
the second go-round. That's a very tough act to follow, and I think it's fair
to say this isn't as brilliant as the first book. (In particular, Breq guesses
right too often.) That still leaves it an excellent space opera. —
read by Adjoa Andoh, is really good.
- — Sequel, finishing the series.
- Robert Jackson Bennett, City of Stairs
- Mind candy: something like a spy thriller, in the after-math of a reversal
of imperial fortune, in a world full of faith-powered gods whose worship has
been forbidden. (The names suggest Russia occupied by India.) There was an
Awful Secret which I guessed within the first few chapters, but I frankly
didn't care; it was that engaging.
- Jeff VanderMeer, Authority
- Mind candy, science-fiction/horror, sequel
to Annihilation: the
view from inside the vague yet menacing government agency. Intensely creepy
and well written.
- Cherie Priest, Maplecroft
- Mind candy: Lizzie Borden re-imagined as a slayer of Lovecraftian
monstrosities. The characters' frailties, and their remarkably different views
of the same events (human and inhuman), help elevate the reading experience.
In the end, however, I am not sure I care enough to look for the inevitable
Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur;
Scientifiction and Fantastica;
The Commonwealth of Letters;
Enigmas of Chance;
The Dismal Science;
The Progressive Forces;
Tales of Our Ancestors
Posted at October 31, 2014 23:59 | permanent link