Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, November 2014
conservation notice: I have no taste.
- Kathleen Tierney (= Caitlin Kiernan), Blood Oranges
- Mind candy: it's hard out there for a hustler on the fringes of
Providence's supernatural demi-monde.
- Nicole Peeler, Jinn and Juice
- Mind candy; frothy contemporary fantasy, mostly picked up because it's set
in Pittsburgh, and written with obvious, affectionate local knowledge.
Improper use of plural nouns as singular (e.g., "Magi") set my teeth on edge;
the larger problem is that the narrator simply does not come across as someone
born a thousand years ago in Khorasan.
(Though I did like [ROT-13'd] gur frpbaq gvre ivyynva orvat n
grrantr Nstuna tvey, jvgu gur fnzr anzr nf zl nhag.)
C. Richardson, Evolutionary
Psychology as Maladapted Psychology
- Rather to my surprise, my few notes about this little book are growing into
a full review. More later.
- Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
- Mind candy literary fiction, secret-histories-in-books flavor. Going into
it without having read any plot spoilers, I was a bit disappointed that the
bookstore and the weird books turned out to be (ROT-13'd) zreryl n praghevrf-byq frperg fbpvrgl frnepuvat sbe gur xrl
gb vzzbegnyvgl, naq abg, zber vagevthvatyl, cneg bs n pelcgbtencuvp flfgrz
pbzovavat obbx pvcuref
- Gail Simone and Jim Calafiora,
- Comic book mind candy, grimdark superheroes flavor. I rather hope this
happened because Simone got tired of writing life-affirming stories, and just
wanted to smash stuff for a while.
- K. B. Spangler, Digital Divide and Maker Space (purchase links from Spangler's webpage)
- Mind candy science fiction. The technological enhancements are not
believable, but then Gibsonian cyberspace never made a lick of sense as a user
interface (as opposed to a form of shamanism). They're spin-offs from
Spangler's web-comic, but I read them without having first read the comic, and
some of the loopier elements of the comic are, wisely, suppressed here.
- Katherine Addison, The Goblin
- Mind candy fantasy: ugly duckling as absolute monarch.
White, The Abyssinian Proof
and The Winter Thief
- Mind candy historical mysteries, sequels
to The Sultan's Seal;
more local color for late 19th century Istanbul, from the perspective of a
progressive, privileged believer in the Ottoman Empire.
- Mind candy. Sequel to God's War, so more science fiction
set on a world where (at least) two rival descendants of present-day Islam are
fighting it out on a world where advanced technology is based on genetically
engineered insects. (There are also elements which look supernatural, but I
hold out hope for a rational pseudo-scientific explanation.) Since Nyx and
much of her crew re-appear from the first book, there is a lot of profanity,
brutality and heartbreak. ROT-13'd so as not to spoil one of the best bits:
Ubyl fuvg gung fprar jvgu gur jryy
- Gail Simone and Walter
Sonja, 2: : The Art of Blood and Fire
- Comic book mind candy, of course, but perfectly respectable as such.
- Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim
- I wish I had something intelligent to say about it, beyond "read it".
- — It's remarkable how entirely the whole plot depends on everyone's
accepting a premise of white superiority, and yet almost all of the white
characters are moral reprobates, and the easterners, from the pilgrims through
Jim's native friends, are better than them by just about any culture's moral
standards. (Also, Jim's ultimate downfall comes not just from his guilt, but
from his buying in to bullshit white solidarity.) Whether this was deliberate
on Conrad's part, or his material getting the better of him, I couldn't presume
- (It took me a while to get over the fact that the audiobook I listened to
had the same narrator as my copy of Democracy in America.)
- Iain M. Banks, Use of Weapons
- I continue making my way through the
early Culture novels. This time: This is everything a space opera should be
but hold on I did not see that coming
wait what no no no no no.
Zinsser, Rats, Lice, and History: Being a Study in Biography, Which, After Twelve Preliminary Chapters Indispensable for the Preparation of the Lay Reader, Deals with the Life History of Typhus Fever
- This has been a favorite for (dear me) more than twenty years, but not read
for more than ten. Mercifully, it has not been visited by the Suck Fairy, and
only very lightly dusted by the Racism and Sexism Fairies. It's one of those
monument to eccentric erudition which, while having a lot to say about its
ostensible main subject, also manages to touch on half of everything under the
sun. Re-reading it makes me want to learn
about typhus and
of lice and Gertrude
Stein on automatic writing and many other things besides. And it makes me
want to bring Zinsser back from Limbo to prepare an updated edition. (Just
imagine what he'd make of the possibility
that tuberculosis was spread
around the world by seals.)
- (Zinsser, following the usage of his period, often uses "virus" to
mean "disease-causing organism". Our "virus" is roughly his "ultra-virus" or
- ObLinkage: Zinsser's eloquent but too-long-to-quote passages about how
typhus and all the other old scourges are waiting to come back whenever the
defenses of public health and sanitation are lowered makes for extra
frightening reading in the year of Ebola, for the
- ETA (3 April 2015): I am astonished to learn that this was
a top-10 bestseller in
1935. It's hard to come up with an exact contemporary analogy, but imagine
someone like Tara C. Smith writing a
popular book on epidemiology filled with very opinionated chapters on
art to military history, and then out-selling basically every book about
how to win a mate or decode the Bible.
Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur;
Scientifiction and Fantastica;
The Commonwealth of Letters;
Tales of Our Ancestors;
Pleasures of Detection, Portraits of Crime;
Science of the Human Species;
Minds, Brains, and Neurons;
Writing for Antiquity
Posted at November 30, 2014 23:59 | permanent link