Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, November 2015
Attention conservation notice: I have no taste.
- John Scalzi, The End of All Things
- Mind candy science fiction, latest in the series begun
with Old Man's War. At
the surface level, it's a fun series of skiffy adventures, in which there are
schemes, explosions, gadgets, secret lairs, etc., etc. Inter-textually, this
sticking the knife
in in dialogue
Starship Troopers, having begun (in the first book) with a
set-up which seems like a re-tread of Heinlein's ideology in that book, and
then systematically having that universe collapse under the weight of (as my
ancestors would've put it) its internal contradictions. I admit that taking
pleasure in the latter aspect of the books is a recherché
taste, and that I generally prefer my mind candy to be less inward-looking.
- Sarah Vowell, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States
- In which Vowell tackles the American Revolution, our memory of the
Revolution, and how we owe our entire national existence to the French.
- Kathleen George, Hideout
- C. J. Lyons, Snake Skin
- Two mind-candy mysteries, both, as it happens, set in Pittsburgh (*).
George's is part of a continuing series
of police procedurals, distinguished by really good characterization; here, the
stand-out characters are the rather hopeless criminals. (One distinguishing
feature of her books: the reader usually knows whodunnit very early on.)
Lyons's, which I picked up by chance without realizing it had a local
connection, is at once less elevated in its story-telling and more over-the-top
in its action, but still passed the "I want to know what happens next" test.
- *: Both are pretty good at the local color, at
least by my standards as a mere ten-year resident rather than a
real Yinzer. I admit I
boggled at Lyons describing the immediate vicinity of
the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts as a
"blue collar" neighborhood, but then it occurred to me how rarely I got four
blocks the that way from it...
- Jeff VanderMeer, Acceptance
- High quality mind candy science fiction/horror, sequel
and Authority. Here,
at the end, we get to see the marvels hidden inside the terrors — and
inside the marvels, more terrors. I actually found the fragment of an
explanation we got fairly satisfying, and liked that it was only a fragment,
though I realize that tastes may differ here.
- John Milton, Paradise Lost
- I tried this as a teenager, but don't think I got beyond the bit early
III where the God the Father
his plans to the Son. On this attempt I listened to an excellent audiobook
(read by Ralph
Cosham), and I loved it. The language is magnificent, as is Milton's
attempt to depict action on a more-than-terrestrial scale. (Though his
standards for mind-boggling vastness are comically small, compared to the
actual universe shown to us by astronomy.) The ideology is rubbish, of course.
So: score one for approaching literary classics in maturity, rather than as a
- Stray thoughts, probably already immensely refined in the libraries written
about this book: (1) Those are some really vivid accounts of how
things looked, for a blind man. (2) Sometimes it seems like Milton's
trying to excise classical-mythological allusions in favor of Biblical ones
(e.g., the places named in the invocation of the heavenly Muse at the very
opening), but it's like he just can't stay away from them. (3) Similarly, I
think there are very few historical or contemporary-geographical allusions to
places in Europe, compared to quite striking ones for Asia (e.g., X 431ff) and
even Africa ("Serraliona", X 703); if that's right, why?
- Finally: I kept thinking, as I was immersed in this book about a creature
bent on vengeance against its all-powerful creator, "What
would Justice of Torren One
Esk Nineteen make of this?"
- (N.) Lee Wood, Kingdom of Lies and Kingdom of Silence
- Mind candy mystery novels. The first is a combination of a procedural and
an amateur-sleuth mystery; the second is just a procedural. They're well-told,
with good characterization, but too many coincidences for me to be completely
satisfied in the mysteries. (Picked up because of the quality of Wood's older
science fiction and fantasy, particularly
Looking for the Mahdi and Bloodrights.)
Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur;
Pleasures of Detection, Portraits of Crime;
Scientifiction and Fantastica;
The Beloved Republic;
Writing for Antiquity;
The Commonwealth of Letters
Posted at November 30, 2015 23:59 | permanent link