October 31, 2016

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, October 2016

Attention conservation notice: I have no taste.

Thomas Levenson, The Hunt for Vulcan: And How Albert Einstein Destroyed a Planet, Discovered Relativity and Deciphered the Universe
A short, but engaging and wide-ranging, history of how scientists became willing to hypothesize a planet inside the orbit of Mercury, thought they had found it, and ultimately gave up on it, because the idea that the mere presence of distorts space and time was a much more reasonable explanation of tiny anomalies in delicate, recondite observations.
Disclaimer: I've admired Tom's work for many years, he's written nice things about my own blogging, and we've corresponded and met.
Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, Welcome to Night Vale
Mind candy, continuing to mine Night Vale's peculiar hybrid of small-town slice-of-life comedy and cosmic horror. Heretically: the formula actually works better at the length of a single pod-cast episode. But I think many people would enjoy this even if they've not previously been initiated into the cult.
Rosa Brooks, How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon
This is an odd mix of personal memoir, policy reflection, popular exposition of legal theory, and account of the continuing crisis. The anecedotes are great, and the rest is at least worth listening to.
--- Brooks ends with calling for developing new legal categories and theories which will protect human rights when a global hegemon is in a state of perpetual targeted not-quite-war. I can't altogether fault her for not explaining exactly what those might be, but this sounds very much like a counsel of despair. It may be warranted. One of the things which makes me the most depressed about American politics during my adult life is our seemingly complete inability to even contemplate reining in the national security state. [That last sentence was written before the election.]
Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel and Lee Sullivan, Rivers of London: Body Work
Marguerite Bennett, Ariela Kristantia and Bryan Valenza, Insexts
Lauren Beukes, Dale Halvorsen, Ryan Kelly and Inaki Miranda, Survivors' Club
Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl, Gotham Academy: Welcome and Calamity
Caitlin R. Kiernan, Steve Lieber and Rachelle Rosenberg, Alabaster: Grimmer Tales and Alabaster: The Good, the Bad, and the Bird
Peter Milligan and Brett Parson, New Romancer
Scott Snyder and "Jock", Wytches
James Tynion IV, Eryk Donovan and Juan Manuel Tumburus, Cognetic
Comic-book mind-candy, assorted. These were all fun, but a few call out for special comments:
  • Wytches was the most genuinely creepy.
  • I will be astonished if the writer of Cognetic hasn't read John Brunner's old pot-boiler The Atlantic Abomination, and mildly surprised if they haven't read Octavia Butler's (infinitely better) Wild Seed.
  • Insexts works much better than feminist Victorian erotic body horror has any right to.
  • I am curious how well Survivors' Club will appeal to those who weren't kids in the 1980s.
Paul Trembly, A Head Full of Ghosts
A highly self-aware, even meta-fictional, Gothic story of possession and reality TV; it's skillful and remarkably chilling.
Dan Simmons, The Abominable
Simmons can (or perhaps could) write extraordinarily well; Hyperion is phenomenal. This vast, bloated thing is really not good at all. Despite the jacket copy, it is not horror (which Simmons has excelled at), but merely an over-full historical thriller, swollen by the authors's apparent compulsion to share everything he learned in his research. The first two-fifths is a plotless infodump about mountain-climbing in the 1920s, including outfitting his heroes with anachronistic kit. When the plot does begin, it makes so little sense that the narrator-protagonist comments on how little sense it makes. (And is essentially told by his Wise Elders, "Because, that's why.") I really hope Simmons returns to being, oh, a quarter as good as his peak.
Cassandra Khaw, Hammers on Bone
Mind candy: an odd mix of Cthulhiana and fossilized noir style, set in contemporary London. The writing was good enough on a sentence-by-sentence level that I'll look for more by Khaw, but I'll also hope that she's got these influences out of her system.
Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration
The story of the great migration of black Americans out of the South to the north and west, as told, mostly, through the parallel lives of three individual migrants. It's a thoroughly researched, beautifully told, and deeply patriotic book. (Being plain about the country's faults, north and south, is part of the patriotism.)

Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur; Scientifiction and Fantastica; The Beloved Republic; Writing for Antiquity; Cthulhiana; The Continuing Crises; Physics; Tales of Our Ancestors

Posted at October 31, 2016 23:59 | permanent link

Three-Toed Sloth