This is the first in a regular series of posts meant more for myself than anyone else. I just want to keep a record of what I’m reading.
So far in July:
- Public Enemies: The True Story of America’s Greatest Crime Wave by Bryan Burrough (552 p)
- Semantic Antics: How and Why Words Change Meaning by Sol Steinmetz (258 p)
- The Prodigal Tongue: Dispatches from the Future of English by Mark Abley (233 p)
- Steampunk edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer (347 p)
Of these, the two etymology books were oddly disappointing, most especially because they in fact gave no model for how or why language evolves. Each was just a litany of words and trends in English. *Sigh*
His Dark Materials:
- The Golden Compass
- The Subtle Knife
- The Amber Spyglass
a triology by Philip Pullman
InstaRating: 4 out of 5
This trilogy has apparently sparked quite the bitter controversy, especially online. It’s a tale of High Fantasy, quite consciously in the vein of Tolkein or C.S. Lewis, but it takes a tack quite different than, say, The Chronicles of Narnia. Rather than a vague naturalistic faith that is actually Christianity in disguise, Pullman’s universe has Christianity in fact — but it’s unremittingly evil, dedicated to snuffing out all that is light and free in the world. I can see why believers are outraged…
The Book of Lost Things
a novel by John Connolly
InstaRating: 5 (out of 5)
This is simply a good book. I would not have thought anything would rank up next to a new book by Guy Gavriel Kay (Ysabel, which I’ll review some other time), but this one easily meets that standard. One of life’s greatest treasures, for me, is a book that compels me to keep reading at an ever-more-breakneck pace. I love a book that gives me the sensation that I’m missing details because the vision is so extravagant and the journey so enthralling that there just isn’t time to savor everything. I love a book so good that, around page 50, I start calculating how long I have to wait so that it will be fresh when I re-read it.
A short summary: David is a pre-teen in World War II Britain, who loses his mother to an unnamed lingering disease and his father (as David sees it) to a stepmother and half-brother. David starts to hear books whisper to him and then, in an ancient house, hears his mother’s voice calling to him. He ventures into the garden just as a Luftewaffe bomber crashes, propelling him into an alternate world where strange versions of well-known fairy tales seem to be true. He meets a kindly Woodsman and a questing knight, but is menaced by the half-wolf Loups, by harpies, trolls, and above all by the Crooked Man, an indistinct but terrifying menace who wants, for reasons left unexplained, for David to tell him the name of his half-brother. At the suggestion of the Woodsman, David travels east toward the castle of the ailing King and his magic Book of Lost Things. What he discovers — there and along the way, in the King and in himself — ends up changing everything.
More detail will inevitably involve spoilers, so I’ll hide them below the fold. If you’re looking for whether this book is a good read, but you don’t want to know the ending, stop here and take my word for it: This is a good book. It will richly reward you for reading it. Connolly shows himself to be a master of atmosphere and foreshadowing. If you need to hear more, and don’t mind knowing what’s coming, read on…
by Josh Conviser
InstaRating: 2 out of 5
This book\’s title caught my interest because I keep up with surveillance tech and its social implications, and ECHELON — the alleged US NSA electronic sifting program — is the monster of all surveillance programs. Although I knew this was a spy thriller, I thought there was a chance that it would delve deeply into some of the issues revolving around the invasive new technologies coming online. Alas, it didn’t pan out that way.
More below the fold — warning: Spoilers to come.
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
by Max Brooks
InstaRating: 5 out of 5
After the debacle that was The Stonehenge Gate, I was looking for something good to read, to wash the taste of failed prose from my mouth. Happily I picked up this piece of psuedo-history. Written by the author of the offbeat, tongue-in-cheek The Zombie Survivor’s Guide, this book purports to be an oral history compiled and published ten years after the end of The Zombie War, a global outbreak of the undead as in The Night of the Living Dead.
Spoilers and more after the break.
The Stonehenge Gate
by Jack Williamson
InstaRating: 1 out of 5 … maybe less
During those moments when I delude myself that I’m a writer, I pursue an odd oscillation in my reading. I like to read great works of fiction, to have something towards which to aspire. But I like to leaven that mix with bad writers, people so hackneyed or incompetent that I can realistically say, “Well, if even Writer X can get published, I have a real shot … at least my stuff is better than that.” After reading Oryx and Crake, I was in a bind, because I hadn’t read anything truly bad for a while and I felt the usual intimidation rising up again.
Luckily, then I picked up Jack Williamson’s The Stonehenge Gate and now all is right with the world: This is a truly bad book.
More details, including spoilers, follow the break.
Oryx and Crake (a novel)
by Margaret Atwood
InstaRating: 4 out of 5
In brief: Snowman is the last (traditional) human alive in a world curiously empty. He bears the secret of what happened to civilization and slowly reveals it to himself as he watches over the successor species: humans carefully designed to thrive in the ecologically-devastated world of tomorrow.
Spoilers and a more complete review follow.