|Books read, late May
||[Jun. 1st, 2010|12:29 pm]
Bruce Catton, The Army of the Potomac: Glory Road. Grandpa's. Not about a Heinlein novel. This is the middle volume of Catton's history of the US Civil War through the lens of the Army of the Potomac. It is very well done, and I like it very much. Unfortunately, Catton found, in his perusal of lots and lots of mid-19th century papers, at least one example of the misuse of the word literally that so plagues us today. Unless a particular 19th century politician literally did annihilate his entire bar association, but the rest of the paragraph didn't seem to act that way, much to my disappointment. I mean, it's interesting, but it's not that interesting. Looking forward to the last one.
Harry Connolly, Child of Fire. An urban fantasy doing things that are not exactly like every other urban fantasy. I still didn't like any of the characters or, at the end, have much urge to return to spend more time with them, which I regretted, since it was doing different things with limited knowledge and paper magic and a nasty toymaker.
Matthew Frederick, 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School. Part N of the Writing Is Like Hockey Is Like Playing the Guitar Is Like school of study. timprov had picked up this tidy little illustrated thing. It's quirky, fast, and not at all deep, but it's not trying to be.
Nick Harkaway, The Gone-Away World. Not an adult SF version of Elizabeth Enright's Gone-Away Lake. Can someone write me that, though? That'd be keen. Much obliged. The plot twists inhabited that middle ground between feeling natural to the plot (good) and telegraphing themselves a mile off (bad). Still. I liked most of the time I spent with this book. Even the bits with mimes. Well, mostly even the bits with mimes.
J.A. Pitts, Black Blade Blues. Discussed elsewhere.
John Sandford, The Night Crew. A thriller in which the characters have many opportunities to be stupid and politely decline them. This was good fun. Life actually is complicated enough without adding in the dumb, so go that guy for recognizing it.
Francis Spufford, Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin. Not a gonzo British children's YA wherein a bunch of children rebuild the space program in somebody's garden shed. Can someone write me that one, too? It took me forever to get to this because I had to forgive it for not being that other thing. Anyway, nonfiction. British technology fights back against, um, lack of British technology. And is awesome. It very nearly fights crime. If there had been just one more chapter I'm pretty sure it would have fought crime. As it was it designed games and made up cell phones and flew rockets and things, which I have to confess I like better than fighting crime.
Adrian Tchaikovsky, Empire in Black and Gold. I have a hard time describing this in a way that will not sound gimmicky, but it's got all sorts of things that fantasy should have, societies that are changing in interesting ways and people with incomplete knowledge and more than two sides to every story and human motivation complicating large-scale politics. Am looking forward to the later ones.
Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson. Grandpa's. There's a reason this is considered minor Twain. It's not that he's wrong about slavery, particularly race-based slavery, being a stupid idea, or about culture influencing people's views of what they can accomplish. It's just that he gets is accomplished pretty quickly and then there's sort of the rest of the book to slog through. With lots of I'se-yo-ole-Mammy dialect.
Walter Jon Williams, Implied Spaces. This Is Not a Game tipped me over from "I will read WJW from time to time" into "I will read all the WJW I can conveniently get my hands on." Implied Spaces would not have had that effect; and in fact if I had not just read TINaG, I probably would have quit in the first few pages, because Implied Spaces starts in an adventure gaming world that doesn't interest me much. At all. It then departs and gets much more interesting to me. I had fun with this, but it's not where I'd recommend people start with WJW.
I read Black Blade Blues over the weekend and enjoyed it tremendously.
I would also like an adult SF version of Gone-Away Lake. Might be time for my annual re-read.
Child of Fire
seemed to me to have gone a little far over the line between "protagonist has no idea what he's fallen into" and "reader has no idea what is going on"; I am willing to give the series another book in the hope that it gets better on that front.
I am glad you liked the Tchaikovsky. I really like what it does with tech-level, and also with setting up the aspects and Arts of the various races seemingly largely to be interesting about people not feeling comfortable with those expectations. (Also it has Thalric. Yay Thalric.) Also, I strongly
recommend staying away from any blurbs or other description of the fourth or fifth book, as the Amazon descriptions and things of the fifth have gargantuan spoilers for some major stuff.
I have a kind of odd relationship to the Spufford; my father's eldest brother was briefly involved with Blue Streak, bellinghman
appears on-stage (though his name was misheard) in the Elite
chapter, and I am very close to being onstage myself in the Human Genome Project bit, so it keeps being oddly close to me for non-fiction.
Yes, I could smell you around the peripheries of Backroom Boys. It was as though you were out in the garden behind the back room.
Part N of the Writing Is Like Hockey Is Like Playing the Guitar Is Like school of study.
This seems to be the theme of my life lately. Writing is like chess is like making jewelry is like cooking. Teaching is like improv comedy is like panel moderation is like stage magic. Eventually, I expect it all to glom together in one big polymorphous skill set.
One of my lecturers at university was Francis Spufford's father. In The Child Who Lived In Books FS makes several allusions to various physical phenomena of the campus.
I'm guardedly pleased that Empire in Black and Gold met with your approval - I was looking at it, and wasn't sure whether it would be my sort of thing or the sort of thing that I'd want to throw across the room. (The empire's name didn't exactly help on that front - it hit my 'clever' button, and you know how much I like authorial cleverness.)
It's...well, the Wasp Empire is the Empire of the Wasp people, but not the WASP people, if you take my meaning. They are really not Britain In Drag as far as I have been able to tell. There are Ant people and Beetle people and heaven knows what-all. That's one of the things I've hoped people will not take as gimmicky, but for me at least, the author succeeds fairly thoroughly on not having it look like, "Oh, these people are really meant to be the French and these other ones are the Chinese with funny hats on," and like that.
I read the Spufford book a few years back, and adored it -- even more than his book on reading, though I loved that one too. The Boffin book just so perfectly shows the joy of invention when you don't have huge amounts of cash or political will and you still accomplish some cool things. It reminded me, oddly enough, of Tales from the White Hart.
Your books-read posts almost always get me excited to read books I've never heard of before. Like Empire in Black and Gold, even though I still have no idea what it's about.
It's about the invasion of an academic-mechanical city-state that already wrested itself from the grip of non-industrial aristos a few hundred years ago.
Or else it's about some young people figuring out who they really are when push comes to shove.
Or some other stuff.
Ooh. Sounds very promising indeed.