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Marissa Lingen

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Books read, late June [Jul. 1st, 2010|10:21 am]
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Shorter list than usual for some reason.

Marcia Bartusiak, The Day We Found the Universe. It turns out I want to kick Edwin Hubble repeatedly if I read about him at any length. It turns out Shapley isn't any better. Wheeee. This was not a bad book, and it's an interesting part of early 20th century astrophysics to refamiliarize myself with. It's just that Hubble was pretty obnoxious in spots.

Diane Duane, A Wizard of Mars. I hope this isn't the last Young Wizards book, but it's a good one anyway. Diane Duane indulges her love affair with Mars, but not to the point of being self-indulgent about it. The characters and type of story are allowed to grow up but not forced into unnatural bits of it. It's a fine line she's walking, and she's doing it very well. If you've fallen behind on the Young Wizards books, I think they are very much worth catching up on.

Reginald Hill, Deadheads. I love Felony and Mayhem. Specifically, I love that Felony and Mayhem Press is putting out the older Dalziel and Pascoe books so I can fill in the gaps. This is the period of the series where he's starting to have real fun with the characters, though it's not into the full on extended romps of the late period, which I have to say are my favorite. Still much recommended as a series, and though I would probably not start with Deadheads it is not as bad a place to start as the very very beginning.

Alaya Dawn Johnson, Racing the Dark. I have a rose-colored girlish dream that one day a book about brown people who do magic and live on islands will not be reflexively compared to Earthsea when they really aren't very similar. I think the thing that struck me most about this book was that the world felt bigger than most. There were more cultures on it, more different types of person who didn't really know anything about each other, and some of them had higher tech levels and would do ethnographic studies of each other, and I really liked the level of texture involved that way.

Andrew Levy, A Brain Wider than the Sky: A Migraine Diary. I am a bad person for wanting Levy's auras to be more interesting than they were. I also rolled my eyes a bit at the variety of things he declared "migrainous art" by fiat. He's like many modern writers who have been diagnosed with something or had a close relative diagnosed with something: he wants everyone in history to have had it. (He does acknowledge this a bit more than most, thankfully.) The other problem here is that the last book I read on migraine was by Oliver Sacks, and most people's nonfiction prose is not really as much fun as Oliver Sacks's. It's just how the world works, unfortunately for most people.

Nevil Shute, The Breaking Wave. What I like about Shute is that I don't always have any idea what kind of story he's going to tell when he starts out. It is occasionally very nice indeed to be a completely naive reader in some ways. This is mostly the story of how a young woman's war experiences change her and how her life goes after and how it affects those around her, including the narrator. He does seem fond of the slightly distanced narrator, but he does it well. I like Shute.
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[User Picture]From: rysmiel
2010-07-01 03:50 pm (UTC)

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My understanding is that there is a plan for something like seven "new" Young Wizards books, so there are a couple more due yet. Mind you, it has been years since I heard this, so settling may have occurred in transit.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-07-01 04:56 pm (UTC)

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New as of when? When did newness start, do you recall?
[User Picture]From: txanne
2010-07-01 04:04 pm (UTC)

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I looked at the Johnson, but got the Duane instead. (Gee, I wonder why I'm going for known quantities these days.) But our tastes coincide kind of a lot, so I think I'll ask for the Johnson for my birthday. Thanks for doing all my thinking for me! :-)
[User Picture]From: arkessian
2010-07-01 04:04 pm (UTC)

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Rats! I thought you'd found a Shute I hadn't read, then realised I recognized your description. It's also called Requiem for a Wren and is one of my favourites.
[User Picture]From: fidelioscabinet
2010-07-01 04:15 pm (UTC)

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Tangentially to your comment on Hubble, let me just type in the words "Henrietta Swan Leavitt". Thank you.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-07-01 04:54 pm (UTC)

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Yes, I just read a much shorter book on her, and I didn't want to kick her at all. Sigh.
[User Picture]From: fidelioscabinet
2010-07-01 04:59 pm (UTC)

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No, not even a little.
[User Picture]From: fidelioscabinet
2010-07-01 04:15 pm (UTC)

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Also, have you read Shute's Pastorale?
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-07-01 04:55 pm (UTC)

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Not yet. I am a very new Shute fan.
[User Picture]From: alecaustin
2010-07-01 04:16 pm (UTC)

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I love Felony and Mayhem.

This is not news, dear.

*blinks* Oh, you mean the press? Well, okay then.

All joking aside, the ethnographic studies thing is rather a nice touch (and you will recall my rather indelicate comments about issues of skin color in Earthsea). I can feel something brewing in the back of my head where that idea butts up against the whole "geographically distributed past vs. temporally distributed past" thing, but it hasn't cohered yet.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-07-01 04:55 pm (UTC)

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"Mommy, is chaos my friend?"--Robin, age 2

Cohere! Cohere! Because I want to hear it.
[User Picture]From: alecaustin
2010-07-02 02:19 am (UTC)

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Preliminary, somewhat incoherent version - in a world where time is geographically distributed, ethnographic studies are much less likely to occur, not only because the author is less likely to even think of them, but also because many of the associated disciplines (anthropology, sociology, etc.) aren't going to exist in recognizable forms. What's the point of studying how the Murgos used to live and how their society's changed if it hasn't done so for 500 years?

A lot of our understanding of how the world works and the ways in which we strive to develop and refine that understanding is based on the existence of change and history as history (rather than a recitation of plot- and scenery-generating events and kings and such). I think a corollary to Patrick's point that there's something to be gained by not working through the full implications of change on a secondary world's history is that there's something to be gained by working through the implications of *lack* of change. A different direction of deconstruction, if you will.

ETA: Victoria Strauss has one take on this, with a world where the forces of magic deliberately suppress technological innovation, but that's not really what I'm talking about here. I'm thinking more along the lines of - what does humanity look like when it exists in a context where entropy exists but change does not? Is it even recognizable?
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-07-02 03:31 am (UTC)

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A world in which the forces of magic deliberately suppress technological innovation is a horror world for a Mris. Sort of by definition.

And a world where entropy exists and change doesn't, oh, that's one people are really not thinking through. "We have been mining the iron in these very same mines for thousands upon thousands of years!" Oh really? Tremble before the power of my eyebrow!

We talked a bit about finding other people interesting. I think one of the assumptions built into geographically distributed change is that no one anywhere finds anyone else particularly interesting. Nobody looks across the border of their country and says, "What a lovely thingummy they have over there in that other country. We should get/make/do one like that." Perhaps they did aeons ago, but it's all reached equilibrium now: these are the thingummies of our people, and those other thingummies are furrin.
[User Picture]From: alecaustin
2010-07-02 03:57 pm (UTC)

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Yeah, the bit about finding other people and cultures interesting is kind of what I'm getting at here. It's deeply weird to me that folks would either have perfect knowledge of what other people are like, or not know and have no curiosity about them, and also not feel any desire to investigate or copy or integrate the interesting and useful bits of another culture and its effects into their lives.

You might be able to persuade me that was true of faeries, but not of humans.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-07-02 07:41 pm (UTC)

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Well, and some of trade is about "we can't grow that here," but a lot of it isn't, over time. So the ships and caravans that come and go from furrin parts, that are sort of stock fantasy things...nobody turns the things over that come in those ships, nobody ever says, "Hmm." They say, "Ooh, I want one, here is my copper piece," and then they are done.

And yes: true of faeries, possibly, okay--some of Charles de Lint's faeries, for example, are very like that. But not humans.

Or no, rather, we have returned to: that is my horror novel thing. That is what I don't want us to become. That is, I think, what the way the world has gotten to be in the presence of the internet reassures me immensely that we do not become, because even in the world of a great many mass-produced things, the making of many of which is completely inscrutable when you look at the thing itself, there is still a great number of people who turn things over and look at them and go, "Hmm. How is that fastened on?"

I had a pair of store-bought intricately patterned stockings once of which a friend of mine said to me, utterly seriously, "If those run, can I see them before you throw them away?" She knew how she would have made them and wanted to see if they'd taught the machines the same thing or something different, and it turned out it was something different, and she could see by looking what the something different was, and that is why we do not live in nearly as horror a universe as we could.

(By Mris. Age 31.)
[User Picture]From: alecaustin
2010-07-03 05:23 am (UTC)

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Yes, yes, and very yes. Monkeys are curious and like to take things apart and see how they are made, or at dig through their entrails looking for signs and portents. It is part of what makes them monkeys, and not, say, sidhe.
[User Picture]From: timprov
2010-07-02 03:36 am (UTC)

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But the Murgos will be quite excited to be able to study a society that changes much more quickly than theirs. And possibly even run controlled experiments within it.
[User Picture]From: alecaustin
2010-07-02 03:59 pm (UTC)

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Too bad there aren't any in that world. Sendaria was the only emergent nation (i.e. one without its character divinely predetermined), and it was a pastoral mercantile paradise. (Don't even ask me how you avoid enclosures and other fun economic & class conflicts in that kind of situation.)
[User Picture]From: ashnistrike
2010-07-01 05:36 pm (UTC)

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I liked the new Duane, and particularly liked that it had a different ending than most of her books. I enjoy her work, but there's only so many times you can have a final eucatastrophic confrontation with the anthropomorphic personification of entropy.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-07-01 09:42 pm (UTC)

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I have not yet hit my hard limit on that, but I'm glad she did that before I had hit my hard limit rather than after, if that makes sense.

(Ack! Which of you has the extra name and which not? Tall or short will do, since I can easily see reasons why you might not want to attach your first names to your lj or you would have done so already. I was all right when I had no idea who I was talking to, but having a binary split of who I might be talking to is a great deal more troubling.)
[User Picture]From: ashnistrike
2010-07-01 10:04 pm (UTC)

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Sarah signs as Nameseeker. My name is on the journal, and has been since my first fiction publication. I'm the short one.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-07-01 10:23 pm (UTC)

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Ah. I missed that in the quick glance at the user info.
[User Picture]From: reveritas
2010-07-01 05:43 pm (UTC)

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There is no way I could read a book about migraines. There have only been two or three things that the reading of them still gives me the internal screaming horrors just by thinking about it, and a tiny, TINY piece on what it was like to have a migraine, maybe 200 words in the Utne Reader in 2003, is one of them. I don't know why. I can read about ER stories, amputated limbs, all manner of illness and pain and catastrophe. But not migraines. (note: I don't get them myself)
[User Picture]From: desperance
2010-07-01 09:26 pm (UTC)

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Deadheads was the first crime novel I read that did [that spoiler thing]. I love it for doing that.
[User Picture]From: dancing_crow
2010-07-02 01:12 am (UTC)

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I am so pleased yo got a shot at Deadheads, and did the ending creep you out to the same extend it did me? As in, extremely?

I don't usually feel as though the author forgot something at the end of a book, and Mr Hill has done it to me two or three times with Mssrs Dalziel and Pascoe.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-07-02 03:32 am (UTC)

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I found it creepy, but I didn't feel he'd forgotten, I felt it was pretty deliberate.
[User Picture]From: eileenlufkin
2010-07-03 04:20 am (UTC)

Dalziel and Pascoe

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Where is a good place to start with these?
[User Picture]From: alecaustin
2010-07-03 05:24 am (UTC)

Re: Dalziel and Pascoe

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I gather that the answer is not the first book, and may vary depending on what sorts of things you are interested in. Perhaps a friendly neighborhood Mrissa could ask probing questions...?
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-07-03 07:01 pm (UTC)

Re: Dalziel and Pascoe

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Alas, Eileen only has a curmudgeonly metro-area Mrissa. But it will have to do.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-07-03 07:00 pm (UTC)

Re: Dalziel and Pascoe

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Do not start early in the series. Most of what makes the series fun does not really start up very early, and while it's fun once you fall in love with the series (if, in fact, you do) to go back and fill in gaps, anywhere before Bones and Silence is perhaps iffy.

If you like word games, I would start with Dialogues of the Dead. If you like WWI, The Wood Beyond. If you're partial to the Odyssey, Arms and the Women. Do not start with Death's Jest Book or Death Comes for the Fat Man or anything before Bones and Silence. And the late ones are all different from each other. So.

Edited at 2010-07-03 07:01 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]From: eileenlufkin
2010-07-05 12:59 am (UTC)

Re: Dalziel and Pascoe

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Thank you, curmudgeonly metro-area Mrissa. I have taken the oldest one off my list and put Arms and the Women on.
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-07-05 01:03 am (UTC)

Re: Dalziel and Pascoe

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One more caveat: I believe A&tW starts with book-in-book, so the style of the first bit you encounter is not typical.