|Books read, early October
||[Oct. 16th, 2011|09:17 pm]
I read one thing in manuscript this fortnight, and I quit reading eight things before their endings. Eight. This is kind of a lot. I am reminded that a lot of things go on my library list with the mental tag, "Huh, maybe that'll be interesting," and then--no, not interesting. I mean, some of them have been; see below. But when I look at my library list, it feels nearly infinite, and then when I start to deal with the realities of it, it's still useful, but not nearly so daunting, nor so reliable.
Holly Black, White Cat. About halfway through this book, I was kind of thinking, "I can see the ways in which this is doing what it's doing well, but it's just not the book for me." And then...well, I still find the plot pretty predictable. But I didn't wind up reading this for the plot. I wound up reading it for the character interactions, and some of the teenage relationships are drawn just so perfectly. I immediately asked for the sequel from the library, and I thought of several friends who might enjoy it. Fun stuff. I was a little disappointed that the focus on curses was socially rhetorical rather than literal, but it still wound up being good fun.
Jan Guillou, The Road to Jerusalem. Second cheerful Swedish novel in a row! How does this happen? Answer: Swedish novels set in historical periods with lots and lots of the killin'. This one is about a young Swedish boy and his childhood that leads him to be a Crusader, but this book does not get to the Crusader part. It is not what one might call fast-paced. It is, however, entertaining; if you want a Swedish historical novel with a medieval setting, this is a fun one and not a gloomy one.
Bernd Heinrich, Winter World: the Ingenuity of Animal Survival. Bernd Heinrich's major strong suit is that he doesn't take a lot on faith, but rather goes out and looks into it himself. This can result in fascinating tales of bears and kinglets and heaven knows what else. But this is also his major weakness. He thinks nothing of going and destroying squirrel nests or birds' nests or whatever because he wants to find out something it turns out people already knew perfectly well without him. I'm just not sure where this particular collection of knowledge would be found otherwise, and I did find it interesting to know about various cold-weather survival mechanisms in some detail.
Pierre Pevel, The Alchemist in the Shadows. Second in its series. Swashing! Buckling! Seriously, if you like historical fantasy with dragons in, this is much better at it than the Temeraire books. Great fun.
Richard Polsky, Boneheads: My Search for T. Rex. Paraphrase: rich moron explores South Dakota and the dinosaur hunting community. It...there were just so many places where I wanted to kick Polsky, but then there were also places where I wanted to kick the people around him. And it was short and moderately entertaining.
Alistair Reynolds, House of Suns. This is a case where thinking I knew what an author's books were like worked against me. House of Suns sat on my to-read pile for a year and a half. (It was one markgritter had gotten and read.) And I kept thinking I'd just read it when I wanted a one of those. Instead, this is my favorite Reynolds ever, and I zipped eagerly through it. I was interested in both timeline plot threads; it had its grim bits, but also its fascinating bits, and the whole thing with the stardams and like that just made me happy. So now I know that I don't know everything I thought I knew. Y'know?
Tony Rice, Voyages of Discovery: Three Centuries of Natural History Exploration. Naturalist illustration is what they really mean here. Fascinating tastes of things, chock full of good pictures.
Lev A.C. Rosen, All Men of Genius. Discussed elsewhere.
Edward Rutherfurd, Russka. Grandpa's. This is the book my grandpa was reading when his mother died, and I can see how it would have been a comforting companion, small historical tidbits interlaced with not-very-personal stories, a degree of distance that might work very well indeed for a grieving person or at least not kick him in the grief. It's trying to be in the mode of Michener, but without as much talent as Michener, so...it was a competent historical mosaic novel, but not really more than that.
Melissa Scott, Shadow Man. I found this book to be extremely successful at its implicit polemic point, which is showing how idiotically our society treats intersexed persons. I think it might even have been successful at that point with people who didn't already agree with it, although I can't swear to it. I hate to complain about particular editions, but--look, this is important. When you have three new pronouns indicated with non-Latin characters, copy-editing to make sure you have the correct non-Latin characters is crucial. Because if you have a fourth and then a fifth different non-Latin character show up, the reader does not automatically know that you are introducing typos rather than new sexes or genders or pronouns that combine the sexes or genders. Yesterday I had a conversation about error in alternate history, and I maintained that it was worse to make factual errors in alternate history, because divergences from known history are supposed to be data points about the world and its implications, and random errors thrown into that system achieve more significance than they would in a supposedly strictly memetic novel where they would not be mistaken for competent writing indicating divergence. Anyway, aside from that I found the plot rather fixated on its point in this world, and I would rather have read about these people doing their own things with their own social norms. But it was still worth my time.
Vernor Vinge, Children of the Sky. Discussed elsewhere.
Scott Westerfeld, Goliath. Conclusion of the trilogy. I found this to be a satisfying but not in any way startling conclusion. It went where it was going to go, and it went there in a fine and entertaining fashion, and it was a good thing to read when I was completely out of energy.
Patricia C. Wrede, Across the Great Barrier. I am a middle-book person. This is a middle book's middle book. It is neither introductory nor conclusive; it keeps on doing what it was doing, but with elaborations. It was almost to the point of being a middle movement rather than a middle book, sort of symphonically, so to speak. So I will be interested to see where the embroidering of the theme goes when something is not middle-booking.