We are having a lovely hard rain with occasional thunder, my favorite part of spring.
I DO NOT WANT MY VERTIGO BACK GO AWAY GO AWAY GO AWAY BAD STUPID VERTIGO.
We return you to your regularly scheduled non-fit-pitching livejournal programming.
Since I'm not going to finish Simon Schama's Citizens any time soon -- it's not that it's going slowly, it's that it's huge, and I'm going to run into a shortage of reading time approximately tomorrow -- and it's too big to read while riding a stationary bike -- I may as well talk now about books read in late April.
Iain M. Banks, The Algebraist. So. Iain M. Banks is like Tim Powers in that their books bifurcate for me, and not on the M./not-M. lines, either: some of them are competently written books that mildly intellectually engage me, and some are books I actually care about. Unfortunately, this was in the former category. I don't know why it sat so long on my to-be-read pile, but once I picked it up and got past the first 50 pages, it went just fine. I don't think I'll want it again soon, though.
Pamela Dean (pameladean), The Dubious Hills. You know, if you asked me which of Pamela's books was my favorite, I'm not sure I'd have said this one, and yet I've reread it most often since I started keeping track of what I read. I think because nothing else has quite the same shape in my head. The book is the same shape as the country, all self-contained until you get to the edges and find it sort of explodes out from there.
Len Deighton, Berlin Game. Spy novel. Attempt to serve as methadone since I have read all the Anthony Price. This? This is not Anthony Price. I cared about the people in Anthony Price. I did not care about any of the people in the Deighton book. Well, that's not true: a few of them I actively wanted to kick in the shins. markgritter found the whole trilogy used. I will not be reading the later two volumes.
Carol Emshwiller, The Mount. It was well-done, but it felt to me like something that had been well-done in slightly different ways before. Or, to borrow a recent metaphor of papersky's, it was perfectly good furniture in a perfectly good dollhouse, but the rearrangement of it did not please me particularly more than previous arrangements of same.
Minister Faust, From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain. I like Minister Faust. I like that he totally gets that "serious" and "funny" are not at all opposites. I like the way he nails the intersection of superhero tropes and self-help-book prose. I like the way he understands the unreliable narrator. I even like the way the ending sort of knocked the breath out of me. There are probably all sorts of reasons to dislike this book, but I was not moved to find any of them at this point.
Diana Wynne Jones, The Game. I forget where on my friendslist someone said they found this abrupt, but I agree. Someone else said to that person, "It's a novella." Well, yah. It's a novella I find abrupt. You can have a 200-word story that isn't abrupt, or you can have a six-volume fantasy cycle that is. I enjoyed the game in this but wanted more. So -- still good, still worth reading, but not likely to displace my favorites of her work.
Guy Gavriel Kay, Ysabel. There were a few places were this book made me gasp. Most of it was a fun read, but a few moments, oh. I think it's pretty clear that Kay is not used to writing books with contemporary settings, though, and there were some missteps with the 15-year-old's milieu -- I thought it read a lot more like a 1997 15-year-old than a contemporary one, but with iPod and cell phone so you couldn't just decide that the "contemporary" setting was "roughly now, as in ten years ago." But that didn't really mar my enjoyment of the book too much.
Siobhan Kilfeather, Dublin: A Cultural History. I didn't like this one at all. I picked it up with my author discount from having done some contract work for Oxford University Press, and...um. Kilfeather reminded me of dealing with Res Life at my alma mater. This is not praise. I think we just had nearly completely orthogonal ideas of what's culturally important. Not completely. But nearly so.
Farah Mendlesohn, editor, Glorifying Terrorism. I did not skip any of these short stories. Perhaps this does not sound like high praise to you, but it is. Mostly when I read an anthology, unless I'm in a situation where reading materials are at an immediate premium (example: hospital waiting room), I end up skipping one or two of the stories because the prose grates or they just don't hold my interest. Here, no. Some of these I might have skipped if they'd been novelettes or novellas, but they weren't, so there you have that. Definitely worth your time. The reading list in the back is also amusing. Oh! For those of you who don't know, there is a recent British law against "glorifying terrorism," so this is sort of nose-thumbing civil disobedience at that particular piece of legal idiocy. I approve.
Noel Streatfeild, Traveling Shoes. Another book I hadn't reread in 17 years. I found myself trying to remember how she'd handled the symphony prodigy, as that was a milieu not in much evidence in her other books. The answer, as I thought I remembered, was that she didn't -- she had a central character who was one and then promptly dealt with other people more, or with him in other settings. So it was still mostly movie sets and ballet schools and not much of the symphony at all. Ah well. In some ways, this was interesting because the standard Streatfeild subplots were almost completely perfunctory -- yes, yes, a talented but conceited child learns humility and hard work, all that sort of thing -- and subordinated to the main plot of an ordinary girl longing for a home. But she couldn't just skip them and write that story. She had to have the ballet mistress and the whole bit.
Scott Westerfeld, Pretties. This one seemed to me like it was moving away from some of the standard-issue facets of a dystopia and making this particular dystopia more interesting. I approve, and I look forward to the last book in the trilogy. I grow fonder of this man's work with every one of his books I pick up.