Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Books read, early September (mostly while traveling)

Elizabeth Bear (matociquala), Undertow. It's been awhile since I had a book with one clear favorite line. The last one I remember was scott_lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora (and the line was, "I'm Jean Tannen. I'm the ambush," or something close to it). This was another, and the line was, "What do you want, killer robot squirrels?" I have resolved to use this expression early and often. And not just when careswen is around. The emotional arc of this book didn't work for me as well as for some of Bear's other books, and the use of quantum It's not that it was wrong per se, because all sorts of things go wrong with quantum mechanics in all sorts of books. It's that the direction of the speculative conceit hit my ex-physicist buttons kind of funny. There were still several things I liked about it, notably the ranids. Ohh, nice froggies. Still a fast, smooth read.

Elizabeth Bear (still matociquala), Whiskey and Water. ...And this would be "some of Bear's other books," in the emotional arcs working for me sense. More of the conjoined title series will be forthcoming, and I'm glad glad glad. Even if Bear is a big mean meany meanhead in this book.

J. H. Elliott, Richelieu and Olivares. Comparing and contrasting statesmen of the same era. Elliott seemed to be an Olivares defender without being a great Olivares fan, which is in some ways a good thing. It does get a little odd to be repeatedly told that someone is better than he gets credit for while still being massively unsuccessful in several important regards.

Jostein Gaarder, Sophie's World. This was in some ways extremely, extremely Norwegian. In others it was...just odd, frankly, and the way the ending went did not sit well with me. This is an attempt to novelize an introductory history of philosophy. I'm bemused that it didn't make me feel patronized, and I can't tell whether that's because I am so crashingly arrogant as to never even consider, on a deep emotional level, that someone might assume I needed telling some of these things, or whether it actually manages not to patronize. Additional data welcome. Anyway, I'm going to read something else by Gaarder, I think, and I can't see how anything else could be particularly like this one. But we'll see.

Ann Halam, Snakehead. Perseus myth retelling in middle-grade children's book form. Not a sweet nicey-nice version, either. It didn't impress me as much as Siberia did, but I liked it and am glad to have found a copy. (I don't think it's available in the US. Not sure. Whether it was or not, mine is the British edition, which is a physically lovely object for a little paperback book. The covers are good sturdy paper appropriately decorated on the inside, not just the outside.)

Scott Lynch (scott_lynch), Red Seas Under Red Skies. This is a book about Jean Tannen (who was, you will recall above, the ambush) and the adventures he has being a thief and pretending to be a pirate. Also there are some other people in the book, including this guy who may have delusions of being the main character, but the important part is Jean Tannen. A few things didn't work for me (notably the framing with the prologue and a later bit of the story), but they weren't important enough to interfere with the fun of watching the caper unspool in layers.

Sarah Monette (truepenny), The Mirador. But beating Bear for the big mean meany meanhead prize in this fortnight would be truepenny! Oh, it's a miracle I'm speaking to either of you, after the things you do to characters. I am eager for the fourth in this series. I like the things that stay the same in this one from previous volumes, and I also like the things that change. Except for the one thing that changes that makes Sarah a big mean meany meanhead. And even that is the right thing, even though it was upsetting.

Susan Palwick, The Fate of Mice. I was going to say that this short story collection was not very cheering, but I think mostly it's just opposed to false cheer. Sometimes honest bleakness is less depressing than dishonest cheer, but if you're looking for a short story collection that's consistently upbeat, this certainly isn't it. Within that framework, there are some things done extremely well, though. The ending of the title story in particular worked very well for me.

Donald E. Pitzer, America's Communal Utopias. This is a big thick book of essays about various communalist experiments in the US prior to 1965. More of an overview than anything else, which means that I'll have to go find more about just about everything in this book. I was hoping it would be informative for great chunks of multiple back-burner projects, and instead it was informative for very little of any of them. Ah well; some books are useful for their bibliographies, and it was worth trying.

Charles Stross (note: LJ name removed due to some un-clarity about how separate he's trying to keep it from his writerly identity), Missile Gap. Oh, novellas. You are not, alas, my length. I have run into so many people waxing rhapsodic about the novella and how it has just the right length to do this and that without having to do the other thing as well. And I just don't find it true all that often. Short novels, yes, fine. Novellas, mostly no. This one felt like it was skimming along the surface of something much bigger, but then when we got to the end it wasn't much bigger at all. Sigh.

Jessamyn West, Cress Delahanty. This book is not above laughing at its main character. It's also not above sympathizing with her even while it laughs. So I laughed a great deal, reading this on the train, and I sighed happily in several spots where people were better than I feared they were going to be. Compassion and sympathy for one character are not generated at the expense of others. Multiple viewpoints can be internally right and yet conflict. It's good that way.

Kate Wilhelm, Sleight of Hand. I am not sure how to talk about this book. It was not as good as previous entries in the series, in my opinion, and some of the ways in which it was not as good were frankly fairly concerning. The prose was not up to Wilhelm's usual standards, and there were bits of extremely weird (but clearly non-random) paragraph breaks that made banal prose into surreal prose. Also the mystery was not even slightly mysterious -- acknowledged by the characters not to be -- nor did I feel particular amounts of suspense about the outcome. I also felt that a great deal of telling-not-showing was going on to attempt to replace the suspense that was not being generated in character words or actions. It was, in short, far worse than the rest of the series across the board, from the sentence level all the way up to the book level. I'm worried. I hope this isn't a trend.
Tags: bookses precious
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