Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen

Books read, late April

This is, to no one's great surprise, not the year I manage to do May Baskets. Sigh.

Mary Brown, Pigs Don't Fly. This is one of those books that was fine as long as you don't think about it too hard. Having a stubborn, kind-hearted, uncomplaining, fat heroine dragging a motley crew across the countryside makes a nice change from some other fantasy groups; one really believes she could make them all stay together, unlike many other traditional fantasy novel traveling groups. But the issues surrounding her weight are handled weirdly at best and may be really annoying for people who are prone to thinking this kind of thing through whether they want to or not.

Andrew Clements, School Story. One of the things about going through my old library list is that I have long since lost track of why I wanted to read some of these books. School Story is a case in point: it's a perfectly fine juvenile, especially if you are in publishing and want to give your kid a not-too-nitty-gritty look at What Mommy/Daddy/Auntie/Etc. Does. It's quick, it's mildly entertaining, and it's one of those children's books that's really far better for children than for adults. Why did I put this on my library list? I have no idea. I'm not sorry to have read it, but I'm not really knocked over, either.

Edmund Crispin, The Glimpses of the Moon. Mystery novel. Ingenious solution in some ways, but the handling of the village characters was...I think it was meant to be funnier than I thought it was, mostly. I'm told that there are others worth a try, so I will do that, then.

Peter Dickinson, Death of a Unicorn. This is a mystery novel; no actual unicorns were harmed in the writing of this book. It's not at all typical in structure: the realization that there is any mystery to be solved takes much of the book. But that doesn't mean nothing is happening, and the characters' relationships are really well-done.

Cory Doctorow, Little Brother. I've already talked about this one here.

Jon Evans (rezendi), Dark Places. Mystery-thriller with lots of Third World travel: the Himalayas first, and Indonesia, and a bunch of middle Africa throughout and especially at the end. I liked this one very much and would recommend it, but not to people with a strong visual imagination and a weak stomach: the murderer's trademark behavior is, shall we say, a bit gruesome. I'm told that the other stuff he's written doesn't have anything quite that striking in that direction, so I will look for that. But think backpackers, not Bond; it's not the kind of travel where we pretend that people everywhere have the same resources as middle-class First World folks.

Rumer Godden, Pippa Passes. Look, I don't know how to say what I need to say about this book without spoiling it. The first bit is not a spoiler: having "innocence" as someone's central character trait is just not interesting to me. So Pippa is innocent. Hurrah. The second important, so I will just say it: rape does not depend on gender or sexual orientation. Rape is both wrong and criminal whether you are male or female, heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, something in between. Having characters who apparently have authorial endorsement treating it as not such a big deal because of gender, orientation, or both, is not okay. It is just plain not. And if you happen to be somewhere that rape is statutorily defined as forcibly putting a penis in a vagina, sexual assault is still wrong and criminal and needs to be treated as such. I should not have to say this, people.

Lian Hearn, Heaven's Net Is Wide. This is the worst kind of prequel: the kind that acknowledges that the part we really care about is coming later, and just tells us how we got there. Whee. (No midichlorians, though; the bar for "worst prequel" is pretty high.) If you are an Otori fan in general, this is worth your time. Do not start here, though, and if you were iffy on the other Otori books, don't bother.

Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day. If emotional restraint and understatement drives you crazy, avoid this book. Me, I'm from Minnesota. I really liked that the ending didn't make the main character a crazy dancin' fool or something tacked-on like that.

Jane Langton, The Diamond in the Window. Do you want a book that teaches your children the joys of Transcendentalism in as heavy-handed a way as any Hyper-Christian children's author who thinks the Chronicles of Narnia are not Christian because Jesus' name is not on every page? With late '50s/early '60s gender roles to boot? If so, this is the book for you. If not, move along.

Kim Stanley Robinson, Fifty Degrees Below. So I already talked about some of the race issues in this book. That got less overt but not really any better. My options were deciding that this character, Frank, was a complete jerk, or deciding that KSR is a complete jerk. So I went with Frank, being as how he's fictional and all. Problem is, the whole book is about #$%&$#@ Frank. There are a few passages where KSR remembers that, oh, right, I had some other characters around here somewhere; I think they know Frank. But otherwise, it's good ol' Frank all the way. Frank is That Guy who sort of lurks in REI hoping he'll have the chance to Explain Something to a passing female -- he doesn't even care what, because he's sure he Knows More About It Than You -- and you just think, dude, I just want to buy my SmartWool read about massive global climate change and go home, so get out of my way, all right? This is the sort of book that makes me wonder whether we've gone the wrong way with character-driven SF, and maybe another twenty pages of rambling about atmospheric gases would be really what's called for right here -- no? More Frank? Damn. It's not "passing woman," by the way, it's "passing female," because this kind of asshole is always in touch with his primate self, and you think, good, dude, take your primate self to the savanna. Or to Savannah; I don't think I know very many people in either place, so it's all the same to me. I will still probably read the third book, in hopes of the twenty pages about atmospheric gases somewhere. But I totally don't understand the people who complain about the rambling scientific speculation, because, come on, people, our other option is Frank.

S. J. Rozan, China Trade. Engaging mystery despite some totally generic elements and interactions.

Sarah Smith, The Vanished Child. Not Brat Farrar, and not, I saw with relief fairly early on, considering the plot, trying to be Brat Farrar. But like Brat Farrar, I had some difficulty with why the other characters did not suspect the murderer far, far earlier. For several of them, I could go with the "but we know he wouldn't do such a thing" theory, but Reisden came in fresh and was not a sentimentalist; Reisden should have suspected rather thoroughly.

Alexander Stille, The Future of the Past. A series of essays about preservation and conservation of various things: languages, cultures, wildlife, objects, whatever. Some really interesting bits, some stunningly obvious bits, generally worth the time.

Scott Westerfeld, Midnighters 2: Touching Darkness and Peeps. I don't care about vampire books, and I didn't really like the first Midnighters book, so I got these two from the library. Um. It went much, much better than you'd expect. I liked the second Midnighters book a lot better than the first -- the characters were less high school Types and more people to me, and I knew what I was getting into with the numerological conceits and like that. So I'll definitely get the third one from the library. Peeps read to me like a science fiction novel about people with parasites that happened to mimic some but not all aspects of vampirism. The passages about different parasites were gross and engaging and fun, and served to underscore the point that this is an SF novel, not a horror novel. Well-done and worth the time.

P. G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters. This was exactly as deep as I wanted from a Jeeves and Wooster novel.
Tags: bookses precious
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