Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen
mrissa

Books read, late December

A. S. Byatt, The Game. I bumped this up my list after I loved The Children's Book, and I was dreadfully disappointed. I am a sucker for complicated imagination games played by children in literature, also for those games reconsidered or revisited once the children are a bit older. The title and the jacket copy promised me that. This...was not that. The game was barely touched upon in the earlier sections of the book, only obliquely referenced in the later ones. Two unpleasant sisters dislike each other, and it ends badly for all concerned. It seems to have been her second novel; I'm glad she's improved since.

Susan Cooper, The Dark Is Rising. Reread for the nth time, but only the second time as an adult, I think. I like Merriman a great deal less as an adult, and I like him a great deal less having Silver on the Tree in front of me. I appreciate that Cooper does not confuse "good" with "likeable," though.

Neil Gaiman, Odd and the Frost Giants. Slight and pleasant.

Carolyn Ives Gilman, Halfway Human. This was science fiction in a fairly classic mode: an exploration of the intersection of two cultures. The "aliens" in this case are humans with a social divergence of quite some time from the other humans in the book, but it still works like a Planets And People book is supposed to work, and I enjoyed it more than I expected to, though I can't articulate any reason why I shouldn't have expected to.

Barbara Hamilton, The Ninth Daughter. For some reason I had not processed that the detective in this book would be Abigail Adams until it turned up from the library and the cover made that abundantly clear. I was skeptical but plunged in anyway: I hate books with well-known historical figures as detectives, as a general rule. They tend to strike me as gimmicky and false. In this case, much less so. I found the resolution of the mystery rather trite, but for once having half the figures of the American Revolution traipse in and out of the book did not annoy me, which is quite a feat. For people who do not have my distaste for this category of mysteries, I'd recommend it highly.

Reginald Hill, Asking for the Moon and Death's Jest Book. wshaffer told me that the Dalziel and Pascoe books do not have to be read in order, and that is quite true, but here are two exceptions: do not read Death's Jest Book before Dialogues of the Dead, and do not read Asking for the Moon first. Dialogues of the Dead and Death's Jest Book are in some plot ways more like one long novel split (although in other important stylistic ways not). Asking for the Moon is a collection of four shorter works, and it will be far better if you already know and love the characters when you read it. I am still loving this series. I am also amused that in 1990, twenty years after he started publishing Dalziel and Pascoe stories, Mr. Hill decided that he didn't want to leave his characters hanging in weird mystery series dilating time if he stopped suddenly, so he wrote a definitive last one, set on the moon base. I have great sympathy for this impulse, as mystery series dilating time sometimes bothers me, but it was particularly amusing because I was reading that story a few days from 2010, which is when it's set. With the moon base. Far, far in the future to be the definitive end--and as far as I've been able to tell, Hill is still alive and well and writing Dalziel and Pascoe stories. Moral here: the future is closer than you think. Much closer.

Lisa Jardine, Going Dutch: How England Plundered Holland's Glory. This is the result of successfully baiting my in-laws: I knew if I put this book on my wishlist, I'd get it from some member of the (Dutch-Michigander) Gritter family for Christmas or my birthday. And lo and behold, I was right. It is, first thing, a really nice physical object. It's full-color throughout, and Jardine makes abundant use of that, so instead of flipping back and forth to look at the Dutch Masterwork or piece of propaganda or map she's talking about, they're all right there. I also like Jardine's approach to looking at science, engineering, and the arts as major forces for cultural interplay, and not just politics and economics (though she doesn't neglect those). "Plundered" is probably her editor's choice--it's a bit more one-sided than the case Jardine presents. Still, 17th century fun. Recommended if you have any interest in either of the countries involved, or in the 17th century, or in the escapades of scientists and artificers.

Justine Larbalestier, Liar. For me this was a book that got in its own way too much. It will not be too big a spoiler, one hopes, to say that it is narrated by a self-described compulsive liar. First-person narrative. I don't have problems with the unreliable narrator per se, but what I need is something to grab onto, something not given to the reader/viewer by the unreliable narrator. Take The Usual Suspects, for example: some parts of it are not stories told by the unreliable narrator, so even once you've seen the ending, there is some question of picking apart what's internally real to the story and what's made up. Liar's Micah takes the opportunity on more than one occasion to harangue the reader for being gullible, but unfortunately for my enjoyment of Liar, I wasn't gullible in the ways Micah was saying, and it interfered. I always had the running "if that even happened, if that person is still alive or ever existed" going in my head. So despite the smooth prose that really pulled me through the story, I was, in the end, not the right reader for this book.

James MacDonald, The Apocalypse Door. Holy crud. Even for someone whose acquaintance with Jim MacDonald has been a few cordial panel interactions at cons and reading online posts, it is abundantly clear that this book could not be any more written by him if they had chosen to have LEDs highlighting the author's name on the even pages, doing a little blinky LED dance of MacDonaldness. Some books have a seamless feel to them, as though the author's powers of invention never had to back up and make another go at a scene, even though that might not actually be the case in the creative process. I don't know whether it was for this one, but it sure felt like it. It zipped right along from guns to demon mushrooms to brazen heads. Good fun. Recommended.

Nevil Shute, Trustee from the Toolroom. This was a present, and I wasn't at all sure what it was going to be about. When I started reading it, I was pretty sure I knew the plot, and I did, mostly, sort of: it skipped all the nastier pitfalls of this particular plot. It was just lovely. Bad things happen enough in the universe, this book seems to say, without people adding to them. And so it's full of people creating beautiful, functional things, and it's full of people trying to behave in honest, honorable, and considerate ways as best they can. It is just plain lovely. Also it has the engineer nature. Highly recommended if you can find it--I'm not sure if it even came out in the US. It's very mid-century British. But sometimes I really like mid-century British. I wish Grandpa could have borrowed this from me. It would have been just his sort of thing.
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