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Books read, late May. - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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Books read, late May. [Jun. 1st, 2011|09:21 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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Kevin J. Anderson, ed. The Nebula Awards Showcase 2011. Discussed elsewhere.

James Davidson, Courtesans and Fishcakes. This is the most interesting microhistory of ancient Greece I've ever read. I am generally less fond of the ancient Mediterranean than of other periods--not inherently, I don't think, but in how it's handled. This confirms the "not inherently" part: Davidson goes into some length about various bodily passions and their handling by ancient Athenians, and it was fascinating, the different kinds of fish and attitudes about fish in different time frames in antiquity, the exploration of the words for sex workers of various kinds and what we know about them from pottery, poetry, etc. I picked this up from the library on the theory that I needed to read some of the things that got recommended last 4th St. before this 4th St., and I pass on the recommendation myself.

James Gleick, The Information: A Theory, A History, A Flood. Gleick was trying far, far too much in this book, I felt. I wanted it to be long and chatty and full of digressions, and in fact it was, but at the expense of some of the supposed main points of the book. The section on the "flood," information overload, was woefully cursory, barely more than an essay for the opinion page and not a very good opinion page essay at that. I think Gleick is at his best as a biographer, and it reminded me that I want a good biography of Ada Lovelace. I was just disappointed in what he did and didn't manage to do in a book this size.

M.K. Hobson (mkhobson), The Native Star. Fun read. I am not very well aligned personally with the conventions of genre romance, and The Native Star uses some of them fairly strongly, but that's not a flaw or a virtue, it's just a thing. I think one of the things about The Native Star that I appreciated most was the way the western US of the book was not a Generic Wild West. I have grumbled about John LeCarre being able to write a book set in Helsinki that felt like it was set on a sound stage in the London suburbs with some pictures of Helsinki in the backdrop, and I often feel that way about The Old West; this setting was the opposite of that.

Carla Speed McNeil, The Finder Library Vol. 1. Lion-people wooo! Um. There were other things in this one. But I did like the lion-people best.

Mike Rapport, 1848: Year of Revolution. I had hopes that this would cover the whole of Europe and how the revolutions were touching the countries that weren't in the middle of having them, but I suppose that just the countries that were having them were quite enough for one book. (I wish someone would write the other one, though.) I was particularly pleased with how this guy, who is an historian of France, did not go for the France-is-all attitude that is so common in English-language histories of the European continent. I do wish he'd been able to tell entente from entendre, though, or was not so ill-served by a copy-editor who could not.

Dan Wells, I Am Not a Serial Killer. This book was a fast read, and I enjoyed it. I...um. This is going to sound awful. I do not mean to imply that Dan Wells is a serial killer. I'm sure Dan Wells is not only not a serial killer but probably a very nice person. But sometimes it feels like some authors in my genre do not know what direction normal even is from where they're standing, and that can show up in little ways, and it did in this book.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: zalena
2011-06-02 03:51 am (UTC)
I want that revolution book, too!
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[User Picture]From: clarentine
2011-06-02 12:31 pm (UTC)
Thirded. And, I see one of my local libraries has the Rapport book. ::adds to library pull list::
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[User Picture]From: merriehaskell
2011-06-02 01:36 pm (UTC)
re: I Am Not a Serial Killer... sometimes it feels like some authors in my genre do not know what direction normal even is from where they're standing, and that can show up in little ways, and it did in this book. I'm curious how so? My impression of Wells from his podcast is that he's far on the "normal" end of the geek writer spectrum, and that colored how I read the book, so I'm curious.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-06-02 02:04 pm (UTC)
Well, for example, John is a teenage boy who is interested in fire and death and makes comments about both. Just like...the vast, vast majority of boys I knew as a teenager. I said to timprov, "I mean, I'm sure there are teenage boys who don't make arson jokes," and he said, "There are?" So a lot of the signifiers that John was weird and disturbed simply did not work in that vein for me.

For another example, the comments the bully made to John struck me as completely implausible for high school. Focusing on whether something is "for babies"? That sounds a lot more like grade school teasing to me. Things get pretty rough with high school bullies--even the ones who aren't very good at it.
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[User Picture]From: cathshaffer
2011-06-02 02:26 pm (UTC)
Fascination with fire, cruelty to animals, and bedwetting are the sociopath trifecta, so I'm sure that was intended to reference those things. I think most teenage boys--and most boys--have a passing interest in explosions and destruction. Probably having a teenager simply make jokes or "be interested" is not enough to set him apart from normal. I'm curious to read the book. The title is kind of offputting to me for reasons I can't explain, but I keep hearing good things about it from people whose opinion I respect.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-06-02 02:32 pm (UTC)
Oh yes, it was explicitly intended to reference those things. I just didn't feel that the way they were handled set John apart sufficiently.
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[User Picture]From: carbonel
2011-06-03 03:24 am (UTC)
I really wanted to like The Native Star more than I actually did. But I really disliked both the magic system and a bunch of the characters who were (I gather) supposed to be more likeable.
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