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

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Books read, late September. [Oct. 1st, 2011|06:27 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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I checked on the blanks in my "books read" file and found that I had somehow not noted when I finished a thing I read in August. So first:

Gwyneth Jones, The Universe of Things. Short story collection. What I find compelling about Gwyneth Jones is being completely immersed in one of her novels, so her short story collection was not bad, but was also not really what I was looking for in her work.

Now late September booking:

Daniel Abraham, Leviathan Wept and Other Stories. Sometimes the stories that get all the buzz turn out to be the really good ones, and that was true in this case, at least in my opinion: "The Cambist and Lord Iron" was very satisfying fantasy of a type I don't see enough of. It wasn't that I disliked the other stories. It's that that one was a very clear favorite.

Mike Allen, Clockwork Phoenix 3. In this case, my very clear favorite came from a friend of mine, which always makes me feel a little shaky, as if I'm trying to put something over on someone. But I really do think that shweta_narayan's "Eyes of Carven Emerald" was a stand-out here.

K. C. Cole, Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens: Frank Oppenheimer and the World He Made Up. With this one, I discovered that even some of the nerdiest people I know do not remember J. Robert Oppenheimer's first name when faced with it: they hear Oppenheimer and go, "Ah, that one." But this is not that one. It's his younger brother, who worked on the Manhattan Project but then did not retire a broken man, going on to found the Exploratorium instead. K. C. Cole knew Frank Oppenheimer personally, and that is both the strength and the weakness of this book. A great deal too much of it, in my opinion, veers dangerously close to the memoirs of K. C. Cole, a person I have no particular reason to care about above other human beings--and about whom this book did not make me care more. (Sometimes one gets the impression that she only met interesting people in her life through Frank Oppenheimer. He and his friends were impressive--some of them are even my friends or cordial acquaintances--but she's not always impressed with the most impressive stuff.) On the other hand, biographies of Frank are not likely to be as thick on the ground as biographies of his brother, so it's worth putting up with the intrusiveness of Ms. Cole to get to the interesting subject matter, if you're interested in the subject matter at all.

James S. A. Corey, Leviathan Wakes. Oh dear. I was so excited about this book. Daniel Abraham! Writing space opera with his pal about whom I know nothing, including nothing bad! Hurrah! How could this possibly go wrong? A friend of mine described it as "a Seventies SF novel," and I think that's mostly accurate, but not only in the good ways. The women in this book...played very clear Seventies SF novel roles, where it was fine, even good, to have a competent woman character, but where being a woman was a rare marked state and the defaults were all heavily, heavily male. (See also: the number of references to characters' testicles; the bit very very early on in the book about masturbation and prosthetic limbs.) It is not in absolute terms bro-ish; bro-ishness gets a hell of a lot worse than this in the world at large. But it was certainly more bro-ish than I either hoped for or wanted. The part of this book that was not Seventies SF Novel is the inclusion of zombies, specifically of a concept known by the characters as "vomit zombies." I heartily dislike zombies. The addition of very vividly described sludgy vomit did not help this reaction. The fact that their origins are SFnal rather than supernatural did not particularly help; the fact that they were trying to go somewhere different than the zombie norm almost did. Sort of. But this is the first time I've read a Daniel Abraham book and said, "Well, someone's going to have to tell me that the sequel gets a lot better if I'm going to read it at all." That's very disappointing. (I don't want to blame Ty Franck for this reaction. I did that years ago with Cynthia Felice/Connie Willis collaborations, and then I heard Connie Willis talking about what she had contributed and what Cynthia Felice had contributed, and, um. I apologized on the spot, in my head, for all the imprecations I had levied against Cynthia Felice, in my head. I think in this case it's just that I am so not the reader for this book, even though "Daniel Abraham writes a big fat space opera with some guy I think no ill of" totally sounds like a book for which I am the reader.)

Ellen Key, The Education of the Child and The Morality of Woman and Other Essays. Kindle. Ellen Key is a major, major figure in Swedish social history, almost completely unknown outside Scandinavia, which is a shame. These essays are lovely examples of what happens when you read the radicals of past centuries: some of the material seems outdated, some seems prescient, and some is now common wisdom. The framing of her arguments against corporal punishment, for example, were very earnest about how it was a bad, wrong thing...except for pre-verbal children. So you can only smack the baby? Yikes. On the other hand, there was all sorts of stuff about how children learn that struck me as interesting and relevant to people's debates today. So...the nineteenth century was a weird place, the end.

Arturo Perez-Reverte, Pirates of the Levant. The last of the Alatriste series to date. This series seems to be doing the thing where the author says, "Um...name another aspect of life in the period I'm dealing with! Right then! Let's do that!" This one is boats. It's a good one about boats. But it's very much a series novel, not one to start with.

Cherie Priest (cmpriest), Ganymede. Discussed elsewhere.

Charles Stross (autopope), The Trade of Queens. The end of the series for now, with several quite literal bangs. I felt that it could have used another pass to deal with a few things that felt repetitive to me for exposition within this text, but I'd rather have it than not have it, and I understand the vagaries of publishing sometimes work out such that those are the choices. Anyway, mostly this was autopope having a grand old time with an interdimensional demolitions kit.

Walter Jon Williams, Ambassador of Progress. Backwards planet gets a visit from a far less backwards region, wanting to help them bring themselves up to interesting intergalactic levels of progress more quickly. Nudge fiction from the forward end of it: the bit where someone is making the small change, less than the ramifications outwards very far. Fun and fast.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: juliansinger
2011-10-02 02:45 am (UTC)

I am only sort of relevant.

...veers dangerously close to the memoirs of K. C. Cole...

There are several "biographies" of Katharine Hepburn like that. I put up with Garson Kanin's, but then I realized I didn't have to. Hepburn's got more biographies lying around than F. Oppenheimer does, though, I expect.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-10-02 03:42 am (UTC)

Re: I am only sort of relevant.

I expect so. Still and all.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)