|Books read, early May.
||[May. 17th, 2012|09:41 am]
Dan Abnett, Necropolis. This is a tie-in novel for Warhammer 40K, which, despite my assurances to my godson ("Aunt Marissa, do you know about Warrrrrhammer?"), I don't actually know that much about. alecaustin and I have been having an ongoing conversation about tie-ins and where they fit in accessibility arguments, so that was a big part of why I borrowed this one from him. And it turned out that while it may be very accessible to people who are already steeped in Warhammer, the fake-swears and the assumption that you already know at least some of the characters nearly made me bounce. It's a war story, and eventually it gets to the part where the warriors and the civilians bond, and I liked that bit. But it was a good reminder that accessibility can be in the eye of the beholder.
Frederick Lewis Allen, Since Yesterday: The Nineteen-Thirties in America. This is a very chatty volume, the companion to one the author did of the Twenties. What was most interesting about it was the fact that it was written immediately after the Thirties, so Allen had all kinds of assumptions about what Of Course We All Remember. And it was fascinating to see which of those things we really do all remember--those of us who weren't there--and which had passed into obscurity. The similarities in punditry to the present day were more than a little alarming, talking about what straitened opportunities were available to young people just starting out. Get new rhetoric, monkeys! And learn from the old rhetoric! Also, apparently the verse in the Ladies' Auxiliary song about the hats is due to the epic bizarro-world nature of 1930s women's hats.
Mihali Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Probably enough interesting material for an essay, expanded to the length of a book. Csikszentmihalyi has a tendency--as so many people do--to overapply his good insights, and to fail to look up references he's sure of, leading to grumpy rumblings from a Mris who knows the real reference he has just flubbed. On the other hand, the checklist of characteristics of work flow state was useful to think through--where they apply, where they can be maximized, where they are breaking down and can or can't be fixed.
Diane Duane, Uptown Local and Other Interventions. Kindle. Duane has been one of my favorite YA authors for quite some time, but I was disappointed in this short story collection. A lot of the stories felt like they didn't get started with anything like short story pacing, leaving the endings rushed or tacked on; other times, I had no particular reason to care about the characters. And this from Diane Duane, whose work I otherwise adore! I also felt like it would have been very useful indeed to have the standard sort of page that says where the stories were originally printed; my ebook did not. Some of the story notes indicated and others didn't. Ah well; can't win them all.
Tim Eldred, Grease Monkey. What I liked about this is that it countered my two main complaints about military SF: the main character was not in the combat portion of the military and stayed that way, and he was not an officer and stayed that way. I hate the standard military plot--SF or otherwise--where you ruin a perfectly good NCO and expect the reader to take it as triumph. (Guess which side of the officer/enlisted line my relatives fall on?) Otherwise Grease Monkey got a little relationship soap opera-y for my taste, but I did like Mac.
Molly Gloss, Wild Life. This was a case where I feel that the book set my expectations weirdly with its pacing. The first eighty or so pages of it are the narrator and her family at home. This is a third of the book. Then...off she goes, and the characters I have spent a third of the book getting to know are irrelevant for the last two-thirds. This is...a bit jarring. I loved the prose, I loved the characters--the one who was around for the book as well as the ones who weren't--but structurally it was just the weirdest thing. This was especially unfortunate because I put it down and turned out the light at the one-third mark, absolutely thrilled with the book and just sure that I was going to get copies for gaaldine and my mother at the very least. Then I woke up and was reading a different book. Not a bad different book, but...yah. Not quite sure what to do with that.
Gail Godwin, Unfinished Desires. Catholic girls' school in the early '50s, complete with nuns and adolescent friendships. Extremely well-drawn characterization and setting. I was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed with the testosterone of my to-read pile, and this was a very good antidote. I've put Godwin's other books on my library list, so we'll see if any of them are anything like as good. I'm not sure who else would like it except the person who recommended it, though.
Barbara Hambly, Ran Away. And now I am caught up on the Benjamin January mysteries. I have every hope that the series is still going somewhere good, and I even feel like my initial sense of where it was going after its trip to Mexico might be right now. (It was initially quite, quite wrong. I like being wrong if it turns out the author has lots more ideas that are exciting her and interesting to read about.) I still recommend the series quite, quite highly.
Lynne Olson, Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England. Oh, I loved this. So very much fun. There are so many absolutely wonderful anecdotes about the British politics of the time, things I would never have run across otherwise, things that are stirring or appalling or hilarious. Highly recommended.
Alison Sinclair, Legacies. This is just the sort of SF I've been missing, the planets and aliens kind. It is not my favorite of that kind, but it filled a gap I have been wanting filled in a satisfying enough way, and the people were satisfyingly people and the aliens were satisfyingly not. So all right then.
Clete Barrett Smith, Aliens on Vacation. Children's SF. I will be looking for the sequel when it comes out this summer. It's...sort of like if Gateway was working for living aliens at a hippie B&B in Oregon? Y'know, for kids? Yeah. It's written to be a gateway book that pulls in kids who are not already superfans but also to be fun and satisfying for kids who are. Definitely recommended if you're the target audience.