Calendar Girl (kirilaw) wrote,
Calendar Girl
kirilaw

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Recent Reading

33. Slipstreams (ed. Martin Greenberg)
For an anthology by and editor who can't even define the genre he's trying to anthologize, this is a surprisingly good collection of stories. I'm not convinced they're all really "slipstream", but then, I'm not sure I could do a much better job of defining slipstream myself. There's quite a wide range of stories, with lots of humour and irony. Based on the evidence of this book, there's a large appetite for hard-boiled detective stories with space settings or fantasy elements -- who knew? (Santa Claus as down-on-his-luck detective is particularly memorable) So while we could argue about whether this is really a slipstream collection or not, it is a collection of entertainingly different stories, and well worth reading. ****

34. Flat Earth: the History of an Infamous Idea (Christine Garwood)
According to Garwood, the earth's roundness was an uncontroversial face among educated people from well before Columbus' famous voyage, and only became subject to argument in the 19th century -- when a newly scientific, rationalist worldview began to threaten peoples' comfort level with their own understanding of the world. Not coincidentally, this is around the same time that Darwin's theory of evolution began to shake up people's conceptions of their own history as a species. Flat-earth belief is more of an industrial age religious backlash than simply ignorance of the idea of a round earth. The book profiles a series of prominent proponents of flat earth belief, from the endearingly kooky to the genuinely tragic, and tries to explain the appeal of the idea, even in a world of space photography. It's a clear, popularly-written book, light to read and well-told. It's an interesting light on a point of view I'd never really thought much about. ****

35. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Bryan Lee O'Malley)
Still crazy. Still loveable. A little more scattered than the first volume, and possibly a little more frenetic, but still lots of fun. We learn about Scott's past, and his own evil ex-girlfriend shows up to wreak some havoc. Also, there is a recipe for vegan shepherd's pie. It's a little less of a coherent single arc, and more of a chapter in an ongoing story. Did I mention lots of fun? *****

36. Promethea Volume 2 (Alan Moore et al)
I'm forced to admit that this volume was not as captivating as the first volume. Moore's didacticism starts to outweigh his storytelling this time around, and it makes it less of an enjoyable read. The whole series is pretty clearly meant to convey ideas about a magical worldview, but while the first volume managed to keep the story in balance, this one succumbs to all-out lecturing. With pretty pictures, admittedly. ***

37. Dust (Elizabeth Bear)
WOW. This was a really good book. The premise is a pretty standard one in science fiction -- a generation ship (a ship travelling to a distant star, which only the descendants of the original crew will reach). But the way it's handled is anything but standard. This ship has gotten stranded along the way, stuck orbiting a pair of unstable stars. The inhabitants have half-forgotten that they're on a ship and the ship's AI has fragmented into a number of competing "angels". The people have been genetically engineered in all kinds of interesting ways, but they're still people with their own competing interests. And gender and sexuality, while not foregrounded, don't ever slip into a 20th-century cultural default. It's wonderful to see. I loved this book. *****

38. Path of Fate (Diana Pharaoh Francis)
This is a perfectly decent fantasy novel that falls prey to fantasy-novel-gobbeldegook. Unpronounceable names, made-up animals, made-up words when there are English words that would do just as well and be less jarring... this book has it all. Which is a real shame, because the characters are appealing (if a little idealized), and the story trips along pleasantly (if rather conventionally). It's really the perfect exemplar of the concept of "popular fantasy novel" -- which does mean it doesn't stand out in any particularly positive way. It's a light, quick read, though. ***

39. The Lottery and Other Stories (Shirley Jackson)
In the stories of Shirley Jackson, things never end happily. People are cruel and conventional, and incapable of true friendship or connection. It's a collection full of everyday tragedies and the petty cruelties that make life harder. "The Lottery" is famous for being creepy and unsettling, but this collection as a whole is perhaps more unsettling even though the violence is less overt. Excellent, but depressing. *****

40. The Drawing of the Dark (Tim Powers)
A fantasy with reincarnated heroes, bizarre creatures, an epic battle between East and West, and the beer that will save the Western World. An epic fantasy without sprawl but full of humour, this is quite an enjoyable read. It's a touch predictable -- perhaps because it's drawing on ideas that have been drawn on so very often since -- but I can't complain much. I would complain that Duffy, our hero, starts to get a little cold when characters actually start dying -- I would have expected a little more of a reaction, and it was a bit distracting in the latter part of the book. But otherwise, a good story. ****

41. Drunk, Divorced, and Covered in Cat Hair (Laurie Perry)
This book is great fun. It's a memoir of getting over a divorce and learning to be a human being again, and although the things Laurie learns are neither deep nor new, they are important: holding on to your ex-husband's stuff will make you sad; friends can get you through anything; it is possible to drink too much wine. It's really Laurie's style that makes this book worth reading -- she's funny and honest and generally a great guide to her own story. And although it's being promoted as a knitting book, and does contain knitting patterns, it's not really about knitting -- it's about learning how to live and getting out of your house once in a while. And that's important for everybody.



1. Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid (Douglas E. Hofstadter) ****
2. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry) ****
3. Od Magic (Patricia A. McKillip) ****
4. The Walking Boy (Lydia Kwa) *
5. The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can't Be Jammed (Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter) ****
6. The Girl Who Was Plugged In/Screwtop (James Tiptree, Jr./Vonda N. McIntyre) *****
7. Tori Amos: Piece By Piece (Tori Amos and Ann Powers) ***
8. Coldheart Canyon (Clive Barker) ***
9. The Infinite Plan (Isabel Allende) **
10. Ysabel (Guy Gavriel Kay) ****
11. Stardust (Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess) *****
12. Cryptonomicon (Neal Stephenson) ****
13.The Ladies of Grace Adieu (Susanna Clarke) *****
14. An Embarassment of Mangoes (Ann Vanderhoof) **
15. The Lions of Al-Rassan (Guy Gavriel Kay) ****
16. Shake Hands with the Devil (Romeo Dallaire) ****
17. Rollback (Robert J. Sawyer) ****
18. Singularity Sky (Charlie Stross) ****
19. The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post-9/11 America (Susan Faludi) *****
20. White as Snow (Tanith Lee) ***
21. Fire Upon the Deep (Vernor Vinge) *****
22. The Visitor (Sherri S. Tepper) ***
23. Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life (Bryan Lee O'Malley) *****
24. Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 2007: Twentieth Annual Collection (ed. Ellen Datlow, Kelley Link and Gavin J. Grant) ****
25. Madras on Rainy Days (Samina Ali) **
26. The Prestige (Christopher Priest) ****
27. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (Michael Chabon) ****
28. The Day of the Triffids (John Wyndham) ****
29. The Android's Dream (John Scalzi) ****
30. Promethea Volume 1 (Alan Moore et al.) ****
31. Starman Omnibus (James Robinson et al.) ***
32. The Book Thief (Markus Zusak) *****
Tags: books
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