July 19th, 2007


Super mega book catch-up

27. The Marriage of Sticks (Jonathan Carroll)
This novel is very good, but it feels like two different stories squashed together by a concept that doesn't quite fit. The first half is largely realistic, with the occasional suggestion of something uncanny going on. That part worked very well. But as soon as we get into the explanation for the uncanny, it becomes rushed and it doesn't quite make sense. It's a very short book, and I can't help but think that if he'd given himself more time to explain what was going on, it would have been a better book. ***

28. Zorro (Isabel Allende)
I have to give Allende credit; I didn't think this was her kind of thing at all, and she really pulled it off and impressed me. This is a fun novel. The requisite swashes are certainly buckled! There are places where the story felt a bit forced, as though the legend were imposing itself on Allende's characters in ways that didn't quite fit, but for the most part, it's very smooth. A highly enjoyable read. ****

29. Epileptic (David B.)
This is a very interesting graphic work. The art is magnificent; very cool and different from the kind of thing you usually see in a graphic novel. The use of black and white was masterful. The story -- of a boy, his epileptic older bother, and their family's search for a cure -- was strange and sad. It was generally very interesting, and a very honest autobiography. The conclusion was a bit problematic; it felt as though a 'revelation' had been forced in order to provide a resolution to the book, although nothing had really been resolved. The translation was a bit stilted in places, but only here and there; for the most part it was invisible. The art is definitely better than the text, which is not to say the text is bad. ****

30. Hammerfall (C.J. Cherryh)
I do like C.J. Cherryh; she does things with sf and world-building that nobody else could pull off. In this case, it's a high-technology future as viewed from the perspective of the very low-technology inhabitants of a desert planet. The portrayals of desert life were convincing and captivating, and the characters were interesting and sympathetic. I got pretty fuzzy on timelines, which was problematic as a big deal was made of the importance of hurry. Other than that, though, it was a wonderfully constructed world and a very well constructed book. ****

31. Cages (Dave McKean)
This is a weird and wonderful book. It's not very accessible; it doesn't make a whole lot of sense on the surface; and the art is a bit hard to get used to (the primary art style, at least -- I found I much preferred the "interludes" of other styles, but I'll admit that it's a preference). But it's an impressive achievement. The story is confusing, bizarre, and distressing. It's a frightening, inexplicable world that McKean creates. Ultimately, though, the ending is a hopeful one, although not a fully resolved or properly happy one. This is not a book for everybody, but it is a fascinating creation. ****

32. Fables vol. 9: Sons of Empire (Bill Willingham et al.)
Many interesting things are happening here, although most of them seem to be setting things up rather than resolving them. I'm beginning to get a little bit nervous that this series is going to carry on indefinitely and never get to the climax we keep being promised. That said, the actual content was quite worth reading. I'm just eyeing the future a tad uncertainly. ****

33. The Penelopiad (Margaret Atwood)
It's nice to see Margaret Atwood having fun. I often say that I like Atwood, but that I can't read more than one or two of her books in close proximity, because they all start to seem alike. This, at least, is an exception -- it's markedly different in tone than her other novels. It's actually a lot of fun, snark and depressing cynicism aside. I hate to say it, but it makes a lot of her other work seem a little repressed. ****

34. Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
My reading of the "classics" continues! I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about this book. For the most part, I enjoyed it -- the story was often quite absorbing, and the translation was very readable. But there's something about the "slice of life" effect of the whole thing that bothered me a bit. I suppose I was hoping for, odd as this may sound, a bit more shape to the plot. There were hugely dramatic events -- but they weren't, ultimately, the climax. The climax resolved an issue that hadn't really been raised until the last quarter of the book. It was a weird effect. Probably more true to "life" than I'm used to in my fiction. That said, it was a good read, and is justifiably famous. I wanted to know more about Anna -- her state of mind could have been better explored (although maybe not by this author). ****

35. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
It still astonishes me that a book that starts with the rape and murder of fourteen-year-old became such a bestseller. It's a genuinely creepy premise, and the book never lost that creepy, slightly depressing feeling for me. Yes, it's all about healing -- both for Susie's family and, posthumously, for Susie herself -- but... It is a lovely book, very well-written, very evocative, very honest. It didn't cheat. ****

36. Prodigal Summer (Barbara Kingsolver)
This isn't a bad book, per se, but it didn't quite work for me. Part of it was the very early explicit sex scenes. Not that I object to sex scenes, but I found it a bit disconcerting not to have any emotional involvement in the characters first (very feminine of me, I know). A lot of it was that I could see the major revelations/plot points fifty miles ahead. Surely, I kept thinking, there would be a twist. But no, everything unfolded exactly as I'd predicted. It felt... too easy, I suppose. The writing would normally have made this less of a serious problem, but although there was nothing wrong with the writing, it didn't really strike me. I may just have been in the wrong mood for Kingsolver. But it didn't really put me in the mood. **

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