snickfic: by <user name=toreadabook site=livejournal.com> (mood horror)
Posted ON Wednesday, will wonders never cease.

Read
Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel. This was an ARC that someone thrust into my hands at a con last year, although it's now long since published. It's the story of how we find a giant robot hand buried in the earth, which leads to finding more giant robot parts, which leads to the question of what exactly humans dare do with a giant robot. This was low on science and speculation and high on... IDK, human interest? Which makes it sound like a Robert Charles Wilson novel, except it wasn't that good. It was told almost entirely as a series of interviews by a secretive, powerful gentleman with unclear official status, so that was fun, but by mid-book I was really hoping that we'd find out more about him and his ambiguous morality and status - he's such a central figure that I hoped the book would turn his sort-of neutrality on its head. In that, I was disappointed.

Reading
House of Leaves, by whatsisname. This book has crystallized for me for the first time that although I love weird creepy houses (in fact weird creepy architecture of all kinds), I just don't get them often because I'm completely disinterested in ghosts. Anyway, the textbook manuscript portion is fascinating and I already love it; the framing story with this idiot barhopper and his idiot bro friend is driving me crazy. (NO SPOILERS PLEASE.)

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. Reread. Because it's that time of year.
snickfic: Spaceman Spiff about to crash his spaceship (mood sf)
I finished, at long last! Unspoilery thoughts:
* I enjoyed the first two thirds for the human drama aspect.
* The last third was not worth reading - if you want to know how it goes, get someone to spoil it for you.
* Neal Stephenson would stop mid-coitus to tell you how condoms work. At length. At least three times.

spoilery thoughts )
snickfic: "Nobody can explain a dragon" (Le Guin quotation) (mood fantasy)
Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson.
I figured out why Stephenson's books are so long. It's because they feature sentences like this:

And also so they could give the peoples of the world some agency. ... "Agency," in the lingo of the sorts of people who had set up this announcement, meant giving people options, giving them some things that they could do to have an effect - imaginary or not.

I've read similarly 3rd-grade-level explanations of, for example, Soyuz spacecraft. At the time I assumed he just wanted to be clear for any non-scientific audience, but now I don't know what audience he's going for. And even supposing your audience is familiar with neither agency nor the Soyuz spacecraft, there are more elegant and less patronizing ways to convey that information. Was he this bad back in the day, like in Cryptonomicon? Maybe he was and I just didn't notice.

In any case, I'm maybe ~60 pages into a 860-page book. This'll be a while.

Sorcerer to the Crown, by Zen Cho.
I found this pleasant but not entirely satisfactory. The jacket cover suggests comparisons to Heyer and Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, but it has too much serious subject matter for the former and none of the ambitiousness of backstory, worldbuilding, and footnotes of the latter. Someone suggested that perhaps I'd like it better on a second read, now that I know what to expect, and I think that might be true. Even then, the ending seemed weak, and I suspect I will still want more worldbuilding.

In any case, it is a Regency fantasy romp with familiars and magicians and also lots of women, people of color, and examination of various forms of oppression. If that is your sort of thing, then I suspect you would enjoy it.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson
I finished this a bit ago. It was suitably psychologically twisted, as I'd hoped, although it lacked the building menace of Haunting of Hill House. I couldn't decide if the reveal towards the end of the book was actually intended to be a reveal, since I'd assumed it to be true since about page two. Anyway, a very Jackson book. I want to read more of her novels.
snickfic: girl reading on bench (mood reading)
I am so pleased I have things to report this week! I got tons of reading done over the holiday break. (Although I got basically no writing done in the same timeframe; this may be significant. You have to read to write, though, IMO; the one fuels the other.)

What I have just finished reading:
The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater. In which a daughter of psychics is drawn into the quest of four private school boys for a sleeping Welsh king. This was superb. Stiefvater has a precision with language that takes my breath away. Her five main characters are all so distinct in their strengths and private conflicts, and she sold me on her plot despite my total disinterest in tarot cards, ley lines, and imported Welsh monarchs.

spoilers )

I said on Tumblr that the proof would be if I liked the book well enough to put a library hold on the next book, and I just today picked it up from the library, so.

The Story of Christianity, Vol I, by Justo L. Gonzalez. The first volume of two, this is a nice very basic survey if you have an extremely weak grasp of European history, which I do. Gonzalez is a historian, and I thought he did a good job of balancing page constraints with specific detail. I found it very readable. This first volume was from the time of Christ to right before the Reformation, which I shall now being reading about in volume II.

The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula Le Guin. I'd read all her major novels except this one; not sure why it took me so long. I'd been spoiled for the basic premise by her much later short story, "Coming of Age in Karhide," which is all about someone experiencing kemmer, sexual characters, and sex for the first time, and was therefore altogether much more interested in the juicy details of those topics than the original novel was. I was thus somewhat taken aback by how much politics there was in it, especially in the first half or so.

In fact, since the first-person POV character through most of it, Genly Ai, is a first-time visitor and envoy to the planet, the book maintains a pretense of objectivity for quite a while, mixed in Genly's rather pettily expressed personal concerns, which makes for a somewhat dryer book than I was expecting. Also, Genly's kind of insufferable for quite a while - small-minded, self-centered, and sexist, although IMO he gets better on all those counts eventually, which I think was a major point of the book. In that way this book reminds me some of A Wizard of Earthsea, except that Genly is never as overtly obnoxious as Ged and also doesn't get hit over the head with a moral lesson the way Ged does. It does make for rough going in the first half, though.

The sexism might have been what grated the most, though, and what I think dates this book. The fact that Genly isn't sure how to deal with an agender population isn't notable, so much as the lens through which he does try to deal with them. Gender essentialism is rampant in his thinking in ways that I would hope an interstellar diplomatic organization would train its ambassadors out of - he talks about one citizen as having womanly hips, another having masculine energy. Like, dude. Have you never met a genderqueer person in your life?

He also refers to all the citizens of Gethen with male pronouns, with the reasoning that those are more universal and less gendered than female pronouns, which is I think clearly meant to point up his gender assumptions, but at the same time gives the reader the impression that this is a planet made up wholly of men. It has a weird flattening effect on the worldbuilding around gender that I think Le Guin was trying to get across.

And yet despite all these caveats, I ended up really liking it, largely because the last seventy-five pages or so feature a get-there-or-bust, two-month mad dash across a glacier with his Gethenian ally, and that hits like half a dozen of my iddy spots. It's there that we realize that this novel has a much more intimate story at its core than I thought it did, about two people from different planets coming to understand each other after a lot of cultural misunderstanding and a lot of mistakes and hiccups as a consequence. I really liked the way that snuck up on both me as a reader and on the characters.

So the gender stuff did not do precisely what I wanted it to, but it gave me plenty to think about, as you can see, and the interpersonal stuff more than made up for it, IMO. I like this one more the longer out I get from it, and the more I chew on it.

What I'm reading now
I'm working very slowly on a reread of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, but I keep being distracted by other things. Likewise I still want to finish Peter Enns' Inspiration and Incarnation.

What I'll read next
As I said, I just picked up the next Raven Cycle book at the library, and I'd like to get started on the second volume of the Christian history book. It's also time to start my annual Hogfather reread! Yet another thing I've suddenly realized I have a looming Christmas deadline for.

Gaiman

Nov. 15th, 2014 09:57 am
snickfic: "Nobody can explain a dragon" (Le Guin quotation) (mood fantasy)
Just finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman's most recent novel. It was fine? The writing and weaving of myth into everyday life was excellent as usual. I was not entirely satisfied by the ending. In terms of tone and emotional complexity, though, it read like an extended chapter of The Graveyard Book or maybe a much less vibrant Coraline, both of which I consider Lesser Gaiman anyway. It is still certainly Gaiman doing Gaiman things, though.

I say that Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, but in fact he's really only written two books I care about, American Gods and Neverwhere. It's just that I care about them a LOT (albeit for different reasons). I also enjoyed Anansi Boys quite a bit, and I've liked some of his short stories. I found Stardust pleasant but forgettable; I actually liked the movie better.

So, I think we may have fewer hits than misses at this point.

(Has anyone read those YA novels he's writing with Michael Reaves? The Interworld series? Are they worth a try?)
snickfic: girl reading on bench (mood reading)
It can be Reading Thursday if I want it to.

What did you finish reading?
I just reread the first volume of East of West. A non-spoilery summary: In a wildly divergent near-future, three horseman of the apocalypse want to start the apocalypse; the fourth horseman, Death, has abandoned ship for reasons of his own, and they can't start without him; their allies are seven rulers of various parts of the Americas, including one Xiaolian, once the warlord daughter of the house of Mao. It's a large cast that takes some time to get to know, but there are a lot of colorful characters in it. Meanwhile the art is gorgeous; limited, dramatic palettes, and Dragotta can draw both faces and startling architecture with ease.

When I first bought and read it a year ago, I didn't care for it much, but as I did buy it and therefore had it sitting around, I thought I'd try it again, and I like it much better now. I think this is partly due to having read a lot of bad comics since then and therefore refining my sensibilities about what good ones look like, and also because I have plenty of comics now featuring people I like and am sympathetic to, and so I'm a little more open to books with less sympathetic characters.

I have now ordered the second volume from the library.

What are you reading now?
A bunch of things, including stuff previously mentioned, but I also just started Kristin Lavransdatter, a trilogy which promises to be "a great story of a woman's passion, sin, and nobility - set against the color, the earthiness, and the violence of Medieval Norway." Yes. As written by a Norwegian in the 1920s. I really have no idea what to expect here, but the books were $.69 a piece at the thrift store, and hey, I like Norway and female characters and sagas. Although, the back cover says the trilogy won a Nobel prize, so perhaps I should have heard of it before.

Nothing to say about it yet; I'm only 11 pages in.
snickfic: (Buffy desert)
I am, in fact, reading something that I can talk about for reading Wednesday! Specifically I am, slowly and in very small chunks, reading an Audubon field guide to deserts. Right now I'm reading about the peculiarities of high-salinity soil and how that affects vegetation. Eventually, I suppose, I'll move to reading individual species entries, although I will say I wish they were organized by region or something. I realize that would be less useful as an organizational tool when all you have to go on is, "It's a yellow flower," but it'd be nicer for browsing, IMO.

Anyway: it is very soothing, like watching a nature documentary. And now I know what "riparian" and "playa" and "gypsum" means in this context! W00t!
snickfic: (Marko plot)
I've seen this meme around for a while, but honestly, between fanfic and comics and internet literature of various kinds, I've read precious few books recently - certainly not enough to have a weekly "past, present, future" reading feature.

That said, I am presently making slow progress on my reread of Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe. It's the right time of year for it, because outside the weather is heavy and gray and damp and poorly lit, and Ivanhoe is about people living in a country whose weather is heavy and gray and damp and an era that is poorly lit.

For those who haven't read it: Ivanhoe is set during the Crusades, features Prince John as a major character, Friar Tuck as a minor character, and Robin Hood in a cameo, spends a ton of time on the culture and customs of the era (with who knows how much historical accuracy, but still, worldbuilding of a kind), and is altogether a lot more fun than I think people expect of it. There's an entire chapter devoted to Friar Tuck and a random knight that I am very much looking forward to, because I recalled it being hilarious. Overall, if you're a fan of swashbuckling and the pop culture impression of derring-do during the Crusades (which this very novel might have helped popularize? I don't know enough of the background there), for example as embodied by Errol Flynn, then you might quite enjoy this.

That is, supposing you can get past the racism. It feels so peculiar to have Scott on the one hand talking about how horribly the Jewish people of the period were mistreated and abused while on the other hand referring repeatedly to their generally avaricious and mercenary nature. And yet the novel has several important and sympathetic Jewish characters.

Overall, quite enjoying my reread. But still will probably not be finished by next Wednesday.

Profile

snickfic: (Default)
snickfic

June 2017

S M T W T F S
    123
45678910
111213141516 17
18192021 222324
252627282930 

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Style Credit

Page generated Jun. 27th, 2017 03:30 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios