21 June 2010

Of note, all too briefly.

The single awesomest-sauce book I've read in the past (sigh) six weeks? China Mieville's Kraken, which starts off with the disappearance of a specimen giant squid and unravels (over one momentous page turn) into enough crazily inventive shit for a dozen-novel series. A supervillain condemned to life as a sentient tattoo; a teleporting mage/Star Trek nerd whose spells (unnecessarily) duplicate the look and sound of the Enterprise's transporters; dueling apocalypses, including one hailed by an unexpectedly fearsome ferret cult. Next Tuesday, all!

Other than that, a lot of what I've read recently has been pretty meh. Exceptions: Emily St. John Mandel's Last Night in Montreal, a new biography of Catherine of Siena (my confirmation saint) by Don Brophy, Kevin Cannon's graphic punch-em-up adventure Far Arden, Terry Pratchett's wonderful middle-grade Discworld novel The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. And I've just started Louise Rennison's "Confessions of Georgia Nicolson" series (first title in a long string of great titles: Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging). V. much a teenage Bridget Jones, which I love. To this day (as in the last sentence) I use/overuse Ms. Jones' "v." abbreviation, one of only two lasting effects a book's had on my spelling--the other is using "uhm" instead of "um," from Peter Hedges' What's Eating Gilbert Grape.

I've a summer assignment from my boyfriend (you'd think this would be a long story, but I just asked) wherein I'm to write a 15-page paper on a film subgenre of my choice; I've chosen the seven films Marlene Dietrich made with Josef von Sternberg in the early 30s. This will mostly entail, you know, watching the movies, but I'm also doing some reading on the subject (so far, Carole Zucker's just-OK The Idea of the Image), interesting so far mostly because I've read very little film criticism, and considerations like length of shot and lighting rarely enter into my thinking. And isn't world-expanding what a good relationship is all about?

Two disappointing reads I'd like to mention. First, this year's Nebula winner The Wind-up Girl, by Paolo Bacigalupi. There was some good stuff in there, like the titular genetically engineered disposable person, Emiko, who moves like she's always in a strobe light so she can't pass for a "real" human being; and the similarly lab-created "cheshires," chameleon cats who've surplanted their less changeable counterparts. But all the OMG GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD WILL DESTROY THE WORLD (& ALSO IMPERIALISM BOO!) felt woefully on-the-nose, particularly in the dialogue. Maybe I just find political sci-fi boring?

And last night I finished Patrick Ness's YA-dystopic (I know, I should have loved it, right?) The Knife of Never Letting Go, which I've been meaning to read for ages. It had, again, a great setup, the coming of age of a boy on a planet where the thoughts of men can be heard by all and animals (including his totally adorable dog) talk, though they talk like animals, mostly concerned with food and safety. But there are too many chase scenes, and too many BELIEVE IN YOURSELF speeches, and (mouse over for big ol' spoiler). Too, it's the first of a trilogy, and it ends with no closure whatsoever, just a giant cliffhanger--I think there's more to the writing of sequential novels than chopping up one big story into several books. Each entry in the series should have some satisfaction in itself. (Yeah, maybe I'm a hypocrite because I just found the equally NO WHAT HAPPENS ending of Connie Willis' Blackout more exciting than maddening. But I love Connie Willis, so there.)


  1. Did you start "awesomesauce" or did Stephanie?

    I'm with you on Montreal, and it is impossible for Terry Pratchett to write a dud.

  2. You know, I think I first heard it from my brother; I was using before I moved here, at any rate. First Urban Dictionary def. is from '05, and they theorize it originated from Strong Bad, which would jive with the above.

    Yeah, my sister's husband has a quajillion Pratchett novels, which she semi-charitably refers to as his "troll books." Is there a first Discworld title, or are they not interdependent?


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