23 October 2010

An Internet pinky-swear.

I make a contract with you, my ten-and-possibly-more readers: for as long as my days off are Tuesdays and Saturdays, I’ll meet you here, to talk about books, as I read them and immediately after, before I forget all I wanted to say about them, and have to reel off another apologetic, amateurish, “in brief” post like, uh, this one. I know I can do it: just look back at the sometimes 1000-word+ reviews I wrote for Watermark’s weekly newsletter. Of course, for those I had free sandwiches as incentive. SAAAANDWICHES.

The Scar, China Mieville: the second novel set in the Bas-Lag world of Perdido Street Station; this one's set in a floating outlaw city called Armada. If you don't count Moby-Dick, which of course you should, it's the best sea-quest novel I've ever read...once I get a hold of Iron Council, I promise you a lengthy essay about Mieville's evolving use of the city--with every novel I've read fictional metropolises (Perdido's New Crobuzon, Scar's Armada, The City & the City's Beszel/Ul Quoma) close in on "real' ones, with the shadow-London of Un Lun Dun a crucial link to Kraken's setting in a richly reimagined London proper. (Although I hear Iron Council's a Western, so it may throw a wrench in the works--if so, like all good critics, I shall simply ignore it.)

Zofloya, or The Moor, Charlotte Dacre: I'm fascinated by old-timey popular literature, especially the high-strung gothic novel, but this one was just OK. Not sure how it would have come off had Oxford World Classics not made the stupendous blunder of giving away the huge twist on the second-to-last page on the back of the book. SERIOUSLY.

A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter Miller & Jamestown, Matthew Sharpe: Dystopia ahoy! I might owe myself an essay on why I find these so fascinating, but I think it's just that I love thought-experiments in general and have a generally fatalistic view of the world. Of these two, Canticle was much, much better, using the throughline of the Catholic Church (speaking of generally fatalistic) to link three novellas through a millennium, **SPOILER ALERT FOR A 50-YEAR-BOOK** (mouseover for details, since if you're like me you can never successfully skip text without reading it). Jamestown, a near-future retelling of the founding of the titular settlement, was less successful (to me at least)--I can't quite put my finger on why, but I think it has to do with the too-similar idiolect of the many different POVs (the narrative switches with each chapter). Usually I can deal with stylistic repetition (especially if I like said style, and I liked Sharpe's quite a lot), and I rarely care about "believability" in terms of characters' thoughts and words, and in a book that's all about communication and its breakdowns, it actually makes sense for what should be wildly disparate to converge. So I've really no excuse but "I just did, OK" for coming away less than impressed. Please don't revoke my intellectual credentials.

American Gods, Neil Gaiman: Loved it--loved the premise (all the various multicultural lares and penates brought over by centuries of immigrants to the U.S., squaring up for a war with the new deities of Internet and Media), loved the execution. Once you've read it, head over to this great wiki of all the gods mentioned!

I also recently read Colson Whitehead's first novel, The Intuitionist, which deals with racism and elevator inspection--no, really. Stepped it up out of the random-roll sched because it was this month's pick on The A.V. Club's book club (Wrapped Up in Books). Coming up in Tuesday's post: I actually read the A.V. Clubbers' essays, and try to make sense of the book myself!

(BTW: currently re-reading Connie Willis' Blackout, which ended cliffhangingly, since All Clear FINALLY came out this week!!! Will talk about both together, as they're really one v. long book, but it'll take me a while to get through. And then I'll be sad they're over.)


  1. I will take you up on that pinky-swear. I only just recently realized that it's very likely I will read more and with more pleasure if I start reading fiction again, so you will be my trusted guide. To begin: If I were going to start with a Mieville book, which one do you suggest?

  2. "The City & the City" is a great place to start, I think: essentially, it's a murder mystery, but it's set in two cities that occupy the same physical space. (It's much harder to explain that he manages to carry it off.) It's not his best, but it's a good intro to his crazy-fierce imaginative powers, and it's only 250 pages or something, whereas "Perdido Street Station" and "Kraken" are twice that. "Un Lun Dun" is also shortish--it's a middle-grade novel, kind of a creepier "Alice in Wonderland."

    Then "Perdido." IT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND.

  3. The City & The City is on hold with the library! Yay!


Creative Commons License
Muse at Highway Speeds by http://museathighwayspeeds.blogspot.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.