Monday, 20 February 2017

Babel-17

(February 2017)



Working my way through the canon. Slim book, fat (if not entirely watertight) ideas. Thinking of collating a Linguistics in SF list. There’s this, Embassytown, Snow Crash, and of course 1984. Any other ideas?

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Too Like the Lightning

(January 2017)



I enjoyed this book. In places I enjoyed it very much indeed. Please bear that in mind, as I’m going to spend most of what follows talking about its many faults. Though to be honest, they’re all really manifestations of one fault. It is all, appropriately enough, just a little too… a little too.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Ninefox Gambit

(January 2017)



I think I’m becoming more nostalgic in my middle age, and especially so when it comes to my reading. More and more I find myself harking back to the things I read as young(er) adult, not so much conceptually but emotionally. Part of this is the natural passage of time and experience, I think, but the more comparators you have for something the harder it becomes for it to raise its head above the herd.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Ammonite

(January 2017)



Space opera of a sort, despite the fact very little of it takes place in space. Marge Taishan is an anthropologist charged with investigating the planet Jeep. Unknown generations ago it was settled by humans, whose society has long since reverted to pre-industrial modes. An attempt at recolonization failed once it was discovered that he planet harbours a virus which kills all men (and a good proportion of women), leaving the planet isolated and the survivors quarantined.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Near to the Wild Heart

(January 2017)



A stunning and mercifully short journey through the inner lives of a young woman in inter-war Brazil. Lispecter's works have had a bit of a renaissance in recent years (as far as I'm aware, at least), and I can see why. The prose switches seamlessly between mimesis and stream-of-consciousness, as the orphan Joanna creates her own worlds as she passes through being raised by intolerant relatives and a loveless marriage to the unfaithful Otávio. I say 'mercifully short' because the effect of this constant tumult is as exhausting as it is captivating, and in the perfect marriage of form and function the reader can occasionly become as exasperated with Joanna as the characters around her; god help me, but I genuinely laughed out loud at some of Otávio's more exasperated interjections. Excellent stuff.
  

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Death Sentences

(January 2017)



Death Sentences is, at least as far as plot goes, about a poem that causes anyone to read it to die. The blurb suggests that this conceit is shared with The Ring, but for me the obvious comparator is Monty Python:

Monday, 30 January 2017

Kolymsky Heights

(January 2017)



A surprisingly nostalgic reading experience, this. A ripsnorting thriller praised by a number of authors I like (Philip Pullman, Alastair Reynolds) and which, despite being set in the early 1990’s, has a distinctly Cold War feel that threw me right back into the Tom Clancy novels I ploughed through as a teenager. It’s also utterly ridiculous.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Sky Burial

(January 2017)



This is one of those ‘non-fiction’ books, like, say, In Cold Blood or Tokyo Vice, wherein you’re not quite sure exactly how much trust you should place in the ‘non’.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Half-Resurrection Blues

(January 2017)



Everyone wants coffee except Dr. Tijou, who prefers tea.

I'm struggling to explain why I found this line is so funny, but it provided my first book driven LOL of 2017: a good three or four minutes of guffawing about tea. I am, however, going to give an explanation a bash, because if nothing else it's going to be a good way of working through exactly why I enjoyed this book so much.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Signal to Noise

(January 2017)
  


The first book of the year gets 2017 off to a mixed start. On the one hand, this garnered a fair amount of praise and I can see why: it's well written, thoughtfully plotted, and the characters are only too believable. But on the other, it also served to remind me that coming of age stories really aren't my cup of tea at all. If I were less of a middle-aged curmudgeon I'd be able to praise this for more that its technical execution, but as it stands I'll just say that if pig-headed and self-obsessed teenagers are what floats your boat then you could do a lot worse than this.