Thursday, September 30, 2010

Reading in September

The concept behind Shine is interesting, but the stories are uneven, to say the least. In addition, it’s hard to tell what Vries means when he talks about Optimistic SF. In the introduction he says that it’s not just a tragic, or even an average, world that people learn to adapt to or prosper in, but rather something where everyone is truly better off, and yet a good majority of these stories don’t fit that definition. Not that that makes those bad stories, of course, some of those are the best in the collection, but they further muddy the waters of whatever Vries was trying to say. There’re also an annoying number of stories that are either purely didactic or incredibly obvious allegories.

Visions is a short story collection from one of Russia’s premier writers in the early twentieth century. Andreyev’s writing is dark, precise, and evocative, and his use of the supernatural to show his ideas in stories like The Red Laugh has convinced me that, if he had lived twenty years later and published in England, he would be mentioned in the same breath as many of Lovecraft’s contemporaries (Machen, Blackwood, etc). In fact, his story Lazarus has been in a Famous Modern Ghost Stories collection. Anyway, review on the way.

Matter is an enjoyable book that likes the building up part of its story so much that it really doesn’t do anything else, going from transit to conclusion in only a few dozen awful pages. Still, I will be reading more of Banks’s work. Review here.

Last Days is so taut that putting down the book at any point, whether it’s a chapter break or the middle of a sentence, feels like physically prying yourself away from some addictive drug. The narrative has its problems, but they’re comparatively minor. Review on the way.

It was enjoyable when Heinlein was actually trying to, you know, tell a story. The two hundred pages of tensionless philosophizing that followed, however – not to mention the painfully predictable sacrifice scene – did not help. Neither did the irony of “Nine out of ten times, if a woman gets raped it’s her fault,” appearing in a book about equality and free love. Neither did the other fifty-five sexist or otherwise offensive quotes and situations that crop up. Nor the playboy super-genius author insert.

There are certain things that you expect when going into a classic. Powerful writing, interesting themes, deep characterization, you know the drill. The Odyssey delivers on all those fronts, as well as being something I didn’t expect: a page turner. It may have been written a few thousand years back, but it’s still a damn fun read.

Though I’m always comparing King’s later books to his earlier classics, I’d almost forgot what it was like to read him when he’s actually firing on all cylinders. This is, without a doubt, one of King’s best novels – though not one of the very best – and a frightening and acomplished horror novel no matter the standards you hold it to. Review coming.

May as well continue the Policy of Silence on Breaking New Ground posts, because it amuses me. Review on the way.

The Folding Knife is the personal tragedy that lies at the heart of an epic. Parker’s characterization and prose are impeccable, and, even if the conclusions and events are bleak, the book is impossible to put down due to the sheer charisma that every word of dialogue brings with it. Review on the way.

I think that just about everyone has heard about the Way of Kings at this point. In my opinion, it’s quite good, but not great, and it’s reviewed to death. So I’ll be adding yet another review, just because. Until then, there are a huge number of great reviews of this out already, including Niall’s for Strange Horizons.

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