Thursday, April 06, 2006

Other Books Read in March

It's come to my attention that Certain Persons have been trying to divine the thinking of the WFA Judges from random comments I've made here (probably mostly from monthly round-ups like this one). For the record, I'm only one-fifth of the panel to begin with, and I'm not going to say anything about any of our deliberations here. Also, though what I write here will, as always, be true and honest about my personal taste in books, that doesn't necessarily mean anything at all about anything else. (I've always said that you can't divine the thinking of the SFBC from my personal likes and dislikes -- and vice versa-- and the WFA judge-gestalt is turning out to have its own idiosyncrasies.)

So the list below is some of the stuff I read last month -- not necessarily all of it, and certainly not including any books I didn't finish. I do this in part to keep track of what I read, in part to preserve some random thoughts I had about those books, and in part to point people to books that they might enjoy (or warn them away from the other stuff). For WFA purposes, being mentioned here means nothing. Not being mentioned here also means nothing.

In other words:

Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.
And so, onward:
  • Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming, Powers, Vol. 2: Roleplay
    The fragmented dialogue didn't bug me in this second volume, and I looked for #3 (but didn't find it) the last time I was at the comics shop. So I think I'm officially liking this cops-in-a-superhero-world series. (Though the revelation that our hero is an ex-super is something I could have done without; why do stories like this always have to make their main characters super-special, with abilities and powers far beyond those of normal men? It smacks of Mary Sue, and I don't like that.)
  • Jonathan Carroll, Glass Soup
    I am officially old and grumpy. I used to love Carroll's novels, and he's writing the same books in the same ways he always did, but this one didn't really thrill me. Since clearly he didn't change, it must be me. I throw myself on the mercy of the court.
  • George R.R. Martin, The Ice Dragon
    This is coming out from Tor Starscape (the YA imprint) this fall, and is being billed as a novella set in Westeros (the world of Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series). It's actually his story from Orson Scott Card's 1980 anthology Dragons of Light, in a (I believe) slightly different version. I didn't think it was set in Westeros, myself -- the details don't seem right -- but it works as a YA story, and it's certainly worth reading. But I think some readers are going to get all worked up about it (before they see it) for no good reason.
  • Dan Kieran, The Idler Book of Crap Jobs
    This was a great book to look at in idle moments while my home computer was booting up, and that's mostly how I read it. It had some very obvious minor editing (in an attempt to hide the fact that all of these short pieces about individual correspondents' rotten jobs were written by Britons and not Americans, I think), but it was funny, and made me happy with my job and life, which was the point.
  • Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora
    2006 is turning into a great year for first novels (at least among the things I've read) -- there was Tobias Buckell's Crystal Rain early in the year, Naomi Novik's His Majesty's Dragon is just hitting stores this month, and now here's something I liked even better than those two. Lynch is yet another blogger-made-good, with an amazingly unlikely story: a British editor read parts of this book on the blog, asked to see the whole thing, and then bought world rights. (I'll pause a moment to allow the authors and editors out there a moment to gather their jaws up from their respective floors.) And Lies really is that good: if Lynch keeps up this pace, he could be the second coming of Fritz Leiber by 2015. This is a fantasy caper adventure about a master thief/con-man in a Venice-like city, and Lynch has an amazing grasp of structure for a first novelist. Usually, first novels have a lot of energy but are messy; Lynch has alternating chapters of related past and present-day plots, which interlock and comment on each other nicely -- the chapter length is also very well calculated. Really, this reads like a fifth novel or so; it's very impressive, and a hell of a lot of fun.
  • Justine Larbalestier, Magic or Madness
    A nice beginning to a YA trilogy that doesn't need me to puff it up (after Cory Doctorow raved about it on Boing Boing last week). I wished it had more of a solid ending, but the set-up is great, and I definitely want to read the other two books. (And I really hope her editor lets her keep her title on the third book, which I still maintain is the greatest title ever: Magic! Magic! Magic! Oi! Oi! Oi!)
  • Charles Burns, El Borbah
    Beginning of a matched set of Burns books from Fantagraphics, reprinting all of his older stuff. After I bought and read this, I realized it's just a re-titled reprint of Hard Boiled Defective, which I own, but I like matched sets anyway, so I'd probably be buying all of these as they come out in paperback no matter what.
  • Pat Bynes, What Would Satan Do?
    Cartoons about celestial and infernal matters, by a guy whose work I've seen in the New Yorker. I love single-panel cartoons.
  • Michael Blumlein, The Healer
    An oddly low-key and distanced novel that vibrates uncomfortably at the border of SF and fantasy. I've liked Blumlein's stuff before (especially his first novel, The Movement of Mountains and the stories in his collection The Brains of Rats), but this felt over-worked and a bit stale, like a novel that sat in a drawer too long. It's set on some sort of alternate world (with no stated connection to our own) where there is a second hominid species -- Grotesques, or tesques, who can heal humans via skin-to-skin contact and an excretory organ on their sides. Blumlein has obviously thought long and hard about the role of the healer in society, and this book is worth reading, but it is a bit slow. For those of you who insist on genre-typing everything: if someone put a gun to my head, I'd have to call it SF.
  • Charles Addams, Happily Ever After
    A collection of cartoons on the subject of love, from the least likely cartoonist. Excellent.
  • Paul Grist, Kane Vol. 5: The Untouchable Rico Costas and Other Short Stories
    Latest in the black-and-white police-drama series. I wish the over-all plot would wrap up, rather than stretching on and on at such great length, but I'm still enjoying this (especially for the moody art and snappy dialogue), so I think I'll stick with it for at least one more book.
  • Charles Stross, Glasshouse
    His new novel, which I'm sure anyone reading this will already want to read and buy. There's some annoying "Gosh! Weren't those 20th century people just so weird and primitive!" stuff near the beginning that set my teeth on edge, but this quickly settled down to being a good thriller. People who don't live in a suburban house (with a wife who stays at home to watch the 1.8 kids) probably won't even notice it, but it set my teeth on edge for a chapter or so.
  • Carrie Vaughan, Kitty and the Midnight Hour
    First in a werewolf shagging series -- I am going to use the British "vampire shagging" name, with variations, until someone comes up with a better name for post-Buffy, pseudo-Anita Blake contemporary fantasy with first-person female narrators -- that I liked almost as much as I wanted to. It did make me want to see a radical feminist/democratic take on the werewolf and vampire power structure -- mostly because this book nudges into that territory but doesn't really address it -- which could be a real hoot, if done right.
  • Liz Williams, Snake Agent
    I read this with both professional hats on, so I won't say a word about it. Well, maybe just a few words: near-future supernatural Chinese cop thriller. Fun. Read it.
  • Stephan Pastis, Pearls Before Swine: The Ratvolution Will Not Be Televised
    Latest collection of one my current favorite strips.
  • Diana Schutz, editor, Sexy Chix
    Anthology of short comics stories by women creators. It's a Good Thing, but it was a bit minor and forgettable. I should look at it again, and see if there's anyone whose work I want to seek out (since that's why I got it in the first place, as a sample for a bunch of cartoonists I'm not familiar with).
  • Luis Royo, The Labyrinth Tarot
    We're selling it, so I wanted to see what it was. Royo does nice art, but I have to say I snorted through my nose with disdain quite a number of times while reading the explanatory text.
  • Gardner Dozois, editor, The Year's Best Science Fiction, 23rd Annual Collection
    The immense doorstop which I read every year to try to keep up with short fiction. And I think everyone who reads SF should do the same (unless you actually have time to read the magazines, which I don't).
  • G.B. Trudeau, Dude: The Big Book of Zonker
    A repackaging of old (and new) comic strips, so that every Doonesbury featuring Zonker is in one volume. I'm not sure if I approve of the idea in general -- it could lead to a lot of unnecessary books -- but it was fun to read.
And I'm now a week later than usual with this; I got behind on the weekend and am still catching up. (On the other hand, it feels like I didn't get any work done today, even though I've been in my office all day long, without any meeting or major disturbances -- perhaps I'm just no good at getting things accomplished in general.)


Anonymous said...

To say that Jonathan Carroll is writing the same old books he always did is absurd. Compare the wrenchingly realistic AFTER SILENCE with the poetic eloquence and shimmering visionary quality that is GLASS SOUP is like comparing apples and grapefruits.

Pawel Baran

Ran said...

"But I think some readers are going to get all worked up about it (before they see it) for no good reason."

Yeah, this is almost certainly going to happen.

More seriously, I'd suppose that this is marketing speak. GRRM posted about The Ice Dragon on his site, and doesn't suggest it's being changed to fit into the Westeros setting. I suppose if it were made into a story of the Age of Heroes, it could work...

Very curious. How'd you find the book, in any case? Apparently GRRM smoothed some of the rough edges, and made it a bit more acceptable as a YA (the original novella includes a couple of fairly direct references to gross brutality).

I'm very much looking forward to Scott Lynch's book. Apparently an arc's going to be finding its way to my doorstep, and it'll be going straight to the top of the to-read pile. A new Fritz Leiber is very much over-due.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Ran: The Ice Dragon reads like mature Martin, but he was already a mature writer by 1980, and I haven't read the original anthology version. It was a Martin story I hadn't read yet, so it was very welcome.

There's some brutality off-stage, but the main character doesn't witness any of it, and it's described in such a way that younger readers might not realize what actually happened.

And the Lynch book is a real find; he's already doing a lot of writerly stuff I love really well, and telling a great story at the same time.

RobB said...

Looking forward to the Lynch myself.

I read Vaughn's book last year, not expecting very much at all and I was pleasantly surprised.

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