Sunday, August 20, 2006

Reading Into the Past: Week of 8/13

Lo! The dice speak! And they say: twelve years! Twelve years gone by! Cue the cheesy old-fashioned special effect of a calendar's pages ripping off, as we hasten back to 1994!
  • Tad Williams, Caliban's Hour (8/6)
    The first Williams book I ever read, and still the best thing of his I've ever seen; a sequel to The Tempest from a different point of view. It's also exceptionally short for a Tad Williams book, so I recommend it to anyone who's ever wondered what the deal was with him but didn't feel like diving right into a multi-volume monster.
  • William Shatner with Chris Kreski, Star Trek Movie Memories (8/7)
    As I recall, this was not quite as interesting as Star Trek Memories (which seemed to be mostly written by Kreski after a lot of interviews with just about everyone then still alive from the original TV show -- and it didn't whitewash the fact that most of them thought Shatner was at least partly a self-aggrandizing jerk), but still pleasant enough. Ten years later, it's all old news, but it was fun at the time.
  • John A. Garraty, 1,001 Things Everyone Should Know About American History (8/7)
    A book-long list, which I probably read on the john. I did not keep it, which, as usual, says something.
  • Jack Vance, Maske: Thaery (8/8)
    I'm afraid I don't remember at all which this one was. I think there are three "Maske" books, all set in the same region of space (is "Maske" a globular cluster, maybe?), but with very separate plots. Anyway, it's a mature Vance novel, so I feel no qualms in recommending it.
  • Julian Barnes, Talking It Over (8/9)
    Barnes is at his best when his books are organized by an odd Big Idea (like A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, or Flaubert's Parrot), and this book has a more domestic version of that: it's the story of a love triangle as told, in first person, by all three people involved. Barnes is a very readable writer, and exceptionally good at characterization; I think this is one of his better books.
  • Phil Foglio, et al., The Xxxenophile Big Book O' Fun (8/9)
    A big collection of very joyful smutty comics by a guy who won the Best Fan Artist Hugo two years in a row, way back when. If you have any interest in smutty comics at all (and I doubt anyone will say so in public), you need to read this one. Foglio writes real people who have a lot of fun along with their sex, making this more than just a stroke book.
  • Robert Hughes, Culture of Complaint (8/10)
    One of the things I miss the most from the pre-9/11 world is how the "clash of cultures" used to be about which side were bigger whiners. Hughes makes a very good Jeremiah; he thunders with the best of them. Here he basically stakes out a position near the middle of the political spectrum and lays into everyone on either side -- it's high dudgeon as high entertainment, and I thought it was wonderful and true at the time.
  • Philip K. Dick, Eye In the Sky (8/10)
    A minor early Dick novel, but not a bad one.
  • Evelyn Waugh, Scoop (8/11)
    Another early novel, though not as minor. (And not by the same person, obviously.) It's one of his funniest books, and ends, as I recall, relatively well for its characters (which is not always to be expected with Waugh).
  • P.G. Wodehouse, Summer Lightning (8/12)
    One of the great Blandings novel; I needed to cleanse my palate after all the curmudgeonliness of Waugh and Hughes, I guess. This is the one where Gallahad is writing his memoirs -- and, of course, the Empress of Blandings gets pig-napped along the way. I don't remember the exact details, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were a imposter as well.
  • John Varley and Ricia Mainhardt, editors, Superheroes (8/12)
    A very mixed bag of superhero stories: as I recall, most of them were slight and instantly forgettable, but a few were excellent.
  • Connie Willis, Remake (8/13)
    The second of Willis's three mid-90s novellas-as-books, and possibly the best of them. I'm sure there's a romance plot (there usually is, with Willis), but it's also about changing old movies (and thus, by extensions, any and all works of art) to fit changing audience expectations.
Running late as usual; I think I should stop making excuses and just assume I'm going to do this on the next Sunday afternoon...

3 comments:

RobB said...

I think I read Eye in the Sky in '94, too. It was part of my Science Fiction Lit course at Rutgers.

Jose said...

I played a player game of Doom with Phil Foglio and two other mates back in the mid 90s and I'm proud to say that after about 30 minutes of repeated virtual murder I cracked his demeanour. It was a real pleasure watching Phil swear and curse with real venom, I think I really pissed him off with that rocket launcher.

Alexx Kay said...

I will happily admit to liking smutty comics! And xXxenophile was the best ever. One of the very few works of art in any medium which contained well-written interesting stories *and* was hot enough to still function as a stroke book. It's relatively easy to find one or the other, astoundingly rare to find both together.

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