Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Read in May

I am only one month behind as I write this, which is the best in nearly six months. I won't trot out my usual excuses here, since they tire me and you don't care. But, just in case it amuses or enlightens anyone, here are some thoughts and/or links to thoughts about books I read in the merry month of May:

Ian Tregillis, The Mechanical (5/3)

Bruce Eric Kaplan, I Was a Child (5/4)

Tim Powers, Medusa's Web (5/11)

Charles Stross, The Annihilation Score (5/18)

Sonny Liew, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye (5/19)

John Allison, Bad Machinery, Vol. 5: The Case of the Fire Inside (5/21)

I've spent a lot of time here writing about the joys of John Allison comics -- the first three volumes of this series, some collections of its predecessor Scarygoround, and his floppy comics series Giant Days with Lissa Treiman -- so I think I might not need to repeat myself hugely this time out. But, still: Allison makes great comics, funny and dramatic, with great naturalistic stories, quirky supernatural elements, distinctive and amusing characters, and absolutely cracking dialogue.

As the title suggests, this is the fifth collection of his current major webcomic Bad Machinery -- available to read for free online, in the traditional webcomics manner. In this one, the six mystery teens are getting a bit older and starting to look with interest at the opposite sex (well, most of them). In particular, Mildred is taken with a very loutish young man, and Sonny meets a new girl who might as well have come right out of the sea. Various amusing and interesting things happen for a while, which I would not dream of spoiling, and there's a great ending as well. Read it online if you don't believe me -- or, better yet, buy Allison's books.

Haruki Murakami, Wind/Pinball: Two Novels (5/24)

Bill Pronzini, Son of Gun in Cheek (5/27)

Bad writing is eternal. Much of it is just tedious and wretched, but some of it is entertainingly bad. And a few intrepid souls have spent time in the bad-writing mines to bring out nuggets of singular horribleness for the rest of us to admire. One such soul is Bill Pronzini; this is his second book of snippets of lousy mystery writing, after (obviously) Gun in Cheek.

I read both of the Gun books back in the '90s, but lost my copies in the great flood of '11. The only good thing about losing books in a flood is that you have an excuse to re-buy and re-read them, which is why I got back to Son of recently.

Obviously, nothing in here is good, strictly speaking. But almost all of it is very entertainingly bad, and some of it is so bizarrely wretched that it's a kind of demented poetry. You probably have to like detective fiction at least a little to enjoy this, and you definitely have to enjoy reading bad writing (rather than cringing at it, or feeling bad for the horrible writers). But if you fit those categories, this and its predecessor are wonderful.

Next up is June, which I originally thought could get done during my week of vacation at the beginning of July. (SPOILER ALERT: It is now Friday, July 8 as I write this, and only just finished May.) June will come along...sometime.

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