Sunday, February 05, 2006

Reading Into the Past: Week of 2/5

This week, the dice give me a ten, and so I'll be looking at the books I read back in 1996:
  • Mairelon the Magician by Patricia C. Wrede (1/30)
    A girl disguised as a boy in an alternate Regency England meets up with a real magician. (I don't think she falls in love with him until the sequel.) Not one of the undying literary classics of our time, but I don't think Wrede's capable of writing a bad book.
  • Greenwitch by Susan Cooper (1/30)
    Third in the "Dark Is Rising" sequence, and one of the more minor entries in that series. I think this is the one where our kid heroes have to go under the sea. All five of the books are short, so it really makes sense to read the whole series straight through. In that context, this one is just fine.
  • Eyewitness to History, edited by John Carey (1/30)
    This was probably a bathroom book; as I recall, it has short passages from all kinds of people (some famous but mostly not) who witnessed various major historical events. Yes, it was gimmicky and superficial, but the pieces were well-chosen, so it was a good read. I don't seem to have learned anything from it that stuck for ten years, though.
  • The Letter of Marque by Patrick O'Brian (2/1)
    I liked all of the books in this series, but I've only read them once. I couldn't tell you which one this is, though I think it's solidly in the middle.
  • In Between Dragons by Michael Kandel (2/2)
    Kandel is most famous as the good translator of Stanislaw Lem into English, but this is the second of his four (to date, as far as I know) novels, which are all oddball, somewhat Dickian SF. This one is about a kid who meets a dragon; it's not as good as Captain Jack Zodiac (one of the lost great SF novels of the '90s, to my mind), but it's better than Panda Ray (his most recent novel -- from 1996 -- which didn't quite coalesce as it should have).
  • The Grey King by Susan Cooper (2/3)
    Fourth in the "Dark Is Rising" sequence. This one, along with the second book, The Dark Is Rising, and the last, Silver On the Tree (though some of us have problems with the ending), are the really good ones in the series, and the reason it's consider one of the great YA fantasy series of the 20th century. Read 'em all, but don't start here.
  • The Magestone by Andre Norton and Mary H. Schaub (2/4)
    This is a late Witch World novel of which I retain no memory whatsoever.
  • A User's Guide to the Millennium by J.G. Ballard (2/5)
    His collected essays and other assorted non-fiction; I love books like this anyway, and I particularly love them when they come from my favorite writers. Given Ballard's gloomy outlook and apocalyptic expectations, I'd expect his predictions for the new millennium turned out to be more correct than not, more's the pity.
Somehow I managed to read three books on the 30th, in a huge "Nyah-Nyah" to my future self. I'm pretty sure Eyewitness was a bathroom book, and, in those days, I wasn't saving books to maintain that smooth one-book-a-day pace. Of course, I was reading fast enough (though most of these books are pretty short) that I could afford to blast through three of them in one day, if that's how it turned out. I just wish I could pull that guy through a time tunnel and set him to work on my WFA pile...

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