Tuesday, August 03, 2010

What I read -- July 10

"The Sorceress of Venice" by Salman Rushdie. I'd read somewhere that if the SF community could go back in time and save Salman Rushdie, they should have given him a Nebula for his first book, and then he would have fallen into genre obscurity forever after, and no fatwa ever would have been issued. And that made me curious. I'd never read a book by him before. It reminded me of Catherynne M. Valente. After a while I started to get the characters all confused, because there were a lot of them. This book really seemed to want to be read out loud.

It's a story-within a story, and the inside story steals bits of the outside story. I felt like I didn't get the maximum value out of this book, because there were in-jokes I'm sure I missed. You know those footnoted versions of, say, TS Eliot, that you have to read in high school or university English classes? This book seemed like the modern equivalent of those, but without the footnotes. I found myself wishing I had better knowledge of the renaissance, or of Indian and Persian mythology. It's a book for well-read people. I'd say, if you're going to read one book this year, this shouldn't be it. But if you're the sort of person who reads a hundred books a year, then this would be a good choice.

"The Windup Girl" by Paolo Bacigalupi. Nebula winner, and it had been on my list for a while, so I requested it from the library. To be honest, the only reason I requested it was because one day I logged into the library's system and it told me there was a problem with my account, and would I please contact their customer service? So I did, and then I felt like I had to let the very pleasant customer service rep do something for me, since I was about the thousandth person to call her that morning with a problem, and everyone had been very polite about it, and...

I found the first fifty pages or so confusing, but then I started to get into it, and the place and the characters (there are multiple POVs) started to make sense. What really worked for me about the POVs was that everyone was not chasing the same thing. Anderson was trying to find the seedbank, and the fact that Hok Shen was trying to get the plans for the spring was totally irrelevant to him. The spring was just a cover. Kanna's actions kept thwarting them both, and Emiko needed to be free and was a tool for everyone. It was like the opposite of a heist, where everyone wants the same thing.

"Pretty Monsters" by Kelly Link. Since I've been writing and editing short stories lately, it seemed appropriate to read some, so I've pulled out some anthologies. I'd read three of the stories in this book before, don't know where (well, one of them was in the other book by her I read), but they were still very good. She has a distinctive voice, that's for sure. I don't think I should try to emulate it.

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