Tuesday, March 01, 2011

What I read -- Feb 2011

“Tooth and Claw” by Jo Walton. Library book. I believe I read on a blurb somewhere: “Is there anything Jo Walton can’t write?” And it is so true. This is a regency romance populated entirely by dragons. Dragons get bigger by eating one another, and yet the story isn’t really about cannibalism, more cannibalism is just something dragons do. It’s not taboo the way it would be with humans, because the dragons don’t see it that way. The father dragon dies in the first chapter, leaving the understanding that his estate (including his gold and his corpse) is to be divided up amongst his three younger children, with the two established children to take but a token apiece. The eldest son-in-law takes way more than his share and the others sue him. So the message is: be explicit in your will. And stand up for yourself.

“Sandman Slim” by Richard Kadrey. Library book, requested several months ago. I missed it over Christmas and had to request it again. I have a notebook where I write down things I want to read (many, many pages long – I am not keeping up) and when I read the flaps, I realized I’d listed another book by this author, too. It’s not a perfect book, but I must have talked it up whilst reading it, because the boy sought it out when I was done, and then Ed did after him, so everyone read this book before it went back to the library on time.

“Booklife” by Jeff Vandermeer. I bought it in December because Jeff put out a request on his blog for people to plug this book, in order to fund some other, probably less lucrative projects in 2011. I couldn’t exactly write a review on Chapters.ca without reading it. Well, not ethically, anyway. I wasn’t concerned that I would hate the book, because I’d been carrying the TOC around in my lunch bag for about a year, and I knew what it was about, and that the content would be useful to me.

At first it seemed oddly organized. Why talk about the public before the private? Why talk about your writing career before talking about writing? But then came the awesome ending of chapter two, about 128 pages in, and he said something like “If you’ve been reading this with an increasing sense of horror...” Why yes, I had. But I liked the assumption that I need to understand first and foremost what I’m getting into, before I get into the nuts and bolts of how to get there.

The take-away message was “be civil.” And that’s a good way to live.

“Snowcrash” by Neal Stephenson. I forget why, but one of my coworkers lent me this book back in November (though he says he prefers William Gibson). It seemed appropriate to read it, so I could give it back (I made it clear at the time that I wasn’t going to be finishing it that month, because of NaNoWriMo). It’s very stylish, but the characters lack soul – I didn’t feel with them. There’s a scene, for example, where Hiro goes up to a place where he used to hang out with someone he won’t be hanging out with anymore and has a beer by himself, and I felt like it ought to be poignant, but it wasn’t. Maybe you can’t have everything – you can’t have all that cleverness and wit, and also tug at my heartstrings. Not that I mind. Sometimes I resent being manipulated that way. The ending seemed murky, but it was a good, entertaining read with lots of humorous insights about the near future, especially for something written almost 20 years ago (!).

OWW: 1- Nov 13; 3-Nov 21 -- 4 total, which is probably the minimum I should be striving for... though double would be good. I actually learned something from reading things this month. I read three “early draft” chapters of a novel, and I could see the process the author was going through as he wrote. It was very different than my process – basically, he wrote blocks of exposition and text splines, which seemed like an efficient way to get things down and keep a balance, and keep things moving. I think I’ll try it on a short story, maybe tomorrow?

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