Monday, January 05, 2015

What I read -- December 2014



“Clariel” by Garth Nix. I bought this at Scott Westerfeld’s signing. We all argued about who should get to read it first, and whether one should start over with Sabriel. Fortunately the boy had school stuff, and Ed was reading the Brust I read in October (as he put it, “how did I not know about this author before?”) so I got to go first. Which is only fair, since I paid.

I enjoyed this book more than I’ve enjoyed anything in a while. Having just read the other three, there was a spot where I realized this was not going to end well. The most annoying thing was that I read it first, and none of my family were reading fast enough to keep up, and when I finished I wanted to talk to someone about it.

“From the Earth to the Moon” by Jules Verne. The boy is taking a SF survey course this term, and this was the second book on it (the first was Frankenstein, which I’ve already read). He told me this one was cute, so of course I asked to read it. He also told me that his prof says JV is the father of hard science fiction and HG Welles is the father of soft science fiction. I asked what Mary Shelley is the father of, then, but he didn’t have a good answer. He also told me the math wasn’t that far off. I’ll take his word for that. He’d told me the ending was sudden and there was a sequel written 15 years later, which he’d read a synopsis of just for satisfaction. I did the same thing because he was right.

“Year of the Ladybird” by Graham Joyce. My older sister provides little in the way of gift guidance and doesn’t really need things, which can be a bad thing, except when it means I can buy her books I want to read that I think she will like. That’s how I got this. If I hadn’t seen the dreadful British show Hi-de-Hi! I might not have really understood the setting. It was really good.

“Aloft” by Chang-Rae Lee. There was a review about another  book by him in Locus in oh, April or so, and I thought to myself, “I have something else by him!” The review wasn’t glowing, and I got this from my sister years ago, who wasn’t blown away by it either, but I added it to the TBR pile. Figuring I would get loads of books for Christmas, I started this to fill the gap.

It was not the book for me. About seventy pages in I started hoping the main character had killed his dead wife. Then he started to talk about her death, and clearly he hadn’t done it, and I started hoping he turned out to be an unreliable narrator and would say, 20 pages from the end, Liar-style, “Oh, none of that was true. I killed her.” One saving grace was when a character came down with my favorite cancer (if one can have such a thing), non-hodgkins lymphoma. The narrator’s voice was extremely tiresome. On the back, one of the blurbs said “elliptical”, and oh yeah, way too much. That reviewer did not lie. Neither of my sisters would cop to having given this to me. I think I might have enjoyed one of his earlier books more.

“Language Shock” by Michael Agar.  I saw this on my sister’s shelf while I was visiting her at Christmas, and pulled it down. It’s a book about how learning a language isn’t the same thing as being fluent in it, and a history of linguistics, written by an ethnographer, but really it’s a book about writing. As I was reading, I thought it would be really interesting to learn a language at the same time that I was writing a novel. That would give the novel a flavor. Alas, I will probably not do this.

Though I did find the conclusion of the book pretty depressing. Or defeatist. Meh.

“Annihilation” by Jeff Vandermeer. So, I got two copies of this for Christmas, meaning my family clearly really thought I should read it. So I did. At first the voice seemed really off, the dialog stilted, but after a few pages I realized that was on purpose, and then I was 70 pages in, and then I was done. It seems worth looking for the sequels.

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