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Books Read Summer/Autumn 2004


Any Thomson Storyteller. Heart warming science fiction tale of parental love for child and world, as characters struggle through life to a happy ending. Complete with companionable aliens. Enjoyable, and clearly deeply felt. But in a short life better read Rosemary Kirstein (see below).

Judith Merril and Emily Pohl-Weary Better to have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril. This was very interesting indeed. It is based on autobiographical essays and sketches by Merril, edited and fleshed out by granddaughter Pohl-Weary. It was an absolutely fascinating read during a US presidential election campaign and just before a US Worldcon. I hadn’t known that when Merril left the US for Canada she considered herself a political refugee. It leaves me wanting to read a proper biography, not least to find out about her third husband, who is referenced in this book by a single photograph and never a single word.

Colin Greenland Finding Helen was disappointing. Lonely man recapitulates his loneliness. It is very well written, and I can see that writing it must have meant a lot to Colin. But it didn’t mean much to me.

Steven Erikson The Gardens of the Moon. The first fat fantasy in a series of fat fantasies: the tales of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. I read this because its sequel, Deadhouse Gates was excellent, and I wanted to start at the beginning. Not as good as its sequel, but does help enormously with the world’s history, and confirms that I want to read the series. Now I have to decide whether to reread Deadhouse Gates on my way through…Oh, and imho much better than George R.R. Martin.

Mervyn Peake Titus Groan. I first read this as an adolescent, and its entire function as satire passed me by completely. I had retained almost nothing except the names and a general sense of architectural gloom. Twenty five years and many other books later it seems much less immense, and its satiric intent much more obvious. But the thing satirised – the British aristocracy and its hangers on – seems so much of a bygone age and so little relevant now that the satire loses its force. I wonder if this will end up like Don Quixote, perpetuating its subject into an age that has forgotten all about the thing satirised.

Bruce Sterling Tomorrow Now is a frankly scary review of the near future. It is based on Shakespeare’s ‘seven ages of man’ speech, with a chapter for each stage. Required reading for science fiction readers, and pretty much anyone else who cares about anything.

Jane M Healy, Ph.D. Your Child’s Growing Mind. A practical guide to brain development and learning from birth to adolescence, it says here. Painless trot through stages of childhood, with a decidedly liberal bent (encourage the child, don’t try to drive) that I approve.

Terry Pratchett Monstrous Regiment. Sometimes the best man for the job is a woman. Very funny, if not quite as convincing as one would like.

Sheri S Tepper The Companions. After a run of mild disappointments I decided not to buy this in hardback. Predictably enough I found her back on form with this one, though the ending is fairly typically deus ex machina.

Charles Stross Singularity Sky. This is my first encounter with a Stross novel, and I enjoyed it. Lots of super-whizzy ideas, fast pace, and an enjoyably nasty sense of humour, though there was a bit much technogeekery in some places and the ending ran out of steam a bit. Not sure I found the super-enthusiastic blurb (“Charles Stross is way hot”) justified, but will read more by and by.

Rosemary Kirstein The Lost Steersman. This is excellent, and it is also (first appearances notwithstanding) excellent science fiction. Seeking answers to important questions, the steerswoman Rowan finds that in Alemeth things are not as they should be, and the story of her quest is told with great sensitivity and no sentimentality. Kirstein stands worthy in the company of e.g. LeGuin, Delany, Beagle. I can’t tell you much about this book without risk of spoiling its pleasures: just go read it.
The two earlier books in the series are The Steerswoman (1989) and The Outskirter’s Secret (1992), both of which I read at the time and have recommended to people ever since. You can now buy them both in one volume: The Steerswoman’s Road. The Lost Steersman is the third volume of the series, though it would stand alone if you haven’t read the other two. Meanwhile I shall go buy and read the next volume: The Language of Power.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
hawkida
18th Nov, 2004 16:08 (UTC)
Colin Greenland, Finding Helen

I liked it, but I thought it was going somewhere and it never quite did.
coth
18th Nov, 2004 17:01 (UTC)
I agree. It petered out. I think she turned out to be a vampire - maybe - and it was a really disappointing ending - as if he couldn't think of anything better.
liluri
18th Nov, 2004 19:47 (UTC)
The Gormenghast novels: Titus Groan, Gormenghast and Titus Alone fell into my lap a few months ago, I really should read them. I've really got to read more...
purpletigron
8th Dec, 2004 18:12 (UTC)
Astronomy stuff - Fit the First
Please can you get a bedroom planetarium for your offsprung, so that we can all play with it next December? :-) http://www.boysstuff.co.uk/product.asp?id=10665
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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