The Aquanet Diaries - Jennifer Niven
The memoir of a girl whose high school years coincided with the questionable luster of the 80s - big hair, a penchant for glam music (even if you weren't destined to be a queenie gay man) and a surprising amount of innocence - seemed right up my alley.
Sure, Niven is a bit older than I am. And yes, her Richmond, Indiana experience meant the big city was Dayton. Dayton! But I thought there might be something to this book.
Too bad it was just a retelling of all sorts of random things Niven did in her quasi-rural youth, things she and her high-school buds no doubt found *hilarious* even in the retelling but just seemed tone deaf to my ears. This is a woman who apparently saved every note that she and her BFF - an alternately mean and geeky boy who appears to have found his inner queen gay man as adult - ever passed in the hallways and class.
But nowhere in her obsessive note-taking and reminiscing is there any real emotion. Bad enough that it rings hollow when she tries to portray herself as too smart and clever to be truly popular (this from the girl who traded boyfriends repeatedly and went to all the cool kids' parties, by invite). But even her retelling of how her parents' break-up happened sounds off.
If this were a high-school essay, the kindest thing a teacher could do would be to let her re-write it.
First Contact - Evan Mandery
One of the most memorable passages in any book I have ever read involved a surefire, two-step method to learn how to fly.
Step One: Throw yourself from a high building or perch and aim for the ground.
Step Two: When you aim, miss.
Clearly, it's the second part that most folks have trouble doing properly. But if that tangent from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy makes you laugh, you will adore this book. I sure did.
Rare is a book that makes me laugh out loud, especially a science fiction book. Here, Mandery tells the story of what happens when an advanced alien race contacts Earth, to warn of impending doom. It doesn't help that the President of the United States, who takes it upon himself to handle things, is more concerned with his underwear riding up than the consequences of an unprovoked nuclear strike.
Mix in a handful of Simpsons references, the author's decision to break the fourth-wall and insert himself into the novel and the satire of Vonnegut (minus all the condescending racial and gender asides) and you have a fantastic book.
It's an easy and fun read. I'd recommend it to just about anyone. But first, I have to send it to my friend, Justin, who years ago turned me on to Douglas Adams. It's my only way to repay him ... finally.