SarahMichigan (sarahmichigan) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Books #3 & #4

I'm off to a bit of a slow start this year but I chose some rather long and not entirely easy reads to start off 2013.

Book #3 was "Snow Crash" By Neal Stephenson. I'd read this maybe 12-15 years ago and really enjoyed it. My husband and I often pick a book we read together, out loud, just a few chapters a week, and this was our selection through a good chunk of 2012, finally finishing it up in February 2013.

In this near-future novel, someone is letting loose a virus called Snow Crash in the "metaverse", and there seems to be a plot afoot to spread a sort of related virus in the "real" world. Hiro Protagonist's friend Da5id falls prey to the virus and Hiro decides to find out what's going on and put a stop to it. He's aided by a smart-alec 15-year-old female skateboard courier named Y.T. His honored enemy throughout his quest is a big, angry Eskimo with a chip on his shoulder and a nuclear bomb in the sidecar of his motorcycle.

Stephenson is the master of bringing up details casually early in the book, letting you forget about them, and then introducing them with surprising results later in the plot. I laughed out loud at this sort of thing several times. I'm a big Stephenson fan, and while reading it in 2013 doesn't have quite the same impact as read it in the late 1999s when I was first discovering the author, it was a fun ride and I enjoyed the characters all over again. Such a fun read.

Book #4 was "The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge." My only previous exposure to Vinge was "A Fire Upon the Deep" which I really enjoyed, so I was expecting to like this collection. I did enjoy it but felt it was uneven. Some of the early stories felt pretty aged and pulpy, but I liked others a lot. One problem for me is that, while I DO enjoy "idea" stories, there has to be good character-building as well. Vinge did both skillfully in his novel, but less so, in my opinion, in many of his short stories. That was the big downside of this collection for me. On the plus side, he mentions Michigan landmarks in at least three stories, and I got a huge kick out of that since I'm from Michigan and have been to all the places he name-checked. Also, a handful of stories that did have good character building, and I enjoyed those very much. My favorites were "The Gemstone", "The Peddler's Apprentice" (co-written with his ex-wife Joan Vinge), "The Blabber" and "The Barbarian Princess."

1. The Battle of the Labyrinth [fiction] - Rick Riordan (audiobook)
2. Ice Cold [fiction] - Tess Gerritsen

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