SarahMichigan (sarahmichigan) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Books #7 & #8

I'm still behind the pace for 50 books this year. I should have finished off at least 10-11 by now. But I guess we'll see!

Book #7 was "The Moon in Our Hands" by Thomas Dyja. It's a novel that's based on the true story of Walter White's early work investigating race riots and lynchings for the NAACP. White is a light-skinned black man who can "pass" and is sent to use that ability to investigate a lynching in Tennessee -- one in about 200 that happened each year in this part of American History.

I'd run across White's story while reading some history of the NAACP in the past and knew I really wanted to read this book when I read a description of it.

Dyja does a magnificent job of ratcheting up the tension as you follow White's investigation, trying to walk the line between "passing" as white with the white folks in town and signalling to local blacks that he was a person of color. He also does a good job of making White a flawed hero. You're always pulling for him, but you can overhear his thoughts and know that he's not a saint - he's proud, even a bit of a megalomaniac at age 24, and not above a little class prejudice himself. The edition I read had a couple typos/editing errors, but I was able to overlook them based on the book's general excellence.

Book #8 was "The Algebraist" by Iain M. Banks. This is my first exposure to Banks, but I am intrigued enough to want to read more of his stuff, both "mainstream" and sci-fi. This story is a galaxy-spanning adventure/mystery. Researcher "Delver" Fassin Tak is assigned to a mission to find a secret message that will allow his government to find a network of hidden wormholes. His government hopes to use that secret network to defeat a murderous army headed toward them, bent on destroying and subjugating their whole culture. Fassin must try to tease information out of the ancient "Dwellers" who live in the galaxy's gas giant planets, hoping to find the secret network and give his government's allies the edge over their enemy. Things don't quite go as planned, and Fassin's whole worldview is turned upside down on his journey.

I had some nitpicks with the book. In particular, I found Banks' dialogue and even the internal dialogue of his characters to be a little wrong somehow - too many of them talked suspiciously like middle aged sci-fi nerds, in my opinion. But I loved the ideas and the world-building. Sometimes this is done at the expense of character development, and I won't say there's a LOT in the book, but there is some. Overall, a rollicking, fun read.

1. The Battle of the Labyrinth [fiction] - Rick Riordan (unabridged audiobook)
2. Ice Cold [fiction] - Tess Gerritsen
3. Snow Crash [fiction]- Neal Stephenson
4. The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge [fiction]
5. The Brontes - Juliet Barker [non-fiction/group biography]
6. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks [non-fiction]- Rebecca Skloot (unabridged audiobook)

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