October 13th, 2009


mini hodgepodge


The Fall
by Albert Camus
genre: fiction

So, ever read a book centered around a single protagonist where you start to realize "Hey, in real life I wouldn't want to spend even 30 seconds talking to this person - why am I giving several hours over to them?" So it goes with "The Fall," in which a pompous blowhard tells the story of his inner life. As things progress, the narrator's (and the book's) objectives become more clear, but the whole enterprise seems to be in the service of a handful of moral-philosophical concepts which I honestly didn't find all that interesting. Many people seem to love this book, seem to find it profound and resonant; it seems like the sort of book which might reveal itself a lot more upon rereading, but I don't plan on doing that. On this first go-round, it appears to be a novel which demands a good deal of effort for relatively little reward.

sum-up: Disappointing.


Mind of My Mind
by Octavia Butler
genre: science-fiction

In science-fiction - in all fiction, I suppose - it's standard to employ a sort of substitution. That is, fictional people and places stand in for real people and places: so, a real-world political figure becomes an imaginary tyrant, a real society becomes an alien planet, etc. I'm not saying that this is a bad convention, but a remarkable thing about "Mind of My Mind" is how it seems to deal with a wide array of real-world issues without directly addressing any of them. Eugenics, black American liberation struggles, black nationalism and Afrofuturism, racism, feminism, consumerism, drug addiction, cults, class hierarchies - all of these things have a sort of felt presence in this story about a community of psychics in present-day Los Angeles. There are so many ideas here, and it's all part of an exciting, suspenseful novel with compelling characters. Really, this book is pretty great; the characters are so interesting that I wish the whole thing were longer, actually.

sum-up: Highly recommended.


Irons in the Fire
by John McPhee
genre: journalism/nature

Born and raised in New Jersey, McPhee is a distinctly American writer - he's written a lot over the years, but I think that perhaps the main themes he keeps returning to are those of space, time and distance, as manifested in the vastness of the American landscape. Topics discussed in this book include contemporary cattle rustling on the ranges of Nevada; the only undisturbed ancient forest in the U.S.; the weathering-away and reconstruction of Plymouth Rock; and, the largest pile of tires in the world (it's in California). The longest (and best) story, "The Gravel Page," is about the FBI's forensic geology unit - how the study of rocks and minerals has been an essential resource in a handful of remarkable criminal cases. McPhee writes with grace and charm, and with a famous eye for detail, but he didn't always win me over, here: there were several times when I had to force myself to remain interested. More than anything, this book is probably a relatively minor component in a large and still-expanding body of work.

sum-up: Good, but probably not McPhee's best.
Caleb- snug as a bug!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson
Fiction; mystery; thriller
590 pages
An international publishing sensation, Stieg Larsson's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel.
Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pieced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.

At first, I admit that I didn't think I was going to enjoy this book. It was a little dry with all of the business facts and I wasn't sure where the story was going. However, the second half of this book made up for the dullness that I endured. I really thought Lisbeth Salander was an awesome character, and I hope that she is in the later installments of this book series. I cannot wait to see what happens next!

Books read this year: 39/50.
Pages read this year: 13307/15000
  • cat63

Book 46 for 2009

The Magician's Guild by Trudi Canavan

Every year, the magicians of the city of Imardin drive the riffraff out of the city, confident that there can be no fighting back. But this time a girl throws a stone that passes through their magical shield and knocks one of them out.

This book follows the magicians' attempts to find and train this rogue talent before she destroys herself and large parts of the city.

More than anything, this book reminded me of Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey, with magic (but no dragons) and generally less sympathetic characters. The first half of the book seemed dragged out and tedious and the second half seemed to gloss over bits that could have borne further expansion. And on the whole, the minor characters were more interesting than the protagonist.

Still, it got a good enough grip on me that I'll likely read the rest of the trilogy to see how things play out.