I started this blogpost the day after my last one, hoping to do a third Popecation entry to round it all out, but nope. It's over a month later, and I've read fifteen books, and a handful of short stories and novelllas, since then. Thankfully I managed to finish this before it got even more unwieldy.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is prettily written and I felt it did add a lot to my understanding of the Achilles and Patroclus story, however the latter third of the book went by much too quickly, and way too pat. If I'm not mistaken, the author ascribes this to the movement of prophecy, in-text, but it was a bit of a pity as I really did enjoy how she was retelling it until that part. I went in expecting the tragedy, but it also gets a bit too treacly and sentimental in the end, to the point of it being slightly overwrought. It wasn't a bad book, which probably makes the shift more annoying to me.
Unbound (Ex Libris #3) by Jim C. Hines is set only a few months after the events of the second novel, but feels completely different from it. All the optimism and joy that I've come to look forward to when reading the Libriomancer series is gone for most of it, and it makes sense, considering Isaac's, and the world's, situation in-novel. Despite the fact that it ends on a positive note, I honestly am worried that this book is setting the tone for the rest of the series. It's not badly-written at all, but it was definitely a bit hard to get through.
As You Wish: Inconceivable Truths from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes was shorter than I wanted it to be! Elwes' voice took a bit to get used to, but after a few chapters I was zipping through everything. Other than the obvious nostalgia and fannish factor, As You Wish is an interesting insight into the technical guts of the movie. I ended up watching The Princess Bride four times in the week after I read this book, and the swordfight an embarrassing and undisclosable number. I actually ended up showing TPB to a whole bunch of people at Homestuck PH's Valentinestuck. :))
The Rithmatist (Rithmatist #1) by Brandon Sanderson is a clever chunk of YA literature. I hadn't read it yet because I'm not very into Sanderson's YA, but was prodded into reading it when some friends of mine basically peer pressured me into it. I think Sanderson's YA is all right usually; I've read what's been published of the Reckoners, and the first book of the Alcatraz series, and while I'm about two-thirds charmed by the former series, the latter just didn't capture my interest. I am really glad that my friends bothered to push me because I blazed through it in a few hours. I'm really taken by the the magic system and the characters, all the usual praises one would sing of Sanderson's books, and the setting is a jewel. The next Rithmatist book is due in 2016 and I really can't wait until I have a copy of it.
Mythspace Volume 1 by Chikiamco, Carreon, Quiroga, Gregorio, Dimagiba, Chua, and Sinaban is a book you'll have to buy twice: one copy for yourself, and the other to pass around to convince everyone to buy their own copies. It's Philippine mythology space opera (!!!), and it has some really clever ideas built into good stories with beautiful art. One of the great things about this collection is that the stories are so varied (and short) that you really barely get sated when you finish the whole set. There's no release date for the next volume, so I'm going to spend all my frustration on making everybody read this.
The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen will fuck you up intensely. If you like to read Scandinavian magical realism that will make you want to write and then take many, many cleansing hot showers, this is the book for you. There are a bunch of plotlines that don't quite get tied up completely, but I really enjoyed it anyway. Please allow yourselves to get lost in the woodsy, dank atmosphere of an eternal winter of black ice and blacker memories. Fuck.
Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi was wild. It's literally a book about a writer's relationships with his muse and his wife. That is possibly the most simplistic way I could have described it, as the muse manages to extricate herself from the writer's subconscious and wreak a little havoc in his life trying to get free of him. Oyeyemi does this in a series of short stories that are beautifully written, so beautifully written that every time one ended before I was ready I kind of felt a tiny seed of hate germinate in my heart. Ugh. It's slightly annoying that the writer doesn't seem to properly learn a lesson, but I'm happier that his wife (yeah, his wife, you'll have to read it) does seem to get a lot of what happens.
Off to be the Wizard, Spell or High Water, An Unwelcome Quest (#1-3 Magic 2.0) by Scott Meyer The Magic 2.0 series has one of the more interesting premises I've ever run across (everything, the universe, your entire existence, physical forces, is part of a computer program and you can edit it to affect reality!!!) and it uses this premise to... tell some unapologetically kitschy stories about what happens when nerds and geeks get unlimited power. I'm selling it badly. They're very light stories, with genuine laugh out loud moments, and I really will probabably stick with this series until the bitter end, but the character development is really iffy, and the writing's just good enough to keep the story afloat. The plots are pretty cool though, and if you're looking for a series with a lot of good ideas and very subdued discussion of morality in a virtual existence, this is the series for you.
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman is brilliant. I've always enjoyed Gaiman's short story collections, but this may be my favourite of them all. I was disappointed by The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and I feel as though this book's gone a long way towards fixing that. The stories themselves were amazing by themselves, but devastating as a collection. I honestly would love to hear a radio series of these stories because the language was so prettily done that I kept reading bits out aloud and sighing at how lovely they all were. There's a bit in the foreword where Gaiman goes over the ideas and inspirations for each story, and I really do recommend that you don't read those until you've finished the whole collection. That's what I did anyway, and I found it a nice bit of closure for a highly satisfactory experience.
Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón is a much faster read than The Shadow of the Wind, which I read around a year ago. It says it is a gothic tale, and it really wasn't kidding with that label. What's funny though, is that it's a gothic novel set in Spain in the late 1970s that, halfway-through, turned out to have a lot of science fiction elements. I was mostly prepared for the bildungsroman aspect, but yeah, there was a lot more going on in there. The prose is lovely, not overly embroidered but just done well enough that you want to sink right into it and stay there. I enjoyed it well enough, but do watch other for the sudden jumps into a different genre. The drops are sudden, and powerfully disconcerting.
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear is a straight-up steampunk Western set in a mining town. Majority of the characters are brothelworkers, or seamstresses, and Bear manages to humanise them thoroughly (and thank goodness) that their work always comes secondary to their characterisation or role in the story. The cast is highly-varied, and while the story and plot were sufficiently interesting to me, I could have done with around ten more chapters about their day to day life. Speaking of the story, it was pretty awesome, and it unfolded well enough, pacing-wise. There are a lot of interesting issues tackled in-novel, but Bear manages to avoid sounding preachy or dictatorial. I couldn't help but get caught up in the general vim and optimism of the main characters too, so it was so satisfying to read this novel, and I really hope that a lot of people will get to experience it.
A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic #1) by V. E. Schwab is the latest thing I've finished reading (just this afternoon!) and it has such an interesting series of settings. You get four worlds, represented by different flavours of London, all with their own cultures and interlocking magical histories! The first third was a bit slow, but interesting enough that I kept with it, hoping that there'd be an intense level of payoff in the latter parts. And I kind of got what I wanted: the second third of the novel was very interesting with lots of character development and world building! Unfortunately, I feel as though it tapers off suddenly in the last third. The plot overwhelms the characters so much that they seem a bit flat despite all the things happening to them. The resolution of the main conflict of the book is also a bit iffy, more like an obvious sequel hook that an actual resolution. I really liked most of it though, which sounds funny considering the things I've just said, but it really is pretty fun, and I hope that the succeeding books will be written more evenly.
For the Emperor and Caves of Ice (Ciaphas Cain #1 and 2) by Sandy Mitchell The Ciaphas Cain series is engaging as all heck. The books have a tendency to redundancy and uneven exposition, but the books are delivered as annotated personal journal entries, so we all have a rational reason to ignore these slightly annoying tics. Other than the technical difficulties, Cain can also be a bit too much sometimes, but the author manages to allay this by including the dry and less-than-objective annotations of Inquisitor Amberley. Amberley provides the straight man to Cain's POV, and she often tries to round out the whole narrative by including (regrettable) extracts from external sources, and I don't think the series would be half as fun as it is without her voice. I also have a soft spot for Jurgens (which may have been the result of an errant melta blast), Cain's aide, and the 597th, Cain's assigned regiment (of mixed sex! and questionable professional behaviour. VALHALLAN BABIES.). Unlike the Horus Heresy series, these WH40K books can be read in quick succession with not much emotional stress, so I intend to finish them all in the next few months.
Now Reading:The Birth of the Pill
by Jonathan EigFortune's Pawn
by Rachel BachReading Next:The Witch Queen
#3) by Jan SiegelSous Chef
by Michael Gibney
Next 20 Reads:
1. Dancer by Colum McCann
2. The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
3. The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
4. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
5. Milk: the Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages by Anne Mendelson
6. Red Shirts by John Scalzi
7. An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything by Col. Chris Hadfield
8. Waking the Merrow by Heather Rigney
9. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
10. Fulgrim (Horus Heresy #5) by Graham McNeill
11. The Master & Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
12. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
13. Dawn (Xenogenesis #1) by Octavia Butler
14. Gardens of the Moon (The Malazan Book of the Fallen #1) by Steven Erikson
15. Diaspora by Greg Egan
16. Abarat: Days of Magic Nights of War (Abarat #2) by Clive Barker
17. Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
18. Genocide of One by Kazuaki Takano
19. The Man Who Knew Too Much by G. K. Chesterton
20. Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble by Marilyn Johnson