Sunday, April 13, 2008

Recent reading rundown

I don't have a lot of free time for reading, or for context-switching between leisure reading and work, but I also love to read. So once every one or two weeks, I sit down and read an entire book, just for fun. In the spirit of C, here are some books I've read in the past few months. (I read many of these as ebooks, delivered to my inbox as part of Tor's promotion for their upcoming site.)

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

Children's fiction, but with under- and over-tones for plenty of enjoyment by adults. Delightful parallel universes collide, in a poorly-defined way. Children open and close windows between them. Heavy religious (and inquisatorial) themes, although the reveal (in book 2, a high point for me) was not at all what I expected based on the hints dropped earlier in the book.

Shike by Robert Shea

I love all things Japanese, so this Japan-themed semi-samurai novel tickled my fancy. It had a lot of good scheming, politics, battles and tactics. But it dragged on for several hundred pages more than I could really enjoy. Was it at all realistic to have all of the main characters survive nearly to 100 years of age? It's convenient for storytelling; they get to live through several different political regimes, shaping them subtly and altering power structures over time. But it was long. Just too long.

Old Man's War by John Scalzi

This book was a delight -- technology, personalities, military scheming and tactics and crazy alien encounters. It reminded me of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game in its tone and subject matter. Excellent! (At the bookstore where I made a spaceship, I discovered that there are more books in this series. Yay! They were sold out -- unsurprisingly -- but I added them to the queue.)

The Android's Dream by John Scalzi

Yes, the title is a reference to Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? But that is the full extent of the allusion. Unlike Dick's dark, depressive, gritty novel, this one is bright, shiny, comedically clever. There are no androids. There are sheep, a lot of them. (Unfortunately, most are dead.) It begins with interplanetary diplomacy ruined by farting, and escalates in a nearly Terry-Pratchett-like way from there...

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

This book is amazing. It has joined my list of books I can read repeatedly, without boredom. This brings the list up to five. What else can I say? The gods live among us as people, but retaining their mythical powers. As long as their believers believe, they are powerful; otherwise, they fade. Or some mechanic like that. It's a meta-mythology encompassing everything. I am addicted to anything meta; this book is fantastic.

Spin by Robert Charles Wilson

Modern, epic space confusion. The stars and moon vanish. Time is dilated. We attempt to terraform and settle Mars. The universe hurtles towards its cold, collapsing end. Doomsday cults abound, flourish, collapse themselves before doomsday comes. Humans are, perhaps, being kept like zoo animals by some much more powerful aliens? ... with a satisfying conclusion.

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

Cool premise of a typical medieval-era world. A little of an alchemical tinge, but also magic and fantasy. A favored upper class enforces the dictates of an omniscient, omnipotent dictator in oppressing a slave class. The slaves rise! -- of course. This book was very enjoyable, and I was glad to discover that it has several sequels. So many puzzles were solved, so many (ominous) questions remain unanswered...

Gray by Jon Armstrong.

A short, cute novel. It was under 300 pages long, though, and it never really fleshed out any ideas in that space. The readers shared with the protagonist a certain scattered perception of events. I found this frustrating, right up until the end. It felt like the protagonist was willfully unobservant in order to prevent the author from describing things which might give away important clues to the readers.

This post's theme ability: reading. Close runners-up: flying, seeing in black-and-white, telling the future, traveing between parallel universes, and crazy ninja fighting tactics.

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