Reading List 2011 (10/21)

Some recent reading:

  • The Redbreast, Jo Nesbo
  • Nemesis, Jo Nesbo
  • Birth of the Firebringer, Meredith Ann Pierce
  • Dark Moon, Meredith Ann Pierce
  • The Son of Summer Stars, Meredith Ann Pierce
  • The Long Arm of Gil Hamilton, Larry Niven
  • The Patchwork Girl, Larry Niven
  • A Hole in Space, Larry Niven
  • Convergent Series, Larry Niven
  • Nine Simple Patterns for Complicated Women, Mary Rechner

Do you like unicorns? Sparkly, shiny, magical, fancy, prancy unicorns? If you do, you will probably enjoy Pierce’s Firebringer series. If you don’t, you might pick it up because you thought some of her previous books were beautifully written, and then have to pretend very very hard that all the characters are not actually unicorns. That’s not to say the series was bad! Pierce does a nice job of creating realistic challenges for unicorns; finding forage is a big theme, for example. I also liked the way the main character discovers the difference between history, myth, faith and propaganda. I just could not get past the whole unicorns thing. Maybe you can.

Do you like detectives? Maybe you like hard-bitten alcoholic detectives who repeatedly encounter implausible amounts of trouble. If you do, Nesbo’s your guy. Harry Hole gets to be clever and deductive, frustrated and lost, daring and reckless, all in the context of some really twisty, nasty stories. I especially liked the unsolved case introduced in The Redbreast, which, it’s clear, will provide both personal drama and thrilling plot for future novels. On the other hand, you might like your detectives super-powered and science-fictional, in which case Gil “The Arm” Hamilton and his psychic arm would like to catch some organleggers for you. Niven’s vision of the future is rather bleak, but the cases are clever and the ethical dilemmas serious ones. Plus, the whole psychic arm thing is always meaningfully integrated to the plot, even if it does sound like it’s just a gimmick.

Do you like half-lived lives of quiet desperation? Rechner’s stories will fix you right up. She looks carefully at the lives of modern bourgeois wives and mothers. With the keenness of her gaze and her pen, she makes them into strange, devastating landscapes of oppression, or perhaps only reveals the devastation already there. I read these as a critique of the way our society handles domestic life: we set up lives that require an immense amount of work, then expect women to do it without complaint. Her women are invested in this system to greater and lesser degrees, but Rechner does a lovely job of returning their individuality and humanity to them with her unsparing gaze.

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