Sholio (sholio) wrote,
Sholio
sholio

Books

The books I've been reading lately have been kind of mixed -- some I've liked, some I haven't. I figured I'd do little write-ups on them anyway. Good to know what to avoid, eh? As usual, brief little summaries of what I liked and didn't like about the books, with basic "what it's about" info but no major spoilers.

Metal Angel by Nancy Springer - I waffle on whether I liked this book or not. Parts I loved, parts I loathed -- I almost quit reading it a couple of times because some of it was deeply frustrating and even offensive to me, like the hideously heteronormative way the main character's bisexuality was handled -- and this from an author who's handled gender roles and gay issues sympathetically in some of her other books. But other parts were incredibly sweet and ... aargh. So torn! The basic premise -- an angel comes to Earth as a rock'n'roll singer and, of course, becomes a smash hit, has lots of sex, etc. -- is the stuff of '80s comedy, but it's handled with far more sympathy and less exploitation than I was expecting, and I really liked some of the supporting characters (while hating others, including one of the most blatant Mary Sues I've ever seen in a published novel). (Also, there was a really weird printing error in the particular edition that I had -- about 30 pages were omitted in the middle of the book, including a key scene involving my favorite character. I know it's unfair to judge a book on a printing error, but when I was having some amount of trouble with emotional involvement anyway, it knocked me out of the story at a rather critical point.)

Sir Apropos of Nothing by Peter David - One customer review on Amazon.com sums this book up neatly as "...one of the most depressing humorous stories I've ever read." That's pretty much the book in a nutshell. I don't know if anybody else has read the Thomas Covenant Chronicles by Steven R. Donaldson, but I was vaguely reminded of them -- I never made it past the first volume of that series because the main character was such an unlikeable creep, and I'm not going to be reading any more of these, either. This book is decent satire, decently written and very funny in places, but the main character is such a hateful, treacherous, backstabbing little weasel that I kinda wanted to take a shower after I finished reading it. I wanted to like it, and it could have been good if I hadn't spent so much time wanting the main character to die a horrible, painful death.

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman - This, on the other hand, is very good! In a racially-inverted England, the white "noughts" are second-class citizens while the black "Crosses" run the country and enjoy all the advantages of privilege. Two teenagers fall in love across the racial barrier, and the story alternates between their viewpoints, giving a look at their society from both sides. It's an enjoyable, thought-provoking, quick-moving story of a modern Romeo and Juliet, that also makes serious points about contemporary Western society in our own world. It's the first book in a trilogy; I've ordered the second and eagerly await it.

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin - A book that's been on my "to read" shelf for ages. Naturally, having won both the Hugo and Nebula awards, it's just that good, even though it's also somewhat dated in certain ways. It reminded me of "Stranger in a Strange Land" so much that the 1960s cross-pollination of ideas is pretty obvious here (I'm certainly not saying she cribbed from Heinlein, just that similar influences were percolating). Gorgeously vivid prose and a fascinating, thinky clash of ideological systems -- I especially appreciated the way that she dealt with the problems of the anarchist utopia in the book, and the way that the society deals with people who don't fit in (something that always bugged me about Heinlein). And the anthropology is just wonderful. Er, not recommended to people who need a strong dose of action in their fiction, though. It's fascinating, deep, has good characters and well-developed alien cultures, but it's not exactly an action-packed thrill ride.

An Island Out of Time: A Memoir of Smith Island in the Chesapeake by Tom Horton - This is a book that looked very interesting to me and then didn't live up to those hopes. Maybe it's just because I live in Alaska, where living off the land in a casually controlled anarchy is a lifestyle for many of the people that I know (and in fact the way that I grew up), so I need more to recommend a book that "Ooh! Living off the land!" ... which is the feeling that I kept getting from this book, where the "OMG! Gosh! Subsistence lifestyle!" vibe is played up on almost every page, where in fact their lifestyle is actually much more closely tied to civilization than that of most of the people I grew up around. Being Alaskan and interested in Alaska books, I've read a lot of "town person goes back to nature" narratives, and it's kinda gotten to the point where it takes something a little bit special or unique or just very intensely personal to get my attention. This book, while the writing style is appealing and some of the imagery very beautiful, didn't have that something special. It seems stuck halfway between personal narrative and anthropological study of the island, but it's too jerky and nonlinear to work as the former, and not in-depth or human-focused enough to work very well as the latter.
Tags: books
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