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For reasons we're not going to look at too closely, but may include moving, a work February that would not end - the first week of March certainly felt like Extended February - and hanging out with people who found these things relevant to our mutual interests,I read or reread rather a lot of Star Wars novels in February and March. I read Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel (James Luceno) (2016), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Alexander Freed) (2016), and Star Wars: A New Dawn (John Jackson Miller) (2014). The first two made me ask, "were Star Wars novels better when I was younger because I had no judgement?" Catalyst made some really weird copy-editing choices; or wasn't edited that closely, take your pick. Incidentally, all the main characters annoyed me. The narrative fails to evoke the incredible sense of dislocation that one would associate with the Clone Wars or your nominal college best friend raining destruction on a planet you just left, or taking you to a war zone "so you can see what's going on" and seriously, there was a huge disjunct between action and emotional heft. The novelization was a novelization. I have very mixed feelings about it... okay, I'm mostly stuck on Freed's attempts to bring emotional depths to hardened characters, which I don't think evoked the reactions I think he aimed for. (Teardrops on my sniper rifle! That's... not how I would have gotten to that emotional beat.) A New Dawn was cute! Aimless drifter Kanaan Jarrus meets proto-Rebel with a cause Hera Syndulla. Banter and explosions follow. Miller did a good job evoking the swashbuckling mood of Star Wars, not bad for a novel based on a kid's animated TV show, and grounding the plot in the specifics of the mining planet Gorse and its moon Cynda.

I also reread Zahn's Specter of the Past and Vision of the Future. Specter is an awful lot of setup, and I've never been terrifically fond of the Thrawn impersonation arc, but the duology does a lot of clever little worldbuilding tricks. Zahn has several narrative quirks that I noticed more than usual this time. After a few rounds of someone using Mystryl-honed muscle to do a thing, I may have muttered something about shifting the moving boxes with yoga-trained strength. It really was that sort of February.

For the March vacation roadtrip, I got The Princess Diarist (Carrie Fisher) (2016) on audiobook. It was like bringing a friend on a long drive (and even I'm figuring out that San Francisco to Los Angeles is a really long drive), one who really wants to talk about this guy she banged, and whether they're still hooking up, or not, and oh my gosh, this is so awkward, and you really want to ask, "but, about the other ten things you just glanced by - your family, going to acting school, working on your mother's road show - can I hear about any of that? Those sound very interesting too." I didn't finish the audiobook before the end of vacation, and let it expire unfinished. Incidentally, I checked this out from the SFPL using the Axis 360 app. As of the time of writing, if the Axis 360 app has playback speed controls, I haven't found them. This is a huge minus for my audiobook experience.

The New Rabbi: A Congregation Searches For Its Leader (Stephen Fried) (2002): What it says on the cover. The rabbi of a prominent Philadelphia area synagogue; replacing him takes three years and a lot of turns.

The narrative is How Beth Shalom Searched For The New Rabbi, but Fried is a skilled journalist, so many other elements come out. The history of the Beth Shalom community. The retiring Rabbi Wolpe's history. The relationships between various fathers and sons: Fried's reconnection with Judaism after his father's death, the family Wolpe and the men who became rabbis in different eras of American Judaism, the mentor-mentee relationship between the senior rabbi and the junior rabbi at Beth Shalom.

Ninefox Gambit (Yoon Ha Lee) (2016): It's an unfortunate truth that space opera with a compelling protagonist who sometimes has great difficulty recalling who they are today, let alone who they were before they landed in the plot soup, is the sort of thing I am terribly fond of reading. Getting all that in prose that rises above utilitarian is indeed Christmas come early. Cut for space, no more explicit spoilers than the jacket text. )

The Book of Phoenix (Nnedi Okorafor) (2015): The story-in-a-story of the woman Phoenix, a speciMen, an artificially created being who calls herself the villain of the story. The framing story takes place in a future where the old world was destroyed by fire, and ends with the old man who finds the story of Phoenix choosing to bend it to his interpretation and worldview. The bulk of the story is Pheonix seeking freedom from the corporate scientists who made her, and who experiment on and coerce speciMens, until she reaches a breaking point.

This isn't the first work of Okorafor's fiction I read, so I noticed similarities to her other work: spiritual or magical powers, especially with plants; a focus on Africa; powerful women taking center stage. The framing story didn't quite work for me; other than chronology, and possibly one offstage character, there's very little that connects the framing story to the story Phoenix tells. The closest connection I can offer is the framing character bending Pheonix's story to his ends, as her creators and captors tried to shape her life to their goals. Since reading this, I've learned it's a prequel for Who Fears Death, so maybe reading these in publication order would have better informed the framing story.

I also tripped and reread Catherine Asaro's Primary Inversion (1995), Catch the Lightning (1996), and The Radiant Seas (1999). On a good day, the series is wildly uneven, with a lot of ideas not fully worked out, but face it, I am always going to have a soft spot for The Radiant Seas, which can be loosely described as "the one where someone steals a woman's husband, so she assumes military leadership of a star-spanning empire and launches a thousand ships to get him back".

Mira's Last Dance (2017) (Lois McMaster Bujold), the fourth Penric novella, also came my way. If you've read the first three you know what you're in for; if you haven't, I'd read them more or less in order. The Penric novellas are entertaining little stories, but I think I'd like them more if Penric got fewer superpowers from Desdemona.
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For the holidays, I asked for and received epub copies of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House novels (1932 - 1943), most of which I reread over the first half of January. They have held up surprisingly well. I was worried about Little House on the Prairie, one of my favorites, where the Ingalls family tries to establish a claim on Native American land, anticipating the government will force relocation of Indian Territory. The novel is surprisingly not-awful at respectfully presenting the Native Americans' rights to treaty land and to be treated as human beings, despite the lens of the Ingalls' prejudices and manifest destiny. And, of course, the Ingalls depart Indian territory at the end of the novel, relocated when the army tells them to leave. The tone of the departure is that the Ingalls were the problem, not the Native Americans. So it's not perfect, but it dances between the attitudes of the time and the attitudes of a more modern era in a way I can live with.

At some point, I will reread Farmer Boy and On the Banks of Plum Creek, which for some reason I started and didn't finish. Oh right, my library hold for Scoundels came in.

Star Wars: Scoundrels (Timothy Zahn) (2013): IT'S A NEW ZAHN SW NOVEL AND IT'S HEISTFIC. WIN. Giant twist-revealing spoilers. )

Since then, I have been reading the Brick, also known as Les Miserables (Victor Hugo) (1862). The Brick's nickname is instantly explained when one holds the paperback 1,460 page Fahnestock and McAfee translation, published in 1987. I'm alternating it with Project Gutenberg's 1887 Hapgood translation as appropriate. So far I am through book one of five.

Notes so far: I am heavily influenced by [personal profile] cahn's reread, in conjunction with the [personal profile] skygiants reread. I didn't discover the bookmark function on the ereader until book 2 "Cosette", so I have very little to say about book 1. That's okay, because two opens with Waterloo, the famous 50 page break from narrative.

I am not an English major, nor do I play one online. )

I look forward to getting back to Valjean; one gets the impression Hugo is boxing him in with tangents, cutting off the lines of escape from revolution and social justice and striving for self-improvement until those are the only choices left.

Numbers game: 7 total finished; 7 fiction. 6 reread, 1 new. Working on Les Miz.
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January was a major wrap-up month, where I finished two books I'd swapped out for commute reading. And then I went back to school full-time and finished nothing in February; the YBF#9 was dragged out from the end of January through the very beginning of March. There was also a lot of fragmented Greatest Hits rereads, such as the "75% of Outbound Flight / Survivor's Quest" reread that isn't logged here. But here is what I actually finished:

How George Rogers Clark Won the Northwest, and Other Essays in Western History (Reuben Gold Thwaites) (1903): Nonfiction. The publication date is not a typo.

My roommates and I spotted a box of free books on the street, and of course had to investigate. This is one of the books we found. The "Northwest" of the title refers to the old American Northwest: Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, etc. The prose dates the book, as does its blatant racism and laser-sharp focus on the male gender's historical triumphs. There's something pretty cool about the firsthand accounts of interviewing Revolutionary War veterans that made it worth my time to normalize for the dated attitudes and go with it.

The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America (Louis Menard) (2001): Nonfiction yoinked from the Pulitzer lists. A very academic look at the people and ideas of post-Civil War American philosophy. This was interesting and detailed and included entertaining side-trips, including a little education on the history of post-secondary academics and research in America. However, nothing stuck very well; this is another book that I wanted to have a discussion about to get more traction on the material.

Choices of One (Timothy Zahn) (2011): Post-ANH pre-Empire romp: the Emperor's Hand investigates treason on the Outer Rim, the Rebel Alliance looks for a new base in the same system, and sneaky OCs set up Imperials and Rebels to take a fall.

Adjusting one's expectations is important. One makes different demands of Serious Business nonfiction than distracting fiction. And when I need mindless distraction, Star Wars delivers. Choices of One pushes the boundaries of sneaky and unreliable narration and might go over the line into author manipulation, but kept me entertained. I am not sure if baby Jedi Luke or the Thrawn-Car'das galactic road trip were more fun.

Year's Best Fantasy 9 (David Hartwell, Kathryn Cramer, ed) (2009): What the title says. The good, or at least smoothly written or thought-provoking, included Kage Baker's "Running the Snake", an alt-history Shakespeare; Naomi Novik's swashbuckling "Araminta, or The Wreck of the Amphidrake"; and "The Film-makers of Mars", where Geoff Ryman's prose does exactly what he wants it do. James Stoddard's "The First Editions" might not be a classic for the generations, but the idea of turning people into books (literally) is such an interesting conceit I thought about it for several days.

The bad: Doyle and Macdonald's "Philologos; or, A Murder in Bistrita", a vampire-werewolf-supernatural evil thing that reads like the first draft a larger "supernatural hunter in Europe" thing; "The Salting and Canning of Benevolence D.", by Al Michaud, a longwinded yarn whose punchline is half-spoiled by the introduction; Howard Waldrop's Penzance / Peter Pan / other? pirate crossover "Abast, Abaft!", which suffers from my limited Gilbert and Sullivan tolerance, as well as my Disneyfied knowledge of Peter Pan canon; "Dearest Cecily" (Kristine Dikeman) combines epistolary format with a really stupid catty fight over a man, managing to fail a Bechdel test in a story with no men.

The ugly: "A Buyer’s Guide to Maps of Antarctica", Catherynne Valente. Valente's writing concerns run almost, but not quite, ninety degrees to my reading interests. So the nonstandard narrative structure that reads like infodumps - if indodumps can be emotastic - didn't do a lot for me. Lisa Goldstein's "Reader's Guide" had a similar structural problem: it looked like a "figure out the story from the questions" story, and morphed into something completely different. I also didn't appreciate the pre-story introductory blurbs; as mentioned, "The Salting and Canning..." blurb includes a spoiler, which significantly detracted from my reading experience. The introductions to the remainder of the stories didn't significantly help me direct my attentions to stories' strengths, or at least adjust my expectations to be in line with author intent.

Other notables: Peter Beagle has two stories in this collection; "The Rabbi's Hobby" and "King Pelles the Sure", which are small-scale "people" stories. This works much better for me in "The Rabbi's Hobby"; I came to Beagle at the wrong age to appreciate the fairy tale-ish style of "Pelles" and The Last Unicorn. So it's technically well-executed, but not my thing.

Table of contents behind cut. )

Numbers game: 4 total finished. 4 new, 0 reread; 2 fiction, 2 nonfiction.
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Mirror Dance, Memory (Lois McMaster Bujold): Ah yes, the classic signs of a bad day: you are in complete sympathy with Howl, in a "let's go to Macy's and buy several hundred dollars of makeup and professional clothes I don't need" way. (I didn't go to Macy's. I may have browsed the website, though. Ironing gets really old.)

These two are both technically excellent Bujold novels, but really dark; I'd elided some of the nastier bits of MD right out of my back-brain, and barely made it through the first third. Memory has far fewer painful scenes, and it's a different sort of reading agony: Mark's got a lot less to work with than Miles, even when Miles is at the bottom of his personal well. I'm still feeling more more empathy for Mark's struggles this month, in the deep uncertainties of post-move establishment.

A Wizard Abroad (Diane Duane): Reread. Diane Duane moves to Ireland, and writes a book! (Um, seven years later. I stand corrected.) "Abroad" is cute, but it's a weak follow-up to the first three novels, which have a clear evolution of evil (possibly transformative Lone Power, "good" but scary Ed vs. Lone Power, Dairine vs LP Ultimate Wizard Smackdown and redemption). The series sort of flounders in the comics mode after that: having defeated ultimate evil, what do you do next? In "Abroad", the answer is "defeat different ultimate evil, teamwork version". I really want the series to grow up a bit and fight evil on a small-scale context: not a giant fireworks-and-shadows magical climax, but more like Nita confronting Joanne at the end of So You Want to Be a Wizard. As a standalone, Abroad is fine, but it doesn't build on the context provided by the preceding three novels. Having read the following novels, I'm tempted to call the structural weakness an effect of series construction shift, but without rereading the entire series I'm not wedded to the theory.

A Grave Talent (Laurie R. King): Reread: when in San Francisco, why not read books set in the city? It's not bad, but it was published in '93. The social agenda and lack of cell phones gives it a flavor of its time.

The Best American Science Writing 2005 (Ed. Alan Lightman): catching up on my pop sci. A very mixed bag: my appreciation can be predicted by knowing whether the writer was covering contemporary science or being contemplative. Therefore, high marks for "Einstein's Compass" (Peter Galison), "The Genome in Black and White (and Gray)" (Robin Marantz Henig) for getting me frothing about how we need to stop screening for stuff and boost the technology so it's cheaper and more effective to outright test for conditions, and Laurie Garrett's "The Hidden Dragon" on the politics of HIV in Vietnam; low marks for Edward Hoagland's "Small Silences", and Andrea Barrett's "The Sea of Information". "The Sea of Information" particularly irritated me because it's not about science, it's about feelings and the writing process as an author of fiction. Old news in baby-steps packaging.

Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, The Last Command (Timothy Zahn): For a set of Star Wars novels I started reading when I was ten, these have remarkable staying power. I don't think I've ever actually read the trilogy through from Page One to the very end, so it's a pleasure to find it holds together, both as a story and as an adult reader. These aren't deep novels, but they deliver a story I still like with style and fun. Zahn captured some key elements of the movies and franchise, and puts in clever plot tricks, which make some writing tics bearable. He's also not afraid to expand on the universe as it stands, and can write original characters who carry the narrative where it needs to go. Like most media tie-ins, the Thrawn trilogy isn't deep, but unlike many tie-ins, it's entertaining and rereadable.

Scott Pilgrim vol. 3: Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness (Bryan Lee O'Malley): Things I dislike: hipsters. Things I like: comics with video game references, snappy writing and witty fourth-wall breaks. If the series weren't at the absolute minimum effort threshhold, I wouldn't keep reading it. Yet I am compelled to continue in a quest to understand why other people like it. I suspect it's the hipsters.

The publishing industry does me the favor of using key adjectives in book descriptions. For example, I forgot that "lovecraftian" is publishing code for "this book will scar me for life". I didn't finish John Scalzi's The God Engines; actually, I didn't really start it. I opened the novel, read the first page, flipped to the last page, and slammed it shut.

Numbers game: 7 total finished. 2 new, 5 reread; 6 fiction (1 graphic novel), 1 nonfiction (1 essay collection)
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I would nominate this month for a special "moving hurts, I need comfort fiction" award, but I may need to save that for April. Also, my definition of comforting reading is pretty nonstandard.

Downbelow Station (C. J. Cherryh): You know how some books smack you in the back-brain and you probably shouldn't talk about them in public? Hi, DbS! I missed you. I missed the way I think of '80s hair and the Cold War whenever I read you. I missed the way I'd not pay attention and then have my expectations handed to me, in pieces, on a platter. I missed the way every single narrator in this story is morally compromised, except Satin and the Konstantins and Elene. Everyone. Vassily, Signy, Vittorio, Jon - oh Jon, be careful when people ask you what do you want - Ayres, Josh (BTW, Reseune? DIAF.), Mazian - have I forgotten anyone? Traitors, the downtrodden turned to evil convenience, cowards, the other side, outright villains. People.

For a long time, I liked the way the scariest Fleet captains are the minorities: the chick and the black guy. I thought this was a deliberate narrative choice for a long time, but now I'm not so sure. I missed trying to remember if the novel I read was the one written (answer: not really?) and how much I love the shades of gray. I really do love the closing structure, when Damon challenges Mallory and says, "we believed in you", and somehow, that's what finally shakes her conscience loose. With some help from booze and bad memories, but still. The entire novel is betrayal piled on lies, so that one moment warmed my heart to an inordinate degree. I have been okay with DbS's compromised morality in ways that would probably fascinate psychologists since I hallucinated a cut scene liberated from Barrayar. (Seriously: Cordelia and Bothari in the graveyard slid right into Damon and Josh at the gym. I don't know why, I was 17 and discovering situational ethics.)

In a lot of ways, Cherryh and Bujold frame a spectrum of fictional morality for me, light grays to charcoals, so it makes sense that I'd try to mash them together. Bujold explicitly frames the question of people verus principles at one point. Cherryh's characters get very angstful about following principles, but default to "if you don't know where you're going next, well, go there with your friends / crew / liege lady / people" in a crunch. And when they don't, there's a lot of angst and death and hurt feelings. And death.

Would I recommend this to anyone on the street? Oh my gosh no. But I think if you're keen on certain types of science fiction you'd like it.

Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah (Richard Bach): Narrator meets Messiah and learns (relearns?) eternal wisdom. This is part of an unintentional accidental March-April trilogy about knowing thyself and the power of belief which I think makes for interesting metaphor, but which I take less seriously when applied to my life. So I coexist with this sort of mindset uneasily. Bach was apparently a major figure on the '70s scene, but other than wiki, I don't have much context for this one.

Nebula Awards 23 (Ed. Michael Bishop): I picked this up because it had a Kim Stanley Robinson story I'd never read, "The Blind Geometer". In retrospect, this slightly prefigures the espionage subplot in KSR's "Science in the Capitol" trilogy. Connie Willis's "Schwartzchild Radius" assumes I care about the characters; it's a clever idea wrapped in the wrong packaging to catch my interest. "Forever Yours, Anna" is an example of clever packaging (time travel puzzle) wrapped around an idea that didn't work for me (romantic shenanigans). Walter Jon William's "Witness" is about McCarthyism breaking people, now with superheroes. I am disappointed to say that "The Glassblower's Dragon" (Lucius Shepard), a story about rekindling a sense of wonder out of ennui, did not speak deeply to me. I've read Pat Murphy's "Rachel in Love" previously and skipped it this time. I liked Pat Cadigan's "Angel" for all the wrong "questionable relationships with aliens" reasons. I may have skipped some stories, or they failed to make an impression (good or otherwise) on me.

The Alienist (Caleb Carr): Thriller uncovering a serial murderer in 1896. This is excellent plane reading, playing on modern takes of then-emerging (?) forensics. I'd guess there's a bunch of anachronisms - the women who wants to be the first female police, the pre-Freudian psych - but I was having such a good time I didn't really care.

Star Wars: Allegiance (Timothy Zahn): Let me explain my mindset by sharing the text message I sent a long-suffering third party when I bought this:
BORDERS@DETROIT HAS NEW ZAHN SW NOVEL MLIA. ALSO A FIRE ENGINE RED MONORAIL. Moving = awesome. PS The Alienist is CRACK.
I bring this up to indicate the 10-year-old kid maturity that Zahn's novels bring out in me. Also, I believe I have blown my monthly capslock allowance on this review.

Mara Jade may or may not be Zahn's most favorite original character ever, but she's one of mine. Let's see: beautiful Force-sensitive assassin with a tragic past and badass ninja skills. So I am totally okay with a novel about Mara, stormtroopers questioning the letter vs the spirit of Imperial law, Leia Organa and Han Solo: The Early Years, and Luke the Baby Jedi, d'awww. Zahn set my expectations for what a SW novel should look like, so it's no surprise I am generally delighted when I get a new dose. Bonus points if you get Vader and Mara sniping at each other. Cough. The one drawback was a deja vu moment about two-thirds through; I must have read a preview somewhere.

Numbers games: 5 total. 4 new, 1 reread; 5 fiction (1 short story collection).
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Late, they tell me, is better than never.

Star Wars: Alleigance (Timothy Zahn): Rebels post-Yavin, Imperial corruption, Emperor's Hand, shake well and mix. Who cares about the details, it's Zahn writing a SW original trilogy novel! We all know that I am a gigantic fangirl for Zahn, what with the original characters I don't want to die and the prose that I can read without wincing, so this is all about the happy indulgent storytelling. Seriously, people: lightsabers!

One for the Money (Janet Evanovitch): Stephanie Plum has lost it all - her job, her savings, even her car. Her last hope for financial solvency is Joe Morelli - or rather, the $10,000 she can earn by bringing the New Jersey cop-turned-killer to justice. Will Stephanie overcome her mixed feelings for Joe to make the case, or will Rex the hamster be forced to eat hamster kibble for the rest of his days?

[livejournal.com profile] cathydalek recommended this, and she was smack on the money. I kept thinking of people while reading this - if [livejournal.com profile] norabombay lost her car, this would be her life - every sketchy NJ city story [livejournal.com profile] aoumd mentioned - the possible appearance of a cousin of [livejournal.com profile] cathydalek's family's Biscayne in the next book.

Pure junk reading, literally. I read this while compulsively chomping Cheetos.

Sixty Days and Counting (Kim Stanley Robinson): If you know KSR's previous novels, you know how this one goes, except maybe with Phil. I'm putting the gigantic rant below the cut, becuase it boils down to the novel (and the trilogy) being a policy story, not a policy secondary impact story.

There is a river dividing Anacostia and Arlington. )

Fortunately, I'm 80 pages from the end of a nice nonfiction polio book, so there's only so much griping you can expect in the May list.
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Climbing Mount Improbable (Richard Dawkins): Dawkins on natural selection as the power behind life and evolution. A number of interesting case studies showing the gradual accumulation of "irreducible" complexity. Unfortunately, the book didn't really gel for me, or engage my intellect at the level which The Selfish Gene did. Some that may be the timing; this was published in 1997, and uses a lot of computer modeling that was hot stuff in the mid-90's.[1] Today, we have spiffier software. But Dawkins' ability to turn a phrase doesn't utterly desert him. Take a look at this paragraph from the chapter on figs and fig wasps, for example:

Much of the deciphering of the wasp-pollination story would simply have involved slicing figs open and looking inside. But 'looking' gives too laid-back an impression. It wasn't a passive gawping but a carefully planned recording session yielding numbers to be fed into calculations. Don't just pluck figs and slice them. Systemically sample figs from a large number of trees, from particular heights, and at particular seasons of the year. Don't just stare at the wasps wriggling inside: identify them, photograph them, accurately draw them, count them and measure them. Classify them by species, sex, age and location in the fig. Send specimens to museums for identification by detailed comparison with internationally recognized standards. But don't make measurements and counts indiscriminately just for the sake of it. Make them in the service of testing stated hypotheses. And when you look to see if your counts and measurements fit the expectations of your hypothesis, be aware, in calculated detail, how likely it is that your results could have been obtained by chance and mean nothing.


Now, imagine doing a great deal of that outside. In the heat and humidity. That's science. And I am so glad my specialization doesn't require field work.

[1]I remember the '90s. I remember when the CD-R drive was the Hot New Thing on our computer, and when we got the ten gig hard drive, and how we wondered how anyone could fill it up. As I write this, I have forty gigs of data clogging my laptop hard drive. Five gigs of that's just program files. The WINDOWS folder gets 2.75 gigs all to itself. And let us not even start on the music folders.

Star Wars: Outbound Flight (Timothy Zahn): The Outbound Flight project gets off the ground and shot out of the sky. Whoops.

The narrative uses umpteen PoVs to cover the umpteen sides dancing on the head of a pin. I thought this was pretty fun, but then, I was getting a kick out of all these people from other Zahn novels showing up. Zahn's done a fairly unobtrusive information control job on the facts of the OF in the past (right up until Survivor's Quest, where people needed to be beaten with an "ask questions, fools!" stick), so the climatic destruction didn't feel like a retread. Recurring characters felt younger, crazy Jedi masters proved that bad cloning merely exaggerates pre-existing megalomania, Obi-Wan and Anakin had an extended cameo that didn't really affect the plot. Was this deep? No. Was this fun? Yes. Thrawn was a bit of an over-manipulative supergenius, but that's his role in the series. I really was hoping Car'das would hijack one of Thrawn's plans for his on purposes, but no joy. On the other hand, there were smugglers, but no Bothans. Cheers!

There's also a thing to be said about how this means I've been reading fanfiction since I was, like, ten, and didn't notice. Not that I was tempted to describe any part of the OF plot as crack. Okay, maybe I am. See also "strategic supergenius who reads alien psyches through their art."

Fifth Business (Robertson Davies): I have no idea how to classify this. I think it might be genuine, plain fiction. And I have no idea how to discuss this. There are a ton of pithy quotes, but I have no idea how to approach what the book is "about". It seems to be Dunstable Ramsay's account of the interlinked fates of himself, Paul Dempster, and Percy Boyd Staunton. But that's speaking to the bones of the novel, not the spirit and heart of the story. This may be a case of the theme whooshing over my head, and it makes me want to hash the book out with people.

The Art of Detection (Laurie R. King): A mild collision of series when Kate Martinelli must solve the mysterious murder of a die-hard Sherlock Holmes fan.

I'm most tempted to compare this to A Letter of Mary, where a manuscript of sorts also acts as the McGuffin, but I'm also compelled to note that there's a 100 page Holmes pastiche wedged in the middle of the book. It was an entertaining pastiche, mind, but it does break up the story a bit.

Randomly: internal evidence dates the book's conclusion to mid-February 2004. Which end was very schmoopy, and pretty cute, but felt a little tacked-on. Discuss in comments.

The Vitru (Sarah Monette/[livejournal.com profile] truepenny): Felix isn't crazy. Pity, that; we liked him better when we was.

Felix is Justin Warrick. Why am I still talking about this? )

This suffered from bad packaging: for the full effect, it should be read back-to-back with Melusine. I lost a few character names and biographies between volumes, and I still feel like there's some unresolved stuff going on; it should come as no surprise that Monette's writing two more books in the same series.

Monette's written some engaging characters, and some fairly intricate worldbuilding (contrast the city of Melusine to Lankhmar or Tai-Tastigon), but the things the characters make me roll my eyes and want to throw popcorn. I've read enough of her LJ that I can't believe it's accidental the characters are behave in such a compellingly human fashion, but that isn't helping me suppress the urge to hand out love-taps with a clue-by-four. I think I'm skipping Monette's next book, unless someone vets it for me and tells me it's awesome in all the ways the first two books weren't.

Also read sundry essays from Understanding The Lord of the Rings (Rose A. Zimbardo and Neil D. Isaacs, editors): "The Dethronement of Power" (C. S. Lewis) - a classic "my friend wrote a book and it's really cool, you should all read it!" only in Oxford Don English - "Men, Halflings and Hero Worship" (Marion Zimmer Bradley) which I read twice because I'd forgotten I'd already been through it once, "Frodo and Aragorn: The Concept of Hero" (Verlyn Flieger) academic and dry-ish, "Another Road to Middle-earth: Jackson's Movie Trilogy" (Tom Shippey) academic and entertaining. Also picked up Meditations on Middle-Earth (Ed. Karen Haber), essentially a collection of authors discussing some aspect of their own reactions or analysis of LotR. "A Changeling Returns" (Michael Swanwick), "Rhythmic Pattern in The Lord of the Rings "(Ursula K. Le Guin), "The Longest Sunday" (Diane Duane). I power-skimmed the Card essay; Ender's Game may be a classic, but I really can't get into Card's oevre. I keep trying to find something Card's written that doesn't turn me off, but he is my anti-author with shocking consistency.
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The terrible thing about reading something at the age of ten is that it's really hard to reread with anything like objectivity later in life. It's warm and fuzzy comfort reading. You tend to overlook a lot of flaws. This is probably also true of movies, and likely goes a long way toward explaining my unkillable love of the original Star Wars trilogy and my bitter disappointment in the prequels. Well, that and the terrible directing and dialogue.

Thank goodness for professional fanfic.

The thing that struck me this time is how much Zahn likes misdirection and playing with the flow of information. Huge spoilers, of course. )
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Cutting for size, not spoilers. Low on content, high on chatty commentary.

The title this month refers to one character's perception of the mystic and the mundane in Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy; it seemed appropriate, since it's been so snowy (and icy!) lately.

New icon courtesy Photoshop 7.0 and my Precious digital camera.

The Return of the King, J. R. R. Tolkien )

The Folk Keeper, Franny Billingsley )

Tolkien: Author of the Century, T. A. Shippey )

Star Wars: Survivor's Quest, Timothy Zahn )

The Changeling Sea, Patricia McKillip )

The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde )

Mirabile, Janet Kagan )

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