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Book Reviews

What with all the war coverage I've been reading less, but I'm still bullish on books. Allow me to offer up capsule reviews of my recent reads:

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency,
by Alexander McCall Smith

I gave a copy of this one to my father for Christmas based purely on the raves it was getting among my friends; having devoured it over a weekend, I can say the raves are fully deserved. Good characters, clever solutions to the mysteries, and a tour of Botswana by a Scotsman who lived there. Now I need to find the follow-up books, Tears of the Giraffe and Morality for Beautiful Girls.

Ruled Britannia, by Harry Turtledove
Turtledove imagines what Shakespeare might have done if the Spanish Armada had succeeded in the conquest of England. It's a fun yarn with pretensions to more than it really is. Mostly, it's about conspiracy and the theatre (two subjects often found together), and Kit Marlow and the Spanish playwright Lope de Vega have prominent roles. Like many Turtledove books, well researched, leaves a few loose ends, but worth a ride.

Story, by Richard McKee
Normally I loathe "writing about writing" books; many are either too simple or too personal to be helpful. This one came recommended to me by two fellow writers who rarely agree on anything. I figured I should check it out.

It turns out that McKee knows whereof he speaks, defining basic principles of screenwriting and doing so in a flowing, steady way that inspires confidence in his more extreme opinions. I'm only about 75 pages in and I'm both inspired and smarter about novels than I was starting out. Many of his principles apply across media boundaries. I'm enjoying the heck out of this. Even if I never finish a screenplay, it's time well spent.

The Game of Kings, by Dorothy Dunnett
Big books that demand some education and don't scare me; I read Foucault's Pendulum and ate up the erudition, language games, and historical depth with a spoon. I've tried to do the same with Dunnett's starter, one of a series of historicals set in the 16th century Scotland. But my Latin is weak, and my tolerance for her awkward stage-handling is limited. The book's main character is a hotspur firebrand with no loyalty to anyone but himself. It just didn't capture me, despite my love of the period.

I just don't see why this series gets the praise it does (and all the reading groups seem to like it). Presumably, it gets better after the first one, but I probably won't be finding out.

What have YOU been reading lately? I want recommendations.


( 2 sutras — Your wisdom )
Apr. 11th, 2003 09:23 pm (UTC)
You GOTTA read "The Golden Age" by Wright
I'm not yet done, but wow!

I'm just more than 100 pages into Wright's The Golden Age, and I'm really damned impressed. This appears to be a first novel, and the cover is… well, I'd be irritated if it were mine, and the copyedit was less-than-impressive (what's up with copyeditors these days?), but this book is the most inventive thing I've read since Last and First Men. The very first page hooked me, and I haven't been able to put it down since. Wright creates a truly unique society and fashions it in such facinating detail that you feel yourself thinking, "SF until now has only touched on these themes."

Think Stapledon mixed with Stephenson.

Don't know how it'll go from here, but wow! I'm jealous, of course, whenever I read something like this. Did a quick look on Google, and it seems I'm not alone in being impressed. Now THIS is great SF!

Read it!

Also, I loved Stone by Adam Roberts, and the Probability series by Kress, and Steele's Coyote, and McDevitt's Chindi. My faves this year so far, but a few yet to read...

Apr. 17th, 2003 08:53 am (UTC)
Another Must-Read
If you haven't yet read "Botany of Desire" by Michael Pollan (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0375760393/qid=1050594721/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_1/002-8228340-1362430?v=glance&s=books&n=507846) you simply must.

If nothing else, it'll change the way you buy potatoes. In the direction of organic. -- BB
( 2 sutras — Your wisdom )

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