Monthly Archives: February 2011

Bankruptcy

So, I’m way behind in my reviews.  I’ll never catch up, especially since I’m reading new books and getting behind in those.  So, I declare bankruptcy on the following books.  I’ll give them my rating, and maybe a sentence or two about it.  One day I might go back and do a full review, but I make no promises.

  • Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert.  A pop-psych book that presents some very good research on the psychology of happiness.
  • Not in Kansas Anymore by Christine Wicker.  A study of magic and magical thinking in America.
  • Mainspring by Jay Lake.  Er… Sapient monkey sex?
  • Escapement by Jay Lake.  An improvement, largely effected by changing up the characters and ditching inter-species intercourse.
  • The Collapsium by Wil McCarthy.  Some serious hard sci fi in a world of abundance and immortality.
  • Wellstone by Wil McCarthy.  The same as the above, but with a bit less flow.

  • On Writing
    by Stephen King.  Half memoir and half guide to writing.
  • Norse Code, by Greg van Eekhout.

The Oubliette

Sometimes, for whatever reason, I just quit reading a book.  It doesn’t mean that the book is bad, though that is sometimes the case.  At times I’m in the mood for something else.  Or maybe I’m just not the right person at the moment to enjoy it – there have been times that I gave up on a book only to love it when I eventually returned to it.

I don’t review books that I don’t finish.  So what do I do with books that I don’t get through?  They go to the Oubliette.  (Metaphorically – I have a neurosis about allowing books to be damaged.)  Some of these books are bad.  Some merely competed with a new, more anticipated book that I got my hands on.  Some just didn’t tickle my fancy.

Some of these might hope to see the surface world again, and others shall be forever regulated to darkness.

The Oubliette currently (recently) includes:

  • The Summoner, by Gail Martin
  • The Child Thief, by Brom
  • Crystal Rain, by Tobias Buckell
  • The Unincorporated Man, by the Kollin brothers

Oh, and I do recognize the irony of keeping records in something called the Oubliette.


Redeem Yourself – The Graveyard Book

A man cannot step into the same river twice, Heraclitus taught, because it is not the same river, and he is not the same man.

Sometimes I read a book or watch a film and it just doesn’t gel with me. I can recognize the quality, perhaps, but I’m just not in the state in which I can enjoy it or appreciate it. Thus, in these Redeem Yourself segments – in which I return to a book that I’ve previously reviewed – I won’t specify whether it is the book or myself that I feel is in need of redemption when I get it another shot.  Feel free to speculate.

So I read Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book again, and I think I have a clearer understand of why this book doesn’t wow me like so much of Neil Gaiman’s work does, as much as I liked it.  The book is arranged in chapters that are essentially short stories, much in the same mode that Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. The chapters span the years of Bod’s childhood and gradually weave into the larger story of those that murdered Bod’s family when he was but a baby.

This is the crux of lack of impact I feel.  Each chapter is terrific – some more than others, of course – but so many of them, while they develop themes and develop Bod as a character, don’t push along the plot.  The chapters that work the best for me are those which bring Bod closer to confrontation with his enemies.

The final chapter does much to tie together Bod’s adventures, but it is in some sense too late for me.  I didn’t feel the rising action all the while, so when we reach the climax, it seems as though I’ve only climbed a hill rather than scaled a mountain.  And so much of Gaiman’s work is Alpine.

Each story is a star, but they don’t, for me, assemble into a constellation.  So, while I enjoy the book and admire it, it doesn’t fill me hope, sentimentality, and joy (among other emotional cocktails) that I’ve come to expect from Gaiman’s work.

Thus:

 

But, hey.  It won a Hugo, and nabbed both the Newbury and Carnegie Medals.  So, as LeVar Burton used to say, don’t take my word for it.