nyagosstar: (books)
[personal profile] nyagosstar
Avoiding editing, vacation and lots of down time mean that i have a handful of books to chat about this morning.

Half Brother

Hands down one of the best books I’ve read this year. Kenneth Oppel rocks my socks in any event, but this is really something spectacular. Set in Canada, about a boy whose parents are researchers and bring a chimp home to study behavior and see if he can be taught language through ASL. It’s so thoughtful and well written and touching and so vivid in a way that I don’t get with most fiction that I read. This felt real. I want this book to be a bestseller. I want this book to win awards. I want everyone to know Kenneth Oppel's name because he is SO good.

Packing for Mars

We all know how I feel about space, NASA and exploration and this was the perfect book to pull me out of the funk that the NASA budget debacle has put me in. I’ve read and seen a lot about space travel so it was really cool to read something that talked about things at length that I’d never gotten much information on before. Mary Roach has the coolest, easiest writing style. In my world of fantasy and psychosis we would totally be friends. This is a nuts and bolts approach of what it takes to get people in to space including but not limited to the long process of food development and bathroom issues and the long testing period of every piece of equipment that goes into space. It was the most fun read I’ve had in ages.

X Isle

Okay, I loved the book The Various by Steve Augarde. It was beautiful and strange and i always hoped that it and it’s sequels would be more popular than they were, but I couldn’t get anyone to touch them with a ten foot pole. Sometimes books from other countries do really well here and sometimes they just don’t work, so I was super excited when I heard he was writing a new book outside the Various series and it was post-apocalyptic and very different from his previous novels. Maybe this one would be something that would bring everyone back around to his other writing.

Here’s the thing. It’s a very good book. I love the characters and the concept, the story is exciting and good and I read it in a breathless run just so i could get to the end and find out what happens. But it’s flawed in a way that his others aren’t. There is a plot point with one of the characters that’s very obvious from the beginning of the book and I’m still not sure exactly what the point of it is. I don’t know that it brings anything to the table, I think kids will figure it out pretty quickly and then nothing really comes of it. And the end is sort of a cop out. Some aspects of the story are dealt with brilliantly, what it means to try and survive in a harsh environment, what it means to fight for your life, how you reconcile morality to a world were society has broken down. But the very end, I don’t know if it was too big a task to take on, if he didn’t want to deal with what was going to happen next or if he just got tired, but the book just stops and not in a good way. Also, this book is going to be a hard sell to any teach or parent who is worried about language in the books their kids read, which is a shame, because it fits the characters and the situation, but it’s hard to get school librarians to buy books for their school libraries that have a lot of bad language in them because otherwise they hear it from the kid’s parents.

In the end? I liked it, but with reservations.

Our Tragic Universe

I have been waiting for a new book from Scarlett Thomas for ages and ages. Okay, so for four years, but in terms of how I see the world, it’s been ages. I read Popco because [livejournal.com profile] sainnis saw it and thought it was just the kind of book I would like. And it was. So I read everything else she had written in a kind of literary glut and have been a fan for years.

After letting the book settle in my brain for a couple days, I have come down on the side of liking it, but it was sort of a process. The first half of the book is very blah, blah, blah here are two characters talking to each other about all the random shit I researched to write this novel. Normally, she is very good at making a more subtle integration of research and story. The first half the story is really at the mercy of the research. But then, the research relaxes, becomes what it’s supposed to be and the story is allowed to bloom and it is beautiful. I feel like this is a book I should read more than once to get everything out of it that I really can. Again, I liked it, but will recommend with reservations.

and finally, i feel back that I ever recommended The Magicians to anyone at work. It sounded cool, and the idea is cool but the characters and execution suck. Did anyone actually get through this? Is the payoff worth it? I'm about fifty pages in and am ready to give up on it completely.


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