may 2006 readinglist
This month involved less reading...weekend travel and riding my bike instead of taking the T, plus, Red Sox season beginning means much less book time.
- (4/24-)New Orleans, Mon Amour - Andrei Codrescu
I mad it through much of this book, full of wonderful vingettes before reading it began to depress me. And I haven't even gotten to Katrina. Mostly, it made me think about how I don't live the slow life, pondering sunsets or magnolia blossoms, how I haven't been writing. So, naturally, I picked up something light and fluffy to read instead of writing.
- Archangel - Sharon Shinn
I had avoided picking this book up because of its title. I admit, bibical references generally don't draw me in. But Amazon kept recommending it, and I had another Sharon Shinn, The Shapechanger's Wife, that was light but enjoyable, so I finally gave in to Amazon (had a gift certificate...) And I'm very glad that I did. Aside from the names (which do get long, Gabriel, Rachel, Obadiah, Raphael), it's a very interesting concept, and reads like an epic, though most of the action takes place over several days separated by a couple months. The detailed days allow for good character development and plot introduction, though it does feel a little rushed when our hero - the new Archangle Gabriel and Rachel, his "angela" partner work together at the climax.
The basic premis is a world/country of three "states" where angels (humans who have been engineered to fly and talk to "god" - Jovah) live in eyries and different tribes of humans (usually divided by occupation) live on the ground. The Archangle is chosen by Jovah (through his seers) and serves in that capacity for 20 years, taking care of the world, praying to Jovah, and leading the annual Gloria. The tension of the world is between the different tribes, but they must live in peace, becuase Jovah will blow them all up if they don't. Yes, a bit contrived, but the character interactions make it worth the read.
And of course, there's a happy ending.
- The Family Trade - Charles Stross
I was more familiar with Stross as an SF writer than a fantasy writer, but having just read one of his SF novels, I thought it would be interesting to read a novel in this "new direction." The style is similar, following two main characters, and about 10 sub-main pretty closely, with many supporting characters and lots of action.
Our heroine, Miriam - a journalist for a Boston-based tech newspaper, discovers a nasty money-laundering scheme and finds herself fired from her job and threatened by phone instead of breaking the news. In an odd turn, she discovers that she has the ability to move between worlds, when looking at a pattern in a locket her (dead) birth-mother had owned.
After some, "Am I insane?" questioning, she is kiddnapped to the other world by her blood family, and forced quickly into the nasty politicing of feudal drug lords. The excitement! Yes, it is a bit cheezey, with a predictable love story, but it's also fun. Enjoyable enough, and creative enough that I will look for the sequal.
- Thebes at War - Naguib Mafouz
I have enjoyed several of Mafouz's other works, paricularly his shorter fantastical fiction, and his novellas/novels set in ancient Egypt. This joins them, apparently part of a plan to cover the entire history of ancient Egypt in 40 short novels. He didn't finish that cycle, moved instead to more modern novels (the Cairo trilogy) - which are beautiful and detailed, intense and full of very real family life.
So, when I saw Thebes at War used, I had to pick it up. So far, it has been my lunchtim reading at work, so it's going slowly. I'm finding either the translation or the intial phrasing rather clumsy. Or perhaps not clumsy, each phrase is lovely, but the sentences do not hang together. It reads more like the Illiad than Mafouz's other deeply characterized prose. Still, I will continue reading it, enjoying the descriptions and overarching plot.