July 11, 2006

The Sick-In-Bed Reading List

by peterb

I've been laid up with a bug for the past few days. This, coupled with my recent vacation, has allowed me to catch up on my reading list. Here's what I've been reading recently.

Cory Doctorow, Someone Comes To Town, Someone Leaves Town. Yeah, yeah, I know. Doctorow is a sanctimonious prick on his weblog, but this was actually pretty good. It would have been better if he had just eliminated all the chapters on wireless internet, though. I was probably more inclined to enjoy this book simply because it takes place in my favorite city.

Orson Scott Card, Magic Street. I found the first half of this to be absolutely compelling, and then about midway through, the wind went out of my sails. In the afterword, the author discusses how when he started writing, he didn't know who various mysterious characters "were," in the mythological sense, and then midway through he realized who the archetypes could be, and from that point on writing them got a lot easier. That's the part where I got bored. For a long time, this sort of thing has been underlying my belief that, all things being equal, sequels are bad, because a fictional world is always better when you haven't killed it dead with overexploration. Despite this, Card understands that the underlying essence of fiction is character, and not narrative, and thus this is still worth reading.

Tracy Kidder, The Soul of a New Machine. Some random blogger recommended this, but reading it was too much like work.

Scott Westerfeld, Peeps. There's this webcomic about a library called Unshelved. Every Sunday, he recommends a book. His tastes trend towards sci-fi and fantasy, which is really a shame. Peeps is a take on vampires, with lots of icky description of parasites. The writing was fairly tepid, which was not the case with another Unshelved recommendation...

Lois McMaster Bujold, The Warrior's Apprentice. Yes, it's cheesy sci-fi, but enjoyably tart nonetheless.

John Ledyard, The Last Voyage of Captain Cook. Ledyard was a rake and a roustabout who travelled with Captain James Cook on his ill-fated final voyage. This memoir — parts of which were plagiarized from other works — made for interesting reading, especially paired with Google Earth.

Posted by peterb at July 11, 2006 08:56 PM | Bookmark This

The wireless subplot of Someone Comes to Town makes a lot more sense if you remember that Alan's real talent--compared to his more supernatural family--is networking and inspiring others.

But yeah, it's still pretty lame.

Posted by Thomas at July 12, 2006 09:10 AM

If you liked Warrior's Apprentice, you should try some of Bujold's other books. They're all cheesy sci-fi, but the entire Vorkosigan series is pretty good.

Posted by Julie at July 12, 2006 10:13 AM

Best fantasy novel ever:

Posted by JonF at July 12, 2006 12:37 PM

I couldn't get past the first 10 pages of Little, Big. It was too precious.

Posted by peterb at July 12, 2006 12:51 PM

Yeah, I liked pretty much all of the Vorkosigan books. The last couple aren't quite as good as the first, but they're all still worth reading.

Posted by Nat at July 12, 2006 01:58 PM

For how long do you expect to be sick? If you have scarlet fever let me prescribe Patrick O'Brien's Aubrey Maturin Series. Took me three or four books to get into it, but the other eighteen were sheer delight!

Posted by Stewart Clamen at July 12, 2006 09:43 PM

I haven't read _Peeps_, but I read Westerfeld's _Midnighters_ trilogy, which is a take on teenagers with superpowers. It was zingy, without being pure fluff.

Posted by Andrew Plotkin at July 12, 2006 10:57 PM

Wait. Nat: the last couple of Vorkosigan books? I thought _Diplomatic Immunity_ was a waste of paper, to be sure, but wasn't the one before that _A Civil Campaign_ which is really very fine stuff, the high point of the comedic and (biological) sf side of the series?

Posted by Alex Groce at July 13, 2006 04:32 PM

True, _A Civil Campaign_ was a pretty great comedy of manners. _Diplomatic Immunity_ was boring enough to drag the average down, though, and the short story after it was also not particularly good.

Bujold's new fantasy series is about as good as the early Vorkosigan books were, though, so I'm not overly cranky.

Posted by Nat at July 13, 2006 09:41 PM

I cranked through Lois McMaster Bujold's latest trilogy, _The Curse of Chalion_, _Paladin of Souls_, and _The Hallowed Hunt_. They are more fantasy than cheesy space opera, and were all "pretty good". Not great, but all three books were equally interesting. Too many times a trilogy has either a middle "filler" book, or it just goes straight down hill from the first book in a trilogy.

I made the mistake of reading one Cory Doctrow (sanctimonious prick) book, _Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom_. A interesting, clever, and compelling idea at the start of the book quickly ends up sucked dry. Turning the reading of the second half of the book into a literary death march task.

Posted by Amos the Poker Cat at July 15, 2006 01:13 AM

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