Lab Cat

4 Jun 2006

May’s Books

Filed under: Books — Cat @ 8:59 pm

Bought

Wharton, Edith “Summer

Diamond, Jared “Collapse

Livio, Mario “The Golden Ratio

McCleod, Ken “Newton’s Wake”

Kidd, Sue Monk “The Mermaid’s Chair”

Borrowed

McCleod, Ken “The Sky Road

Julie Wakefield Halley's Quest” (renewed)

Pratchett, Terry “Eric

Scalzi, John “Old Man’s War

Read

McCleod, Ken “The Sky Road

Lee, Harper “To Kill a Mocking Bird

McCleod, Ken “Newton’s Wake”

Kidd, Sue Monk “The Mermaid’s Chair”

Julie Wakefield Halley's Quest

Pratchett, Terry “Eric

Scalzi, John “Old Man’s War

Osborne, Richard “Philosophy for Beginners”

Livio, Mario “The Golden Ratio” (not finished)

Comments

I am currently listening to the DSO’s performance of Beethoven’s Ninth, with my choir. It is being broadcast on WHYY. It is very exciting to realize that this is me, on air! I’m almost giddy with excitement. Unfortunately the computer is a few minutes behind the radio, so I'm going to have to choose one!

So this was my sci-fi month. At first I was confused as to what The Sky Road was about because there are two parallel plots going on but at different time periods, but it was hard to tell between the two time periods as it wasn't clear which era was more “advanced”. The first plot is actually further in the future than the second, but I can only guess that it is at least a century after the last venture in space by humans which was around 2050, which time frame for the second plot, the Deliverance. I don’t do well with the simultaneous plots – I almost wanted to read one story and then read the other. One of my difficulties might have been that The Sky Road appears to be the last one of the Fall Revolution series. I just grabbed the only one the library had in paperback. The blurb doesn’t say it is a continuation – I’ll just have to read the others mentioned and see if it makes more sense.

Despite this, my first read through was enjoyable for several reasons. Ken McLeod has a very dry sense of humor which comes through with statements like:

“The Brits just don’t do trains.

They’d invented them. They had a couple of centuries’ experience with them. They had more actual enthusiasts for trains per head of the population than anywhere else. They’d invented trainspotting. And they still couldn’t figure our how to make trains run on time.”

My first thought was “what BR still bad, in fifty years”. Will Thatcher’s legacy last that long? In this book, by 2050 Britain had basically resorted to anarchy, which prevents the trains ever working properly. (Does anyone know how you do tenses with sci-fi? “Britain will resort” seems contrived)

I was also amused because the heroine of the second plot, Myra Godwin-Davidova, did her graduate studies at Glasgow University in the Institute of Soviet and East European Studies about the same time my Dad would have been there doing his graduate studies. I So I had a nice little daydream about him meeting her. I almost phoned to ask him. Get a grip on reality! There are also sly references to semi-historical events that I either remember myself or Mum and Dad have told me about. Some of the science references were interesting. Not sure that I noticed much about food – I guess it doesn’t change much or I missed these references in the race with my dyslexia.

I enjoyed The Sky Road once I understood what was going on. Perhaps the highest comment I can give it, is that I will probably have to read it again. Another compliment would be that I bought another one of McCleod’s books Newton’s Wake after reading the first. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one of the Fall Revolution series, so I am still confused about most of that!

This is where I should point out, as I realize that this is unusual, that I often reread books several times. At least twice, if I enjoyed them. The biggest insult for me is to say that I don’t want to reread a book. Being slightly dyslexic (why do they have a word to described spelling/reading difficulties that is so difficult to spell) I claim that I read really fast so that I can get the story through before my dyslexia catches up with me. One form my dyslexia takes is to see the patterns words and spaces make on a page. I am very grateful to word processing programs which take this into account and adjust the spacing so that it doesn’t occur as often as it did. I did meet some one in Minnesota whose job with a publisher had been to look at the typesetting and adjust spacing. She was very impressed to meet some one for whom this was a problem.

The Sky Road was much less violent than I feared sci-fi might be. There was plenty of violence hinted at, but none was described. This makes the book much more enjoyable for me. I want to escape when I read, preferable to somewhere not too uncomfortable. This wasn’t true of Newton’s Wake or Old Man’s War. But what was I expecting reading a book with war in the title. Actually Old Man’s War wasn’t as violent as some thrillers – may be I skipped bits that actually talked about the fighting and at least the protagonist was a hero in the Greek hero sense of the word. Not quite as heroic as Odysseus but heading that way. Needless to say, Eric, the protagonist of Terry Pratchett’s book of the same name was more of his typical anti-hero being a pimply thirteen year old. Also Pratchett’s antiheros antihero Rincewind makes a reappearance in this Discworld® novel.

Unfortunately, Halley’s Quest despite being about a scientist had enough gratuitous violence in it to more than satisfy me. Was it really necessary to describe all the ways the English in the sixteenth century put people to death, especially as the “mutineer” Lieutenant Edward Harrison was found not guilty. Also as Halley was never actually taken over by pirates, must I read about the awful things that pirates did? I picked the book up because I wanted to read more about Halley and his science. I had to drop it in the end. Not only were there unnecessary descriptions but I wanted to write FLOW all over the book, like I do for undergraduate essays.

Writing about uncomfortable things brings me to: To Kill a Mocking Bird which I reread after an friend who is a high school teacher of English mentioned it as she was covering in her tenth grade English class. At least I didn’t call her an English teacher! As we discuss, I am an English teacher of Food Chemistry, she is an American teacher of English. I digress. I love To Kill a Mocking Bird this book and I am also disturbed by how little progress we are making even with the addition help of civil rights laws.

The Mermaid’s Chair wasn’t as good as The Secret Life of Bees. It won’t spoil it too much to say that this book is basically about a woman having her midlife crisis after kid goes to college. She has an affair, after much angst about it and then goes back to hubby. Oh, that last bit might spoil it for you. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the protagonist, Jessie, she has everything except direction and she needs to get a life. This is what this book is about. Perhaps when I finally have my midlife crisis I might be more sympathetic, but at the moment I’m not. All Jessie needs is a JOB and a career.

Philosophy for Beginners is an old book of mine and I wanted to recap some of the philosophy that I once thought I knew. But this doesn’t have much ancient Chinese philosophy (see Zen Quotes for May) so I need to find another book for that information. These For Beginners books have been around for a while, I brought Philosophy with me from England, and they are put together by Readers and Writers publishers and are documentary comic books – similar to Larry Gronik’s History of the World series. I am glad to see that Amazon has a Zen for Beginners. I might have to get that some time soon. I have others in the series, two versions of both Food and Ecology for Beginners as they were updated a lot in their second edition. It wouldn't surprise me if they've been updated again since. I also have Plato, Einstein, Nietzsche and Darwin for Beginners. Dad introduced me to them when I was in my teens and I recommend them to anyone wanting introductions. I still find them very helpful.

Next month, I’ve decided to get all cultural and read Shakespeare, as I haven't done that for a while. I’ll probably read Midsummer Night’s Dream as that seems appropriate for June. I also hope to have the energy to read some of the nonfiction books I have bought over the last few months but not yet read. I am also doing a read-along with some singing friends. We are going to read and discuss Barbara Conable’s The Structures and Movement of Breathing to see what is says about improving our performance as singers.

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6 Comments »

  1. I agree about Mermaid’s Chair. I didn’t buy it, just had borrowed it at the library and was glad I had not purchased it. I found her whole “love affair” sort of ridiculous and was much more interested in her mother and her bouts of insanity/self mutilation. I really liked Secret Life of Bees, so maybe that made this novel more disappointing? Not sure; plenty of people seem to have liked it.

    Comment by Lisa — 5 Jun 2006 @ 11:58 am

  2. Hi Lisa

    I was disappointed as I really was surprised how much I liked Secret Life of Bees. There are parts of the mother’s story that I will probably reread, so I agree with you on that.

    Comment by Cat — 5 Jun 2006 @ 12:08 pm

  3. I bought Collapse last month as well. Maybe I’ll get around to it next month. The Sky Road sounds very good. I am so set in my ways with SF writers that I rarely read new authors unless they start winning lots of awards.

    Comment by yellojkt — 8 Jun 2006 @ 10:23 am

  4. Yellojkt

    If it is any help, I got onto Macleod because he has been nominated for a Hugo award this year.

    I’ve been told that Collapse is a bit of a downer!

    Cat

    Comment by Cat — 8 Jun 2006 @ 1:08 pm

  5. […] One of the advantages of not teaching is that I have more time for reading. I was also on vacation and had spare time. I didn’t, however, get round to reading the Shakespeare I promised in May! Maybe next month. […]

    Pingback by Lab Cat » Blog Archive » June’s Books — 3 Jul 2006 @ 9:13 pm

  6. […] I can’t remember now why I reread the Drabble. I must have first read this when the characters were older than me by about the same difference that I am older than them now. This is another book about a woman having a midlife crisis (rather early – in her mid 30s) but I seem to have more sympathy with this story than Kidd’s character in “The Mermaid’s Chair” which I reviewed in May. […]

    Pingback by Lab Cat » Blog Archive » July’s Books — 17 Aug 2006 @ 5:42 pm


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