Aardy R. DeVarque (aardy) wrote,
Aardy R. DeVarque

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Books that I read in October

Books that I read in October:

59. Goldman, William. The Princess Bride (255 p.)

60. Busiek, Kurt & James W. Fry. The Liberty Project (229 p.)

61. Hammett, Dashiell. Red Harvest (142 p.)

62. Hammett, Dashiell. The Dain Curse (150 p.)

63. Hammett, Dashiell. The Glass Key (148 p.)

64. Hammett, Dashiell. The Thin Man (137 p.)

65. Haber, Karen. Woman Without a Shadow (300 p.)

October total: 1,361 pages
2010 total: 17,125 pages

There's not much I can say about The Princess Bride that hasn't already been said, though I will mention that I much prefer the movie, in spite of the too-cheesy low-budget special effects; I think Goldman significantly improved the story in the process of adapting it to the screen, and the actors' performances are spot on, both individually and as an ensemble.

I picked up The Liberty Project on a lark during a sale at the local comic shop, in part because it was by Busiek, and in part because the cover pull quote by Gerard Jones described it as "the X-Men the way the X-Men ought to be done". As it turns out, it's not the X-Men, it's the prototype for Thunderbolts, just with tie-ins from other Eclipse Comics characters & events from 1987-88 rather than Marvel Comics characters & events events, and showing its roots in DC's Suicide Squad. As the back cover copy puts it, "Criminals with superpowers. Caught. Convicted. And given an option: Serve hard time, or serve their country... as heroes." and "...a rollicking, action-filled romp about superconvicts on the rocky road to redemption. While the characters are all distinct in their own right, there's a basic Songbird analogue and a character that's arguably a combo of his eventual treatment of Fixer & Mach III, and the basic premise of supervillains turning to heroism (by choice or not) and the struggle to find redemption, with periodically falling off the wagon--so to speak--and so forth that helped make his run on Thunderbolts so memorable.

Dashiell Hammett is, of course, best known for writing The Maltese Falcon, which I read last year. However, I think these other novels are as good, if not better; particularly The Thin Man. They're all definitely noir, though (though Thin Man is by far the least noir of them, I think), so if noir is not your cup of tea, you probably won't like these any better than you do (or would) Maltese Falcon. When I look at how much story is crammed into each of these four novels, with the longest topping out at 150 pages, and compare that to some of the epics I've read in which each volume of a sprawling series is 500 or 700 or more pages that go past without ever actually resolving anything and moving on, I begin to wonder whether perhaps the true art of novel writing may be fast becoming a lost art.

Woman Without a Shadow is a sci-fi story that features a strong female protagonist with several female supporting cast members, doesn't ever veer off into feminist politics, and likewise doesn't go the other direction and treat women as incomplete without a big, strong man in their lives. (Though, to be fair, it has a just-noticable tendency towards the latter than the former, but I think it handles the characters' relationships fairly well.) Unfortunately, I kept finding myself waiting for it to get really good, as it felt like it had that potential to blow out into a real barnbuster of a novel, but it never seemed to rise above the level of a fairly good young adults' sci-fi or fantasy novel--a good read, but somehow lacking in development & depth. (I had a similar reaction to Hunger Games, if that helps any to put my comments into perspective, though Hunger Games is definitely better than Woman Without a Shadow.) That said, I found the treatment of the development of mental powers in humans and the societal results of that, as well as the nature & hazards of space navigation to be well-done, and the politics and economics that are included, while not built up or built on enough for my tastes, could serve as an introduction to such things to a younger reader, so that when they move on to tackle something like Heinlein, it's not quite so much of a leap. I recommend it if you happen to run across a copy, though. (I also think it might make the basis of a decent TV show, if done by someone like the BBC.)

Feudalism: Serf & Turf
Tags: books, reviews

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