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

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Books that I read in November

Books that I read in November:

60. Saberhagen, Fred. The First Book of Swords (309 p.)

61. Saberhagen, Fred. The Second Book of Swords (313 p.)

62. Saberhagen, Fred. The Third Book of Swords (216 p.)

63. Cook, Glen. The Tower of Fear (375 p.)

64. Heinlein, Robert A. Rocket Ship Galileo (187 p.)

65. Brust, Steven. Iorich (Vlad Taltos Series) (319 p.)

66. Stern, Roger. The Death and Life of Superman (415 p.)

67. Vance, Jack. Vandals of the Void (213 p.)

68. Wincor, Richard. Sherlock Holmes in Tibet (137 p.)

69. Wolfe, Gene. The Urth of the New Sun (310 p.)

November total: 2,794 pages
2011 total to date: 19,954 pages

Sheesh, you'd think I did nothing but read this month, even though I felt like quite the opposite was true! I'm definitely going to reach my secondary page goal of 20,000 pages this year; we'll see if I can also find time in December to knock out the six books left to reach my secondary book goal of 75 books.

I remember Saberhagen's "Song of the Swords" being a big thing on rec.games.frp.dnd back in the day (back in the day when it was de rigueur to have a sword .sig on Usenet), and I'd read The Last Book of Swords a few years back, but this is my first time through the first three books. Having now read them, I can see why they were a big thing on rgfd back in the day, at least for idea-mining.

The Tower of Fear I think this is the first fantasy novel I've read where the otherworld's cultures are loosely based on the Middle East circa somewhere around 300 A.D.--including rough analogues of the Romans (except monotheistic and called the "Herodians"), Persians, and Bedouin/Arabs. It also includes an assassin character who's a fairly credible (if a bit over-competent) triple agent (quadruple if you count the fact that his true loyalties lie with himself and his own goals rather than any of the three agencies he works for). I found a lot of good ideas for idea-mining, but the story felt like it dragged in parts, and the ending was only sort of satisfactory.

Rocket Ship Galileo is a late-40's SF about ultra-competent teenage engineers who build and fly a nuclear rocket to the moon with the help of a proto-libertarian mentor. When they get there, the Heinleinian twist kicks in and they discover a Nazi moon base staffed by folks who think the war is still going on. It starts off silly, but within the realms of suspension of disbelief--especially in an age when anyone could learn to tune a car engine just by taking one apart--and then just gets sillier when the eeeeevil Nazis show up. But it's my kind of silly, and would fit in very well with a Marvel comic book featuring the Red Skull, Dr. Zola, or one of the other ex-Nazi mad scientist types.

Iorich is more fun with Vlad Taltos, this time concerning the legal system. It's one of the more "average" books in the series, but is still a rollicking fun read.

The Death and Life of Superman is a much better read than the original comics were (and they were actually pretty good, overall), though I think it suffers a bit from of having to include the cast of thousands from the original comics (when many of them probably should have been jettisoned and replaced with new or revised characters who'd fill the same role but be significantly easier to introduce/explain/write), and lots of extra backstory from the previous eight years' worth of Superman stories to explain who certain characters are and why they're acting the way they are. The funeral sequence, in particular, was really good, possibly better than it was in the comics; and Superman's eventual return wasn't quite as powerful as it was in the comics.

The author's introduction to Vandals of the Void predicted (before man had walked on the moon in the first place) that we'd have a permanent moon base and commercial space flight by 1985. Boy, does that sound dated now! Otherwise, it's a decent if somewhat typical 1940's juvenile SF novel about a precocious kid who solves the mystery and saves the Mars colony from pirates.

I picked up Sherlock Holmes in Tibet because it purported to be a tale about Holmes' adventures in the two years he supposedly spent in Tibet between throwing Professor Moriarity off of Reichenbach Falls and showing back up in England and resuming his detective business. While it includes a few pages of that story, it's just a frame story for the author's actual intent, which is to present a straight-forward treatise on Tibetan Buddhist philosophy to the reader, under the guise of a lecture that Holmes attends while he's over there. (After which comes the denoument to the frame story, which is then followed by "appendices" that make up almost half the book and consist of two excerpts from Bishop Berkeley's writings and quite a bit excerpted from the Tibetan Book of the Dead.) This felt so much like a bait & switch that I was tempted to stop reading part-way through and simply donate the book to my library's booksale, but I decided to push on and at least finish it first before judging it on its actual merits rather than on my expectations. On that note, I found it to be the sort of theoretical philosophy you hear bandied about in ivory towers in school that doesn't hold up out in the real world--much like truly believing that Xeno's Paradox really, truly means that it's impossible for someone to punch you and therefore you're invulnerable to all physical attacks. Which may work out on paper, and may be useful when performing certain theoretical philosophical analyses, but otherwise is still complete and utter nonsense.

I've heard a lot of good things about Gene Wolfe's writing, and I found a free copy of this book. The story to which it is a sequel sounds like it's a lot more interesting, but it wasn't required to understand this one, and this one was still quite good right up until the end, when it started to play a bit too much with time travel and made my brain hurt. This was more interesting for me in that it's a fantasy book at heart, but is actually science fiction book (with space ships, ray guns, and time travel) that's told using fantasy elements and tropes; at the same time I was reading this, I've also been reading a book by a different author that's basically the opposite--a science fiction book at heart that's actually a fantasy book (swords and bows, sorcery, dragons & other monsters, medievel-level cultures, and a retrieve-the-macguffin quest) that's told using science fiction elements and tropes. The juxtaposition of reading the two books during the same period served to emphasize the similarities and differences of the two genres and how they do and don't blend or cross over.

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