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

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Books that I read in December

Books that I read in December:

70. Sargent, Pamela, ed. Women of Wonder: The Classic Years (438 p.)
(No Woman Born, by C.L. Moore; That Only a Mother, by Judith Merril; Contagion, by Katherine MacLean; The Woman from Altair, by Leigh Brackett; Short in the Chest, by Margaret St. Clair; The Anything Box, by Zenna Henderson; Death Between the Stars, by Marion Zimmer Bradley; The Ship Who Sang, by Anne McCaffrey; When I was Miss Dow, by Sonya Dorman Hess; The Food Farm, by Kit Reed; The Heat Death of the Universe, by Pamela Zoline; The Power of Time, by Josephine Saxton; False Dawn, by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro; Nobody's Home, by Joanna Russ; The Funeral, by Kate Wilhelm; Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand, by Vonda N. McIntyre; The Women Men Don't See, by James Tiptree, Jr.; The Warlord of Saturn's Moons, by Eleanor Arnason; The Day Before the Revolution, by Ursula K. Le Guin; The Family Monkey, by Lisa Tuttle; View from a Height, by Joan D. Vinge)

71. Heinlein, Robert A. Glory Road (288 p.)

72. Harrison, Harry. Planet of the Damned (250 p.)

73. Harrison, Harry. Planet of No Return (232 p.)

74. Eddings, David. Pawn of Prophecy (The Belgariad, bk. 1) (258 p.)

75. Eddings, David. Queen of Sorcery (The Belgariad, bk. 2) (327 p.)

76. Eddings, David. Magician's Gambit (The Belgariad, bk. 3) (305 p.)

77. Eddings, David. Castle of Wizardry (The Belgariad, bk. 4) (373 p.)

78. Eddings, David. Enchanter's End Game (The Belgariad, bk. 5) (372 p.)

79. Crane, Stephen. The Red Badge of Courage (180 p.)

80. Balmer, Edwin & Philip Wylie. When Worlds Collide (344 p.)

81. Larsson, Stieg. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (644 p.)

82. Cordell, Bruce R. & Mike Mearls. Keep on the Shadowfell (Module H1) (96 p.)

December total: 4,107 pages
2011 total: 24,061 pages

Wow-- that was a lot of reading! It would've been nice to have been able to say I'd topped 25K, but I'm happy with the numbers I have.

The introduction to Women of Wonder annoyed me, in that it seems to be saying that the only way a female author of science fiction can be a truly great author is if her stories are deeply rooted in the tropes of 1970's feminism and lesbianism, especially where those two coincide. Only begrudgingly are stories that are great simply for being extremly well-written accepted as canon by the collection's editor. That aside, there are several very good stories in here, including "The Anything Box" (the only one I liked so much that I immediately had to share it with kateshort when I finished it), "Death Between the Stars", and "The Ship Who Sang".

Glory Road is the other cross-genre book I referred to in my writeup last month for Urth of the New Sun. Whereas that was a science fiction novel written from the perspective of fantasy, Glory Road is primarily a near-epic fantasy adventure novel written from the perspective of and using the tropes of science fiction. It's not quite as good as some other epic/adventure fantasy I've read, but taken on its own, it's pretty good, and instead of the book ending when the quest is done, the Heinleinian twist is that it goes on to cover what happens next--when an adventuring hero has nothing to do but enjoy the spoils of victory.

Planet of the Damned and Planet of No Return are a pair of books about a strapping young hero who is recruited to help save the residents of planets who are threatened by destruction, by finding some way to defuse the situation before an entire planet is destroyed. I don't know that I'd go so far as to call the main character a Mary Sue, but he is super-strong and ultra-smart, and generally all-around competent at darn near everything he tries his hand at. And his sidekick is a woman who often faints at the hint of danger. The first book is better than the second (though the cover of the second is more striking than that of the first), but they're both pretty much just one step above brain-candy.

The Belgariad is what Eddings is primarily known for. I remember my mother trying to read it around the time it first came out, and giving up in disgust with the complaint that, four books in, there had been nearly no progress towards the resolution of the primary plot. I've also heard lots of complaints over the years along the lines that Eddings really has only one story, and keeps on writing it over and over with slightly different trappings. I don't know about the second accusation, but there's something to the first--it takes three books for the first part of the primary plot to get wrapped up, and when it happens, it's wrapped up in just a few pages. Then it takes two more books for the second part of the primary plot to build and finish, and none of the first four books ends with any real sense of closure. All in all, though, I enjoyed the story, but not enough to bother with any of the following quintologies, trilogies, etc.

I don't know how I made it through high school & college without being assigned The Red Badge of Courage, but somehow I did. I probably wouldn't have appreciated it then, but reading it now, I found it quite well done and engrossing. I think it'd make a very good pairing with All Quiet on the Western Front if one wanted to do a book-talk or classroom discussion on the front-line soldier's perspective on the horrors of war.

When Worlds Collide is 1930's-era science fiction, but other than the idea of using atomic power as a direct propellant (and occasionally killing people with the exhaust without any risk from radioactivity), the science seems to have held up fairly well (though some things are done differently these days). It's really more of an apocalyptic story (pre-, during, and post-) a la The Day After Tomorrow than a typical science fiction spaceship romp, so there's a lot of coverage on the changes in and eventual breakdown of society. As I was reading this, I kept thinking what a good movie, mini-series, or one-season TV series this would make (with the sequel novel, After Worlds Collide as a sequel movie, mini-series, or second TV season), only to discover that, in addition to a 1950's film adaptation, there's a new adaptation currently in production by DreamWorks, slated for release in 2012! In any case, I definitely recommend the book to anyone who likes doomsday/apocalyptic stories, as well as in general.

I've heard so much hype about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that there was almost no way the book could possibly live up to it, and it doesn't quite. I had expected something more of an adventure thriller, and what I got was a resesarch-based mystery that turns into a thriller when the bad guy is revealed. Oh, and a lot more graphic rape (of both men and women) than I care for in my fiction, no matter how realistic it supposedly is (and the book repeatedly quotes Sweden's sexual abuse statistics in a pre-emptive defense of the inclusion of those scenes and details). I rather liked the main characters and the actual mystery itself, though, and, while the primary mystery is easily solvable by the reader early on as to the whodunnit, the why and how are harder to guess until the evidence is revealed towards the end. There's also a sizable subplot about Swedish banking/securities fraud, which serves very little purpose except as a pretext to hook the main character into the main plot (after which it is dropped until the very end of the book), and then to demonstrate the extreme-ultra-competence of the titular character. (That is, the 24-year-old self-trained super-hacker and master of disguise & sneak-thievery who probably has Asperger Syndrome.)

H1: Keep on the Shadowfell was one of the first modules released for the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons; I picked it up at the time to see what the new edition was like, but then buried it in my "to read" pile and only just now got around to it. Storywise, it's... okay as a D&D adventure--Bruce Cordell is definitely fond of the "opening a portal to an alien dimension" trope. I'm not a fan of many of the rules changes from 3rd ed., though.

Feudalism: Serf & Turf
Tags: books, reviews

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