36. Card, Orson Scott. Shadow Puppets (Ender series) (375 p.)
37. Card, Orson Scott. Shadow of the Giant (Ender series) (371 p.)
38. Brodsky, Michael. Xman (538 p.)
August total: 1,284 pages
2012 YTD total: 12,743 pages
I'd thought that with Shadow Puppets and Shadow of the Giant, I'd finished off Bean & Petra's arc of the Ender saga. In checking, I see that since the last time I checked, Card has now added one more book to Ender's arc, one final book to Bean's arc, and another one coming soon-ish that joins the futures of both arcs together into one. (If I find them for free, I might read 'em, but only one or maybe two of the three look at all interesting to me.) Having finished these, I can now say that I found these much more readable than the later books in Ender's arc; the parts that seem to turn off readers the most were noticable but weren't the main plot and didn't bother me nearly as much as the main plot of the Ender arc did. That saidm while they're good and interesting, I've read better socio-political thrillers, better war stories, and better "makes you think" science fiction, probably even in the same book. (E.g. some of Bujold's Vorkosigan books, some of the Dorsai books, etc.) One thing about these two, though, is neither one stands well alone, and Shadow of the Giant does a lot of revealing how the future got the way it did in Ender's arc, but in such a way that I think it's better to have read Ender's arc before these. Giant at least has an ending & resolution of sorts, even though it leaves a key point unresolved, so it makes a good stopping place.
Dorothy Parker, regarding Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, is famously quoted as having said, "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown aside with great force." I had a similar reaction to Michael Brodsky's Xman. It is 500+ pages of postmodern prose at its most willfully impenetrable and plot-free, and as a result it was one of the worst books I've ever read; I only finished it because it's a point of pride with me that I finish every book that I choose to start; otherwise the book wins. I'd summarize the plot, but that would make it sound worth reading, and it just isn't. The pacing makes glaciers look like Usain Bolt; every time is starts to pick up in the slightest, one of the characters breaks the flow with a multi-page anecdote that's slightly tangentally related. Also, there are no chapter breaks and few paragraph breaks, not even when different speakers talk. It's a wall of words, many of which I'd need a thesaurus or dictionary to figure out, and a few of which are coined. Characters' names change through the course of a single page. Even when I was wide awake, I'd find myself reading the same three lines over and over without realizing it. In short, avoid like the plague. I only picked it up because I used to be an obsessive-compulsive Marvel X-men completist, and couldn't pass up a book with that title, the plot summary that's on the jacket flap, and the positively glowing reviews it got from otherwise-reputable publications. Now I wish I had--but I'm also glad to be able to say it didn't beat me. Now pardon me while I go throw it aside with great force.
Feudalism: Serf & Turf