24. Cooper, J. Fenimore. The Last of the Mohicans (Leatherstocking Tales) (330 p.)
25. Spoor, Ryk. Spheres of Influence (Grand Central Arena series) (567 p.)
December total: 897 pages
2015 YTD total: 7,713 pages
Well, I didn't get to either 50 books or 15,000 pages, my usual anunal goals, but I did reach half of both targets. That's much better than I was afraid I might do this year, so I'll take it.
I didn't know all that much about The Last of the Mohicans going in, expected to find it tolerably interesting, and instead found it to be a quite readable adventure story, especially surprising to me given when it was written. I also expected it to be a bit more one-dimensionally, negatively stereotyped in its portrayal of Native American culture than it turned out to be. Don't get me wrong, there is some of that, but it's definitely more nuanced than novels written fifty years later were, and the settings and basic action pieces seem to be relatively true to life, at least compared to what little I know about the time period between the French & Indian war and the Revolution. It did take me longer than it should have to figure out which character's first name went with which character, as several of them are usually referred to by their last name, except when they aren't, and all of the natives and Natty Bumppo have at least two if not three or four different names they are referred to by various other characters and the narrator, and it did seem a bit slow and flowery in spots, but some of both of those may have been due to reading most of it in smaller chunks at a time. Recommended; I liked this one a lot more than I expected to.
I decided to end the year by taking a break from the shelf of Classics and read something fun--Spheres of Influence--a book I'd been holding in reserve for a while now, actually, for when I needed just such a break. No regrets; it was refreshing to be able to read through a long book that constantly kept me wanting to find out what happened next, and still finish it in a fairly short time. I liked it even more than I liked the first book--which was quite a bit--but despite the presence of a "what went before" preface, I would still recommend reading the first book rather than starting cold with this one. The addition of the Monkey King, in particular, adds an element of more overt humor, swashbuckling, and "sensawunda" that wasn't quite there in the first book. The one drawback, if one can even call it that, is that the book's ending feels too open-ended for my tastes, as it's more of a "to be continued" than a "and they had many more adventures, which we might tell you about someday"; the book's own A-plots that get resolved feel more like B-plots due to the near-omnipresence of the overarching continuing story-arc that gets moved along a few notches but otherwise is still not even close to being resolved. (That said, it's obviously an intentional pacing decision and doesn't really detract that much, it just hits a personal hot-button, since I don't have all that much time to read these days and thus tend to stay away from ungodly long epics like Wheel of Time or Game of Thrones, and while I wish GCA the level of popularity of books like that, I'd also rather see existing plots come to a climax and new plots start, than spin wheels for 2,000 pages.) I also groaned out loud at the source of one character's name (Maria-Susanna), though it makes sense in context and is explained in-story in such a way as to make it clear it's the author being tongue-in-cheek and actually doing something with the concept rather than too cutesy by far with a throwaway Easter egg. But don't let either of those points dissuade you; it's an excellent book that is both a throwback/homage to the classic science fiction stories of the 1930s and a unique, solid, modern story in its own right. Highly recommended. (The usual disclaimer: I've known Ryk online for more than 20 years now, so might have a bit of bias. I don't think I do, but you be the judge.)
Feudalism: Serf & Turf