December 3rd, 2009


Books that I read in November

Books that I read in November:

48. Smith, E. E. Subspace Explorers. (255 p.)

49. Hugo, Victor Les Misérables. (1,463 p.!!)

50. Harrison, Harry. Deathworld (154 p.)

November total: 1,872 pages
YTD total: 14,780 pages

Once again, I've reached the point before December of having read 50 books in a year despite being far too busy to read most of the time. I still shudder to think what my annual numbers were like 10 years ago when I was generally reading a minimum of 3 or 4 books in parallel at any given time.) Now to knock out those last 220 pages during December in order to reach 15,000 pages...

(Actually, I already have read that many more pages this year, but I haven't finished the book in question--and won't for probably a few months yet at this rate--so I'm not counting them yet.)

It certainly helped that I managed to read half of Les Mis on the flights to & from Australia in October--enabling me to finish reading the whole thing in only four weeks--or else I'd probably still be slogging through that cube of paper this time next year. Hugo really needed an editor to condense the first 1,000 pages down to 100 or so, and the last 463 pages down to 200-300 or so, and the result would've been a tight novel that hit, hit hard, and left you wanting more. Heck--after the first 1,000 pages, it feels like even Hugo finally wanted to just get the book over with, and the action finally speeds up from glacier pace to merely molasses in January, with occasional flashes all the way up to partially crystalized honey. There were times when I was sure that the title referred to the readers rather than the characters. Don't get me wrong, I actually enjoyed this book--even some of the lengthy near-useless digressions, as they spoke to my inner historian--despite my initial misgivings about the length, tone, and potential impenetrability resulting in my joking about using it as a cure for insomnia on the plane. However, I would generally recommend that anyone who wants to read this either find an abridged version or find a production of the musical to watch, as I now put my achievement at finishing this tome in the same literary mountain-climing category as my achievement at finishing reading all 10 volumes of L. Ron Hubbard's Invasion: Earth series--it's nice to be able to say you've done it, but it's not necessarily something the general public should try at home. ("We're what you call 'experts'"--Mythbusters.)

As for the other two books, Subspace Explorers reads like two pulp SF books smashed together without any heed for how well they actually dovetail. It's also crammed full to the gills with rabidly anti-union sentiment, with barely a token handwave at the corresponding anti-corporation sentiment the story actually needed to come across as at all grounded in reality. Other than that, it entertained me.

On the other hand, Deathworld is simultaneously less realistic and more believable. It sort of peters out at the end as the main character suddenly figures out everything that's been going on and then explains it all to the rest of the characters. On a video hookup that's broadcast to just about every citizen on the planet, just in case there's anyone who would have otherwise missed the scene due to other contractual obligations. It entertained me much more than Subspace Explorers did, and I think it would make for a straight-to-cable movie adaptation that'd be as watchable, or possibly even more so than, say, Atomic Twister, Ogre, or S.S. Doomtrooper.

Feudalism: Serf & Turf
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