Tuesday, June 30, 2009
William Nicholson, Slaves of the Mastery and Firesong. The rest of the Wind on Fire trilogy. These are dense, allegorical, and unique. The morality is much more nuanced than most fantasy, although on the surface the world is simple. The Mastery is superficially the most totalitarian and brutal state imaginable (just as Amaranth was the most repressive social hierarchy in the first book) but each story element unfolds into a more interesting state. I don't mean to say that the morality is not finally clear, just that the stories recognize complexity and potential for both good and evil in the heroes and villains. These two books didn't have quite the mythical feeling or emotional pull of the first in the trilogy, but the whole story was imaginative and powerful.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Georges Simenon, Inspector Cadaver. My first Inspector Maigret mystery (I don't know how I missed him in my Agatha Christie phase). A provincial investigation of a suspicious death, with a country house, snobbery, hostile gossip, and a sleazy house guest. Inspector Maigret is restrained, ruminative, and reluctant. Well-written, and even in translation the language is unmistakably french.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Susan Orlean, The Orchid Thief. This was interesting. I would have liked more on the orchids and less on the people. The botany is incredible and the descriptions needed large color plates. I thought the contemporary orchid people were a little boring, but I would definitely read an entire book on the Victorian era orchid hunters. The story was scattered, running off in all directions, but when it focused on the flowers or on the character of LaRoche it was fascinating.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
Neil Gaiman, American Gods. This was pretty disappointing. It was a fine thriller but it wasn't really funny or especially creative. The story had moments of spark, but mostly it seemed mechanical. I think the author like describing the background of middle America and the stories of the gods more than writing about the main character. Evidence in favor of my theory that strong silent men make crappy protagonists. And Shadow is a stupid name, anyway (it made me imagine him as a cross between a German Shepard and "The Rock").