I used to do these monthly reading summary posts, but they never seemed to interest anyone, and then I promised myself I would publish only one post per week this season. But now I’ve noticed other people doing them and it’s made me wistful for my old post schedule. Perhaps now enough book nerds have found me and maybe they enjoy book stalking me as much as I enjoy book stalking them. The greatest benefit of this community is the vicarious reading, amirite?
Also, September was unusual for me because I read a lot more than my usual book-per-week rate. I’m not sure why– this is the busiest autumn I’ve had in a few years– but it may have something to do with my latest trend in rotating a few active books at once. To my surprise, this book flirtation has increased my completion rate. I thought my attention span had a finite limit to the amount of time I can sit to read, but I have discovered that I can continue reading if switch to another book. Who knew! It’s a book attention span, not an activity attention span! (Side note: this has really cut into my jogging time. This could get dangerous.)
Books I read this month:
I started the month by reviewing Galactic Patrol (1938) by E. E. “Doc” Smith, one of the nominees for this year’s Retro Hugo. It was rompy and tropey as expected, and not something I really enjoyed. Its Retro Hugo competitor, Carson of Venus (1938) by Edgar Rice Burroughs, is much more fun. (I’m still dragging my feet on the other pulpy 1939 Retro Nominee The Legion of Time by Jack Williamson.)
Then I read the SF Masterwork The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe/The Unsleeping Eye (1974) by D. G. Compton, a unique vision of death and dying in media-suffused near-future. Joachim Boaz at Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations recommended the book to me as a strong portrayal of a middle-aged heroine. This book is one of his all-time top three favorite SF novels. It’s not in my top three, but it is very good and very special.
A. E. Van Vogt’s classic The World of Null-A (1948) has been on my list for a long time and I finally crossed it off. It’s a strange, discordant story about far future fascism, a sentient Machine, and Venus (with trees!). It’s neither cohesive nor solid, but it is entertaining in a WTF sort of way. Also, it has lie detectors. Lots of lie detectors.
I just completed James White’s 1962 robot apocalypse novel Second Ending. The hero awakens from suspended animation to learn that he is the only human to survive the ravages of disease and nuclear winter in a future populated only by robots. The premise is so similar to one of my very favorite cartoons, Futurama, that I can only hope for Bender to show up. (“Bending’s my middle name!” “Your name is Bender Bending Rodriguez?” Serious laughs right there, folks.) I’ll publish the review tomorrow.
But, in true autumnal fashion, some strange things happened to screw up my normally OCD driven reading schedule (My spreadsheets, no!)…
September Famous Author Book Release and Media Promotion Extravaganza also happened this month and I fell hard. I crushed on the book blurb for The Bone Clocks (2014) by David Mitchell until I dropped my regularly scheduled vintage programming and was sucked into this multi-character collage of slipstream goodness. As crushes normally go, this one faded, especially during the Super-Mega-Fantastic-Sorcery section, supported by the Expository Back Story Conversation over Tea. Tsk, tsk.
My frenemy Matt at Books, Brains and Beer is hosting his semi-readalong of Swedish up-and-comer Karin Tidbeck’s short story collection of Jagannath (2012). Never one to back away from a reading challenge, I answered the call with no regrets. It’s a darling mixture of the fey and the forbidding, and I recommend you jump on board.
Speaking of Matt, I received a message (read: threat) this month that said, “Annihilation is $2.99 today. You have no excuse.” Asshole. So I read the whole overhyped series, and shared my many thoughts (equally favorable and critical) with said frenemy, for which I sometimes received the silent treatment. My ultimate opinion: it’s good, and deserves to be a defining staple of this SF generation. Does a book written in one year need to be three books long (and priced)? Am I really the only person asking this question? The entire blogger world has reviewed this series, so expect less formality in my upcoming semi-review. It will be weird. Oh dear.
Then a sudden, unplanned, cross-state road trip occurred this weekend so I frantically downloaded the audiobook for China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station (2000). This is a partial re-read, and I’ll explain my tenuous history with this book in my also upcoming review (communication issues, and then the distance… it’s complicated). I did tweet a few things about it, which started some interesting conversations.
The results can be found here.
Total books: 10
Books with spaceships: 3 (Ha! I don’t just read about spaceships!)
Books with psi powers: 3
Books with sentient cyber beings: 2 (maybe 3)
The best reads of the month:
The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe, Jagannath, and Perdido Street Station, in no particular order.
The Jewels of Aptor, Samuel R. Delany (1962) (It’s an Ace double with Second Ending!)
Dark Universe, Daniel Galouye (1962) (Yes, I’m on a 1962 fix.)
The Shadow of the Torturer, Gene Wolfe (1980)
Inverted World, Christopher Priest (1974)
City of Stairs, Robert Jackson Bennett (2014) (Too many good reviews. My hype senses are tingling.)