I’m especially happy to see the backside of February. It was a short, busy month full of major projects, desert snow (a.k.a. ice and mud), and respiratory illness (I sounded like Courtney Love and Maryanne Faithful after a duet at Lollapalooza). Due to my reading fails of last month, I kept my February reading goals attainable and met them all, but my reviews were on the low side.
Books I Reviewed, Stuff I Blogged:
The only thing good about February is the beginning of book award season, so I spent most of my blogging days recapping new book award shortlists, and assessing their overlap with my own reading selections. I’m thoroughly chuffed about the BSFA shortlist, intrigued by the Kitschies shortlist, and accepting of the politically-predictable and commercially-driven Nebula shortlist.
I reviewed the cantankerous and witty The Female Man (1975) by Joanna Russ, which should be required reading for all humans by their 18th birthday. And if you don’t like the novel, you should be shot. In the kneecaps. Which should then be replaced with vaginas. And then you should be forced to live with other people who hate the novel and have shot-through vaginal knee caps. And we can only imagine what might happen with that. It’s the only reasonable response I can come up with. I think Professor Russ would agree.
I also posted the last of my “Conversations with Gene” series, in which Gene Wolfe and I discuss the developments of his 1982 installment The Sword of the Lictor (1982) from the surreal The Book of the New Sun tetralogy. Unlike our last couple of conversations, Gene is surprisingly lucid, and has much to say about writing technique and human nature. He also accused me of eisegesis, to which I say, JUST YOU WAIT UNTIL I POST A REAL REVIEW, BUDDY.
And finally, I ended the month with a review of The Algebraist (2004) by Iain M. Banks, which everyone seems to agree is not his best work and not the right place to begin the Banks bibliography. And I cried, “But algebra! In fiction!” But there wasn’t any.
Books I Blurbed, But Will Not Review
Wait, I Changed My Mind, I Will Review Those Books, Sort of, Closer to the Eastercon, So, Sorry, I Will Probably Annoy Everybody Will Daily Posts Toward the End of This Month, But This is a Thing That Needs To Be Done Because The BSFA Nominated Some Good Books This Year And I Don’t Usually Get a Chance to Be So Squee Happy About Recent Speculative Fiction. Oh, God, I Wrote Squee Happy, Referring to Myself, This is Awful, What Has Become of Me?
So, yeah, that.
I added a blurb about The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North to my Best Novels of 2014 list. Obviously a slightly longer, more info-bytie review is coming.
Books Read, Not Yet Reviewed
I finally finished my latest LLR (Long, Lazy Read), The Years of Rice and Salt (2002) by Kim Stanley Robinson. How different would history be if all of Europe perished during the Plague? Who were the other Galileos and Marxes and Wollstonecrafts of this alternate world? This novel is fire. It stirred my dormant activist soul.
I also read Edgar Pangborn’s 1964 Davy, which is as “lusty” and “ribald” as promised. It’s basically Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow (1955), but hornier and less nuanced. But the Vonnegut-like prose captured my attention, speaking truth to power in punchy lines.
I listened to the audiobook of Michael Swanwick’s Bones of the Earth (2002), and earned a few laughs on Goodreads when I posted the choicest quotes from this formulaic novel. Oh, I hate to be rude, but why? Authors, please stop. Writing just for the sake of commercial publishing really pisses me off.
And speaking of Ursula! I finally read The Lathe of Heaven (1971), which has been described to me as Le Guin in disguise as PKD, which is a most apt descriptor. The Dispossessed is still my most favorite Le Guin, with The Left Hand of Darkness close behind, but this is still Le Guin being the wonderful author who we should all love and read because she doesn’t write just to publish and if there was no (imaginary, because get real, people) promise of money or attention she would still write because she has things to say, ORIGINAL things to say, and clever ways to say them, and it’s not just about characters doing things in contrived settings dammit quit wasting my time other authors who are not Le Guin or Kim Stanley Robinson or William Gibson (or plenty of others but you get me).
Books to Read in March
Brittle Innings (1994) by Michael Bishop – Around this time last year, I read and enjoyed Bishop’s 1982 SF Masterwork No Enemy but Time (1982) for SF Ruminations blog effort to promote Bishop’s work. I’m curious what this ‘90s southern gothic novel about baseball will be like.
The Mote in God’s Eye (1974) by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle – I participated in a recent comment discussion at Book Reviews Forevermore, and Nikki from Bookpunks vehemently warned me off the collaborative efforts of Niven and Pournelle. Something about my eyes bleeding out of my skull… So, of course, I’m reading it. Bibliomasochism is a thing and I have it.
The Whole Man (1964) by John Brunner – Most people seem disappointed with the majority of Brunner’s bibliography, so I will probably read this in tandem with Brunner’s acclaimed masterpiece Stand on Zanzibar (1968).
My LLR of the month: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (2004) by Susanna Clarke – A reread! This novel both raised the bar and destroyed fantasy for me when I read it over ten years ago, and sent me into a “There’s Nothing Good to Read” boredom spiral that lasted until started this blog. Will it withstand the test of time and honor over all the books I’ve read for this blog, or was I just a naïve post-grad graduate who was easily blown away by footnotes in fiction? Let’s find out!
I have a whole week off this month, and it’s still too cold to jog or fix up the garden, so I might be able to add in a few more books. I need to sneak in the rest of the BSFA nominees (Hardinge’s A Cuckoo’s Song and Williamson’s The Moon King) and well as some short fiction.
February Book Tallies
Total books: 6
Books about space (and not about algebra): 1
Books about robots: 0
Books about effective dreaming: 1
Books about post-apocalypse: 1
Books about reincarnation: 2, maybe 3 if you count reality-bending dream lives.
Books about orgiastic paleontologists: 1. Kill me.
Also, the winners of The Kitschies will be announced this week! It’s not too late to snatch up Nina Allan’s The Race or Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon (only on audio for U.S., but the narrators are brilliant) so you can be part of the cool crowd who has already read the winner. Because I will be shocked, SHOCKED, if neither of these authors win.