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March reading
   Tue Mar 31, 2009 8:44 am

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February reading

Permanent Linkby starweaver on Sat Feb 28, 2009 4:03 pm

Books:
**** Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
**** The Mythic Bestiary: The Illustrated Guide to the World's Most Fantastical Creatures by Tony Allan

Stories:
*** "Winding Broomcorn" by Mario Milosovic
** "Catalog" by Eugene Mirabelli
*** "Dragon's-Eyes" by Margaret Ronald
*** "Intelligence" by R. Neube
** "Of Thinking Being and Beast" by Michael J. DeLuca
**** "The Fort in Vermont" by David A. Simons
***** "A Heretic by Degrees" by Marie Brennan
**** "Slow Stampede" by Sara Genge
*** "The Night We Buried Road Dog" by Jack Cady
**** "Golden Pepper" by Jay Lake
*** "Pi" by Mette Ivie Harrison
**** "Act One" by Nancy Kress
**** "Hangman" by Erin Cashier
*** "Whatness" by Benjamin Crowell
** "The Long, Cold Goodbye" by Holly Phillips

Quick Takes

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card: I'm catching up on reading well-known sf and fantasy novels I missed when they originally appeared, and this is one of them. I'm not usually a fan of war-themed sf, but Ender's Game has a very original premise, and turns out to be more about the psychology and sociology of war, power, and manipulation than it does about war per se. An excellent read.

The Mythic Bestiary by Tony Allan: I expected this to be a typical "coffee table book" with lots of flashy artwork and little substance. I was pleasantly surprised to discover otherwise. The book is a collection of 84 short essays, each covering a particular mythological creature. Each creature gets a nicely illustrated 2-page or 4-page spread. (Elves and dragons are alone in having six pages). Most of the illustrations were made for the book, although historical reproductions are occasionally used as well. The creatures range from the familiar (dragons) to the obscure (amphisbaena), and span many cultures and time periods, although Europe expectedly receives a dominant share. Most impressive is the impeccability of Allan's research. He sorts through the historical sources of each creature, disentangling traditional folklore and myth from subsequent artistic invention. He does not limit himself to a single perspective, either: myth and literature comingle here with cryptozoology, urban legend, and paleontology. It's a rare pleasure these days to find a book on a topic like this that instructs as well as entertains.

"Catalog" by Eugene Mirabelli (F&SF): This received a favorable mention in Locus, but it left me unimpressed. The protagonist drops into a world that is a real-life version of the images in catalogs and magazines. I suppose this could be an opportunity for philosophical rumination on how commercial images have become a reality for us, but it felt like the story just rambled on for awhile and then ended, without ever getting around to saying anything.

"A Heretic by Degrees" by Marie Brennan (IGMS): This story is set on Driftwood, a kind of Black-Hole-like mini-cosmos where worlds go to die. It's an extraordinarily creative premise, and the story she tells against this backdrop is engaging and well-crafted. Driftwood deserves a novel or two; I hope Brennan agrees.

"The Night We Buried Road Dog" by Jack Cady (F&SF): This is a reprinting of an award-winning novella from 1993. It is expertly written, but just not of much interest to me. The milieu (American rustics living through their cars) does nothing for me, and it was more mainstream fiction than genre, in my opinion.

"Act One" by Nancy Kress (Asimov's): A near-future novella about genetic engineering, with strong characters and plotting. I was amused (and rather pleased) that its premise has similarities to a story I had sent to Asimov's in January. There must be something in the water...

My ratings:
***** excellent: memorable, satisfying, a pleasure to read
**** very good: well written, good read, perhaps with small flaws or not quite aligned with my personal taste
*** good: readable, engaging, but with some problems or just not memorable or exciting for me
** sub-par: a rough read, either amateurish or just uninteresting to me
* huh? someone published this?

My ratings are part objective appraisal of the writing, part unapologetic personal preference (certain subjects and subgenres just don't appeal to me as much as others)

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Re: February reading

Permanent Linkby The Master on Mon Mar 09, 2009 7:14 pm

Orson Scott Card is an excellent author. Have you read any of his other works?
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