The Books of Summer ’08

04 Aug 2008

The Library of America’s second volume of Philip K. Dick novels is out, and I bought five copies. Three of them will be given away to friends. I’m tremendously excited to see these novels getting recognition. I’m currently reading Martian Time-Slip. Technically, I’m re-reading it, but it was many years ago and I don’t remember the story very well.

So, what else? I do manage to read, although because I only get occasional bite-sized chunks of time, enough to read perhaps 5 pages, it is slow-going. Finishing novels this way makes them feel slightly disjointed, but it’s what I can manage.

Not long ago I plowed through The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, since it seems like the kind of book I should have read back in middle school. Hugely successful upon release, this book has been largely dismissed as a Tolkien ripoff. It is definitely that, although there are the seeds of some originality present as well. The biggest problem is that the things it borrows from Tolkien, it robs of significance. When the Gandalf-like character apparently falls to his death, only to reappear later, there’s a prosaic explanation for what happened to him. There’s no real dramatic tension established by this. Most of the Tolkienesque elements are like that. I think most readers and critics would be quite forgiving of a book that borrowed heavily from Tolkien if it did so artfully. I am undecided as to whether I want to dip into any of the later books in this world and see how Brooks developed as a writer. The first one is not a keeper, though; it’s on my giveaway pile.

I wrote a while back about Iain M. Banks and his novel Matter. I vowed to try another of his books, and so I did: I read The Algebraist. That book was notably better, enough so that I’ll consider reading more Banks in the near future. It still suffers a bit from the author’s apparent propensity for setting up very interesting characters and then forgetting about them until he finally gets around to killing them off without much fanfare at the end of the book.

I’m partway through The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds. This is a gothic police procedural set in the Revelation Space universe, and the nice thing about it is that in following the detective format, the storyline is stripped down and much tighter and shorter. I’m a big fan of Reynolds’ sprawling space operas, but it is nice to have a shorter read. I haven’t finished it, but I imagine this would make an excellent introduction to the Revelation Space books, and I’m looking forward to more by Reynolds.

On my pile: Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross, and John Scalzi’s The Last Colony.

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