January 2021 books read

  • Wyst: Alastor 1716 – Jack Vance, 1978. The third and last of Vance’s loosely-linked Alastor series, and my favorite because of the real emotion at the end. The setting is a vivid but not particularly coherent universal basic subsistence society, so it’s especially interesting these days. The most memorable aspect is the nutritious-but-boring foods provided free to everyone: cake-like gruff, white drink deedle, and wobbly (pudding-ish) “to fill in the cracks.” Unfortunately the plot relies on truly eye-popping coincidences that would make even Dickens shy away.
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two – John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling, 2016 – Finishing up my Harry Potter kick with this. I’ve read it once before and enjoyed it again. It’s quite different in flavor from the HP books, not just because it’s a play script but also because the characters, especially Albus and Scorpius (LOVE HIM!), have emotional struggles of a type that don’t show up in the original series. I was lucky enough to win Hamilton lottery tickets pre-pandemic, after years of trying, and had just started focusing on entering the lottery for this – the production sounds amazing. When the Great White Way starts flowing again…
  • The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1910. Umpteenth time comfort re-read triggered by a bout of insomnia.
  • My Side of the Mountain – Jean Craighead George, 1959. Same, although I re-read it more as a kid when I wanted to live Sam Gribley’s life, and less since I got real access to nature and not just Central Park.
  • Nothing to See Here – Kevin Wilson, 2019. Second Monday book group selection, but I didn’t pull any quotes. Interviews with the author explaining his backstory, as well as the group discussion, helped me get more out of it than just an enjoyable-but-slight, slightly-fantastic novel (kids who catch on fire without hurting themselves – the descriptions of that were the best part), but the writing itself wasn’t very memorable on first read.
  • Folk of the Fringe – Orson Scott Card, 1985. Re-read subsequent to The Postman because of the “Pageant Wagon” section with its post-apocalyptic traveling theater troupe. My dad and I, both interested in religious movements (he because of being raised Exclusive Brethren, me being raised by him, both of us agnostic/atheist but fascinated by why people believe things) talked off and on about going to the (free! but in the middle of nowhere!) LDS Hill Cumorah pageant. I had forgotten than Card wrote the current script. I just now found out that I missed my last chance and it’s canceled for good. There are only bootleg clips on Youtube. Darn it!
  • The Overstory – Richard Powers, 2018 – quotes pulled, tbd
  • Captain Harlock The Classic Collection 1 – Leiji Matsumoto, 2018 English translation (originally released in Japan in 1977). Tried the original this time – good but still can’t recapture being 14 and watching Albator on French TV. But I did/do love the crazy over-the-top capsule description: “A boy’s eyes burn with hopes for the future. /The eyes of a young man recall struggles in which he staked his life. It is the way of a man’s life to grow old without regret… / This is the story of men who sought adventure and romance in the vast ocean called the universe!!”
  • The Iliad – Homer (8th century BC), tr. Robert Fagles (1998) – quotes pulled, tbd
  • Normal People – Sally Rooney, 2018 – quotes pulled, tbd
  • War Day (1984) and Nature’s End (1986) – Whitley Strieber and James W. Kunetka. More in my post-apocalyptic re-read kick. The first one was really quite good and atmospheric, but the second suffers in comparison because they cram so many plots into it. It’s not just the earth after pollution (there’s some climate change too but it doesn’t wreak much havoc), but there’s a mysterious Big Bad guru, anti-aging, savior AI, super-intelligent children… it’s a mess (that I still enjoy).
  • The Temple of Silence: Herbert Crowley, His Forgotten Works and Worlds – Justin Duerr, 2017. Impulse pick-up at the library of a hugely-oversized (screw legs on it and it could be the coffee-table), lavishly-illustrated investigation of the creator of The Wigglemuch (forgotten comic strip, not great IMO) and some fascinating decorative art.

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