Sometimes a couple of sentences are all you need to get the gist. Sometimes I don’t have time to review every single book I read. Sometimes I don’t want to. Either because I want to make sure I am not just reviewing white dudely dudes or because I just want to relax and not think about critique points as I go. But I always still have lots of Thoughts about them. So I’ve put together a little basket of blurb-sized reviews of my latest reads, so that none of my bookly thoughts on these tomes go completely MIA. Besides, with book reviews, less is so often more. 123go…
The Ganymede Takeover by P.K. Dick and Ray Faraday Nelson
I found this book in a second-hand bookstore in Brighton. Freshly arrived for my very first convention—World Fantasy—I had planned a route from train station to hotel that went past every used book store in the city. It isn’t often that I stumble upon P.K. Dick books that I have never heard of, let alone in a second-hand shop. I bought it, alongside Lies, Inc, another P.K. Dick book that has managed to evade my collection so far. It was the kind of used book store that makes you want to empty out your wallet—it combined used books and used CDs and vinyl, with a damn fine science fiction and fantasy section to boot, and multiple vintage Dick titles in the window.
But the book. The reason that I had never heard of it was probably that it isn’t one of Dick’s best and is possibly among the worst. It is a bit weird, a bit slow, and doesn’t involve any of the trippy twists that I so admire the execution of in books like A Scanner Darkly. Will you look at that, the story of how I came across this book is more interesting than the story in the book. I am glad to have it on my shelves for my epic re-reads of his entire works, but, yeah, I might not bother giving it a second chance. Not while I can still remember my complete lack of enthusiasm while reading it the first time.
Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney
This book is so fucking weird. Eight hundred fucking pages of having no idea what is going on. Oh, you know what is happening on the surface, a bunch of characters you have become vaguely acquainted with hang out, walk around a strangely broken (almost sentient) city, read, write, drink, eat, and have a lot of sex (a LOT). But what this book really is about? I suspect stories, writing, story-telling, and the plight of the artist. I hope that someone, somewhere has written something about it that will help me understand (Delany himself?).
I was sold it on the premise that it belonged in the post-apocalyptic lit category (I would argue that it ultimately does not), and I stayed for the writing, which is wonderful, with a lot of bits and bobbles that really impressed me. But as the story unraveled, became more meta/literary/book-within-a-book I found it harder and harder to read. How can you tell someone with a straight face that you absolutely loved this book, that it was complete genius, but that you couldn’t wait for it to be over so you could read something else? Well, believe it: that is exactly how I felt about this book. Delaney is a master, and I left Dhalgren looking forward to reading all of his much shorter works.
Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig
I LOVE CHUCK WENDIG. There, I’ve said it. His blog terribleminds cracks me up and has been for almost a year now. High time I gave some of his fiction a try. Blackbirds was filthy (I love cursing. There is SO much cursing), violent, page-turning, fast-paced, enthralling. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series, and then to move on to the corn punk. Oh yeah, corn punk. It’s a thing.
Also: Look at that fucking cover! Love and love.
Among Others by Jo Walton
I loved this book so much that I couldn’t fathom reviewing it. Sarah Chorn of Bookworm Blues gets around this by gushing anyway and then calling it a “not a review.” I tend to remain paralyzed into silence by joy for too long afterwards. It’s a common problem, I hear. The recommendation came from Genre-Bending, and I read it in one lovely, sunny afternoon. It was so magical, so sympathetic, so so SO everything that I love in a fantasy book with a character who reads lots of fantasy and comments on it. Magic was infused into the reality I know on my side of the page in a way that made it seem a real possibility. I adored every page.
Random fact: Before I’d read this the title inspired me to write lyrics to a new Battenkill Ramblers song called Among Rebels. Magic, alas did not intervene to make my song, without my having read the book, about the same story. Still, it’s a fun exercise. If you’re ever having trouble writing lyrics, take a book title and run with it. If you’re ever having trouble writing a story, take a song and run with that.