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A Few Good Books

I've been on a reading kick the past few months. I have a habit of reading 3 or 4 books at a time, so I'll not finish a book for a month, and then all of a sudden I'm done with half a dozen. Here's a few of the things I've finished up recently:

David Copperfield, Charles Dickens - A long, long read. But I really like long, long reads so there ya go. It was Dickens favorite of his own novels, and while I only dimly recall reading Great Expectations back in high school, I can see why he liked it so much. It is a sprawling novel that spends time with so many wonderfully detailed characters that I lost count of them all. But the serial nature of the book keeps things orderly. Each chapter reads almost as if it were a short story with a definative beginning, middle, and end. And of course the obligatory hook to keep you on pins and needles until the next installment. It rather reminded me of comics in those regards.

Infoquake, David Louis Edelman - This one was getting rave reviews from all over the place so I thought I'd give it a try. A truly compelling and unique future setting that mixes programming, bio-genetics (or Biologics) and economic theory. It reads kinda like a libertarian capitalist Dune,  if you swap out the Spice for the Market, replace the dueling Houses with mega corporations,  and think of Muaddib as less of a messiah and more of a cut-throat entrepeneur looking to make a lot of money. Honestly, tho, I find the comparisons to Herbert's masterpiece a bit mistaken. Edelman's complete re-envisioning of society certainly reflects it, but Infoquake is not written on as epic a scale as Dune. And it's not as complete a work either. While a fascinating read with very intriguing ideas, the book was rather short on plot and ended right as things were getting interesting. The end was a bit of an anti-climax, actually, and felt more like the end of Part 1 of a trilogy. Which is indeed what it was.

Very Good, Jeeves!  P.G. Wodehouse - My first exposure to Bertie Wooster and his unflappable gentleman's gentleman. Absolutely hilarious. A Jeeves and Wooster formula can easily be summed up in this way: 1) Bertie is in a quite a Social Pickle. 2) Jeeves is sought for advice. 3) Bertie ignores advice. 4) Crazy hijinks ensue. 5) Jeeves manages to save the day. Every story in the collection follows this formula. You'd think it'd get tiresome after awhile. But Wodehouse keeps the dialogue so witty, the plot complications so silly and ridiculous, that you keep turning the next page just to find out how Bertie can manage to mess things up even worse. In fact, after awhile, it becomes a sort of game where you try to figure out what Jeeves is doing behind the scenes to set everything to rights again. Another distinctive element of Wodehouse's story telling is all the things he leaves out. Many major story events, sometimes entire main characters, appear off-stage and are talked about only in retrospect. Normally, this is a huge no-no in writing. But Wodehouse makes it work. Highly recommended.

Old Man's War, John Scalzi - I actually started reading Scalzi's blog, The Whatever, long before I picked up one of his books. I can easily recommend both. Old Man's War is a great fast read in the mode of a Heinlein military SF novel, only without the wierd politics or screwy views towards women. It's premise is pretty compelling. The only way to get off of Earth and see the stars is to join up with the Colonial Defense Force and defend humanity for a few years. The catch: you can't join until you're seventy five years old, and you can never come back. Oh, and you get to be young again. The prose is a little clunky in places (it is a first novel after all) but it's a really fun read, full of humor and pathos in all the right places. I'd recommend it to folks even if they don't normally like military SF. 

I'm currently reading Good Omens and half a dozen others. And loving it.



( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 20th, 2006 09:24 pm (UTC)
Your first Wodehouse!?! Man, where have you been?

Try Jerome K. Jerome next. Three Men in a Boat and Three Men on a Bumble.

Also, I just finished Variable Star, the one where Spider Robinson created a lost Heinlein from 50 year old notes.
Dec. 21st, 2006 02:32 am (UTC)
Under a rock, apparently. Did you see I'm only now reading Good Omens?

Also, I've only read one Terry Prachett novel.
Dec. 21st, 2006 03:20 pm (UTC)
Sounds like you've got some good titles under your belt (though of the books listed in the main body of your post, I've only read David Copperfield and Good Omens).

You should read everything Pratchett that you can get your hands on, naturally. Or at least all of the Discworld books. The early ones can be a bit odd in places, but from around Wyrd Sisters on, everything he touches is comic gold. The series has its ups and downs, but every single book of it is worth reading at least once, in my opinion.
Dec. 22nd, 2006 02:35 pm (UTC)
The only Pratchett I've read so far is Feet of Clay, and it was really good. I plan to read more.

You should definately check out a Jeeves & Wooster book, btw. I think you'd really like it. I'd say Wodehouse was a significant influence on Pratchett.

I've heard the BBC series based on the books is quite good too. Bertie Wooster is played by Hugh Laurie, and Jeeves is played by Stephen Fry.
Dec. 22nd, 2006 12:18 am (UTC)
Good Omens is the shit!!! How are you liking it so far?
Dec. 22nd, 2006 02:30 pm (UTC)
I love it so far. I'm about half way through.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )