January Reads

I’ve been a bit more infrequent in my posting here lately. So, in an attempt to discipline myself further, I’m doing an end of month round-up. This should help me keep a track of my reading, too.

So, welcome to the first one! Bit of a weak start, I’m afraid (and I had intended to have read a bit more by now). Still, they’ll improve – promise.

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Bit late on this one. I have to admit I was a bit sceptical that I’d enjoy it, given that it was pretty hyped. Enjoyed it quite a lot more than I’d expected to, though. That said, I’m dubious that the sequels will add much. Shall probably read them soon, though.
The Owl Service – Alan Garner
Alan Garner is, as noted several times before, excellent. I am in the process of re-reading his stuff this year along with the excellent Maureen Kincaid Speller and Aishwarya Subramanian. It’s been about 20 years since I last read The Owl Service. This was a mistake.
Osama – Lavie Tidhar
Full review.
The Recollection – Gareth L. Powell
Enjoyed this well enough. Far from perfect, however. I think that the characters left a little to be desired, for example. Still, be interested to see what Powell comes up with next.
Heart of Iron – Ekaterina Sedia
Full review.
Black Hole – Charles Burns
This was excellent. I’ve only really discovered the joys of comics in the last few years. This has meant that I do struggle a little to identify stuff that may be up my street. Anyway, this comic muses on folks maturity and all that goes with it. Props to Paul Smith for the recommendation.
Paintwork – Tim Maughan
Three linked short stories. My favourite of these was the first, Paintwork, which features AR and advertising hoardings. Some good stuff in here; imagine Cory Doctorow if his books weren’t mind-spankingly shit (sorry, being lazy, I just really can’t stand Doctorow’s novels). I shall do a proper write up, though, as there is some good stuff in these stories, especially the first, which is relevant to my interests (corporate destruction of public space and the like).

The Inheritors – William Golding
Until I read this, the only novel by Golding I’d read was (go on, guess), Lord of the Flies. That was, for a long while, a favourite of mine. I’d expected to like this more than I did. It’s not a bad novel by any stretch. However, I have to confess that I found the People a little on the overly-innocent side. Bit sledgehammer, perhaps? Shall try something else by Golding, though.
At Swim-Two-Birds – Flann O’Brien
An baffling and sometimes hilarious novel. Brilliant.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – Frank Miller
Right. So this is acknowledged as a classic. But we all know that Frank Miller has become a bit of a dick. Also, there is the sneaking suspicion that he may never have met a real woman (well, if Sin City is any guide). Well… this was shit. I dread to think what Frank Miller losing it is like. This was dreadful. None-too-interesting art, boring dialogue and a weak attempt to engage with the problems inherent in the Batman character.
Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again – Frank Miller
Bleargh. Worse than the first one.
Batman: Year One – Frank Miller
Marginally better. But that may just be due to this being a sprucing up of the creation story?
Batman R.I.P. – Grant Morrison
I did enjoy this a little more than the Miller Batman comics. There is the suspicion that, all my moaning about artwork an poor philosophising in the Miller Batman books aside, I just don’t particularly like superhero comics.
How I Escaped My Certain Fate – Stewart Lee
Stewart Lee is one of my favourite stand-ups at the moment. A fair chunk of this book is taken up with transcripts of shows that I have seen live and on DVD later. They are, however, greatly enriched by his commentary on the shows and circumstances surrounding them. Smart and funny.

“And then he said to me – this is honestly true – he said to me, ‘Well you can prove anything with facts, can’t you?”

That bit always cheers me up because I have had a conversation/argument that has ended exactly that way. Still, as full of shit as I undoubtedly am, I’d like to think that my soft-headed liberal opinions are based upon some kind of facts, eh?

Rivers of London – Ben Aaronovitch
This was picked up by quite a few folk last year and (as far as I’m aware) reactions were mostly positive. I’m not sure why this is, though. It wasn’t particularly hateful and (despite one or two tedious bits) it managed to avoid outstaying its welcome. I won’t be ranting about losing hours of my life to this but I can imagine that this one will be fairly quickly forgotten. Ho-hum.
Castles Made of Sand – Gwyneth Jones
Second in the Bold of Love series. It’s Gwyneth Jones and so it is, of course, awesome. I do wonder how much she likes her characters. It’s pretty grim in places, too. This did put me in mind of some of the chat about the use of rape as a device in genre fiction. Rape features in these novels – specifically one of the main characters was the victim of abuse by her father. However, Jones doesn’t particularly dwell on the act to the extent that others might (there’s certainly no titillation). It’s not a lazy way to depict someone as bad or (worse) BADASS. Interestingly, what makes it less horrible in these novels is that the consequences of her ordeal are the more important part of this aspect of the novels.

High Rise – J.G. Ballard
Life in a modern high rise breaks down and the inhabitants revel in their own squalor and violence. Just getting back into Ballard. Intend to read more soon.
The Furies – Keith Roberts
OK, it’s nowhere near as good as his alt-history classic, Pavane. But it does have GIANT SPACE WASPS. It did remind me a little of John Wyndham, but not so good. But it does have GIANT SPACE WASPS.

Look: GIANT FUCKING SPACE WASPS.

Until next time!

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