August 30, 2004
33. The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three, Stephen King*
Yeah, guess what I did this weekend? I should go on the record as saying that this is probably my least favorite of the Dark Tower books. Which is not to say that I don't like it; the second-to-last scene, the one that ends with Roland saying, "Even the damned love," gives me goosebumps every time I read it. And the depth of character development and change that happens is nothing short of astounding but overall... I just don't have the same level of attachment to it as I do to the other books.
Not much else to say about this, except that Susannah Dean goes on to become one of my most favorite literary characters ever, right next to Jake Chambers. (Which, come to think of it, may be one reason I'm not as fond of this book--no Jake.)
32. The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger, Stephen King*
I debated whether or not to list this as a reread, because it's the revised version that came out last year. But really, the changes weren't that fundamental (unlike, say, the revised version of The Stand vs. the original version--I'd argue that those are two very different books).
Overall, I'm feeling pretty ambivalent about the changes King made to this. Ironically, while Mer felt he moved away from spoilering himself (the "but what he didn't know was that death was waiting for him around the corner" syndrome), I actually felt like the spoilers worsened, a lot, because he kept referring to things that happened in 'future' books. I mean, I get that the world (and even to some extent, the plot) changed on him as he wrote the series, and I get that he used the revisions of earlier books to sort of backfill those changes, but I kept thinking that a first time reader of the series would lose a lot of the impact later on.
To use a rather spoilerish example myself (you've been warned!), in the revised Gunslinger, King keeps referring to Susan's fate in Wizard and Glass (I think in the original Gunslinger she gets no more mention than just of a mysterious "girl in the window" in Roland's past). Had I known, in vivid detail, exactly what awaited Susan before I read Wizard and Glass I think a huge part of the emotional punch of the book would have been lost on me. A little bit of this works well--for example, I'm still waiting to find out why Cuthbert and Roland had to kill Alain, something referred to tangentially once or twice--but too much kills off a lot of the mythic, veiled feel that I love so much about the series.
I still love the book, and I think some of the changes are interesting, but I think whenever I hand the series to a new reader to start on, I'm going to hand them the original version of The Gunslinger, and save the revision for another time.
August 27, 2004
31. Dragonfly in Amber, Diana Gabaldon
Yes, I know, I went straight from cutting edge literary fiction to fluff. But fun fluff. Enjoyable fluff, even!
I wasn't sure that I thought Outlander needed a sequel, much less an entire series, and I'm still not convinced--but I'm happy to let Gabaldon keep trying to convince me. I don't know what it is about her that makes her so much fun to read. I am totally sucked into her world, as well as (and here's the reason I'll keep reading the series) her characters. Claire and Jamie are fast becoming two of my favorite characters. (Yeah, cause I needed MORE fictional characters to fixate on, right?)
So yeah, one of my coworkers is bringing book three to me any time now, but it'll have to wait because I'm rereading all six Dark Tower books before #7 comes out. Whee!
August 23, 2004
30. The Egyptologist, Arthur Phillips
Yet another ARC (Advance Reader's Copy) picked up at work. This one will be released in September sometime, and if you like literary fiction that's sort of quirky (it reminded me a little of Margaret Atwood, in a weird almost-but-not-quite way), it's well worth a read.
I'd been seeing the book all over the office, and finally picked it up because of the title, and because the main part of the action takes place in Egypt around the same time that Howard Carter was doing his thing. I thought, "Huh, Mer or Julie might be interested in this" and then promptly devoured it myself.
Since Wuthering Heights is one of my favorite novels, it's probably no surprise that I'm intrigued by the use of a unreliable narrator. Well, frankly, you can't believe anything any of the narrators of The Egyptologist says. The most entertaining part of reading the book was taking the different narratives (which take the form of letters, journals, and most entertainingly, the very rough draft of a pseudo-scholarly text) and putting them together, trying to read between the lines to figure out what was really going on.
I couldn't tell you how well this one will sell, but I'm definitely checking out Phillips' other books and keeping my eye out for more.
August 05, 2004
29. The Scar, China Mieville
Yup, add Mieville to the list of authors I read with grinding envy. Not only does he have this funky sort of vaguely post-modern writing style (he occasionally writes a scene in present tense, finds reasons to switch from third person to first--and it all works), but he throws genres together with reckless abandon and manages to come out of it unscathed and with a fairly coherent world to hang his story on. I dunno, he's like the punk-rocker of the literary speculative fiction crowd.
The Scar is part dystopian fantasy, part piratical high seas adventure, part steampunk travelogue, part horror... I could go on. He sets his story on a floating city called Armada, built on captured ships and boats of various types and in various states of disrepair and decay. The Armadans are made up of several races and two general types: the pirates, and those who've been press-ganged by the pirates and forced to live in Armada. We follow several of the press-ganged as they adjust to their new lives. What they do and how they get along, I'll leave for y'all to go find out for yourselves--it's worth it.
I'm definitely going to go track down Mieville's first book, Perdido Street Station, and I've already got my hands on the third, Iron Council.
August 02, 2004
28. As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl, John Colapinto*
It looks like all I'm doing lately is reading, huh? Well, I guess that isn't far from wrong. I first came across the story of David Reimer in a Rolling Stone article by Colapinto about the case of John/Joan, a well-known case among sex researchers. Born Bruce, one of a pair of identical twins, he lost his penis through a bungled circumcision, and was subsequently given a full sex change and raised as Brenda. For fourteen years Brenda tried to be a girl, before finally learning the truth of what had happened, and reverting back to her biological gender and taking the name David.
Equal parts biography and an overview of various theories about gender identity and how it develops, the book ends on a upbeat note. David, in his early thirties when the book was finished, was happily married and raising three stepchildren with his wife. Unfortunately, what made me pull the book out and reread it again was a small notice in Rolling Stone that David Reimer had recently committed suicide. In light of that, the book seems to stand as an indictment of the doctors and psychologists who used him as a test case, eager to use him (and his twin brother) to prove their theories, despite the cost to the Reimer family.