September 29, 2004
37. Light, M. John Harrison
I'm really not sure what to make of this book. It's a Tiptree winner, and it's been getting some serious reviews by "serious" critics as this major crossover work from genre to literature. So I absolutely cannot deny that it is an "important" book. But I didn't love it. I wanted to love it. There were bits that I loved, things that I thought were brilliant, but ultimately it reminded me of the first time I read William Gibson: kind of an emotional shrug, and an intellectual "hm, that's interesting."
There are three parallel storylines that hop from 1999 to five hundred years later, and only in the last few pages of the book do we find the connection between them. There's all sorts of genre paraphenalia floating around: genetic manipulation, virtual reality addicts, aliens, advanced space travel, all sorts of physics that I simply don't understand... but it's all veiled, like Harrison is deliberately keeping the reader at arms' length.
It's very modernistic, and the good bits reminded me of Jeanette Winterson, very dense, oblique prose; deft turns of phrase pop out at you here and there. I'm not entirely sure it's a book you're meant to connect with emotionally. It's definitely worth a read (I wouldn't be shocked to see it on the Hugo ballot next year, assuming that it's eligible), but keep in mind that it's an intellectual exercise with occasional gleams of pretention, as much as it is a story.
September 25, 2004
36. Sex, Time, and Power: How Women's Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution, Leonard Shlain
In a few words, this book is convoluted and fascinating. Shlain starts with the question of why human females (as opposed to most other mammals, even other primates) not only have naturally lower iron counts than men, but why they also lose so much iron through the course of normal bodily functions (menstruation, childbirth, nursing, etc.). He traces his thesis through some pretty wild territory, ending up with an explanation for exactly how and why patriarchy and misogyny arose and why it persists to this day.
I confess, I don't know nearly enough biology or anthropology to judge just how feasible Shlain's theories are, but they made for some thought-provoking reading. I'm definitely going to spend some time finding out what some of the other experts think about the ideas in this book.
35. The F-Word: Feminism in Jeopardy, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner
I grabbed this book at work because the title intrigued me--and because I've joked before that feminism has become the new f-word. Overall, it's a good book. Rowe-Finkbeiner starts with a brief overview of the history of feminism, and spends a lot of time defining the differences between the first wave, second wave, and third wave. I hadn't spent a lot of time exploring that particular generation gap before, and--coming from a family where I'm the first self-defined 'feminist'--it was really informative.
The author spends the rest of the book tracing exactly how and why young voters (especially young women voters) have become so reluctant to vote--particularly at a time when more young women are involved in volunteer work and social causes. By exploring this disconnect, she presents a solid case as to why it's absolutely vital that young women vote.
One thing that she absolutely convinced me of was the need to pay more attention to local politics. So that's my resolution for this election year.
September 10, 2004
34. The Dark Tower III: The Wastelands, Stephen King*
I've noticed I tend to run about a week behind when making these posts. I actually finished this on the plane home from Boston earlier this week. The last Dark Tower book comes out in a week and a half, and the way it stands, I won't have 1-6 re-read by then, which was my original hope.
Overall, this is high on my list of books from this series. I think it's probably the one that comes closest to crossing the line between horror and dark fantasy (in fact, you could argue that it DOES cross that line--Lud is a nightmare). What makes me love it though, is that here's where the characters really start to be who they are. The initial shock of the first two books is starting to wear off, and they're starting to get their bearings. And we start to love them.
Plus, as an additional bit of affection, this book is what first introduced me to T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland", and for that alone it would be one of my favorites.