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« April, 2002 »

If paranoid sci fi is your thing, no one can do it like Dick. He has the unfortunate tendency, however, to fall over completely into spiritual/mystical ramblings. This book is heavy on the sci-fi, heavy on the paranoia and very very low on the extraneous talk about god. Super. Includes a lot of time travel, unexplained happenings and a lot of time where you are thinking to yourself “wait a second, if what this guy says is true, this whole series of events has been created by someone else to suit their own nefarious ends.... gee!” Trying to keep track of the subjective reality that you are betting on to be the true one is tough, but not impossible. [ link ]

The Drowned World

It’s so tough for me to read Ballard because I loved Crash so terribly much that anything else seems to be a letdown. Empire of the Sun was on the long side and I just associate him with one-hit wonders, completely unfairly. So, I grabbed a copy of this book from the Bookshelf of Ednless Sci Fi in my house and brought it on the plane. I lost the Connie Willis book I was going to read, so it was the natural successor. And oh wow. This story of a scientificish expedition to the submerged cities of Europe in a post-greenhouse-effect disaster world is just stunning. The days are hot, hitting 140 degrees at noon. The people are languid. The scientists are taking data measurements no one may ever read and the last survivors are being rounded up to be moved northwards to Greenland. Meanwhile people start having dreams that seems to be reaching deep into their collective unconscious, of when dinosaurs ruled the earth and so forth. Short and compelling, the beautiful picture Ballard can create out of seemingly disasterous circumstances is his true forte.

The Incurable Wound

This book had some parts of it that were completely familiar. It is a book about medical detection -- someone comes in to your hospital sick in a weird way and you need to find out not only what is wrong with them but how they got sick. Roueche has written several books like this one. Many of the stories are in the first person, such as the one about the man who woke up one morning in a strange hotel with his memory completely gone and wandered around the city frenetically trying to figure out who he was. This book was first published in 1954 but is still good reading today, though some of the medical dilemmas the doctor has to deal with have been taken care of by better sanitation and better product packaging and labelling. Turns out some of these stories appeared in a book I had read last year also by Roueche, giving me an odd sense of deja vu when I read it. Fascinating account of the history of apsirin and a scary tale of cortisone overdose.

Burning Chrome

I was handed this book by my roommate because one of the stories in it reminded him of his girlfriend. So, because for some reason I haven’t felt like I’ve read enough Gibson this year, I dove on in. The stories here have more depth than a lot of his other work. Longer reads, more fleshed out characters, more empathy, less cybernothingness. I enjoyed it. I also skipped the stories that dragged on forever [only one or two] and doted on the ones I loved [3 or 4 easily]. If you’ve given up Gibson, this might be the book to make you change your mind.

New Guinea Tapeworms & Jewish Grandmothers

Parasites and humans, Ick. High ick factor usually guarantees a good read and this book is no exception. Desowitz is a doctor who discusses some of his more interesting cases and those of his colleagues. Through the study of parasites, we can also learn a lot more about the human condition and the things that effect quality of life such as farming [some parasite laden bugs will only migrate to infesting humans when their animal hosts have left] water [more standing water = more bugs] and food prep [sushi, prepared badly, can leave you with worms]. Desowitz is a personable, even chatty writer and brings his own experiences and opinions into the mix to make an otherwise slightly gruesome topic seem really interesting and involving, even for the squeamish.

Difference Engine

I read through this book mostly on the plane and always felt like I was missing something. I will be the first to admit that my competitive relationship with my books can lead to skimming in order to finish quickly. However this book either relied on the subtle connections between chanracters that it was implying throughout the book’s three sections, or else it was basically telling three separate stories, only tangentially related. All I know is that when the book ended [with several pages of appendices left to read] I was scratching my head and wondering if anything had really been wrapped up. The concept -- a preternatural Information Age puts a whole new face on Victorian England, whereby you have computerized data files on individuals before you have fingerprint analysis. Interesting, but bogged down.

The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole

Not quite as captivating as the previous one in this series -- I didn’t laugh out loud nearly as much -- but these diaries of a poor pseudointellectual British teenager are amusing, poignant and a good read all at once. Mole is going through puberty and a political awakening and though he growns no less naieve about the world around him, the reader becomes more familiar and thus the stories can get a little more predictable. If there were more in this series, I’d still be reading them.

Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4

Found this book on the house bookshelf and grabbed it because I love the adolescent diary format. Can’t help myself really. This one is even better than most because Our Hero is British and I am one of those Americans who finds the oddness of British humor inescapably funny. During his 13th through 15th years, Adrian endures his mom cheating on his dad, his parents divorce and reconciliation, “spots” on his face, measuring his penis as he ages, love loss and love again and befriending many odd characters in his neighborhood. A poor child, he has dreams of growing up to be an intellectual and is often mailing the BBC his latest poetry. Though Mr Mole was unknown by me before reading this book, he is fairly well known in England. We have one more Mole book in the house and I’m sure I will devour it just as speedily as I did this one.