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« July, 2004 »
Beg the Question

This is one of my favorite types of graphic novels: the big chunky book. Fingerman’s sort of autobiographical story about an illustrator, his girlfriend and their friends just hanging out and doing stuff and eventually getting married in New York city. It’s more sexed-up than your average graphic novel but definitely toned-down from flat out raunchy porn. The illustrations are rich, quirky and thorough, keeping you from quickly thumbing through just looking for the next sex scene or the resolution to whatever the current plot momentum point is

Like many graphic novels of this genre, it was put together -- with some added illustration technique and a few more panels -- from a series of smaller comic books so there is a cadence to the stories that will become familiar. It will be hard for any thirty-something hipster to not read this and recognize at least one character that reminds them of themselves or someone they are close to.

The Full Cupboard of Life

A lot of tidy endings in this fifth installment in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. Every bit as charming as all the other ones.

Eastern Standard Tribe

My library bought this book so I didn’t have to go through the effort of downloading it for free, though you certainly can. In fact, you should. In an inspired bit of zen, the downloading of the book for free will get you that much closer to the zeitgeist of this book which is, at some bizarre level, about sharing.

But back to me for a sec. One of the things that is toughest for me now that I live in rural Vermont is that many of the people that I consider social kin or tribespeople, don’t live here. My ways are weird and foreign to the people who want to make this place geographically their home and I get a few raised eyebrows just by digging out my laptop in a coffee shop, or asking someone for their email address when they say we should stay in touch. Books like this one help me stay connected to the tech world without having to do that keep-up-with-the-joneses technolust thing that would make me broke.

Back to the book, it’s short and jargon filled and flip-floppy in a way that keeps you paying attention. There’s only a few major plot points: guy meets girl, guy winds up in hostpital, guy may or may not be getting screwed by his friends. Ultimately the protagonist tells us, the story is about whether it is better to be smart or happy. The rest of the book is an object lesson in to one of those, but it’s hard to tell which. There is a lot of gadgetry, a couple of long paragraphs that are clearly Doctorow Getting His Point Across, and a whirlwind bunch of escapades that span a few continents, some time zones, and not even much of a credibility gap. This technology and these people are all around you, the book says , wouldn’t you like to know what they are up to? Read it.


I love Stirling’s history but I don’t like his politics. He writes masterful stories that all seem to share the plot point of going back in time, and then he explains how humans manage to live then. His older novel Islands in the Sea of Time was really great until the war of all against all part. Stirling is a good writer, but not an amazing one, so he can’t make battle scenes zip to life. He’s clearly enamored of the tactical precision of battle, but spends too much time saying “and then this guy went over here, then those other guys went over there, the first guy shouldered his rifle and aimed at those other guys...” etc. Actually, he writes better than that, but the tedium of the battle scenes was what drove me away from the sequel to Islands.

This book has a slightly different premise: guy discovers a portal in his basement -- the author doesn’t bother with details which is fine with me -- where he can walk from his San Francisco basement into a California where white men never settled. Of course, once he makes this discovery white men do settle, with a vengeance. The portal into the alternative California becomes a fiercely guarded secret and a few get very very rich protecting it. Along the way we learn some inteesting things about the early history of California, the native plants, animals and people that lived there, and Stirling’s own opinions about what would make the world a better place. Of course, these opinions are supposedly coming from characters in the novel, but there are some really obvious set-up lines that serve pretty much to only demonstrate how one philosophy is clearly morally superior toanother and you think “what is that doing in this book?” In any case, the story itself is a good read, the battle scenes overlong and some of the moralizing tiresome, but for history buffs, Stirling can really create a convincing world and populate it with interesting folks, worth a read.