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« June, 2006 »
Lincoln’s Dreams

It’s clear from reading this book that some of the events in it are experiements with some of the theme’s in Willis' book Passage. It’s a book about dreams, the dreams of the past and their effect on the reality of the future. However, where I was really interested in the people who were dreaming about the Titanic -- something about large scale disasters perhaps -- I cared much less about dreams about the prosaic events surrounding the Civil War. perhaps it’s just me. The dreams seem to be the richest part of this story with the characters in the present day not quite as fleshed out or understandable. While I generally enjoy Willis' writing, this book was on the low end of her overall body of work.

Future Imperfect

Connie Willis is a master at genre mixing, She can write science fiction as something else entirely. This collection of three stories has a sci-fi humor/romance piece, a sci-fi period piece of a sort and a sci-fi comedy. Each is a novella in its own right but combined the collection shows Willis' flair for voice and setting and her ability to move seamlessly among many different sorts of them.

Strong Motion

Oh Jonathan Franzen, I wish you could have told me that as I was reading this book, my own relationship was slowly falling apart. You seem to have such a good knack for describing dysfunction and yet I wound up burying myself in your own version of it and using it to obliquely communicate with my soon-to-be-ex boyfriend who was already sort of halfway out the door. This is made even more poignant by the fact that your book takes place where my family lives and so it was so familiar, so real life, and yet it was nothing like my life at all, with its semi-happy ending and its ENDING. In any case, I enjoyed this story, I love your characters and I appreciated the chance to get into their heads while I was having trouble understanding what was in my own.

Mutants : On Genetic Variety and the Human Body

One of the very few books I’ve purchased this year at close to [used] store prices. I was initially attracted to it both because my friend had read it, or at least heard of it, and because of the legless man on the cover. I’ve always been interested in freaks and grew up in a family where this sort of interest wasn’t aggressively discouraged. My parents would make up bedtime stories for meabout “the girl with no mouth” or other infirmities.

This book is not just another freak book -- though it does have a good set of pictures of genetic anomalies I had never sen before -- rather it is based on this premise: by looking at nature’s “mistakes” what can be learned about natures plans? The author looks at examples such as conjoined twins, looking at what varieties of conjoining do happen and which do NOT and then goes into the science behind this sort of creation, asking and answering “what goes on with the developing fetus that results in conjoined twins?” He goes through the same steps with albinos, armless and legless folks and a host of others. The book is short enough so that it doesn’t devolve into lengthy and dull scientific treatises, but long enough so that it’s not just a “look at the freaks” book.

The Piano Tuner

A booksale find, and apparently New York Times bestseller, this book takes place in 19th century Burma under colonial rule. A crazy but brilliant British military man has a piano delivered into the jungle. That’s not the main purpose of this book, however. Next it goes out of tune and a paino tuner is called for. The piano tuner is an unassuming man who hasn’t spent much of any time abroad and after lenghty travel time arrives at the remote camp and is quickly enchanted. If you’re familiar with this sort of story, you’ll know how it ends. If you’re familiar with the colonialist themes you’ll know that there’s a hot Burmese woman who the protagonist is confused by a whole lot of confusion generally. The writing is great, the plot is a little predictable and I learned a whole lot more about pianos.