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The Gone World

Super complex thriller/time travel combo book. It’s both really thinky and also a little... basic? I sort of knew where it was headed by not too far into it, but it was cool to see how it got there. And then there’s an epilogue that kind of knocks you on your ass. Neat! I enjoyed a world where there were possible futures and some interesting limitations places on time travel/time travelers. And space stuff but it’s mostly hand-waved away. This book was right at the outside limit of my tolerance for gore though, how much “pink mist” can I read about?

Doonesbury: Squared Away

It’s been a really long time since I’ve read a Doonesbury book and I was a little concerned I might no longer know the characters, but this book sort of nudges you to remember, even while it’s telling the story of a whole new generation of hippies and political people and military people. This all took place before Obama’s election so there’s a lot of current US politics basically missing but the undercurrents are the same. Nice to see a bunch of different complex/interesting military threads, not something you usually see interspersed with hippies and academics and the like. If you have enjoyed Doonesbury in the past, you’re likely to enjoy this book.

The Overstory

I’ve been thinking about this book a lot since I read it.Many of the things that happen within it are things that I had at least some interaction with while I was living in Seattle in the 90s--the stuff that was set on fire, the tree-sitting. So that part of the story felt a little more real and alive than some of the other parts. I feel like Powers had a narrative he was in love with, and then some others that he was less attached to. This novel is about the lives of 5-10 people whose lives intertwine, sort of. And the main thread, about what drives eco-terrorism and other sorts of political statement making, is well-explored. At the same time I kept getting vibes of... hyper-masculinity and I felt that when characters with permanent or temporary disabilities were introduced it was not in a person-forward sort of way (there is one character who uses a wheelchair and I found frequent references to his “withered” or “useless” legs to be sort of negative and took me out of the story. In general: terrific. In some specific ways: I wish it were better.

The Book of the Year 2018

I will forever be that nerd complaining about books that are about the year but are published during the year. What about stuff in December! This was a fun and engaging trivia book organized alphabetically which was maybe just a little too cheeky (a lot of see also references that were kind of jokes but also kind of exhausting) but otherwise a great manifestation of one of my favorite podcasts.

Supernova Era

I’m not totally sure why I picked this up after I found Three Body Problem sort of dense and difficult. I think it’s because I really liked the central plot idea. *something happens* and everyone over the age of 13 dies.How does civilization go on? Well as it turns out, it’s easier in China because there’s basically an AI that helps. And so the central part that I was the most interested in gets handwaved away a little bit (you get some foreshadowing in the form of author notes that things are going to ok and humanity doesn’t die off) and then the rest has a lot more to do with global politics. And to me the logistical parts and the human stories are what is interesting. To the author, there was clearly one part--a massive Antarctic War--that occupied way more of the story than it should have if it was just one plot device. Took me getting to the Afterword by the author before he admits that the Child War was the first thing that convinced him to write this book. It was obvious once he said it. So, I think certain people would like this book, I liked it enough to finish it but not enough to look back on my time investment in it.

Famous Men Who Never Lived

This was a terrific, if occasionally confusing, story about a world in which... the reality timeline splits into two sometime around 1909 and there are (at least) two existing earth. Something happens to one of them and it becomes doomed, someone develops a mechanism to transport a few hundred thousand people from the dying world into the other. This is how a few of them find meaning in their lives. I didn’t like the protagonist and I don’t think you’re supposed to. Everyone’s a little broken and part of this is thinking about the trauma of leaving not just your family or your friends but your TIMELINE and having to learn to live in another one,similar yet slightly different with 100-ish years of difference. Thinky but not TOO thinky.

Go with the Flow

A great high school friend story with the added storyline of girls talking about their periods. Different girls, different experiences including “Why are all the pad dispensers always empty?” and “Why does this hurt so much, am I broken?” There are also the usual ups and downs about meeting people, sexual preference/orientation and just the usual school things. Super well done and without any uterus diagrams.

To Be Taught, If Fortunate

Mostly liked this? It’s tough because I generally admire Becky Chambers a lot and I enjoyed her Wayfarers series. I am happy she exists in the world and I think she writes well. But some of her stuff just leaves me sort of feeling like a curmudgeon. Like, she seems young as a writer, there is a whole extra nearly-chapter after the end of this book where she and her mom interview each other. Which is sort of cute but also just kind of... seemed more geared towards fanfic than an actual book. And to be clear, this book is a novella and maybe if I’d approached it as a long short story I would have felt warmer towards it. Because it’s a fun hard science romp to a number of different planets, but there’s some... lack of consistency to how they interact with each other and the worlds they move through. Has some similarities to Noumenon (which I read before this) which were fun to think about.


One of those epic multi-generational spacers. This book has a lot going on, most of which I liked. However it does the same thing that Semiosis does where each chapter is some random amount of time in the future so I spent a lot of time trying to remember who was whom. Lots to unpack in terms of nature vs. nurture, class vs. actions & some pontificating on what might the planet be like if you came back to it after 2000 years. Will definitely read the sequel.

Good Talk

The librarian at the library handed this to be so I could read it before it was even on the shelves. A great, complex story of an East Indian woman dealing w/ encroaching Tr*mpism, her racist in-laws (who don’t think they’re racist), her White (but Jewish!) husband, and their young son and the questions he asks while growing up in NYC. Beautifully illustrated with drawings cut out and collaged over a number of different backgrounds. I had not read Jacob’s novel which I think is what many people know her for. Was so happy to read this.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu

This book should have been a lot better. Hammer is a journalist who, I think, stumbled on the story of the librarians and their quest to save all these books that had been lovingly collected in Mali and environs. He writes about it but also writes about the serious civil unrest happening around that time. Which, I sort of get, the climate is part of what you have to know about to understand what the threat was to the books. But really? This was two books sort of smooshed together and I only wanted to read one of them. The stories about the kidnappings and which warlord said what to whom did not interest me and were not actually critical to the librarian story. And ultimately, there’s mostly one librarian and I wanted to hear more about the books and what happened next. By the end of this book, the books aren’t even back. A good but ultimately disappointing book.