Saturday, December 13, 2008

Catching up on the books.

last time i did a library run, I came up with 8 books. granted, 2 of them were comic books, and then i purchased 3 more comic books, but still, that's a lot of reading. here's the quicky, reader's digest version of what i've been devouring these last few weeks:

Mind the Gap, by Christopher GOlden and Tim Lebbon - a pulpy yet surprisingly fun ghost story. Suddenly orphaned, Jasmine flees her home from the gangster-like uncles who haunted the lives of her parents. Finding her way to an underground band of merry little theives, she becomes of the star pickpocketing pupil of their leader. Down below the tube stations, where a ghostly feeling might be a short tingle on the spine of a co-conspirator, for Jasmine it's a screaming, wailing, powerful sound beyond her comprehension. What are the ghosts trying to tell her, and how can she escape them? Part pickpocketing orphan adventure, part Neil Gaiman ghost story, this story was much funner than I expected. highly recommended.

Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan - futuristic noirish murder mystery. One part bladerunner, one part old school Asimov's "Robot's of Dawn", another part "Minority Report", Morgan's got the mystery twists and turns down to a science. As soon as indentured detective (it's work the case or head back to prison) Takeshi Kovacs thinks he's go things figured out, here comes another twist to knock him back a few days. and when you can just download your brain into the body of your choice, things can get even more confusing. The only negative thing I can say about this novel is that it is graphic. graphic violence, graphic sex, a little too graphic for my tastes. it would make a great action flick.

Case of a Lifetime, by Abbe Smith - I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but this was 100% worth the read. As a law student, Abbe Smith meets Kelly Jarrett, who has been imprisoned for a crime she did not commit, yet cannot prove her innocence. Jarrett is given the option to plea bargain, but doesn't take it, because that would require her to plead guilty to yet another crime that she didn't commit. Smith is involved with Jarrett's life behind bars for the next 25 years. The book is about Smith and Jarrett and it isn't. It's mostly about how our current criminal law system fails innocent people, beacuse it is designed to believe that if you are in a criminal trial, or are already serving time behind bars, you must be guilty of something, or you wouldn't be there. a powerful book, I'm looking forward to reading the works of some of the attorneys and judges that Smith talks about.

The Iron Dragon's Daughter, by Michael Swanwick - a nice mix of fantasy and contemporary fiction. a bit like Harry Potter meets Trainspotting meets Tolkien meets and standard coming of age story. Beyond that, all I can is that the story is discongruous - things just don't fit. (is that a word??). After escaping slavery in a factory, young Jane makes a life for herself in a small village and signs up for high school. A great student (because she learned so much slaving away in the factory??), college is definately in her future, and she studies industrial alchemy. A college experience rife with abusive instructors, casual sexual relationships and drugs . . . I'm three quarters of the way through the book, and I'm still not sure what the main conflict is. I don't know why I should care about Jane or what she's going through. Jane seems like a pathetic, naive idiot who is incapabale of standing up for herself or saying no to any guy who reminds her of her first lost love, and then discarding him, or passing on the hash or cocaine. Maybe the conflict is between Swanwick not being able to decide if he wants a magical fantastical story with fairy creatures, or a sad pathetic little girl who through the drugs and manipulation might just figure out what she wants to do with her life? I've seen fantasical worlds and fey creatures live happily in modern times, but in this book, they are just fighting for attention. this is supposedly an award winning author, but I just don't see it.

and, saving the best for last:
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini - It thrills me to say that this book won so many awards because it deserved them, and more. You know how when you read a non-fiction book, it has a certain weight to it, because you know it really happened? and when you read a fiction book, it has a lighter weight to it, because even though you care deeply for the characters, and don't want harm to befall them, you know it's just a story, and it's not real? While reading this book I kept having ot remind myself that it's a novel, as in fiction. it's got that weight. Not an easy book to read, Hosseini intimately visits the horror of Taliban ruled Afganistan, what you and i just saw as green and black blips on CNN. this is not a book about the Taliban, it is not a book about Afganistan, it is a book about two friends who grow up, and part ways after something terrible happens. Amir lives his entire life with the guilt of what happened, while Hassan is eventually able to get over it, and get on with his life. Haunted by the phone call of his late father's friend, is there really a way for Amir to "be good again", after so much time has passed, and so much pain pushed down into his heart? the only think harder than reading this book was putting it down.

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