jml's notebook

Further reading update

My quest to work through my @unblogged collection continues.


Interlibrary Loan, Gene Wolfe

I don't know anymore.

I used to really like Gene Wolfe, but this book, which might well be his last one, left me a bit cold.

When he's good (Book of the New Sun, Peace, Fifth Head of Cerberus, The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories), he is very good, but when he's bad he can kind of mask it behind his unreliable narrators and the fact that almost no one who reads any of his books can figure out what's going on in the first read.

The things is, in this book, I'm not sure Wolfe himself could say what was going on.

It's very much a sequel to A Borrowed Man, which I have read but forgotten everything about, so that doesn't help.

Wolfe's other failure modes are also very obvious in this book. In his entire body of work, women have only one of two physiques, and he makes sure you know which.

My hope is that this book, like Shepherd's Crown was released incomplete and posthumously.

Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik

I can't believe I haven't blogged about this yet!

Spinning Silver is another by Novik in the same vein as Uprooted: take a fairy tale and make a novel out of it.

I really liked Uprooted and like Spinning Silver so much more. Novik's earlier works (e.g. Temeraire) are plenty entertaining and well-crafted, but with Spinning Silver it is as if she is pushing herself to make something better than she has before, to make something that is both genre fiction and literature.

Children of Ruin, Adrian Tchaikovsky

If you enjoyed Children of Time, you'll like this.

From this distance (I'm working backwards in time), it's hard to say exactly what I like about these books. Is it the big space opera themes, or the explorations on the nature of cognition and intelligence? Is it that they scratch my history itch pretty well? Perhaps.

I think it's actually that Tchaikovsky is a pretty good story teller. With both Time and Ruin, I very quickly bought into the high stakes of the stories, and kept turning the pages wanting to know what happened next.

And while they aren't books about characters and relationships, they are books about how technology affects society, and how society affects people.

I think I'm going to seek out more of his books.


A Very British Murder, Lucy Worsley

This is a pleasant enough history of crime fiction.

I think I read it coming off the back of How to be a Victorian, so my standards were calibrated quite high, and I might think less of it than it deserves.

I recall spending much of the book wishing that it were either more historical or more serious literary criticism. I would have welcomed either from Worsley. Perhaps it is not the worst thing to wish that the author had written more.

How to be a Victorian, Ruth Goodman

By the author of How to be a Tudor, this book examines the daily life of Victorians, following from rising to sleeping, with a particular emphasis on craft and the domestic arts.

Just like Tudor, this book is eye-opening. I read it during the early days of lockdown when everything seemed awful, and it helped make that situation seem much better by contrast.

Whereas Goodman made life for Tudors seem pleasant, and at times even idyllic, she makes the Victorians' lives seem grim, hungry, miserable, and harried.

It is worth reading this book just to appreciate what a differenc clean, hot running water makes.