I’ve just finished the third book in the Luke Arnold’s Fetch Phillips series, One Foot in the Fade. Arnold is an Australian actor, who published the first book in the series, Last Smile in Sunder City, just a couple of years ago. I’d describe the series as noir-fantasy-environmental-allegory. The audiobooks (I’m mostly blind and almost exclusively consume books via audio) are really great, because Arnold narrates them himself, and he’s got the acting chops for a multi-character read. I’m particularly impressed by the main character’s voice, which he reads with an American accent. Why are Australians so good at American accents compared to Brits?
Earlier this month, I went on an Alex Bledsoe kick. Two of his series, which appear to be complete, are included in Audible membership, so no precious credits burned. The Eddie Lacrosse series is more noir-fantasy, but with the fantasy element being just on the edge of high fantasy parody. Fluff, but fun. The other series, the Tales of the Tufa, is contemporary fantasy and a little less fluffy. The overall story arc is interesting, but there are no real cliffhangers, so the books could stand reasonably well individually. Also, there’s no single lead character, and each book focuses on different characters in the story arc (though there’s a lot of overlap in the cast of characters).
One other book, not a new one, I finished last week is The World to Come by Dara Horn. She teaches Yiddish and Hebrew literature, and her books are very Jewish (as am I!) in content and themes. This is the second of her works of fiction I’ve read (the first was A Guide for the Perplexed). Both have somewhat similar structure, bringing in historical events and characters to mix with the purely fictional ones in a narrative that goes back and forth in time and place, and bring in elements of Jewish mystical and religious tradition. I liked it.
Finished Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy , by Tim Harford, which was interesting. I enjoyed the chapter about shipping containers the most. I saw an episode of Nova about the Ever Given getting stuck in the Suez Canal just after reading it.
Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys Into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East Gerard Russell
The author, an American diplomat fluent in Arabic and Persian, travels the Middle East illuminating the history and current (often precarious) situation of the minority religions that are still practiced alongside Islam.
Interesting topic and generally well-written book. Recommended.
Finished Woman, Eating. I’m looking at the reviews on Goodreads and several of them say it belongs in the “Sad Woman” genre. This is a thing? Well, if it is, I have to agree. This book was a drag. And all the discussions of “art” annoyed me, as “art” is one of the many things I don’t really get.
Next up, the perfect antidote. Badasstronauts by Grady Hendrix is a novella about one determined redneck who crowdsources an effort to build a rocket in order to rescue his nephew from low Earth orbit. Farfetched and funny.
I’ve now begun standup comic Mike Birbiglia’s book The New One, about his reluctantly becoming a dad after he and his wife had agreed before they even got married that they would never have kids (she later changed her mind). I like Birbiglia’s other stuff a lot; this has a few laughs but not many.
Finished reading Clive Cussler’s Dragon from 1990. I can’t believe how racist the book is – and Cussler can’t even blame it on his co-author, because this is from when he was writing them all by himself.
Right-wing ultranationalist Japanese businessmen and politicians set up a nuclear bomb-producing operation and plan to use the bombs to take control of the world’s economy. Four years later Tom Clancy produced a much more plausible novel with a similar setup in Debt of Honor.
The Japanese antagonists are called “Japs” and they are portrayed as sadistic and lustful. A team infiltrating the Bad Guys’ headquarters disguise themselves with appliance epicanthic folds, a la James Bond in the movie You Only Live Twice, as if that’s all it takes. It’s amazing that this was published as recently as 1990, and republished many times since (my copy was published in 2020).
Started reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Wizard of Venus and Pirate’s Blood, two pretty short stories bound in one volume that ERB apparently never published in his lifetime. I’d read other Carson of Venus stories, and this, the last of them he wrote, is pretty slight. I’m hoping Pirate’s Blood is a little better.
Read Marathon Man, by William Goldman, over the weekend. I enjoyed it very much (however then I watched the movie, which I didn’t). I don’t usually dig spy thrillers, but this one hooked me. I find it interesting that William Goldman also wrote The Princess Bride, obviously a whole different kettle of fish.
He gave the commencement address at Oberlin the year before I graduated, and was very entertaining. His best story was about being constantly mistaken for William Golding, who wrote Lord of the Flies. After years of gently correcting people, he finally gave up and would just say “I’m so glad you enjoyed the book” when approached by its fans.
Continuing on my journey of listening to Michael Connelly books that I read years ago, I just downloaded and began listening to Fair Warning. 30 minutes in, and I don’t remember the plot, much less how it turns out. So it will be, once again, a new experience!
Far Sector N.K. Jemisin (author) and Jamal Campbell (artist)
A young woman from Earth joins the Green Lantern corps and is assigned to a distant part of the galaxy where three alien species live uneasily together on a giant artificial planet. Then a series of murders threatens to disturb the status quo even more. With mostly her wits and also a Power Ring, the young Lantern has to get things under control.
Good story and some fantastic art.
Hat tip to whomever mentioned this in a previous thread.
Finished Burroughs’ The Wizard of Venus/ Pirate Blood Eh.
Now I’m reading Edmond Hamilton’s The Star Kings and re-reading Stephen King’s Danse Macabre, which I haven’t read in about forty years. The reason for the two is that a.) I picked up the Stephen King for free and b.) The Hamilton is the original September 1947 issue of Amazing Stories, which I got cheap and which is threatening to come apart if I don’t treat it well. So I only read it when I can be in a protected area.
Finished Ivory Shoals by John Brandon. The writing, especially the dialogue and description, was beautifully done, enough to consider it one of the best novels I’ve read this year, but there are some serious plot holes. Still good enough to recommend.
Now I’m reading Translating Myself and Others, by Jhumpa Lahiri.