Khadaji's Whatcha Readin' - February 2014

I think that was me. You’re welcome. :wink:

Finally got around to Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner. It’s one of the SF classics I’d managed to overlook all these years; a mention in Among Others finally spurred me to check it out of the library.

Very unorthodox in its writing & story structure and told from multiple viewpoints (including advertising voiceovers), the novel explores a dystopic world dominated by corporations. We meet (among a cast of many) Norman Niblock House and Donald Hogan - two very different men who, thru sheer circumstance, were room-mates for a while. House is an executive, who uses his ethnic heritage (African-American) as a tool to rise thru the ranks. His latest assignment involves the corporate takeover of a small African country whose odd history may hold a vital key to mankind’s survival. Hogan, who works as a professional student/synthesist becomes a somewhat unwilling tool in the investigation of a genetic breakthrough in a South East Asian country. This second plotline reminded me a bit of Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, which I’d recently read -I wouldn’t be surprised if Neal had been inspired by this novel for some of his work.

It did take me a bit to get into this - New Wave SF leaves me cold more often than not; but the unorthodoxy of the writing supports and expands the plot and theme of the novel nicely. Scarily prescient in many ways (powerful corporations; genetic engineering, supercomputers); yet also dated in some ways - the sexual mores of the society felt very “Summer of Love” to me - and while I enjoyed Chad Mulligan and his “HipCrime Vocab” quotes - I couldn’t help but see George Carlin in his place.

Of the little Brunner I’ve read (Players at the Game of People and I think The Shockwave Rider as well as some short stories in various anthologies) - this is the work I’ve enjoyed the most. I will definitely be returning to it someday, and need to check out more of his work.

I finished “Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune.” Huguette Clark was the reclusive daughter of copper king W.A. Clark. She had three very expensive homes, including a massive 5th Avenue apartment, yet chose to live in a hospital room for the last 20 years of her life. There was a dispute over her will, which was just settled late last year. I absolutely loved this book.

I am trying to slog my way thru The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. I am about halfway thru. Someone please reassure me - does anything happen that is at all interesting? So far it is as dull as ditchwater, and I never dreamed that could be said about a novel where Japan and Germany won WWII.

Also working on The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken, another YA dystopia of the sort beloved by my daughter and recommended by her. Don’t tell her, but I am getting a little sick of YA dystopian fiction, after The Hunger Games and Divergent/Allegiant/whatever the other one was.

Before that was Spade and Archer, a Maltese Falcon prequel that suffered by comparison to the original. I tried to make allowances, but the gap was too great. It read sort of like a Continental Op story where Hammett was hungover and needed the money. Meh, albeit understandingly.


I finished Apartment 16 and was kind of uninspired. There were some points in the book which opened it up to go too many directions and it seemed that the author forgot about those alternatives and went for closing up shop early instead.

Now I’m over halfway through S. J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep. I’ve nicknamed it “the little story that might”. It just keeps chugging up its hill towards a conclusion and from time to time, the grade is a little too steep so the train slides backwards and the story goes nowhere. Short synopsis: woman wakes up every morning with amnesia next to a man who claims to be her husband. A person who claims to be her doctor is trying to secretly help her reclaim her memory by revisiting her past.

It sounds a bit hackneyed, but it’s going to be a movie with Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth. so it might be good. The problem is, unless they change it from a regular diary to a video diary, a lot could easily be lost. Then again, there are a lot of plot fallacies already.

I discovered a new series I must read. I checked out Mike Carey’s The Devil You Know and now I must find the rest of the Felix Castor books. It’s the Vish Puri thing all over again. Dammit Mt. ToBeRead! Quit growing ever taller!

Anyway, the book is about Felix “Fix” Castor, a freelance exorcist (as in not affiliated with the Catholic Church or any of its subsidiaries) in a world where the dead have decided to rise back up and hang out as ghosts, zombies, or loup garous. Or he used to be until one of his best friends got possessed by a demon and Felix made it worse instead of casting it out. Now he’s doing magic shows at kids’ birthday parties. While visiting his office to throw out the accumulated mail, Fix gets a call for a job exorcising a ghost in an archive and a letter from his demon-possessed friend telling him the job is a lot more dangerous than it seems. Fix manages to get fired from the job, involved with a Romanian terrorist, on the bad side of a nasty loup garou, chased by a succubus, and shot with a rosary bead.

There’s also a nice little twist at the end involving who Fix chooses to be his new partner. It wasn’t the person I thought it would be, which was a relief. There was a character who had the same first name I do, and since my name’s not that common it was really jarring to keep reading it.

I think I will check out that series SpazCat. It looks interesting.

Finished the third Harry Bosch book today, The Concrete Blonde. On the whole I have to say this is the best one so far, it’s a page turner and the twists at the end are working for me. I thought I knew the killer, mostly because I have a deep seated distrust of his profession, but then it twists again and I’m left running to catch up! I’m hoping everything works out between Harry and Sylvia, they are good for each other. And I like her, which is rare for me.

Up next is Death in Vienna by Daniel Silva. I’m not tremendously enamoured of the series but Gabriel is interesting and I’m finding the books at our paperback exchange for $1.35 each.

Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis. I’ve read the other two Zenith novels, and it was fun seeing Martin meet Babbitt, and hearing people refer to the Dodsworth family.

I’m gonna check IMDB to see if there’s been a movie version. The scenes with the Tozer family are hysterical. The Tozers are Martin’s wife’s family, and such a bunch of small town nosy, judgmental, control freaks you’ll never meet. It’s fun seeing Martin and his wife thwart them.

It is very slowly-paced and almost event-free, as I recall, but still worth finishing. Check out Robert Harris’s Fatherland or Len Deighton’s SS-GB for (IMHO) much better the-bad-guys-win-World-War-II novels.

Thanks. I’ve read Fatherland, but not Len Deighton.

I got another thirty pages in, and I am considering chucking it. Part of it is the prose - it is kind of jarring when the Japanese think in broken English, and I can’t tell if the part where the visitor gets a Mickey Mouse watch as an exemplar of American culture is supposed to be funny, or not. I do like the juxtaposition of the book they are talking about, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, where it is fantasy that the Allies won, and the book itself, where they lost, but they don’t seem to do much with it, at least so far.

Next up is Citizen of the Galaxy, by Bob Heinlein, which I have never gotten around to. Hopefully it is good - I like Heinlein (apart from The Number of the Beast, which was asinine).


The March thread is up and running