That really huge list of boooks down there

After months and months of being a kind of sore thumb or nagging hangnail kind of thing, I’ve decided to address that long list of books down there that I haven’t really addressed at all for, well, for a really long time. (As part of my sort of neurotic/obsessive personality–in the same way that I have trouble tossing aside a book that I haven’t finished reading–I’m having trouble re-envisioning this here blog-thing (God, I hate the word blog. It’s so… un-aesthetic.) while that long-in-the-tooth list of books I’ve read keeps malingering there. I mean gadzooks!, it’s not even really up-to-date…) So here goes my attempt to bite-size these books I read oh-so-long ago:

The Crime Studio and Slaughtermatic by Steve Aylett: Could these be called surrealist neo-noir? I don’t know, but it sort of fits. Both of these books concern themselves with a city called Beerlight in which everyone is a criminal (especially the cops). The Crime Studio is a collection of interwoven stories and Slaughtermatic is a mostly incoherent novel–which works in its favor, oddly enough. Aylett’s use of language is astounding and hysterical. I suspect that most people would absolutely loathe these books, but I got a huge kick out of them. Probably the most original things that I read all year. Read the first story in Crime Studio: if you throw it across the room, it’s not for you. If, on the other hand, you find yourself chortling into your cereal spoon, oh do, do keep reading.

The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde: The third book in the Thursday Next series. Bubble-gum reading for literature nuts, these are all about literature and genre in-jokes. It’s a bit too bad that this book should be so narrowly focussed, as the Thursday Next books feature such a crazily creative world. People keep dodos as pets! I’d really recommend reading the first, The Eyre Affair, as this book contains many elements that would be utterly bewildering without that background. Even though his world is fraught with silliness, Fforde’s characters are not: it’s a fine line that he walks, but he’s managed to pull it off for three books now.

The Magic Pudding: Being the Adventures of Bunyip Bluegum and His Friends Bill Barnacle & Sam Sawnoff by Norman Lindsay: A very funny Australian children’s book from more than 80 years ago. They have a very surly magic puddin’* (it wears its bowl for a hat when it’s walking around) that is continually being stolen by a possum and a wombat. There’s nothing a good punch on the nose won’t solve! Hysterically funny. The book is in the public domain, and you can download it here.

*(Magic because it never runs out and can become any kind of pudding imaginable.)

Voice of the Fire by Watchmen and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fame.” href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Moore”>Alan Moore: If you can get past the first story or chapter or whatever of this book, I salute you! The first chapter puts Faulkner’s idiot protagonist/narrator to shame. I’d almost recommend skipping it, if the symbols and themes and whatnot established in the first chapter weren’t so ubiquitous throughout the entire work. But oh is it worth it! This book has the ability to blow the top of your skull off your brainpan. It’s all about the illusion of time and the magical power of place, specifically Northampton, England.

The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language by John McWhorter: I learned more from reading this book than perhaps any other I’ve read in the two or three years. His particularly gift seems to be making incredibly complicated ideas ridiculously simple. (I mean, what’s more difficult than explaining grammatical concepts that don’t exist in English?) He discusses the ways in which spoken language changes over time and the difference between spoken and written language; pidgin and creole formation as language-formation in process and dialect as a gigantic, complex in-joke. He makes a strong case for the preservation of dying languages. This book is excellent.

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson: I’m at extreme danger of geeking out here. In the last four months, I’ve read four of Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen books. These books are incredibly dense (and huge), filled with scores of characters and plot structures which span an entire (fictional) globe and hundreds of thousands of years. I know that this kind of huge fantasy series isn’t for everyone, but if it is for you, then really, pick up a copy. These books have seriously cut into my sleeping time. They also defy easy summarization, so I’m not even going to try.

See also:

Deadhouse Gates

Memories of Ice

House of Chains

Heavy Weather by Tomorrow Now and any sane person would suggest I’ve read far too much of his writing, but the man rants so beautifully!” href=”http://www.chriswaltrip.com/sterling/”>Bruce Sterling< /a>: This book is almost worth reading for its visceral descriptions of weather patterns alone. The plot is fairly sketchy, but wow! I can’t think of anyone else who’s written about weather in such a gut-wrenching way.

Bruce Sterling’s Weblog

The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson: An alternate history–what if the black death killed 99% of Europe rather than just 50-75%. The structure of the novel is completely unique (as far as I know). It spans thousands of years and accomplishes a form of continuity by following certain characters as they reincarnate through time. This is accomplished by the simple conceit of keeping the first letter of each character’s name the same through each successive reincarnation. The novel seems to suggest a certain inevitability to totalitarianism, as well as the human struggle towards increasingly progressive and free societies. I found some of the chapters (historical time periods) to be much more interesting than others, but as a holistic work, this novel is quite powerful, especially in its exploration and use of reincarnation as a literary device.

A Mouthful of Tongues: Her Totipotent Tropicanalia by Paul Di Fillippo: What I can only describe as surrealist erotica. You can get drunk on language like this, but the plot was virtually non-existent. This book really serves to highlight the dullness of sexuality as represented in Hollywood film and popular fiction. Rather, sexuality as mind-bending head-trip, primal force of destruction, creation, cruelty and despair. Recommended for the poetry of the language, but if that’s not your bag, then look elsewhere, baby.

The Stone Canal by Ken McLeod: This guy writes some kickass science fiction. He also presents a future which is not dominated by American supremacy (or rather, the nation state idea ceases to really exist in any functional way), which is refreshing to say the least. The Stone Canal functions on two levels: the first begins in 1960s (I may be misremembering this) England and slowly moves into a disintegrating near future; the second, which is interleaved with the first, exists in a far-future, distant planet. The strength of the novel exists in its slow answering of the question: how did he get from here to there.

See also:

The Star Fraction

The Casssini Division

Veniss Underground by Jeff VanderMeer: Not as good as his short-story collection, City of Saints and Madmen, but quite good nonetheless. It’s a retelling of the Orpheus story in a science fictional, post apocalyptic world. Genetic engineering gone bad. The language is stunning, but at times, completely exhausting.

{What have I gotten myself into! I need to continue this later!}

2 thoughts on “That really huge list of boooks down there”

  1. So far, no overlap with me. There’s something interesting about that; not terribly interesting though because the list of books I’ve read this year is pretty short.

    That Ken McLeod thing’s gonna go on my list. If I can find it.

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