Summer Reading

I read a lot of books this summer, I guess. (It’s a long one. I’d recommend skimming until you see a title that looks interesting.)

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen
A time travel story about a guy who stays so long in the past that he forgets he was a time traveler. Too bad there are future bureaucratic time auditors who don’t look too kindly on that kind of thing. I remember enjoying this and I liked that it was set in a part of the world I grew up in. A quick read.

Batman: The Rules of Engagement
Batman: Bride or Burglar
Batman: The Wedding
Batman: Preludes to the Wedding
Batman: The Tyrant Wing

Almost all by Tom King. I liked these pretty well. The Bruce Wayne/Selina Kyle romance was solid. I especially liked when they and Clark Kent/Lois Lane went on a double date. Pretty fun. The wedding didn’t go the way I would have liked, but I can see why they’re gun-shy about pinning down such a perennial bachelor. Now I’m thinking of it, I remember very little of Tyrant Wing…

Shadow & Claw by Gene Wolfe
Sword & Citadel by Gene Wolfe
These books make up the Books of the New Sun. Boy, they are something else! I’m not even going to try to do them justice. It’s almost a shame that this is science fiction, because it should be much more read than it is, as a great work of literature. Really excellent and worthwhile. And it has one of the best swords of all time. The protagonist Severian is an executioner. I can’t remember another novel with such a character as him. A true original.

Defender: Kingpins of New York by Brian Michael Bendis
I remember almost nothing about this. I think I read it while I was falling asleep.

Wildmen, Wobblies & Whistle Punks: Stewart Holbrook’s Lowbrow Northwest edited by Brian Booth
A collection of newspaper and magazine articles from a legendary Oregonian journalist. The writing is extremely readable and the stories are pretty wild, from the late 19th century nudist cult to the governor’s secretary who stood down a whole town full of scoundrels and hooligans. If you like local history, I’d recommend it.

Finder by Suzanne Palmer
(I had to remind myself what this was about, so… not super memorable I guess?) This is definitely a great summer read. Fast-paced, exciting, with a protagonist who’s likable (with a very silly name, Fergus Ferguson) but not too much of a goody two shoes. The story is set in a space colony made up of a bunch of interconnected space stations and then this crime boss makes a play to take the whole thing over. Meanwhile, this “finder” shows up to retrieve a stolen spaceship at pretty much the worst time. This could’ve easily been an old west yarn about a stranger who comes to town. I didn’t realize there were planned sequels, but I’d read another one of these when it comes out.

The Man Without Qualities, v1: A Sort of Introduction and Pseudo Reality Prevails by Robert Musil
What an extremely weird and funny book! Long and apparently the second volume is even longer. It’s Austria in the decade before WWII. In so many ways, it captures so many things that are wrong with white American culture today. Good intentions seem so easily hijacked by the very worst.

New Super-Man and the Justice League China by Gene Luen Yang
A fun twist on the Justice League. My kid enjoyed it too.

You Are Deadpool by Al Ewing
A Deadpool comic as a choose your own adventure story. Pretty fun gimmick!

The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi
The sequel to The Collapsing Empire. Enjoyable. The characters are quite charming, even the rascally ones. The villains aren’t as clever as they think they are. I found the character who becomes the “Emperox” in the first book pretty fascinating, but she’s sort of sidelined in this book inside her official position, which I understood, but sort of drained the personality away into officialdom. There’s an interesting bit with a strand of humanity that’s isolated for hundreds (thousands?) of years in deep space.

The Miracle Club: How Thoughts Become Reality by Mitch Horowitz
Makes a pretty compelling case that the mind (or brain, if you like) are more powerful than people generally suppose and that dedicated and applied (thinking) focus on a goal can be extremely effective. It helps to have a goal, I suppose.

Kindred by Octavia Butler
Butler rightly deserves her place in the SF pantheon of writers. A time travel story, which I always like, but also sort of a horror story, because it’s a modern black woman traveling back to slavery-era South. I read it for my book club.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Drawing room murder mystery with a Quantum Leap-style gimmick. The protagonist has a week to solve a murder and relives each day as a different character in the story. Intricately and ambitiously plotted. I didn’t see the twist coming, anyhow.

13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers
Some books are so weird that they’re tough to read at long stretches. I found that I could read about 20 pages of this before having to set it down for something more prosaic. The illustrations are delightful. I’ll probably read other Moers stuff at some point.

Mister Miracle by Tom King
Sometimes you’re a superhero and sometimes you’re a New God and sometimes you’re a new parent trying to make it work. This book is a weird and funny mash-up of the stress and bewilderment of being a new parent with strange, intergalactic super heroic warfare.

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland
I read it for work. There’s some good insights about people here.

The Hole by José Revueltas
A short book about two guys in prison. I definitely never want to be in prison, is my takeaway. It’s sort of like a fever dream. I remember very little of it apart from a creeping sense of dread.

Still Life by Louise Penny
A mystery set in a small Quebecois Canadian town. A slightly eccentric but well-liked woman is murdered. In spite of its leisurely pace, excellently plotted, and, weirdly, a real page-turner. I’ll definitely read more by her.

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion
I can’t remember if I’ve read any other Didion, but she’s a writer who I’ve been reading about forever. This is great. An autopsy of a failed marriage and a troubled life. Her prose is so clean and cutting.

The Girl Who Married a Skull and Other African Stories by Mary Cagle
A comic of short stories. The title comic was extremely funny. The most memorable of the bunch. My kids liked this a lot. (They’re the ones who got me to read it.)

Fear Agent: Re-Ignition by Rick Remender
Space! A “hero” gets paid to clean up messes. Ends up making bigger messes! It’s pretty fun.

Rejoice, a Knife to the Heart by Steven Erikson
A first contact story. The aliens kidnap a science fiction writer to help them figure out how to communicate to humanity. She spends most of the book having debates with the alien AI imprisoning her. A lot of fascinating ideas here. Chiefly, what would people do if the ability to commit acts of violence were completely taken away?

A Collapse of Horses by Brian Evenson
Horror short stories. The first and last stories feed into each other in an interesting and creepy way. He’s definitely got a feel for uncanny dread.

Grayson: Nemesis by Tom King
Dick Grayson (AKA Batman’s Robin) is a spy! Hard to follow at times, so I stopped trying, and just enjoyed the ride.

Cemetery Beach by Warren Ellis
Hijinks on an alien planet. Lot of explosions!

Infinite Detail by Tim Maughan
(Weirdly, couldn’t remember what this was about, had to look it up. Think I read it too fast.) In this near future SF, the internet gets taken down. Describes the possible fallout from that. A lot of interesting speculation here on our relationship to technology and our deep reliance on it.

Mouthful of Birds: Stories by Samanta Schweblin
These are great stories, really great. The titles story is subtly alarming. I especially liked the story about the man who can’t get on the train.

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
Really excellent. Past fish-out-of-water/murder mystery/dynastic succession/meditation on cultural values. I loved the subtlety of the interactions between the protagonist and her closest companions. A masterpiece of science fictional world building. It stands perfectly well on its own, but if Martine writes more of these, I’ll definitely read em.

Animosity by Marguerite Bennett
All the animals in the world gain human-level sentience and verbal skills instantly. It’s a fabulous idea that doesn’t quite get a fair shake in this first collection of the comics. There was a kind of stutter/stop feel to the story, with some beats seemingly missing, which made for occasionally confusing character choices. I hope Bennett gets a chance and space to explore this idea more fully.

Six Memos for the New Millennium by Italo Calvino
Essentially a how to guide for living in the 21st century. Remarkably prescient for a book that was written in the 1980s. A series of lectures that Calvino, sadly, was never able to deliver. Each memo focuses on one of five values: lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, and multiplicity. The sixth on consistency was never completed. Made me want to reread some Calvino.

Crowded by Christopher Sebela
An extremely entertaining comic about a near future world where everything is crowdfunded, including assassinations. Takes current trends in freelance work and pushes them out to some pretty extreme places.

Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
If it weren’t for the second half that threw a monkey wrench into the first, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed this very much. Glad I stuck it out though! A book full of mostly unpleasant, but pretty amusing, people. All I can say is that I’m glad my college experience wasn’t anywhere near this.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
An excellent book. A meditation on grief and loss and hawking and TH White, one of my favorite childhood authors. Extremely well-written. Read for my book club.

The Crown Tower
The Rose and the Thorn
by Michael J Sullivan
Sometimes you want some popcorn books. These fantasy books are definitely like popcorn. Nothing wrong with that though. Things really start popping once the two protagonists decide to start working with instead of against each other.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Science fiction story told via found documents. Plus space zombies and a crazed AI. It’s solid and the textual shenanigans on the page are tops. I’m certainly going to read the sequels.

Bad Magic by Stephan Zielinski
A group of good guy magicians battle supernatural evil in San Francisco and San Diego. Each one comes from a different magical tradition. The prose has a sort of gritty noir feel to it and its funny like Kadrey’s Sandman Slim books. I think it’s the only book Zielinski wrote, but it’s solid. I have no recollection as to where I heard about this, but I’m glad I read it.

Slow Horses by Mick Herron
Spies! In London! A book written ten years ago that’s feeling pretty timely now, given all the white supremacist and nativist nonsense floating around these days.

The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang
Increasingly, I feel a lot of respect for people who can tell an entire story in about 150 pages. Still, I think this one could have used about a hundred more to flesh things out. There’s some fascinating stuff going on with gender here.

River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
Feral hippos in a Louisiana swamp! It’s a fun, quick read. (I finished it in one day of commuting.)