Reading Slowly

In spite of having a lot of extra time, I feel like my reading speed has slowed way down. It’s not that I’m reading any less than I normally do–though I’m not reading more–but I’m making my way through books much more slowly. I don’t think this is a good or a bad thing, but simply an observation. Still, I’ve read a fair amount, I suppose.

Erasure by Percival Everett: I think his book of short stories, Half an Inch of Water, is still my favorite book of his, about people living in extremely rural settings. This one, Erasure, is some pretty brutal satire about a black academic who deliberately writes the worst book he can about a street thug and drug dealer. The book goes on to become a runaway success and win a prestigious national award. Dark.

The Monkey’s Wedding: and Other Stories by Joan Aiken: Delightfully weird and charming and funny little stories, mostly about love and relationships. Definitely worthwhile. I especially liked the title story and “Spur of the Moment”.

Die: Split the Party (v2) by Kieron Gillen: People from our world go into a fantasy world, only it’s the fantasy world they cooked up as kids for their roleplaying game. Mostly about hurting people behaving badly in desperation. The art is pretty slick. I don’t really know where the story is going at this point.

Jade City by Fonda Lee: An organized crime story set in a fictionalized Taiwan (maybe? I’m not really sure) with magical powers–bestowed by jade jewelry, but also addictive and destructive. I don’t normally go in for organized crime stories, but this was solid and I enjoyed it.

The Vorrh by Brian Catling: Super weird. There’s a cyclops with miraculous and contagious healing powers and a hunter with a sentient bow and a photographer who’s mysteriously affected by light and a group of zombies exploited by capitalists, to name a few things. Fascinating stuff, but pretty dark, and definitely not for everyone.

Potted Meat by Steven Dunn: Exactly the type of book being skewered by Everett in Erasure. So, I had that in the back of my mind the entire time I was reading it. Still, not without some merit.

The Invisibles (Book 1) by Grant Morrison: I hadn’t read this since about 2000 (or maybe 2006?). It holds up pretty well, I’d say. It seems less sophisticated and groundbreaking since then, but I think that’s because so many have borrowed Morrison’s writing techniques and subject matter since these first came out.

The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington by same. Weird like Aiken, but without the warmth and humor. That seems harsher than I intend, but the starkness of these stories caused them to hit harder for me. Some days I want warmth and humor, some days I don’t.

Koko Takes a Holiday by Kieran Shea: Sometimes I want a quick dumb read. This science fiction action story fit the bill. This would be a perfect beach book. Koko is a semi-retired assassin/mercenary who gets roped back into things when a former colleague decides to take her out. Had some good action scenes and a sort of sly humor.

Queen’s Play by Dorothy Dunnett: If you like historical fiction, Dunnett’s up there at the top of the list, I’d say. (I don’t read a ton of this genre, so I’m sure there are many writers I’m completely ignorant of.) The writing is superb and the characters are fascinating, especially Francis Crawford, who is sort of like a Bruce Wayne of the 16th century. Some very funny scenes. Also, the rooftop chase is an exceptional piece of writing and makes the whole book worth reading just on its own.

Permutation City by Greg Egan: Reminded me a lot of Neal Stephenson’s Fall, or, Dodge in Hell. Explores the question of the nature of consciousness when that consciousness is being simulated in a computer. This book gets pretty science/mathy and I’m not sure I was in the right headspace to grok it, but there’s some pretty fascinating stuff here. I’m pretty sure I read his book Diaspora too and enjoyed it slightly more than this one. If you like crunchy science fiction, Egan’s worth checking out.

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel: I’d been meaning to read this book for years. I think I’ve perpetually had it checked out from the library for basically years. (It’s amazing how many times you can renew a book when no one else wants to read it.) I finally got around to it and I’m glad I did. I’d put Mantel up there with Dunnett as far as historical fiction goes. There’s no one like Mantel for putting you in the headspace of a 16th century Englishman. And Thomas Cromwell is a fascinating one at that. Everything in this book underscores how important being able to be in a room with someone else is for understanding…. well, everything. I’d certainly recommend reading Wolf Hall before this one, but I think it would stand on its own pretty well.

Started a new job this week. It reminded me of this passage from William Gibson’s newest book, Agency. (Fortunately, my unease passed pretty quickly due to my colleagues’ warm welcome.)