Tuesday, December 19, 2023

What I'm Reading Now

Nick Fuller Googins, The Great Transition

This one is really good. It's Googins' first novel, which both delights and saddens me. (More novels to come -- yay! -- no backlist to read -- boo!) Set in the near future, which is to say about thirty years from now, it is the story both of those who are fighting to save the planet as its ecosystems collapse due to global climate change, and the story of the daughter of two of those fighters, sixteen years later. 

The climate science seems accurate and more than a little scary. The fact that we will have to change the world to save the world also seems accurate. And Googins is a skilled writer, one who gives us both great pacing, good characters, and a lot of great detail. Also, the novel asks an important question -- what should be done about those who do wrong? Do we forgive, or do we take vengeance? The answer we get is not the standard one, fair warning.

Highly recommended. 


Tien Pham, Family Style

This is a memoir about how Tien and his family fled from Viet Nam at the end of the war there, traveling first to a refugee camp and then to the US, where his parents struggle to stay afloat, and Tien and his brother navigate the US school system and US teen culture. The parents work a variety of jobs before buying their own business, which grows to several businesses (the kids work in the stores); Tien and his brother shrug off their culture in an effort to be good Americans. Tien eventually begins to regret forgetting his mother tongue and the Vietnamese culture, but that's not the point of the graphic novel. That journey from refugee to US citizen is the point.

Nice art and good narrative techniques here. If I were going to teach a class in graphic novels, I'd include this one. (Who knows, I might be. I'm teaching script workshop in this spring, so why not graphic novels?)

Kate Collins, A Good House for Children

This is a horror story about a house that devours people. It's really well written and engaging, and it's set it England, with a prototypical small English village in Dorset, all the stuff I like, but I could not finish it because it was too scary. Great characters. I wanted to keep reading, because I wanted to know what happens to them, but I couldn't take it. I'm a lot less able to put up with scary stories these days apparently. If you don't mind scary this might be for you.

Stacy McAnulty, Forever Twelve

A boarding school, immortals, secrets in the past. This is a YA novel about kids who have been twelve years old (more or less) for a couple hundred years, who all meet up to attend this boarding school every few decades, just so they can hang out with one another. It's a lot harder to be an immortal twelve year old in the 21st century than it was in say, the 18th century, when kids could work at factories and no one would blink an eye. Also, being ten to twelve years old forever -- an immortal prepubescent -- is not as much fun as you might think, which is the central plot of this novel. I liked this one a lot. There's going to be a sequel, which I will definitely seek out.

John Scalzi, Starter Villain

Scalzi novels are kind of like potato chips: tasty, not very filling, enjoyable, pretty much all the same. Sure, one flavor is BBQ and another is Sour Cream & Onion, but basically it's a chip. 

By which I mean to say that I always enjoy Scalzi's novels, and that's pretty much what they're for, and I enjoyed this one too. A down-on-his-luck guy who wants to turn his life around by buying the pub in his hometown instead has his life turned around when his rich uncle dies and leaves him a request behest -- that is, do this, and you'll get a (relatively) small reward. Relatively compared to the uncle's fortune, which runs into the trillions.

Fulfilling the request leads to the guy (a typical Scalzi everyman) having to become a villain (his uncle's word) at a Batcave like facility on an island with live volcano. There are talking (well, typing) cats, intelligent dolphins and whales who want to form a union, and many plots twists. It's a lot of fun, if not especially deep. Recommended if that's what you're looking right now.

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