Saturday, July 22, 2017

What I'm Reading Now

I've sent my novel edits off (the first round), but I'm still teaching two sections of comp, with a different prep for each. So I'm busier than usual.

Nevertheless! I'm reading and reading.

These are the books I've finished lately:

Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog; Blackout; All Clear

I'd read these before. The Great Book Arranging of Spring 2017 has led me into re-reading many books, simply because I found them again.

These are all part of Willis's time travel series. I love time travel, and I love when Connie Willis writes about it. Blackout and All Clear are probably her weakest books -- read Doomsday Book for her strongest -- but I still enjoyed reading them.

Blackout and All Clear are set in England during WWII, and mostly in London during the Blitz. Three historians travel back to observe various details, and get stranded. To Say Nothing of the Dog is a comic novel, and much better. Again, historians are time-travelling, but for a much different reason. This is both a romance and a mystery novel, as well as being SF.

They may well also be religious arguments. Willis is a Christian, and Jo Walton makes a compelling argument here. But if they're religious arguments, they're much better at it than (say) C. S. Lewis's hamfisted attempts are.

Terry Ryan, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

A non-fiction book, this is a narrative of the life of Evelyn Ryan, a Catholic woman who had ten children and an alcoholic, violent husband. Because he insists on being the sole breadwinner in the family, and yet nevertheless spends much of his paycheck on drinking, Evelyn ends up feeding, housing, and otherwise supporting her family through writing jingles and other bits for the contests which were popular during the time.

This is a well-told story, and does a good job of presenting Evelyn's character. Modern readers will be appalled, however, that (1) she never started using birth control and (b) she didn't ditch the wastrel of a husband.

Apparently there's a film version.

Brenda Cooper, Wilders

A dystopian / utopian SF novel. The story of a young girl who grows up in a Utopian city (or at least it's supposed to be utopian) who leaves that city to go outside its dome and find her sister, who is supposed to be working at "re-wilding" the country around the city, and may instead, or also, have joined a rebellion.

The city is Seacouver, a megaopolis made by combining Seattle and Vancouver. The setting is some time in the future, when climate change has done a great deal of damage. That's what the Wilders are doing, or supposed to be doing, mending a world destroyed by climate change.

Sadly, those funding their mission are the owners of the cities, and they're not funding the mission properly, being more interested in funding the cities and making their own lives luxurious.

The first half of this is better than the second half, which loses some energy.

Robert Heinlein, To Sail Beyond the Sunset

This is one of Heinlein's last books, and oh boy does it show. It concerns the life of Maureen Johnson, who is mother to Heinlein's favorite character, Lazarus Long. There is also time travel.

But mostly there is sex, and not good sex either. Creepy, creepy sex. The worst is probably the mother-son, father-daughter incest, but almost all of the sex in this book feels sleazy, not to mention unlikely.

There's also a lot of Heinlein climbing onto his soapbox, lecturing the reader about who should earn the money that supports a family, and how children should be raised, and why American jingoistic patriotism is justified (as well as some bullshit about various American wars), and how a Real Man behaves, and why those kids today wrecked America, fap fap fap.

The soapbox lectures are annoying, but it's the fact that Heinlein couldn't keep his kink to himself that wrecks this one.

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