8 hours ago
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
What I'm Reading
It's almost spring break, which means -- you guessed it! -- more reading time!
Though we're also planning a trip to Crystal Bridges and also a hiking trip.
Here's what I've read lately:
John M. Barry, The Great Influenza
This is an excellent examination of both the terrible influenza that killed somewhere around fifty million people in 1918-1919, and of the doctors whose research helped stop the pandemic.
It's very methodical -- by which I mean it takes its time even getting to the pandemic -- but Barry tells us essentially everything. The information on the state of medical training / research at the end of the 19th and early 20th century is excellent; and the information about the pandemic itself is also very good.
Rivers Solomon, An Unkindness of Ghost
I saw this one recommended on many, many SF sites. My local public library did not have it, which made me slow to read it; but I finally bought a copy. The world-building and the characters here are quite good.
It's the tale of a generation ship, which has suffered a disaster, leaving the computer in charge of navigation. The surviving power structure has lapsed into a religion-based totalitarian regime; a class-based system has grown up, with those who work to maintain the ship being systemically oppressed by the "officers" of the ship. Further, radiation has had its effects on the crew of the ship, and the power structure uses mutations as a further excuse for oppression.
The main character, Aster, is autistic as well as highly gifted. She works to solve the mystery of the ship, and to resist the oppressive regime. Aster's character and voice pull us through the novel. The ending is weaker than the rest, but it's worth buying /reading.
Georgette Heyer, The Grand Sophy
I've seen Heyer recommended by about a million people over the past few decades. For some reason I got the idea that she wrote flowery, over-wrought romances, so I never looked at her. But finally I picked this one up, from our public library. Good recs, all y'all who recommended her! Nice writing, wonderful ability to convey a place and time, great characters.
I'm hooked. Which is excellent, since Heyer wrote a ton of books, and our library seems to have most of them. This seems to be a good book to start with, by the way, if you too have never read Heyer.
Ian Mortimer, The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England
This one I stumbled on by accident, wandering around in the library. Time travel *and* Medieval England? Oh boy!
Set up like an actual travel guide, the book gives us information on medieval inns, food, social structure, clothing, health and hygiene, and half a dozen other aspects of life in the 14th century. I especially enjoyed the sections on the Black Death and the section on Chaucer.
More pictures would have been nice, but Mortimer is quite good at writing descriptively.
Nicola Griffith, Hild; Slow River
I'd read Hild before, so this is a re-read of that. It's still excellent! Slow River is a very different book, a straight science fiction novel. (Hild is historical fiction.) In Slow River, our main character, Lore, comes from an hyper-wealthy family, one which has gotten its wealth through the invention and patenting of organisms, bacteria and such, which are being used to clean up the polluted landscape. Lore has the technical knowledge and training that goes along with her family business.
But through a series of events that I didn't quite believe, Lore ends up among the working class -- working as a low-paid tech in a water reclamation plant. The structure of the book is quite good, and the writing is excellent, and the world-building superb. I'm going to seek out more Griffith.