WIB: Jan 4 – 10 Plus Book Club Backlog
2014 was the year of Too Many Book clubs. As I worked to balance my job hunt with my husband’s sudden career change, a move, and my volunteer work, I decided to do something “fun” like join a book club. Except somehow, one book club became four book clubs (on top of the one I’ve been running online for years) and it got ridiculous.
I’m back down to two, both of which I run. One is the online one which reads all over the place, and the other is the speculative fiction book club that’s hosted by my local library. Today’s backlog will be the selections from the speculative fiction book club.
I’m going to do them in order, because the two books I read during the week of January 4th are related to the book club.
Our first selection was Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, which we chose because I was reading for my online book club as well. It was a reread for me, and ultimately was not as engrossing for me as the first read. This doesn’t make it a bad book by any means. But the slow reveals are best when you go in unknowing. Our “picky” member didn’t finish it, I don’t think? The only man in the group back then said he thought he’d have to turn in his man card for reading it, but he enjoyed it, and the other member of the newly-formed club enjoyed it as well. So that’s three thumbs up for the alternative history novel that was turned into a bad adaptation (which I’ll discuss when I do the online book club selections).
Next, we read Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman, another reread for me that didn’t even hold up a little. This pseudo-literary novel about a supervillain is just crap. Bad writing of female characters, incredible inconsistency, and by the time things started to be good, the whole thing was over. It got a lukewarm reception from the group as we tore it a new one in our discussion. I hear Grossman is coming out with another book this year, maybe, and I’m thinking of giving it a chance if I have time. I’m not sure why. I guess because this was his debut, and I expect better things now.
Our next selection was Larry Niven’s Ringworld, a book I absolutely did not finish, which I discussed here.
Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta was next. Our male reader shunned the format (graphic novel), and our other readers had read the book or seen the movie but not both. I was the only person who’d done both. We were a little puzzled which woman character was which sometimes, and felt that there are far more characters than necessary to tell the story. There’s so much going on, but it is still incredibly powerful stuff, such a reflection of its time.
After that, we moved on to the classic The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, suggested by a member of the book club who adores Wells. It was a first-time read for me, and I really loved it. I’d never seen any of the movies or anything, so all I knew was that there’s a time machine and that there are Morlocks, creatures with which I am far more familiar in the X-Men universe than in its own. I thought it was a fast, compelling read, with many interesting ideas. I am more interested than ever to read Wells’s work.
The next month’s selection was the young adult novel Unwind by Neal Shusterman. It was recommended by a member of the book club who couldn’t actually make the meeting, and then another member had read the wrong selection due to a missed meeting, and then our third member didn’t finish the book, with left me being the only one who read the whole thing. The one who gave it up didn’t like the immediacy of the first person or the immaturity of the narration, but I didn’t even really notice the tense and the immaturity of the narration made sense to me since we’re following three young teenagers. I noticed that the sentence structure is even more simplified in the chapters with the perspective of the youngest character, so I figured it was the author’s intention and I gave it a pass. Truly, the narration may make up for the terrifying premise: children can be retroactively “aborted” by their parents before the age of eighteen in a process called Unwinding, where each part of the body is donated to a living person. As the book moves to its horrific ending, the immaturity of the characters perhaps has been a blessing. The book can be read alone, which is why we read it, but I moved on to the sequel (and was the only one in the group who finished that one)…which brings us to the first full week of this year.
Unwholly is the second book in what I was hoping was a trilogy, but it looks like a fourth book came out last year. (My library doesn’t have it!) Shusterman brings his A game and the second book is stronger than its predecessor. The characters who made it through the events of the first book move on to more adult responsibilities, which bring their own challenges, and the climate of the country is reaching a tipping point. I am currently reading the third book in the series, and hope it will be as good as this one was.
Finally, my last book of the week and the book club’s selection of this month was Elantris, Brandon Sanderson’s fantasy novel about a world whose magic has twisted, the prince who must solve the problem before it overwhelms him, the holy man who may have to allow a massacre, and the princess who basically tries to bring feminism everywhere she goes. When fantasy isn’t set in the present day, I usually check out, but this book kept my attention on every page. The made-up languages are minimally used and understandable in context, the mystery of the loss of magic is compelling, and the heroes are all wonderful. The book is mostly paced well (although I think he could’ve cut quite a few repetitions of description of pain), and has a retro feel to it, like it could’ve been written in the late ’80s or early ’90s. Maybe that’s a sad indication of where we are with feminism right now, but there you have it.
So that was the week in books. Next up: superheroes and the selections of the online book club.