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WIB: Jan 18-24 Plus Book Club Backlog

March 1, 2015

Only two books that week: Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, a reread for me, and UnSouled, the third book in the Unwound “dystology,” whatever that means.

Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves was a book that came to me at just the right time, the first time I read it years ago. I was back to community college after years away from education, and there were things here and there that I’d forgotten or never learned properly. Like many adults re-embracing education, I was a snob, and Truss’s snobbery appealed to me. Not so much upon rereading for my online book club. Truss is high-strung and high maintenance; her descriptions of how things works, however, is excellent in its clarity. But I’m no longer the kind of person who feels like the entire civilized world is coming to an end because of a misspelled sign. I have met too many people who have been through a broken American education system to think we’re all starting from the same place and therefore should end in the same place. I do, however, think that if you’ve got internet access and you’re not talking to your friends (but rather, say, a forum or whatever) you should probably go for clarity and lack of typos.

I dunno; I just don’t care anymore.

Moving on, Neal Shusterman’s Unsouled is a great third-book-in-a-four-book series. Like many of those, it’s a bit forgettable in the timeline because it’s a FOUR BOOK SERIES. (Five if you count the novella I skipped.) Just when you think things will end, you realize there’s a whole other book ahead of you, and it’s a mixed blessing because you want to carry on with these characters but four might just be the limit of a dystopian series–I mean, a dystology. (Eh.) I really enjoyed the series and while this one doesn’t have the punch of the first one (or the last, which I’ll talk about when we get there), it does what any good middle of a story does and keeps progressing and entertaining.


Another book club I joined last year was through, and is another speculative fiction book club.  I am sad that I can’t always keep up with these guys, because they are great people and the selections are good and the discussion’s good.  But they’re really far away and they meet at restaurants, and that’s gas and food we couldn’t always afford last year.  Still, I made a few of their meeting for books I’d read before, and books that were new to me too.  Here are the new ones:

Max Barry’s Lexicon is a great idea that doesn’t quite turn into a great book. Having already read Jennifer Government a while back, I knew Barry wants to be funny a lot, but Lexicon is slightly stronger and slightly less silly.  It’s less of a satire and more, at times, like an earnest novelization of a script Barry hasn’t sold yet for an action movie about the (magical) power of words. It’s a fun, fast book with slightly more depth than the usual fun, fast book, but Barry still hasn’t made it to my must-read list.

John Scalzi’s Redshirts is a odd little book. Hilarious parody of old science fiction shows soon turns to something surreal, almost experimental, and heartwarming. The newest crew members of the Intrepid are pleased as Punch to be assigned to such a prestigious starship, but soon find that the Intrepid is not like other ships. For one thing, high-ranking crew members never seem to die, but the lower ranks are killed off by the score during bizarre incidents and away missions. The new guys need to figure out what’s happening and how to make it right before they’re the next to go. I had such a great time with this book.

We also read some H.P. Lovecraft and Robert W. Chambers short stories around Halloween. I hadn’t read Lovecraft in maybe about a decade, and then only the one small collection. I couldn’t remember a thing, except a story where a monster finds out it’s the “human” one and everything else around it is monsters? Something like that. This time around, I read “Call of Cthulu” (I think?) and I know I listened to “The Haunter of the Dark” on Such a good reading it made me sad I’d already read “Call of Cthulu” rather than listening to their version. I could live without the racism, which people often excuse because of the age but no, there were lots of people who weren’t racist like Lovecraft back then. Chambers was an influence of Lovecraft’s who I’ve heard has gained popularity lately by being featured in the show True Detective or whatever it’s called, but I don’t know it so I can’t be sure.  But I guess if I ever watch the show, I’ll maybe pick up on something, because I read a few of the first stories in The King in Yellow, which I liked as much as Lovecraft, really.  The only reason I didn’t keep on with it is because I ran out of time.  I’m sure I’ll go back one day, maybe next Halloween.

So that’s the books I read for that book club.  Next time: time travel, more grammar, and yet another book club.

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