April 2016 archive

Apr 29 2016

Dshamilja by Tschingis Aitmatow

Louis Aragon swore that it was the most beautiful love story in the world. Dshamilja is beautiful, and it is a love story, among other things, but I am not sure I would go as far as Aragon. On the other hand, Aragon was a committed Communist, and Dshamilja is a story of love among …

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Apr 27 2016

The Just City by Jo Walton

What if people took Plato’s Republic seriously enough to attempt putting it into practice? What if two of those people were the Greek deities Apollo and Athena, who have the power to make Plato’s implausible starting conditions real? Those are the premises underlying The Just City by Jo Walton. The Olympians, as Walton describes them, …

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Apr 26 2016

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith

One of the pleasures of reading deeply into a series is the sense of stories arising naturally from the personalities of the characters as the author has shown and developed them over the course of many books. The banter between Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin is freighted with but not weighed down by the …

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Apr 22 2016

The Song Of The Lark by Willa Cather

The Song Of The Lark is the story of how a small town girl becomes a famous opera singer by staying true to her instincts and artistic vision. Thea Kronberg is a difficult person to like: her talent and sensitivity mark her as a tall poppy to her detractors, but also attract the interest of …

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Apr 17 2016

Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett

Fourteen books into Discworld, Lords and Ladies is the first time Terry Pratchett deemed it necessary to put in a note connecting the event in the book at hand to a previous volume. It hasn’t hurt that I have been reading them in order of publication, but it hasn’t been particularly necessary either. And in …

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Apr 16 2016

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

I remembered three things from when I read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress long, long ago: the taxonomy of jokes (not funny, funny once, and funny always), that dropping rocks onto earth from the moon was an important part of the revolution, and the significant death at the end. I also remembered liking the …

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Apr 15 2016

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

Like the human aliens of the planet Gethen, The Left Hand of Darkness is first one thing and then another, encompassing all of them yet remaining bounded by its humanity. The inhabited worlds of Le Guin’s interrelated Hainish novels are tied together by membership in the Ekumen, eighty-odd planets in something like a trading federation, …

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Apr 13 2016

The Ballad Of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

I haven’t actually read much Lovecraft, so wasn’t aware of how problematic some of his works, such as The Horror At Red Hook, are in terms of dealing with minorities and immigrants. When this novella was recommended to my Ingress Book Club, I felt that, as a matter of due diligence, I ought to read …

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Apr 12 2016

Aunty Lee’s Deadly Specials by Ovidia Yu

So many fiction series start out well then hit a sort of sophomore slump: Ovidia Yu’s Aunty Lee mystery series manages not only to avoid this pitfall but to improve (vastly, in my opinion) on her debut. While the food writing and observations regarding Singaporean mores and personalities are as excellent as before, the mystery …

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Apr 09 2016

The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

Nearly a month after reading The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra, I am still thinking about what made me uneasy while reading it. The nine interlinked stories themselves are a fabulous artistic achievement. Set primarily in Russia’s far north and far south, an Arctic mining center and Chechnya, they range back and …

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