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And now it's time for the oft-preempted...  
12:46pm 06/03/2007
 
 
Discard Before Using
...This Week In Books: Week #21

1) Death By Black Hole - Neil DeGrasse Tyson
I became aware of this book thanks to the author's hilarious interview on the Daily Show, and am happy to report that it is just as intelligent, engaging, and humorous as said appearance. Tyson is obviously smart, smart, smart; moreover he has the gift of being able to take the most complicated of astrophysical phenomena and explain them to the layman in simple, lucid terms. I truly felt as though I was grasping the enormity of these concepts (if not entirely grasping them themselves) for the first time, and without detecting any of the "lies to children" so often present in lay science writing. Unfortunately, the pleasures of Tyson's prose are offset by the horrendous lack of decent editing; the book abounds with missing verbs, subject-verb disagreements, and consistency (ie Pluto is considered a planet in one chapter but a planetiod--which seems to be Tyson's preferred classification--throughout the rest of the book). The otherwise exemplary content of Death By Black Hole makes it well worth bearing with its poor editing, however. Finally, Tyson takes the gold by writing the most lucid, intelligent, and pithy discussion of intelligent design I have ever seen, anywhere. Read this book.

2) Creatures Of The Night - Neil Gaiman & Michael Zulli
Yet another Gaiman/Zulli collaboration, of the type I have begun to think of as Gaiman's Cash Cows. In other words, its two short stories are good by graphic novel standards, which means that they are only middling by Gaiman's standards. The first story is a semi-authobiographical account of Gaiman's cats, while the second appears to be his response to a short story from Susanna Clarke's The Ladies Of Grace Adieu They are both entertaining whilst one is reading them but immediately forgettable afterward. That said, Michael Zulli's art is so luminous that I'd consider buying this book for a good price secondhand; still, my final verdict is that this should be a library lender for all but the most rabid of Gaiman fans.

3) Get Your War On - David Rees
I was lucky enough to be alerted to the existence of this comic when its first set of strips was published online. Back then Rees seemed to be the only sane voice in the wilderness of yellow ribbon magnet patriots ("I support the troops, but not enough to feel like defacing my car with a bumper sticker!"); he managed to encapsulate in three panels what I was taking paragraphs to get out. This collection contains the first few months of the comic, which are necessarily dated as they deal with current current events, but are still very, very worth reading. Get this book.

4) The Horse And His Boy - C.S. Lewis
I loved Lewis' Chronicles Of Narnia as a child, but realise with sadness that they have not aged well whenever I read them as an adult. It's not as easy to just imagine myself as one of his active (read: male) characters, and the eurocentric/Stealth Jesus aspects of his stories no longer fly under my radar. That said, I do believe this is one of the better books in the series; I like the exoticness of the setting (for all that it's obviously supposed to be inferior to Britannia), and Avaris gets a much better deal than most of his lady protagonists (although Susan's lack of agency--I mean, her femininity is as irksome as ever). The moralising is simplistic (lying is okay as long as the Narnians are doing it; being petty, mocking, and holding grudges is fine as long as Aslan is doing it), but the animal characters charming, the battle scene wonderful and the scenery in general is very vivid in my mind's eye. Unfortunately, there are many other fantasy tales out there that avoid the pitfalls of Lewis' writing, which results in my only reading Narnia for nostalgia's sake.

5) The Ancient Child - N. Scott Momaday
I read Momaday's The Way To Rainy Mountain obsessively as a child, and so was very excited to get my hands on The Ancient Child at a library booksale. Unfortunately, it's bad. Rottenly bad. The protagonist is a middle-aged Kiowa painter (just like Momaday himself--what a happy coincidence!) and his main love interest a tall, copper-skinned, perky-breasted, lithe, intelligent, enigmatic, beguiling, long-fingered Native American woman with flowing sable hair and psychic powers and eyes which are green, amber, and the deepest violet all at once. No, I am NOT kidding; the Marty Stu and his female love interest in this book rival the worst excesses of Internet fanfiction. Momaday spends more time telling readers about how beautiful this woman is, how her breasts bounce, her hair billows, her skin shimmers, her eyes dance, and how avante garde and tortured but genuine, gentle but on edge, misunderstood but brilliant his Stu stand-in is, than he does on actually developing a plot, which remains largely absent throughout the book's 300-odd pages. I am going to reiterate here, because that is what The Ancient Child does ad nauseum: the majority of this book is devoted to rubbing readers' faces in the main "characters'" attractive physical attributes and myriad special powers and abilities. It's unconvincing and frankly quite boring, as readers are never given any incentive to know these people, let alone care about them. Definitely give this one a miss.


That will be all.
tags: books, reading
 
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 metal_dog5
 
06:29am 08/03/2007 (UTC)
 
 
Metal Dog5: sanzo smoking
1. Shall add it to my list. *makes note to check library database*

2. I saw this on amazon, new, for uner $10 including postage. I haven't seen it so don't know if that's really a bargin or not.

4. I still like to spend an afternoon rereading the series every now and again. The religious stuff is so easy for me to ignore - thank you lack of religous education :D

I am currently reading THUD! Can't say it's really grabbed me like the earlier books, so am a little disappointed so far.
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