Monday, January 03, 2005

New books

The Reading List for the new year stands at so.

Number 1 on the list is The Algebraist, by Iain M. Banks (excellent writer: still haven't figured out why he uses the middle M when writing Sci Fi, and not when writing in that category that MPH, when it existed, called "General Fiction", Times used to call "Serious Fiction", and which Borders simply calls "Fiction"). A slow start, and signs of predictability (his penchant for squeamishly gross uber-psychotic villains is a bit over the top), and his worlds all begin to seem like The Culture, even when they are not. However, still vintage Banks, propelling you onward while steering clear of insulting your intelligence. Not as good as Against a Dark Background, The Player of Games and Use of Weapons for characterisation, and not as clever in plot as Feersum Endjinn, but still a neat little gem of a book.

Number 2 on the reading list is Lost Worlds by Michael Bywater, which I was reading over the New Year. Pretty apt, since there was a time as a child when New Years was a sad time for me, somehow remembering all the nice things that happened in the departing year and lamenting that they'd never come again. Strangely nostalgic and sentimental was I as a child. I can't remember when I grew out of that - when I stopped thinking about the passing year with regret. There may have been a transitional period where I viewed each new year with hope and eagerness (perhaps sometime in University) but that would have been too unlike me. Now I find I view the passing of each year with relief, thankful that the slogging has passed (though there's more where that came from) - I think this started to happen some years back. I wonder how long it will be before I start counting down the years to my life expectancy ...

Anyway, the book. Hmmm, yes, good read. Meandering, idiosyncratic in a take it or leave it manner, leaves the reader completely at the mercy of the author's whims and fancies, unapologetic for said idiosyncracy, and still a pretty good read.

Number 3, I am happy to report, is still Herodotus. I only hope that I can keep him on the active list (i.e. the pile of books that accumulates beside my side of the bed, which still have a reasonable chance of being read, as opposed to the books that have already been retired into a shelf somewhere) longer than the Thucydides.

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