September 3, 2008

Sunshine, by Robin McKinley

The plot is good. The characters are wonderful. But the language is what really makes this book stand out. The characters speak a dialect that's entirely understandable and rings true, while also distinctively reflecting a postapocalyptic Earth with vampires and demons and magic and such. It's also a book in which it seems entirely natural for a dessert to be named "Sunshine's Eschatology."

I borrowed this from a friend, but I'll definitely need a copy of my own.

Posted by Shmuel at 9:32 PM

August 22, 2008

The Gods Themselves, Isaac Asimov

Asimov's masterpiece, rebutting charges that he couldn't write about aliens, sex, or women. The first part and last sections, on Earth and the Moon, are good; the middle portion, with the aliens, is brilliant.

Posted by Shmuel at 9:23 PM

March 11, 2005

Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie King

I'm a longtime fan of British mysteries, particularly the traditional British detective type of mystery. The series that begins with this book has turned me into a Sherlock Holmes fan. I know it's a little backwards to become a fan of the original by first becoming a fan of revisionist fiction (or, when we're at home with ourselves, glorified and published fan fiction), but there you have it. That's how I got into it.

More spoilerish type review ahead ...

It's a good exercise in the whole suspension of disbelief idea at first: that Sherlock Holmes would actually take a woman as an apprentice, that he would eventually fall in love with her, and that it is reciprocated by this woman who is about 40 years his junior. I grant that there are relationships between older men and younger women that are intellectually-based. I'm one of those who's dated and been much more comfortable with men ten to sixteen years my superior in age.


Anyway, the book won me over. I put aside all of that disbelief because the writing was good. The historical details were intriguing, the pace was great, and later books in the series are richly detailed. So. Yay. I'm sucked in, and I read every published book in this series within two months of reading this first one. That ought to say something.

Posted by Erin at 2:33 PM

May 21, 2003

National Lampoon's Doon, by Ellis Weiner

After reading the Barry Trotter parody, I was wondering whether perhaps my standards were too high. Sure, it wasn't Bored of the Rings, but the granddaddy of all fantasy parodies did have the advantage of being first. Possibly I'd even built it up too much.

And then I read this book, a parody of Frank Herbert's Dune, and realized that, no, there really was a difference between a good parody and a lame attempt. Mind you, Doon is no Bored of the Rings either.

It's better.

This is a lighter and faster read than its predecessor, which makes it all the more impressive how well it sends up Herbert's classic. This is a world in which the ecology features giant pretzels and beer... and granting the plausibility of animate pretzels, the whole thing actually makes sense, and does a neat job of playing off the ecology and plot of the original work. Still, every time it starts to seem as if the parody is a bit too pat, Weiner pivots around and unexpectedly challenges the reader's expectations. He also does a lovely job of satirizing Herbert's stylistic excesses, including the portentious interior monologues. For that matter, the Hebrew and Arabic word derivations of the original are here replaced with Yiddish and Variety-speak.

This is sadly out of print, but affordable copies can be found on Bookfinder.Com. If you haven't read Dune, don't bother; otherwise, it has my recommendation.

Posted by Shmuel at 7:07 PM

April 24, 2003

Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us, by Kate Bornstein

As Anne of Green Gables might have put it, I think I've found a kindred spirit.

[I never got around to finishing this entry. In a nutshell, I liked the book a lot.]

Posted by Shmuel at 11:41 PM