Super-excited to learn that a little bookstore is going to open nearby, in a month or so.

Wed., Dec. 6, 2023, 10:01:27pm PDT

Finished reading The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff. A beautifully-written, incredibly-bleak story of a girl who escapes the famine in colonial Jamestown. What she finds is barely better, and the glow of light and hope at the very end didn’t do much to counter the darkness of the rest of the story.

I’m glad I read this, and I enjoyed it in some ways, and cannot recommend it wholeheartedly, unless you value how well words are put together more than what happens to the book’s only real character.

Oct. 24, 2023, 10:31pm

Meghan and I went to our great local bookstore to hear Nicola Griffith interviewed by Neal Stephenson.

Oct. 18, 2023, 9:41pm

The Return of the King, for all its various virtues, was the volume with most of the racist characterizations we think of as we reevaluate Tolkien — not just the Haradrim and Easterlings, but even some of his depictions of orcs cross the line. Important to be aware of flaws in a work, even (or especially) if you otherwise love it.

Sep. 26, 2023, 10:16pm (edited)

Finished rereading The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien, including the appendices.

It turns out I haven’t read all the appendices, or had thoroughly forgotten some of them. I like to think that everybody should read them, but … well, they’re not part of the main story for a reason.

Sep. 25, 2023, 7:55pm (edited)

Finished rereading The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Another thing I’ve noticed on this reread is that my mental images of the locations are very different. Tolkien’s descriptions seem very clear, and I don’t know why or how I could ever have imagined things as I did in the past, and I don’t think my current images are influenced by the movies in any meaningful way. Curious!

Sep. 10, 2023, 9:54am (edited)

Speaking of sagas, this is very much a book that wants to be read aloud.

Aug. 27, 2023, 3:11pm (edited)

Finished rereading The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien, part one of The Lord of the Rings as I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, for something like the twentieth time.

One thing that strikes me from this reading is how economical it is — seriously! — with the important exception of the poetry, which felt self-indulgent. Pay attention to how much happens in any given chapter, and how short that chapter is compared to how it would have been written by a modern author. Inner lives of the characters, and even much of the outer lives, are pared down, leaving us with the scope of an epic.

Aug. 27, 2023, 10:17am (edited)

Finished reading Crook Manifesto by Colson Whitehead, a followup to Harlem Shuffle, and equally delightful.

Aug. 14, 2023, 9:42am (edited)

Finished reading Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky does the same thing as he did in his previous, but with an additional element and resulting different themes. There was also a bit of horror — beyond the previous book’s simple arachnophobia triggers — such that I didn’t want to put the book down in those sections.

Aug. 11, 2023, 7:24pm (edited)

Finished reading The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, the only book he’s written solo that I hadn’t read (other than The Big U — is that any good?). Some amazing imagery, and carefully-thought-out social impacts of nanotechnology and post-scarcity that rhymed in some ways with Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota series.

The book has some vestiges of its time (e.g. some really dated stereotyping), and an abrupt ending characteristic of his earlier work, but the ending worked and overall I really liked the book.

Aug. 4, 2023, 1:04pm (edited)

“One of the insights of the Victorian Revival was that it was not necessarily a good thing for everyone to read a completely different newspaper in the morning….” — The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson, 1995.

Jul. 25, 2023, 10:09pm (edited)

Finished reading Termination Shock by Neal Stephenson. I had dragged my feet on this book because the marketing had put me off; this was apparently a Very Important book with Things to Say. I shouldn’t have paid attention: This was Stephenson’s most fun book since at least Reamde, and a very characteristic one, with hijinx, unlikely characters, passages where Stephenson showed off the cool research he’d done — the only thing missing was the badass Russian with a heart of gold.

Two notes: ① One exposition dump early in the book dragged a bit, though at least Stephenson had the character acknowledge it. ② The climax felt similar to those in Seveneves and Reamde, and possibly others further back that I’ve forgotten.

Jul. 18, 2023, 7:22am (edited)

Finished reading Fall by Neal Stephenson. I can’t even start to analyze this through the lens of Goethe’s three questions: I couldn’t tell what Stephenson wanted his book to be (about uploading consciousness? a retelling of Paradise Lost? a fantasy quest? mad about the internet and/or religious fundamentalism?), and so I can’t even judge whether he succeeded, much less whether it was worth doing. And I can’t tell if it ended up more or less than the sum of its parts. I will say that I was kind of tired of the book around the ⅘︎ point (though the ending picked up a bit), and I feel pretty sure this wasn’t his best work. My opinions of his books tend to shift over time, though, so we’ll see how I feel at (let’s say) the end of the year.

Jul. 5, 2023, 4:07pm (edited)

Finished rereading Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. I still find the first two-thirds of the book intensely compelling. I had trouble connecting as well as with the last third, though. I wonder if it should have been expanded and broken into a second book? It’s an important part of the story, but I feel like it wanted a little more space to breathe, and a little less recounting of history.

Jun. 28, 2023, 9:33am (edited)