Just finished rereading Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brian, the last of the 20-book Aubrey/Maturin series. Just like in the previous couple books, there were a few oddities that might have been caught by a more vigilant editor. But the story as a whole is sound, and all is forgiven for the ending, which has brought tears to my eyes each time I’ve read it.

Aug. 30, 2022, 11:38pm

Finished rereading The Hundred Days by Patrick O’Brian, book 19 of the Aubrey/Maturin series. We’re nearing the end, with a few more odd tics on O’Brian’s part, along with the sudden deaths of two secondary characters who have been in the books since the earliest days — one on-screen, the other off-. I understand why he removed at least one of them (no more new stories to tell), but both were handled in a very flat, nearly-emotionless manner.

Aug. 25, 2022, 10:26pm

Finished rereading The Yellow Admiral by Patrick O’Brian, book 18 of the Aubrey/Maturin series. This was an odd one: a couple chapters involving enclosure and boxing felt like O’Brian had just been reading about them and decided to put them in his own book, and there was a faint repetitious quality. On the other hand, it was gratifying to watch them sail past the Pointe du Raz while on the Brest blockade, and the sweet, faintly melancholy ending would have made a good finish to the series … except that Napoleon just escaped from Elba, and there are still two books remaining.

Aug. 21, 2022, 1:17am

Finished reading Duck Season by David McAninch, about the food and culture of Gascony. I’m slow at reading this kind of book, and I had other things that distracted me, but I loved the writing, and need to try cooking various Gascon dishes.

Aug. 17, 2022, 11:21pm

Finished rereading The Commodore by Patrick O’Brian, book 17 of the Aubrey/Maturin series. Features a grim description of one of the less-awful ships in the Atlantic slavery trade.

Aug. 4, 2022, 8:36am

Finished reading Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel. I enjoyed it, though I was quite tired of some of the characters by the end of the book. The story had a couple coincidental meetings that were even less plausible than some in Station Eleven — we’ll see if this is a recurring motif in her work.

Jul. 26, 2022, 11:10pm

Finished reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, a pre-COVID “most people in the world die of a plague” novel. The story starts during a performance of King Lear at the start of the plague, and then follows two people — the actor playing Lear, through the before-times to that point, and a young girl also in the production, through the after-times in a traveling company performing Shakespeare plays. I read Last One at the Party about a year ago, and think this one is so much better it’s almost unfair to compare them. If you can stomach the premise, read this.

Jun. 22, 2022, 2:19pm

Finished rereading The Wine-Dark Sea by Patrick O’Brian, book 16 of the Aubrey/Maturin series, and the fourth and final book of their circumnavigation. Neither Aubrey nor Maturin has great success in this book; oddly, this felt satisfying enough that even a deus ex machina ending wasn’t a disappointment.

Jun. 21, 2022, 10:40am

Finished reading The Grief of Stones by Katherine Addison, a followup to last year’s Witness for the Dead. I enjoyed this as much as the previous. Addison draws her fundamentally-decent but painfully-introverted protagonist with compassion, through grim events of murders, child pornography (handled as tastefully as possible), and a malevolent spirit.

Jun. 19, 2022, 5:46pm

Finished rereading the collected Sandman by Neil Gaiman et al., volumes 1 (Preludes & Nocturnes) through 10 (The Wake).

This still basically holds up, which I was a little concerned about. (There’s more reference to rape than I remembered, but at least it doesn’t involve protagonists, and justice of a sort is generally done.) Some of stuff that was profound when I was in my 20s feels a little trite, but overall it still seems to achieve what it’s aiming for.

Jun. 16, 2022, 10:49pm

Finished rereading Cugel the Clever by Jack Vance (which I originally read as The Eyes of the Overworld), book two of the Dying Earth series. This picaresque was quite entertaining, despite (or because of) the cruel and antisocial main character, who invariably chooses the most destructive option whenever possible. You know what? I regret that characterization of the book. It’s a trap: You’re meant to be entertained by the cruel and antisocial main character, and you’re meant to gloss over how he sexually coerces one character and sells another into slavery. Fuck that, and fuck this book.

Jun. 5, 2022, 8:12pm (edited)

Finished rereading The Truelove by Patrick O’Brian, book 15 of the Aubrey/Maturin series, and the third book of a circumnavigation of the globe. Another well-crafted book, focusing on the relationship among the ship’s officers; most of the naval action is relegated to a montage sequence late in the book.

Jun. 2, 2022, 7:07pm

Finished rereading Anathem by Neal Stephenson. Boy do I have complicated feelings about this. On the one hand, the concepts are fascinating and the storytelling is top-notch. On the other, there’s a bunch of pandering to nerds and contempt for non-nerds, especially in the first half of the book, not to mention the casual sexism. (I would be curious to see what the book would have been like in the alternate universe where he wrote it today.) I used to recommend this book without reservations, but now it would be more along the lines of The Lord of the Rings (read this, but don’t fail to notice that the people with dark skin are bad guys).

May 29, 2022, 6:43pm

Finished reading Spear by Nicola Griffith, a short, fun novel retelling the story of Percival and the Holy Grail. (It’s just around a quarter the length of Hild!) A lovely digestif of a book.

May 9, 2022, 9:44pm

Finished rereading Scary Go Round volumes 1–8 by John Allison. I first read these as they were published online (starting with 2004’s “1840 and All That”); it was very interesting to reread them as a whole work, seeing the progression of Allison’s artistic and storytelling styles and interests.

May 9, 2022, 11:56am