Sunday Status Update: February 19, 2017

This week, Frodo encounters an orc sympathizer.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Frodo: This week, some young hobbit turned up at my door wanting to talk about my book. I mean, it hasn’t been published yet, but Sam talks. So I let him in and we started chatting, but over time it became obvious that what he really wanted to talk about was orcs. “Only, Mr. Baggins,” he said, “I’ve been thinking and all. Innit the truth that orcs are really just elves?” So then I had to correct him and point out that no, in fact, orcs are elves who were taken and tortured and ruined by the Dark Lord. “Well, yes,” he said, “but that just means they’re still elves underneath it all, right?” I said I supposed so, though I must say the conversation was making me uncomfortable by then. “So Mr. Baggins,” he went on, “I just mean to say… if all them orcs were just tortured elves ‘n all… don’t you feel bad that you and your lot killed about a baker’s dozen of ’em every time you turned around?” I thought about trying to argue the point, but in the end I pretended to remember an appointment and shoved him out my door.

Bill: The past two weeks I read Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station (I gave it a five so clearly I greatly enjoyed it) and B.J. Hollars Flock Together: A Love Affair with Extinct Birds, which although not quite what I’d expected was still charmingly engaging. Unusually for me, and for various reason, I’m currently midstream in several books: Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning (admiring and also liking), Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky (not really getting the hype), and Tracy Chevalier’s At the Edge of the Orchard (really enjoying). And I’m about to pick up again Steven Erikson’s Forge of Darkness for the reread starting up once more on Wednesday. Movie-wise, I watched Doctor Strange (funnier than I expected) and introduced my son to Close Encounters of the Third Kind (“I really liked it until the really super slow last 45 minutes” — he has a point). In TV-land, I binged all of Stranger Things (in the tragically mistaken belief season two was about to start), all of Daredevil Season One (loved it and season two is actually on now), a few Jessica Jones, even as I’m keeping up with The Magicians (love those characters), The Expanse (my favorite ongoing show), and the last season of Grimm. And the family started watching season one of The 100, which we’re mostly having fun picking apart. Man, that’s a lot of TV, no wonder I’m not finishing more books . . .

Brad: This week I’ve been rereading all the graphic novels and collections of short-story comics by the Norwegian comic book writer/artist who goes by the single name of “Jason.” My favorites include Hey, Wait . . . ; Pocketful of Rain; Lost Cat; Why Are You Doing This?; You Can’t Get There From Here; and The Left Bank Gang. Hey, Wait . . . is a brilliant Coming-of-Age story. I like it so much and also think so highly of it as a great work of art, I’m teaching it in all three of my courses this semester. It takes about twenty minutes to read if you “read” each image carefully and slowly. Pocketful of Rain is an Anthology of his earliest short works, and it is my favorite Jason collection. Lost Cat and Why Are You Doing This? are noir graphic novels. At about 150 pages, Lost Cat is his longest novel. You Can’t Get There From Here is a Frankenstein-inspired graphic novel that’s a riot. The Left Bank Gang is about Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Zelda, Pound, Joyce, and Stein in Paris in the 1920s. They are poor, starving comic book Authors (regular novels don’t seem to exist in this world), so Hemingway decides they should rob a bank. It takes fifteen minutes to read and then aother thirty minutes to figure out what happened! Some of these books by Jason, like Hey, Wait . . . and The Left Bank Gang are available on Comixology Unlimited (free for the first month and then $5.99 per month–I highly recommend the service).

Jana: This week I focused a little more on the kinds of books (and, in this week’s case, manga) that make me feel enriched or relaxed because, well, life. So I began Rinker Buck’s 2015 memoir, The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, and was immediately captivated by his narrative voice as well as the subject matter at hand: Buck and one of his brothers, Nick, traveled along the length of the Oregon Trail using a covered wagon and a pair of mules as their transportation. Buck provides an honest view of American history and culture along with a healthy dose of wit and self-deprecating humor. I also discovered and have been leisurely working my way through an English translation of Hitoshi Ashinano’s Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō, a “soft apocalypse” manga about an android who runs a café in the waning years of human society. The characters are sweet, the stories are very calm and slice-of-life, and reading a chapter or two every evening has been extremely beneficial to my blood pressure. And for FanLit, I read Erika Lewis’ YA debut novel Game of Shadows, due out at the end of this month. I’ve prepared a review and have been coordinating a FanLit guest post from Ms. Lewis in the coming week, so be sure to watch this space!

Kat: Since you heard from me last, I’ve read To Green Angel Tower, the third book in Tad Williams‘ first MEMORY SORROW & THORN (OSTEN ARD) trilogy. Then I read his new OSTEN ARD novel, The Heart of What Was Lost, which I’ll try to get reviewed this week. I wasn’t crazy about it, I’m sad to say. Then I read Nightborn and Skyborn, the second and third novels in Lou AndersTHRONES & BONES stories for middle graders. These were fairly entertaining. Currently I’m reading Paternus by Dyrk Ashton. This is one of the SPFBO finalists and, so far, it’s the best one I’ve read.

Sandy: Moi? Having just finished Clifford D. Simak’s 1961 novel of telepathic space exploration, Time Is the Simplest Thing, I am now reading his follow-up novel, 1962’s They Walked Like Men, in which Earth’s real estate is being bought up by bowling ball-shaped aliens from outer space…or at least, so it seems, so far. I’ll get back to you in a week or so when I review this most entertaining book, the second of three Simak novels that I hope to be reading in the near future…

Stuart: I’m still recovering from back problems that have keep me working at home in bed for the past two weeks, but I was able to finish my second PKD biography, Emmanuel Carrere’s I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey Into the Mind of Philip K. Dick, which was  fascinating if you’ve already read and admired his most important works. In the meantime I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Yooh Ha Lee‘s Ninefox Gambit (2016), a very baroque military/mathematical SF adventure that frankly is incredibly hard to follow, given that every other word is a neologism. Sure it’s original and creative, but sometimes it veers into complete impenetrability, and only the two main characters have any depth. Not sure if I really like it, but will finish it soon. I don’t think I’ll have anything to add to Kevin’s review of it. 

Tim: This week I read (or reread) two works by Neil Gaiman: first, his new book Norse Mythology; and second a radio drama production of Neverwhere with a star-studded cast. I had a lot of fun with both of them. I also began reading The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned by Anne Rice, but I have to admit that I so far I prefer her vampire novels. This one is a bit soapy for my tastes, though others’ mileage may vary.

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TIM SCHEIDLER, who's been with us since June 2011, holds a Master's Degree in Popular Literature from Trinity College Dublin. Tim enjoys many authors, but particularly loves J.R.R. Tolkien, Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke. When he’s not reading, Tim enjoys traveling, playing music, writing in any shape or form, and pretending he's an athlete.

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One comment

  1. Brad, “Pocketful of Rain” is a wonderful title.

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