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Bookworm 2013: Neither Here Nor There

Posted on | December 27, 2013 | No Comments

Lavie Tidhar - BookmanLike many others, I grew tired of steampunk relatively quickly and was weary of delving into Lavie Tidhar’s The Bookman fearing it to be more goggles-and-brass spot-the-celebrity fanfic. Well, to an extent I was wrong, and to an extent I was not. The book deals with the adventures of Orphan, our unnamed protagonist, as he meanders his way through layer after layer of conspiracies on a nineteenth-century Earth ruled by Les Lezards, a race of lizard-people discovered on Caliban’s Island. The problem with this novel is that it is simply well written, despite its falling into many of the traps of the subgenre. While reading, I was simultaneously curious to find out what happens next, as well as annoyed by alternate-history versions of famous people popping up left and right. The overall feeling I had after finishing it was that I’d really like to find something else Tidhar has written outside of this steampunk world, so that I could properly enjoy his writing.

Kim Stanley Robinson - IcehengeAs for Kim Stanley Robinson’s Icehenge, this was a writer known mainly for hard SF that I only knew from the wonderful The Years of Rice and Salt. So, I thought I’d explore this other side of his, preferably through a shorter novel, and so wound up with this older work. Well, it shows. The style is a bit dry, and there are bits where the book is simply too long. The central, titular mystery of the novel is a construct built on the surface of Pluto, with three interlocked and slightly recursive, increasingly unreliable narratives providing us with various versions of what could have happened and of who could have planted the circle of monoliths on the remote worldlet. The central mystery is never resolved, and the three stories are of uneven quality, though the seed of a rashomonian game of perspectives that would blossom in Rice and Salt is definitely present.

Margo Lanagan - YellowcakeFinally, Margo Lanagan’s Yellowcake, a collection that was neither brilliantly mindblowing like Kelly Link’s Stranger Things Happennor utterly and mindnumbingly boring like Kij Jonhson’s At the Mouth of the River of Bees. Stylistically, all three of these collections share a leaning towards a sort of fantasy-ish scifi-ish magicalrealism-ish otherworldliness, and from the stronger stories in the collection it is clear that Lanagan can utilize this setting-slash-atmosphere to tell an effective story, she does miss as frequently as she hits. Also, I get the slight impression that this book is more like a collection of prose poems, almost none of the stories have a proper dramatic structure, but remain pieces of writing intended to evoke an emotion – and once this mission is accomplished, they simply stop, leaving the reader without the hoped-for closing catharsis.

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  • Goodreads

    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
    From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time
    The Ophiuchi Hotline
    A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
    Green Eyes
    Crackpot Palace: Stories
    The Fractal Prince
    The Fecund's Melancholy Daughter

    Sebastian's favorite books »