Books read, July 2011

A lot of short things, a lot of re-reads; it was about all I had the brain-power for. But it adds up to a reasonably respectable-looking list.

The Merlin Conspiracy, Diana Wynne Jones. Discussed elsewhere.

Warlock at the Wheel, Diana Wynne Jones. Discussed elsewhere.

Sense and Sensibility, adapted by Nancy Butler and Sonny Liew. Comic-book adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel. Not entirely successful; it depends way too much on captions to explain stuff, and (naturally) the dialogue bubbles tend to the extremely wordy side. But I’ll say this for it: I felt like it told the story about as completely as the film adaptation I’ve seen did (the one with Alan Rickman et al). That’s pretty good, for something this length. (I haven’t read the original novel — I know; I know — so that’s the only metric I have.)

Charmed Life, Diana Wynne Jones. Discussed elsewhere.

Conrad’s Fate, Diana Wynne Jones. Discussed elsewhere.

Tokyo Babylon, vol. 2, CLAMP.
Tokyo Babylon, vol. 3, CLAMP.
Tokyo Babylon, vol. 4, CLAMP.
Tokyo Babylon, vol. 5, CLAMP.
Tokyo Babylon, vol. 6, CLAMP.
Tokyo Babylon, vol. 7, CLAMP. The Parallelsfic exchange reminded me that I’d started a re-read of this manga series a while ago, so I went back to it. Tokyo Babylon is urban fantasy in a way that not many urban fantastists try to achieve: it spiritualizes the way the city (in this case, Tokyo) chews people up and spits the bones back out again. It isn’t happy, as that description might suggest; it’s extra not happy once you get into the character-level metaplot. But the individual stories resolve . . . not hopefully, I guess, but well. The episodes basically all concern Subaru using magic to lay ghosts to rest, and his empathy and patience are kind of beautiful.

Crossroads of Twilight, Robert Jordan. Discussed elsewhere.

Wyrd Sisters, Terry Pratchett. So I started reading Sourcery twice and kept getting distracted from it; the beginning just didn’t hook me. I’m sure it’s a perfectly fine book and I’ll go back to it someday, but for now, I said “screw it” and went ahead to the book with Granny Weatherwax and Shakespeare and other such fabulous things. This is probably my favorite Discworld so far, simply because I want to copy down into my quotes notebook entire paragraphs of Granny Weatherwax thinking about theatre and words and art and truth.

Pride and Prejudice, adapted by Nancy Butler and Hugo Petrus. Another comic-book adaptation; this one was written before Sense and Sensibility, but I read it second. I found it the less successful of the two, but that may be because I know the source better. The intro talks about how Butler knew she’d be pilloried if she changed around Austen’s story too much; me, I wish she had, to make it work better within the medium. Then she might have avoided the heavy reliance on captions and two-panel scenes and all the rest. (On the other hand, it could be a stellar case study in why a faithful adaptation is not necessarily a good one. If that sort of thing is useful to you.)

Witch Week, Diana Wynne Jones. Discussed elsewhere.

Ovid, David Wishart. I nearly bounced off this on the first page because the first-century Roman narrator called the woman who came to hire him a “tough cookie.” But it ended up being a nicely intricate (and well-researched) historical mystery — “mystery” of the political sort, rather than the evidence-and-prosecution sort; it revolves around Emperor Tiberius’ refusal to let Ovid’s ashes be returned to Rome — so if you aren’t turned off by mythological and historical allusions rubbing shoulders with hard-boiled detective tropes, I do recommend this one. And there’s more in the series, too.

The Magicians of Caprona, Diana Wynne Jones. Discussed elsewhere.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Jules Verne. I don’t think I’ve ever read any Verne before, though I know of his work pretty thoroughly. This made for a fascinating read, in that you’re 40% of the way through the book before they even start her descent; everything prior to that is a) discovery of the notion and b) the logistics of getting from Germany to an obscure mountain in Iceland. And then at that, they don’t even make it all the way to the center of the earth! But it reminded me a lot of the Golden Age SF that came later, with its scientist-heroes and unabashed willingness to spend pages on the discussion of scientific theories.

His Majesty’s Dragon, Naomi Novik. Re-read, because I needed to get my brain into nineteenth-century-dragon gear early in the month, and then didn’t finish it until the month was nearly over. It remains a very fun read, especially if you’re fond of Patrick O’Brian and his ilk; the blending of the Napoleonic Wars (and the British naval mindset therein) with dragons is just cool.

Traveling for a chunk of this month, so I expect the next list will be shorter.

0 Responses to “Books read, July 2011”

  1. Anonymous


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  2. Anonymous

    I nearly bounced off this on the first page because the first-century Roman narrator called the woman who came to hire him a “tough cookie.”

    This would probably have been a deal-breaker for me. I found myself cringing just at reading your description.

    My favorite Verne is actually Around the World in Eighty Days, which I remember being a breathtaking and straightforward (in a good way) adventure and travel yarn, with an unexpected and retroactively obvious twist at the end. I was especially amused because Verne presents his protags travel through the American West, including my home state, with the same wonder and exoticism as he presents the Far East.

    • Marie Brennan

      I will actually say that Wishart really seems to know his stuff when it comes to historical detail, and he doesn’t lay the hard-boiled stuff on too thick. But as I said in a discussion elsewhere, he doesn’t quite deploy it with enough panache to make me grin and find it entertaining.

  3. marycatelli

    Sourcery is in the middle of the Rincewind sequence, which begins when Pratchett did not have Discworld down pat — probably not a wise beginning point.

    • Marie Brennan

      It wasn’t my beginning point; I read the first three books and three or four later ones years ago, and more recently have read Equal Rites, Mort, and now Wyrd Sisters.

  4. Marie Brennan

    Re: If you liked the Verne…

    Heh, that reminds me — I totally want Journey from the perspective of Hans, the monosyllabic Icelandic guide. “Day 17. This scientist is supposed to be smart, but he didn’t bring water because he assumed he would find some down here. Why did I sign up for this?”

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