Books read, December 2013
A bit belated — I didn’t want to post anything in the first days of the year because I was busy getting my WordPress setup functional.
Mother of the Believers, Kamran Pasha. A novel about the founding and early days of Islam, from the perspective of Muhammad’s wife Aisha.
It’s always tough, reading a fictionalized account of something like this: I find myself going “oh look, another enemy has converted to their side, geez, this ‘Messenger of God’ guy is such a Gary Stu.” Which, you know, missing the point. At the same time, though, it gestures in the direction of an actual problem, which is that it’s Pasha’s responsibility to sell me on the events he’s describing, and he didn’t always succeed. He could have done it one of two ways — either by emphasizing the numinous and miraculous, or by digging into the motivations of the people involved to help me understand why they acted that way. I would have been fine with either. Sadly, Pasha didn’t quite manage to do that consistently. Couple that with the fact that I really disagree with his handling of Aisha’s age (I think his reasoning is flawed and he failed to follow through on it anyway), and it’s surprising that I found this as engaging and readable as I did. But: engaging and readable, so recommended if you want to read a novel about the founding and early days of Islam.
A Tale of Time City, Diana Wynne Jones. Re-read for Yuletide (look for a post about that soon). It is still a lovely book. And I have even more fondness for Elio than I did before — writing fanfic will do that to you.
Ancient Hawai’i, Herb Kawainui Kane. Read for research, on the recommendation of Kate Elliott. It’s a brief and abundantly illustrated book about pre-contact Hawaiian society, ergo useful to me.
Moon Over Soho, Ben Aaronovitch. Once again, I feel like the two plots in here were just happening to share a book, rather than tying together very well. I was also deeply uninterested in Peter’s romantic relationship — or rather, his sexual relationship, since I got very little sense of any substance to it other than bedplay. (In fact, that skew had me convinced for a while that his fixation was going to prove to be a Significant Thing, to a much greater degree than turned out to be the case.) Having said that, I still enjoy the general feel of this series, and I very much liked the way the consequences of the previous book played out. To some extent, this is the denouement I felt was lacking before — though I still would have liked more at the end of Book One.
Whispers Under Ground, Ben Aaronovitch. Better plotting! In part, I think, because the B plot here is actually just a continuation of what got set up in #2, and isn’t looking to be resolved any time soon, so it tooled happily along being its own thing and I didn’t expect it to interlock with the A plot the way I kept wanting before. Mind you, I found the thing they uncovered at the end to be a little O_o . . . but I may be okay with that, if the series follows through on what it’s been hinting about for a while now. There’s a point at which you really start questioning how much longer the world can go on failing to notice all the weird shit going on — I’m just sayin’.
(Ten points from Ravenclaw, though, for atrociously misleading cover copy. I expected this book to heavily feature Peter working with Agent Reynolds and having to dodge around her evangelical faith. Instead Reynolds just shows up sporadically and shows virtually no signs of being the “born-again Christian” she was billed as. I’m not sure the former would have actually been good, but it’s what I was led to expect, so the lack was annoying.)
Also: more Quicksilver. Because I have always been reading Quicksilver. And I will always be reading Quicksilver.