ironphoenix (ironphoenix) wrote,

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Recent reading

Kim Stanley Robinson - Sixty Days and Counting: Sadly, this conclusion to the series which began so well with Forty Signs of Rain and Fifty Degrees below Zero descends so far into Utopian fantasy that I can't maintain suspension of disbelief. Real-life politics just doesn't work as he describes it here, sadly. Of course, we should have seen it coming: any work which explicitly brings Shambhala into play is at risk of this. I applaud the ideals he has, in particular the importance of keeping a connection between environmental sustainability and social justice, but the implementation feels a bit too magical.
Eddie Goldenberg - The Way it Works: inside Ottawa: Well, political realism nuts need look no farther. This is a glimpse (not an entirely unbiased one, it must be admitted) behind the curtain of Canadian big-P politics. I largely agree with his view that politicians are mostly quite dedicated to doing their job well, even though they have very different views on what the job is and how best to do it. He was a key advisor to the Liberal leaders for several decades, and gives a pretty deep insight into some of their personalities and policies, as well as the structures in which they operate. Overall, it's a reassuring, refreshing book in a sea of mudslinging and cynicism about politics and those who practice it. By the way, he makes the point that while Canadians are very keenly aware of the United States, we barely show up on their political radar; more on that below!
Lisa Tuttle - The Silver Bough: Romantic modern fantasy, somewhat outside my usual range. The build-up is drawn out, which produces a pleasant effect in one sense, but I found myself anticipating her direction and wanting it to move just a bit faster. Overall, I enjoyed it up until the ending, which I found somewhat abrupt; I won't give any more spoilers, though.
Madeleine Albright with Bill Woodward - Memo to the President Elect: How We Can Restore America's Reputation and Leadership: This is a rather impressive book, being a systematic analysis of the United States' situation in the world, the origins and causes of that, and more importantly, the options (for the president elect, who will lead the country) on where to go from here and how to do so. One would think that such a book would be intolerably dry, but it's not so: it's personal, pithy, witty and direct, a pleasure to read. Albright was Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, and has direct knowledge and stories which she brings out to make her points, along with considerable material from presidents, ambassadors, and other assorted leaders. As a Canadian, I was nonplussed to find my country, which considers itself the United States' largest and most indispensable trading partner and ally, mentioned twice in passing in the whole 300 pages; Eddie, it seems, has a point (v. sup.)! I have considerable respect and affection for the US as a nation, and I hope that whoever is elected acts on her recommendations and undoes some of the damage that the current president has done.
William Gibson - Spook Country: I always enjoy Gibson's work, but in a very different way from how I enjoy most novels. The plot here could fit in a novella, but the book isn't really about the plot, for me. Its beauty is in its textures, atmospheres, images, turns of phrase, characters, and perhaps especially, its implicit cultural and metacultural (hey, maybe it's a word, and I know what I mean, so there!) commentaries. Like good poetry, there's a lot of subtext and layering in there, and it rewards careful reading (although over-analysis, like vivisection, can be fatal). I think I like his current-world science fiction (at least, it's still filed in the bookstore under SF) at least as much as his more futuristic extrapolations: with stuff like this, extrapolating to a more extreme future would just be gilding gold.
Guy Gavriel Kay - Ysabel: Yet another modern-world fantasy; I see a trend in this batch! Thankfully, Kay is much less heavy-handed with his editorializing from the wings than in his recent book, The Last Light of the Sun, and mostly lets the story tell itself this time. Part action, part romance, but mostly growing-up tale, this is a warm, smooth read. The modern fantasy aspect is a bit of a return to his early style, as seem in The Fionavar Tapestry, but in my opinion, much more skillfully executed. The pacing and cast of characters is comfortable, and I would expect adolescent readers to enjoy it, even though it's not specifically targeted at that audience.
Tags: books
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