Read a book, read a book, read a motherfuckin’ book.
Old Man With Candy
I always have a geek book at hand, and this past month, my constant companion has been Electrochemical Methods: Fundamentals and Applications mostly because I have suddenly been given a new role at work which requires some of this expertise, and there’s not much opportunity to fake it. I was immediately and uncomfortably made aware of how much physical chemistry I have forgotten in the mmmmph years since I was in college. Well, at least I remembered the Nernst equation.
A discussion with SugarFree got me to pick up my copy of The Eyre Affair, the first of the Thursday Next series. I bought this the last time I was in England visiting my favorite author- he and I went book shopping and he urged me to give Jasper Fforde a try. He was right. Delightful mix of surrealism, science fiction, alternate history, and literary geekiness, sort of a Douglas Adams with better writing.
I’ve been on a horror kick. I re-read The Tommyknockers for the first time since it first came out. It remains one of the more interesting failures of Stephen King’s long career. The basic premise is sound and portions of the book are fantastic but–like much King’s work–it needed an editor, a very heavy-handed editor. It could lose a hundred or so pages and be a masterpiece for it. The TV miniseries is a rather dreary affair, hampered by poor casting and bad special effects.
I read a dozen or so King short stories afterward as a palate cleanser–most of Night Shift and parts of Skeleton Crew–and watched all the TV and movie adaptations where they have been made. The only thing I really have to say is that Linda Hamilton might be wearing the least erotic pair of shorts ever produced for the female body in 1984’s The Children of the Corn.
I read Nick Cutter’s first two books, The Troop and The Deep. The Troop is an effective and nasty little piece of splattercore, so efficient and complete that I cannot understand how it isn’t a movie yet (it even acknowledges a structural debt to Carrie that a movie adaptation could ignore.) The Deep is more ambitious, but I found it a little too derivative to be truly enjoyable, mashing up Solaris, Event Horizon, Sphere, The Abyss and any number of demonic possession stories to surface to an ambiguous ending.
Finally, I read The Soldier, the first book in a new trilogy by Neal Asher, set once again in his sprawling Polity Universe. It is his usual sort of meth-freak out science fiction overdrive that you either adore or hate. The new trilogy is picking up my favorite narrative thread of his work and my least favorite narrative thread and tying them together into an interstitial tale that doesn’t quite break his continuity but does manage to whack it in the knee with a length of pipe a few times. I’m along for the ride, though, Neal.
I have really been slacking. The only books I’ve read this month were the childhood books I incidentally read while unpacking the last three boxes my parents were very graciously still storing for me in their garage. I kid you not when I say that my sister and I read this edition of Mother Goose to pieces. It was already well-loved by the time I “inherited” it from my sister, who is only five years my senior. If you are looking for a good book for a very young child, look no further. The illustrations are beautiful and are more than enough to capture the imagination of a child who can’t read yet. And it’s a great book for a kid to grow in to because the rhymes are simple and easy to read.
Other notable childhood mentions are: Mooncake, Dinotopia (The World Beneath), Four Little Kittens, and The Poky Little Puppy. So, if you want to raise a crazy little libertarian chick, there’s a few ideas. Don’t forget to include plenty of Berenstain Bears (just be sure you pronounce it correctly), and go ahead and throw in some age-occasionally-appropriate spooky stories like Goosebumps, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, The Eyes of the Dragon, and (one of my favorites) The Iron Dragon’s Daughter.
Yesterday, I read the Very Hungry Caterpillar to my son. Its a classic coming of age tale of a caterpillar coming to terms with a body shaming public that refuses to accept his outward appearance. They simply do not understand the caterpillar and drives him to seek refuge in food as a coping mechanism. The joke however is on society, as the caterpillar shelters himself away from the world, and shows them all what he becomes.
Lots of mindless reading this month while on the road to and from Montana, most of which doesn’t deserve mentioning, so I won’t.
Sorta enjoyed the latest Agent Pendergast book, City of Endless Night, but it seemed much weaker than previous works in the series. As usual, I knew the identity of the villain as soon as xe was introduced.
I’ve started Robert Dugoni’s David Sloane series. I’m only a bit into book 1, The Jury Master, so haven’t quite formed an opinion yet. I am not generally a huge fan of lawyer novels (or lawyers, with a couple notable exceptions), but this seems less wrapped up in the legal story lines than most in the genre.
In audio, I’m currently listening to The Final Cut by Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison. It has two narrators, Renee Raudman and MacLeod Andrews, neither of whom I’ve heard before. I like it so far, but I’m not that far into it since I only allow myself to listen to books when on solo roadtrips or as a reward while cleaning (of which I’ve not been doing much!).
I toted along the first book in the Kvothe Series (I think its officially called the Kingkiller Chronicles, but since the author has spent seven years NOT RELEASING THE BOOK WHERE A KING GETS KILLED, I’m just going with the the name of the main character) to the beach to re-read. And then I read the 2nd volume and then I read the final oh wait, no. Rothfuss and GRRM are still having that contest about who gives less of a fuck about finishing his series. I read the Racing Weight book on the advice of Deadhead in the Glibfit series. I started the plan but then bombed out. Will attempt a restart on Sunday.
Finally, I have been listening to Jordon Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos on and off. I won’t say it changed my life, although I appreciate his perspective on some things. It’s like listening to the reverse version of a preacher who uses science and psychology. Or maybe it like taking an ethics class from a Jesuit? I don’t know how else to describe Dr. Peterson’s somewhat unique insistence on the Bible as a central allegory to our current civilization, while fully acknowledging an embracing FW Nietzsche’s critique of religion. What comes through clearly on the audiobook of Dr. Peterson reading his own book is that he believes what he wrote. I am glad to have listened to it, even if I’m not going to choose to clean my room, today.
Recently had some flights and managed to put away quite a bit this month. The Dark Monk (A Hangman’s Daughter Tale Book 2) by Oliver Pötzsch: I enjoyed this one (I wrote about the first book in March) although there’s some minor element of the passing that I find off-putting, but not so off-putting I won’t read the next book. Finding Camlann: A Novel by Sean Pidgeon: frumpy archaeologist and a pretty Welsh linguist with turbulent personal relationships with other people investigate rumors of Arthurian legend and find each other. Monsoon Mansion: A Memoir by Cinelle Barnes makes me appreciate my…uh…problematic parents much more. While some part of me wonders if it suffers from some of the issues associated with I, Rigoberta Menchu, the story she tells is riveting.
I haven’t been reading much this month since I’ve been so busy, but I just ordered (yet again) a copy of The Enneagram Made Easy. This book is my go to for all things Enneagram and really helps me understand myself better and those around me.
I’ve had to order it again because I keep giving it away to people when I realise they’ve never read it because it really is that useful and interesting.
I primarily read RPG manuals for entertainment these days. I like them. They have worldbuilding, a peek at how things work backstage (which is something I like) and they can be read in whatever chunks of time I have without interrupting a narrative flow. This month:
Star Wars: The Role Playing Game, by West End Games. This came out in 1987, so if you want to know how Star Wars geeks thought about how the SW universe worked back in the day (with input from the studios that still had Jedi fresh in their mind), here’s your answer. TL;DR: George Lucas retcons every goddamned thing. Also interesting is looking back and seeing how sacred canon used to be. Unlike today, where every game designer puts his personal self-insert fanfic headcanon into the games they work on (Did you know that all elves in D&D are trans now?) this book treats the movies as inviolable fact. There are only two Jedi masters left, and no, you character can’t meet them. Which really sucks if you want to play a Jedi as the game allows that there might be a few minor Jedi that escaped the purges, but without real training, your character is going to be crippled. But having Obi-Wan or Yoda meet another potential student would completely fuck the storyline so it’s disallowed.
Ars Magica 3rd Edition, by Wizards of the Coast. Is there any company that has done more to destroy the gaming industry than WOTC? They make one massively successful game, buy up everyone else, then it turns out that they’re not very good designers, they just got lucky once. This piece of crap follows in that tradition. I have a copy of the first edition of Ars Magica (by Lion Rampant games) and like everyone else loved the setting, the concepts behind the game, the alien medievalism, and found the mechanics a bit baffling when they weren’t clear but clunky. This book is literally five times the thickness of the first one, but completely fails at being any more clarifying. It guts the medieval mindset for a modern one and slathers on all sorts of 1990’s-era White Wolf emo crap and d10 rolling. In fact, this is so much a WW game, I had to double check to make sure it was WOTC. Unless WOTC bought WW which could very well have happened. And it became an even less-playable game. In fact, with the mutli-character concept, most of the playing is done solo filling out spreadsheets (which would be an excellent use of downtime between gaming sessions) except that it requires everyone in the group to be there watching you fill out your spreadsheet and approving your choices. Who would actually want to play this? Nobody. Which is why they made advancing your character so freakishly impossible — nobody is going to play this twice so those rules don’t matter. If you want to play an actual “I’m a wizard, I can do everything” game, you’ll need to get a copy of Mage: The Ascension.