Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ben: What I've been reading

Catie has finally convinced me that I need to buy myself books at least once a month so that don't drive myself (and her) crazy with my lack of reading material restlessness. Last month for my birthday I bought:

The City and the City by China Mieville

China Mieville is, in my humble opinion, by far the most talent science fiction author currently writing. His books are always some combinations of postmodernist steam/cyberpunk with a strong dose of weirdness through in. He is able to paint incredibly vivid and very different worlds, without the usual wooden expositions that sink so many promising science fiction books into "It was a blue alien world with four moons and .4 Earth gravity." His narratives, like his worlds, are a complicated mess that somehow come across as intrigues and addictive, not headache inducing nonsense that requires a flowchart to follow.

Empire of the Ants by Bernard Werber

The book is split between the perspective of an ant colony (actually three ants within the colony) and a human family. Strangely the author does a better job humanizing the ants than making the actual human relatable characters. The end was fairly disappointing, but it was worth reading for all the neat descriptions of his imagined ant society.

The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson
This book pretends that instead of merely killing 1 out of every 3 people, in this book the plague kills 99 percent of Western Europe, leading to a very different history. I thought it was an interesting read, especially considering how much the real plague change the world. One out of every three people died over the less than 20 years, which would be the equivalent of 100 million people dieing in modern America. I'm always amazed that there was any society left in Europe after the plague swept through. The writing is less than exciting, but the alternative history is fun to read.

This month I'm going in a more non-fiction direction with my purchases, since I'm about science fiction-ed out for now. My parents are also sending me the backlog of New Yorkers, Economists, and Atlantics that have been piling up in their living room (thank you Mom and Dad!), so July will be a much more educational month than June was.


  1. I think I'm going to get Vanity Fair, so can we trade sometimes? And maybe Vogue. And maybe something knit-wise, and maybe everything. And books, maybe by Russian authors, and American classics. I love to think about reading!

  2. The box is on it's way and I did put a book in, among the piles of magazines. Still a pile on the floor that I am hoping William will lug with him when he travels.

  3. I'll have to try that sci-fi guy. I tend to wallow in recalcitrant 70s sci-fi with its depressing and kooky images of the future. That and cheap "It was a blue world, M3, and should be safe for colonization, Jim" stuff. Too much cyberpunk and I hurt my brain on all the psychoenhancers, really smarter-than-you AIs, corporations that eat babies and spit out chips in your head. Its like what the universe would look like if a Progressive got a hold of it for 2 eons.