Books read, early September

Ben Aaronovitch, Tales from the Folly. Kindle. Vignettes and side stories from the Rivers of London series across time. Fun but not a good place to begin, and not crucial unless you really like the series.

John Blair, Building Anglo-Saxon England. This is a literal title: it is about architecture and archaeology and what we know about this era of English history. Lots of cool details about how we know what we know, interesting research fodder for a project.

Desirina Boskovich, ed., Lost Transmissions: The Secret History of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Lavishly illustrated, including some illustrations that appear to be newly commissioned for this book–money well spent in my opinion, the Angela Carter one by Dea Boskovich was gorgeous. Many of the entries are house-written but some are guests. Most serious SFF fans will already know some of what’s in here, but which things which people will know varies–I expect there’s something new for everyone here, ranging all over the field including different media.

Marie Brennan, The Nine Lands. Kindle. These were fine short stories, but sometimes one is conscious of an author improving, and this is evidence that Brennan has. Still worth reading? Sure, yes, it was fun. But don’t make this your first Brennan book. They’re early stories, and she does keep getting better.

Christopher Brown, Failed State. The third in its series, and I recommend reading the other two first. It’s fast-paced and well-done and thinking very carefully about the near future of the environment and politics of the US–not always cheerfully. But carefully; and not hopelessly either. This book has forays into both the legal system and land reclamation projects, and does not neglect characterization along the way. Recommended.

Marcia Douglas, The Marvellous Equations of the Dread. This is a female (feminist?) Rastafarian novel, across time and certain parts of local space. It’s an extremely different perspective from what I usually read and very interesting; I’m still thinking about it.

John M. Ford, The Dragon Waiting. Reread. Discussed elsewhere.

C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Overture and the San Domingo Revolution. This is a magisterial history of that section of Haitian history. James is acute and unrelenting. There is one footnote from the second edition where he basically said, “this sentence has gotten a lot of criticism and it is still exactly what I think,” and I love this book for that as for so many other things. This book has the courage of its convictions–and has also bothered to significantly research its convictions.

Naomi Mitchison, The Land the Ravens Found. A retelling of the settlement of Iceland through the family of Aud the Deep-Minded. This is my jam and may well be your jam as well. If only it was longer.

Megan O’Keefe, Velocity Weapon. Are you short on charming AIs in your fiction at the moment? Would any number of charming AIs still leave you short on charming AIs? Megan O’Keefe has your back. I enjoyed this a lot and ordered the sequel basically right away.

Nunzio Pernicone, Italian Anarchism, 1864-1892. As I said to a friend in email, this book is very strong on the who, what, where, when, and not so hot on the why, how. If you want to know what conventions and schisms took place in Italian anarchism in the late 19th century, this is a solid resource. If you want to go any deeper about who these people were personally, why they felt the way they did, how their thinking evolved and why…you’ll have to find another book, because that’s not what Pernicone is here to do. Ah well.

Elizabeth Rush, Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore. This is lovely. It’s got quite a few direct interviews with people living on disappearing or threatened land, it’s got Rush thinking about different American coastal ecosystems, it’s thoughtful and beautiful, hurray this book.

Dana Simpson, Camping With Unicorns, Phoebe and Her Unicorn In Unicorn Theater, The Unicorn Whisperer, Unicorn Bowling. I realized that I had not read the latest adventures of Phoebe and Marigold in quite some time, so I got them all from the library at once and (almost) caught up in one silly evening on the couch. (There’s another new one out. I’m in line for it.) I can recommend silly evenings on the couch with Phoebe and Marigold right now.

Lynne Thomas, Michael Damian Thomas, et al, eds., Uncanny Magazine Issue 36. Kindle. I am in this, and I make a policy of not reviewing things I’m in.

Jill Watts, The Black Cabinet: The Untold Story of African Americans and Politics During the Age of Roosevelt. If you’ve been feeling like contemporary people are uniquely terrible to each other, wow is this the book to remedy that. The staggering amount of racism in and out of both major American political parties during the Roosevelt presidency is quite a lot to deal with. Several remarkable people tried, and knowing about them is good. But yikes, the amount of blatant overt racism is nauseating.

Rebecca West, The Judge. Kindle. Oh this was so bad. Oh goodness this was so bad. It was not worthless, it was not without its charms or I wouldn’t have read it all the way through. (You have no idea how many books I don’t read all the way through.) And other Rebecca West is lovely! But this was long-winded, never taking a paragraph to say what five pages could. And it suffered from so many other flaws that West doesn’t usually, such as: Batman Villainitis! Wherein you can tell by looking at someone whether they are smart, interesting, and generally worthwhile! Expired Satire! Where the thing that was going to be cleverly sent-up doesn’t even really matter in historical context! Excessive Freudianism! Where instead of her usual observations of people, it’s Oedipal complexes all the way down! Improbable Staging! Where seriously, you can’t do that with any bread knife I’ve ever met. There is much better Rebecca West out there for you to read, and I suggest you do that instead.

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