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Books read, late May

Diane Ackerman, The Planets. Reread. The last time I read this I was very early in a physics major/English minor in college and was much impressed with it. This time, alas, much less so. It’s a poetry collection where the poems are trying to be in some way shaped like the planet they’re associated with. Uranus, for example, is printed sideways on the page. This strikes me as far less clever than it did when I was an eager physics teenager. Ah well.

Lisa Adkins, Melinda Cooper, and Martijn Konings, The Asset Economy: Property Ownership and the New Logic of Inequality. Like many economics books, this is a mixture of “oh, of course!” and “I don’t think you’ve come even close to demonstrating that in the confines of these pages.” The former: looking at households managing asset sheets, yes, definitely. The latter: I don’t think they’ve at all demonstrated that assets have supplanted things like jobs for class determinants–especially since figuring out other people’s assets can be quite tricky–and also some of how they define what an asset is seems to be pretty circular about their own arguments and can be shaky/self-contradictory. (Is education an asset? Asserting that it is allows some of their arguments to proceed, but it certainly doesn’t meet some of the obvious definitions.) Short, interesting in the sense of “sparked several conversations around the house.”

John Appel, Assassin’s Orbit. Discussed elsewhere.

Chaz Brenchley, Derelict of Duty and The Station of the Twelfth. Kindle. These are two very short pieces that felt extremely strong to me. In some ways I liked the first better, but the latter is a great introduction to what Chaz has been doing with his Mars stuff on Patreon and why you might be interested.

Roshani Chokshi, The Star-Touched Queen. Vivid and fast-paced, probably my least-favorite of Chokshi’s so far which still puts it a cut above many other things out there. Death and magic and treachery.

George Eliot, Daniel Deronda. Kindle. I love her so much. I’m reading her books with as little knowledge of what they’re about as possible, going in, and this is actually going great, I’m getting to have them as books, not as classics we know all about. So there were things in this that I don’t want to spoil for you in case you want it the same way. There’s a lot about figuring out one’s work in life, and who’s on the edges of society, and all sorts of other interesting things. It’s massive, and it’s worth every page.

Jonas Lie, Weird Tales from the Northern Sea. Kindle. This is 19th century short stories from a northern Norwegian, and it is just as depressing as you’d expect from that. “An ocean spirit ate my whole family and I was a shadow of myself after that. Also my boat was no good.” Welp. Am I sorry I read it, no, sometimes I’m like that.

Premee Mohamed, The Broken Darkness. The sequel to Premee’s first cosmic horror novel, and it’s just as strong on complicated friendship and accidentally destroying the world in unfathomable ways, so if that’s your non-Euclidian jam, here’s more.

Coral Alejandra Moore, Eliana González Ugarte, et al, Constelacion Magazine Issue 1. Kindle. A strong first issue of this bilingual speculative magazine with standout stories from Malka Older and Dante Luiz.

Dorothy Sayers, Have His Carcase, Strong Poison, The Five Red Herrings, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, and Unnatural Death. Rereads. I was keeping an eye out for several things on this reread. One of them is which ones make good stand-alone reads if someone is to only read one, and I am still a partisan for The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club on this point. If you haven’t read any of the Lord Peter Wimsey books and think you’re only up for one, let it be this one. It’s thoughtful about the aftermath of the Great War, and it introduces you to the characters without leaning too heavily on previous volumes. It remains one of my favorite novels in that way and also works as a mystery novel specifically. I almost skipped The Five Red Herrings–I did on my last reread–and I’m glad I didn’t; my tolerance for phoneticized dialect has gone up, and I could see the influence of her writing for the stage here even though I didn’t find it wholly successful. A friend has suggested that Strong Poison is a good stand-alone, and I could not disagree more: I think its structure is a very weak start (it starts with a judge summing up a court case at length!) and it relies on knowing the characters to care what they’re doing–and I’m not sure Peter’s behavior is at all sympathetic if you don’t already like Peter (or frankly entirely sympathetic even if you do). Still, the series has hit its full swing here, and it’s just what I want to be reading. This has been a good life choice.

Lynne Thomas, Michael Damian Thomas, et al, Uncanny Magazine Issue 40. Kindle. My favorite things in this were stories by Fran Wilde and Rachel Swirsky, but I’m glad to have the whole thing. Yes, I did a lot of magazine catch-up this month.

E. Catherine Tobler, Sonya Taaffe, David Gilmore, et al, The Deadlands Issue 1. Kindle. Another strong first issue, although my favorite part was the opening to the ongoing column from Amanda Downum.

Peter H. Wilson, The Thirty Years War: Europe’s Tragedy. For an 850-page book, it was paced like a rocket. Explained some useful things about Romania and Switzerland that often get skipped over by authors wanting to focus on Germany and Spain. Really you could do a lot worse for books on the Thirty Years War.