Reading log

Picofarad #5 contents | Next: Scintillations

Two to Conquer, The Winds of Darkover, and The Forbidden Tower by Marion Zimmer Bradley: All reasonably good, but I think I've yet to find the most interesting parts of the Darkover saga.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: I'd never read the world's best-known horror story until I wanted to parody it for this issue. I was as turned off the classics as anyone at school, so it's always a surprise to encounter one that's really amazingly readable.

The Chimes and The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens: Then again, Dickens had his days when he just shoveled the words out.

Ceres Storm by David Herter: Terrific imagery, interesting characters and backstory, abrupt cliffhanger ending. Definitely wanted to read more in this universe.

Evening's Empire by David Herter: Picked this up in a hurry after only noting that this was David Herter's second novel and assuming it would be a sequel to the former. Bit of a shock to discover that it isn't about the last in a long line of clones of a dead far-future dictator, but rather about strange goings-on in a small town in present- day Oregon. Beautifully told for the first two parts, but immensely frustrating in the last when characters who need their motivations filled out remain two-dimensional and the viewpoint character can't work up the interest to ask the questions that will tie up the loose ends. Is it just part of Mr. Herter's style that he never actually finishes a story? Argh.

The Zero Stone by Andre Norton: A rather pedestrian story of a young man in danger with his hyperintelligent felinoid friend, enlivened in the earlier chapters by insights into the daily life of a jeweler.

Some Will Not Die by Algis Budrys: Loosely connected set of episodes in the rebuilding of the US after a devastating plague, emanating the distinct whiff of a fix-up.

They Fly at Çiron by Samuel R. Delaney: Once again, I couldn't find a copy of Dhalgren, plus I'm a sucker for anything with a glowing recommendation from Ursula K. Le Guin on the cover. Not much to the story, but well-told.

The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner: Ah, the famous novel that allegedly invented cyberpunk. Pity they don't warn you about how it ends up jumping waaaaaay the heck off into wish-fulfillment land.

The Green Rain by Paul Tabori: In which a satellite accident ends up turning a great many people green, and the social consequences thereof are explored. Yes, it's a Book With a Message, but from keeping some of the characters likeable and retaining a certain amount of cynicism about the author's own views, it's entertaining, too. Highly recommended.

The Complete Roderick, comprising Roderick and Roderick at Random by John Sladek: An immensely dark satire about a robot raised to be human. Had to keep reminding myself in places that I wasn't reading Stand on Zanzibar. Like The Green Rain, there are some sympathetic characters and a healthy amount of self-deprecation: "The world was beginning to resemble something in a satirical science-fiction novel of no great quality. It was time to do something, all right."

Those Who Watch by Robert Silverberg: Your classic boy-meets-girl, girl-turns-out-to-be-an-alien-from-a-crashed-UFO, boy-loses-girl story. And, in another plot thread, the same thing with boy and girl reversed. And, in the really good part, the boy-and-his-alien story, in which Silverberg pulls no punches in describing the likely future of a bright kid born on a reservation. Also worth noting that it provides a namecheck to Walter or Louis Alvarez (I forget which is the astronomer) before they were famous.

The Longest Way Home by Robert Silverberg: A young man of privileged descent is the only survivor of an attack on his best friend's family plantation, sorry, humble home, and has to make his way back thousands of miles on foot, discovering along the way that, gosh, who'd've thunk it, his benevolently structured society is in fact built on massive exploitation of the local aliens and previous waves of colonists. Some interesting sights along the way, though.

Hoka by Poul Anderson and Gordon Dickson: Well, um, yup, there are teddy bears acting out random bits of Earth history. I'd probably have gotten more out of it if I was deeply interested in baseball or the Napoleonic wars.

To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer: Yet another classic series I'm finally getting around to reading. So far, I'm intrigued and will be looking for the next book.

The Wrong End of Time by John Brunner: If you want to read a Brunner book about characters trying to find some humanity amidst future dystopia, just read Stand on Zanzibar, okay?

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Finally caught this when it was on the Action Channel recently. Now I understand why it was so groundbreaking, and why the creator later released a retelling of the ending to try and explain it to everyone. Actually, I think I do understand what happened in the last couple episodes, and wow, that's gotta be the most depressing thing I've watched in a while.

RahXephon DVDs: I've seen this series described as "like Evangelion, only it makes sense when it's over". This is unfair. Watch Evangelion for its historical status, but watch RahXephon because it's enjoyable.

R.O.D the movie and R.O.D the TV on DVD: Everything's better with subtitling instead of dubbing! I do believe this is my favorite anime series ever. Note to self: If I make it to the 2007 Worldcon, I have to stop by Jimbo-cho.

Doctor Who: Carnival of Monsters, The Three Doctors, and City of Death on DVD: All three of which I have seen before, and which turn out to be just as good as I remember. There's good and informative commentary for all of them. It's sobering to hear about just how sick William Hartnell was when he was approached for The Three Doctors.

Doctor Who: The Aztecs DVD: Been wanting to see this for ages. Barbara is now on my list of favorite companions. One of the extras, "Making Cocoa", is now my benchmark for the weirdest thing to be included on a Who DVD.

Doctor Who: The Tomb of the Cybermen DVD: This is the first Troughton-only story I've ever seen. Now I really like the Second Doctor. It's a pretty good story, although the actors playing the American characters clearly learned their accents exclusively from watching Gunsmoke and there's some unfortunate racial stereotyping in the casting. (On the other hand, the black guy does get one of the better dying lines I've heard in Doctor Who.)

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