Around about Sunday I realized that I was still replying to email and having a hard time being on vacation without reading about search. So I decided to leave the computer behind for a few days and read some books instead; I’ve been in “a book a day” mode with very little computer time, so here’s a few mini-reviews of books I’ve read since Monday.
Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan. As much a detective novel as cyberpunk, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Morgan’s twist is that people’s memory can be backed up and then “sleeved” into a new body. I traded another Googler for this book, and now I’ll be checking out what else Morgan has written.
JPod, by Douglas Coupland. You’ll want to read Generation X or Microserfs first to acclimate to the style. The reviews that I read complained that Coupland introduces himself as a character in the book, but I thought it was fine. Another reviewer complained about things like prime numbers or digits of pi being thrown into the book, but it’s not as quirky as it sounds. The book still works.
One surreal part of JPod is that on page 73, Coupland starts listing languages from the world. By the time he got to Catalan, I suspected that Coupland cribbed it from Google’s language page. By the time I got to “Elmer Fudd,” I was sure. But then Coupland starts hiding other words and languages (Cockney, Fortran, Ikea, Stepford, Vanna White) in. Double-plus surreal. I objected to page 397 (you’ll have to pick up the book to see why), but otherwise it was a fun read. I dunno know about you, but I like reading books where the author changes the font and throws in some different stuff from time to time.
Out of the Woods, by Chris Offutt. A collection of eight stories by a native Kentuckian, about Kentucky. In the first story, “Out of the Woods,” a Kentuckian journeys to Wahoo, Nebraska, to pick up a brother-in-law who died. The lead character ends up hauling the dead man back to Kentucky in his pickup truck, along with some nice dirt he finds in Illinois. Many of the stories center around Kentucky in some way. I enjoyed this book, but I think readers would enjoy No Heroes: A Memoir of Coming Home more. Bear in mind that Offutt exaggerates and takes some artistic license in his representations of Eastern Kentucky.
Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth, by Simon R. Green. The sixth (?) book in the “Nightside” series is a quick/fun read, and not terribly deep. In the Nightside (tucked away in the heart of London), it’s always 3 a.m. and dark forces wait behind every corner. If you wanted a deeper/darker picture of a fictional London where magic courses through the Underground veins of the city, you’d be going for Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman. But if you’ve already read Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Anansi Boys, The Sandman series, and Good Omens, then you might be ready to try this series.
White Wolf, by David Gemmell. A pretty standard “swordmaster meets axmaster and quests to save someone” book. With Gemmell, many of his books are set in the same fictional land at different times. The benefit of that is that many books stand on their own; you don’t have to read them as a trilogy, quadrilogy, or dodecalogy. Nope, with Gemmell, you can usually count on each book wrapping up individually. A fine summer read, especially if you or someone you love finds it at a book sale (which is how I got it).
Quite Ugly One Morning, by Christopher Brookmyre. This was another reader suggestion, from Domas Mituzas, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. It’s set in Edinburgh, so some of the lingo is a little hard-to-follow. But if you press on, you’ll find a nice tight little detective story. I liked watching things unwind for the killer, who is gradually injured more and more until he’s practically a walking zombie.
So far, I’d say that JPod was my favorite, followed by Quite Ugly One Morning and then Altered Carbon. Now I’m trying to decide what to read next. If you have more suggestions, chime in.