Books, April 2017

The end of the quarter is ramping up which means I don’t get to read for fun as much. Mostly worth it. Mostly.

American Gods, Neil Gaiman

This is the first re-read I’ve done since starting this whole reviewing project. First time around, I was about 14 years old, it was my first Neil Gaiman book other than Coraline, and if you know anything about this book, you will know exactly why a substantial portion sailed right over my head. Many years later, about all I remembered was a vague outline of the plot (which turned out to be thoroughly incomplete), the nature of the twist (or so I thought, I hadn’t remembered half of it and was quite surprised), and that I had really liked it (which I did, and did again). Rereading it now, with the cultural context to make it really sing, and with my vague recollections pointing me towards the foreshadowing and hints leading up to the concluding events, was a far more fulfilling experience on top of my already satisfying first go-around. I’m eagerly gobbling up the show week by week (I am still bitter about Pushing Daisies ten years after the fact but at least the creator kept up the good, if increasingly bloody, work), and I encourage you to read the book before watching the show. If nothing else, this season is only covering the first third of the book, though I think it would also be somewhat difficult to follow without the book to lean on – there’s just a lot going on.

Genre: where do I start? Format: novel. Rating 3/3

Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer

Our characters are on an expedition investigating a mysterious supernatural/environmental event. They think they’re in a mystery story, or maybe an adventure. They’re not. They’re in horror.  (I am now most of the way through the next book, and a different viewpoint character is also in horror and but think they’re in a thriller.) The mismatch between the rules the characters think govern the world they live in, and the rules that actually govern the world (which may or may not actually be our world) drives a lot of their terrible decisions and consequently the drama. That and the possible and definite instances of mind control, of course. What is Area X? I don’t know yet, but it’s sure not a mystery or adventure setting…

Genre: horror, mystery. Format: novel. Rating: 3/3

The Space Between and Virgins, Diana Gabaldon

I have already thoroughly documented my love of both the Outlander series and the concept of tie-in novellas in general (especially for Outlander – helps keep my momentum going when I just don’t have a thousand pages in me). The series complex consists of the currently eight main novels of which the shortest is over 800 pages, the handful of Lord John novels of normal novel length plus some novellas, and a scattering of other novellas and short stories about various characters major and minor, and these two fall in the last category. They’re quick bites, but because the main series overwhelmingly follows Claire and Jamie, it’s nice to get some dedicated time in other characters’ heads.

Genre (both): relationship drama, character study. Format: novellas. Rating: 3/3 both

Lab Coats in Hollywood, David Kirby

I read this because of a class I’m taking this quarter, and while it unfortunately has turned out to be quite useless as far as my project goes, I found myself just enjoying it, so I went ahead and finished it anyway. (My homework, my rules.) I like talking about scientists, and I like talking about movies (and TV), so talking about scientists working on movies must be better. Now, this is an academic text, so it might be hard to get ahold of outside of a university library, and it’s a scholarly analysis of scientists’ influence on pop culture (or lack thereof), so it’s not exactly a snappy read. (I am not exactly snappy either, though, and you’re still here, so it’s probably fine!) Seeing the positive influence of scientists on media only renews my goal of getting the other half of my Erdös-Bacon number. The Bacon number is from the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon – counting how many movies or TV shows do you have to step through to get from any actor to Kevin Bacon. The Erdös number is the same idea for academic papers, connecting to a famously prolific mathematician. Mine is six, which is pretty good as getting from biosciences to math can be tricky. (I made the jump via biophysicists.) Low Erdös numbers are getting harder to get as time passes for everyone – he died when I was in kindergarten – but Kevin Bacon is still going strong, so I’ve locked down the toughie. (Want to put me in your movie? Pleeeeease?)

Genre: media studies. Format: nonfiction. Rating: 3/3

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