Katherine's Book Babble

I was looking through Zeynep's website and she had a list of the latest books she'd read. I thought that it was a pretty neat idea, so I stole it. Most recently read stuff is listed first. Books that I'm rereading are in this color. You can generally tell from the blurb whether I liked the book or not, but an asterisk (*) means that I really, really liked the book in question. And books with two asterisks (**) are even better than that.

December, 2002:
The Good Apprentice Iris Murdoch Vaguely disturbing because the characters are so realistic and yet so neurotic. "I'm like that! ...but I don't want to be like that." Murdoch's grasp of human frailty always amazes me.
The Hunt for Red October Tom Clancy Couldn't put it down. Couldn't quite shake the feeling that I was at work, either. Darn good chase story, with spying, politicking, and submarines.
Scion of Cyador L.E. Modesitt Sequel to below. We follow our hero through the striations of Cyad society.
Magi'i of Cyador L.E. Modesitt Fantasy; rereading for the sequel. One of Modesitt's Recluce novels, this one on the chaos side of things.
*The Gilded Chain, Lord of the Fire Lands, and Sky of Swords Dave Duncan It's a trilogy, but not really, because all three books could be standalone. Brilliant pieces of work. Fantasy, swashbuckling swordfights, politicking, love and loyalty, utterly delightful.
**The Invention of Love Tom Stoppard This play is one of my favorites. Explores the life and times of A.E. Housman, poet and classics scholar.

November, 2002:

October, 2002:
*The Return of the King J.R.R. Tolkien Also known as "why we love Sam." Epic battles, homecomings, and departures.
**Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy Fantastic. Very human, all of it. You keep reading and think, "yes, that is how life is, that is how people are. How clearly he manages to say it all!" A tale of two love stories, one happy, the other decidedly not.
*Thief of Time Terry Pratchett Discworld novel. Manages to be a sweet love story despite everything going on in the background (saving of the universe, galactic auditors, confused personifications of disaster). Very fun.
To Visit the Queen Diane Duane Young adult fantasy, wholesome and enjoyable. Feline wizards save the world. Lovely snide references to Victorian England. Sequel to The Book of Night with Moon.
Myth-ion Improbable Robert Asprin Comedic fantasy. A rollicking good adventure from the classic M.Y.T.H. series.
Wizard's First Rule Terry Goodkind Impressive, compelling plot, complex fantasy universe... presented in a jarringly amateurish writing style, with unsteady characterization and narrative anachronisms. Gah. It begins an epic series, and I'm not sure I want to tackle the next.

September, 2002:
The Pressed Fairy Book Terry Jones Muhahahaha.
Lathe of Heaven Ursula K. Le Guin Insidious and captivating. SF. The ability to change reality is not so much of a blessing as one might expect. (Naturally.)
*Brief Lives Neil Gaiman Quite possibly my favorite of all the Sandman graphic novels. Tight, self-contained, and subtle, with good strong themes: love, duty, transience, change.
The Last Hero Terry Pratchett Discworld novella, gorgeously illustrated by Paul Kidby. Sardonic, hilarious, and touchingly sweet.
*The Two Towers J.R.R. Tolkien Aragorn faces destiny, Gandalf gives motivational speeches, and Frodo plods further along his hero cycle. I love these books more each time I read them.
The Redemption of Althalus David and Leigh Eddings Typical Eddingsesque fantasy: reluctant hero becomes devoted avatar and beloved of his deity. Good versus evil, etc, etc.
The Silmarillion J.R.R. Tolkien Takes the words "epic fantasy" to new heights. Fantastic tales in horribly stilted language. If you can get past the verbiage, you'll love the book.

(Page on hiatus)

February, 2002:
*Smoke and Mirrors Neil Gaiman Gaiman shorts -- stories, fables, poetry. Beautiful and mystical and mildly disturbing, as one would expect from him.

January, 2002:
Triplanetary E. E. "Doc" Smith Old school sci-fi. Strong men, perky women, universe ruled by moralistic humans. Written back in the day when "computer" meant "guy who does calculations." Very interesting stuff, though dated.
The Sardonyx Net Elizabeth Lynn Sci-fi. A study in crime, morality, and family loyalty, set in a backdrop of interstellar trade. Complex and thoughtful.

December, 2001:
*The Fellowship of the Ring J.R.R. Tolkien Rereading before the movie. (yay, movie!)

November, 2001:
*Under the Net Iris Murdoch Fiction. Madcap adventure: one man's effort to find peace. Lovely philosophizing; a very British comedy of manners.
Travesties Tom Stoppard Delightfully intellectual play, typical of Stoppard. Persons great and small converge in Zurich.
This Alien Shore C.S. Friedman Sci-fi, a tale of self-discovery and power. Poignant, thought-inducing, and far too intricate to be summed up so easily.

October, 2001:
Ficciones Jorge Luis Borges Short, trippy pieces of wordplay.

September, 2001:
Metamagical Themas Douglas R. Hofstadter A collection of old Scientific American articles by Hofstadter. Self-reference, patterns, and other geeky fun cocktail party talk.
Fugitive Pieces Anne Michaels Story of two refugees, post-WWII; archaeology, spirituality, philosophy. Very lyrically written (Michaels is a poet, too).
The Bell Iris Murdoch A mixed-up group of people try to establish a quiet religious retreat, and their philosophies get complicated by sex. Good Murdoch fun.

August, 2001:
The Dispossessed Ursula K. Le Guin SF - An interesting exploration of dual societies with opposite takes on individuality. Drags a bit, but covers a lot of philosophical ground.
Selected Poems Boris Pasternak Pretty vignettes, but I would've been more impressed if they hadn't tried to make the English-translated poems rhyme. I'm not too fond of that.
De Profundis and Other Writings Oscar Wilde Typical Wilde -- witty, naive, and arrogant. Wilde takes on Socialism and his own incarceration.
Ender's Shadow Orson Scott Card Sci-fi (space battles), and Card did an excellent job recapturing the intensity of Ender's Game.
Destination: Void Frank Herbert SF. A bunch of insecure, disposable clones on a spaceship with a God complex. Very weird.

July, 2001:
Song for the Basilisk Patricia A. McKillip A dreamlike meld of music, magic, and revenge.
A Plague of Angels Sheri S. Tepper The colorful veil of fantasy almost manages to hide the didactic social commentary.
*American Gods Neil Gaiman Urban fantasy. Old gods in the New World... Belief does some really odd things. Utterly amazing story.
Dancing at the Edge of the World Ursula K. Le Guin A collection of brilliant essays by one of my favorite authors, subtitled "Thoughts on Words, Women, and Places." I highly recommend the "Words" ones.
*Pale Fire Vladimir Nabokov A rather interesting narrator writes around and about a poem.

June, 2001:
The Book and the Brotherhood Iris Murdoch A complex web of Marxist philosophy, 60's-era British society, and (of course) love.
World's End Neil Gaiman Fantasy. A Sandman graphic novel. Stories told in an inn.
*Finity's End C.J. Cherryh Classic sci-fi: Space stations, starships, and inconvenient relatives.
Franny and Zooey J.D. Salinger Word games, played by young people way too self-analytical for their own good. Yes, I liked reading this.
The Guns of Avalon Roger Zelazny The sequel to Nine Princes in Amber. The series is actually ten books long...
*Nine Princes in Amber Roger Zelazny An old favorite -- a rather gritty fairy tale of magic, ambition, and brotherly love.
Richard III Shakespeare We like Richard. Especially if he looks eerily like Ian McKellen.
**Cryptonomicon Neal Stephenson Cryptography in WWII and the present, with more than a smattering of computers. A very geeky book, incredibly intricate and fun.
India Ink Tom Stoppard A time-twisting, vaguely disturbing, yet damn good play.
Men at Arms Terry Pratchett I love those Discworld novels.
World Without End Sean Russell Darwin meets fantasy. A naturalist discovers magic and falls headlong into court politics.

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