The Library Basement
Reading under ground

Readings for September 2011

This month I played catch-up on periodicals while finishing two novels and starting a monstrously thick third.

Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Agent to the StarsAfter reading Old Man's War, I knew I needed to check out more of Scalzi's work. I chose Agent to the Stars based on some recommendations and the desire to see the author fully uncork the humor which came through so well in Old Man's War. It was an excellent read, with many laugh-out-loud moments. I must admit that the story ended up going somewhere which I did not anticipate, and this threw me off for a bit. Yet the payoff is worth it. Recommended.

As it so happens, this is the second internet-released book which I've recently read unwittingly in paperback. The other was Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson. If my experience is any indication, free online distribution seems to harm print sales very little while increasing interest. Also, pro tip: almost all of the new John Scalzi paperbacks at Powell's Beaverton are autographed.

Blackout by Connie Willis

I have read many good things about Connie Willis and had been wanting to read one of her novels. When Blackout/All Clear won the Hugo and Nebula awards, I knew I was out of excuses for not reading her, so I picked up Blackout. Willis' writing style is fantastic and the premise for this story is excellent. I also liked the characters pretty well.

The trouble is that after having read only the first volume, I wouldn't guess that this story splits into two parts very well. There is a lot of dramatic action in Blackout, but virtually no explanation of the cause of all the problems. I kept reading on, assuming that there would be a reveal somewhere in the final chapters which would set-up the course of the second volume. But Willis is playing the cards of the plot fairly close in this story. I presume everything is sufficiently explained in All Clear, so I will reserve judgment until I get a chance to finish the story.

Periodicals

This month I read Biblical Archaeology Review for May and June, Harpers for September and October, and Scientific American for September and October. So I am still behind on BAR, but am otherwise caught up in periodicals. Perhaps the most noteworthy and dreadful article in this crop is the description of the mineral wealth of Afghanistan in SciAm October. Believe it or not, the US is planning to help extract the resources of a nation we recently invaded.

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