The Library Basement
Reading under ground

Readings for December 2016

Another year, another year. In 2016 I added a comic book habit which I'm not sure will continue into 2017. I have at least one series I'd like to continue. I may pursue the hobby primarily through graphic novels and trades from the library.

Arabella of Mars by David Levine

This is the "fiction" entry of the semi-random selection from the library's "new books" shelf. This appears to be Levine's debut novel, though he has credits in the Wild Cards series among others. He happens to be a local author (from Portland, OR), so that is cool.

Arabella of Mars was a delight to read. The premise is a genre mash-up of science fiction and regency, with a touch of steam-punk: in Victorian era man has discovered how to make great ships buoyant and can thence take ships aloft and sail them to other planets, including Mars. Yes you heard that right, you can sail to Mars. Which implies there is no vacuum of space, just a big atmosphere throughout the cosmos. The alternative reality works really well, I found, and I had no trouble suspending disbelief in service to the story.

Young Arabella Ashby finds herself in need to abscond to Mars to stop an insidious plot by her unscrupulous cousin. She does so by presenting herself as a boy and gaining passage by working as a deck-hand on an interstellar ship. Adventure ho!

I liked just about everything about this novel. The only issue I had was a bit of cliche at the end which I wonder if it may be a sort of requirement of the regency genre (I've not ready any before, so am unsure about what to expect). But the setting, characters, story, structure, pacing, were all great.

It is setting itself up as a possible series, so I'll be following up. Recommended.

Censored 2017 edited by Mickey Huff and Andy Lee Roth

I had never heard of "Project Censored" when I saw this title at the library. In the wake of the 2016 elections I had been feeling a bit conventional in my political thinking and wanted to branch out some more, so I grabbed this title.

The structure is this: a list of what a panel deems were the "most censored stories of 2016", followed by a series of essays, mostly on media criticism. I read with great interest, but ended up abandoning the book after the first section.

A few of the stories seemed very interesting: I had not read anything (or very little) about them, and they were quite consequential. For example, there was a report on how many nations in the world in which US special force had training or combat operations in 2015 (over one hundred). Or the existence and operation of the so-called US vaccine court, which is not widely advertized due to fear of abuse.

But many of the stories seemed to have been absent from mainstream media coverage not because they were censored, but because they were boring or silly. For example, the idea that "climate change will have disproportional effects on women" turned out to be totally pointless, because as the summary noted, this was a side-effect of existing social structures and had absolutely nothing to do with climate change.

Insert a number of other boring or non-sequitur stories, and this was not the subversive reporting I had been hoping for. Not recommended.

Life, the Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams

"Surreal" was the word of the year for 2016 according to at least one authority. World news, and especially politics, made everything seem so bizarre that I could think of no finer way to end 2016 than by reading a Hitchhiker's novel.

Life, the Universe, and Everything fulfilled everything I was looking for. Of course it did. I heartily recommend it, of course after you read the previous installments.

Fittingly, I seem to have logged 42 entries on my 2016 reading list (see summarys below). As for 2017, I've decided that my theme will be to throw myself at the ground . . . and miss.

Periodicals

  • Harper's November 2016

Comics

  • Poe Dameron #8

Year-end stats

In 2016 I read:

  • 12 periodicals
  • 17 books
  • 13 comic books
  • 7,634 pages
  • or about 21 pages per day

Categories

Tags