And now for some short reviews of novels I’ve read recently.
Anathem (2008, Neal Stephenson)
Neal Stephenson is very smart, and I am not as smart. On the plus side, I am now asleep.
Ilium / Olympos (2003, Dan Simmons)
At some point in his life, Simmons had to suffer through academic analyses of Homer’s Iliad, Homer’s Odyssey and Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and now he wants us to suffer through them too.
The Sun Also Rises (1926, Ernest Hemingway)
You could change nothing in this novel except the characters to rich young Australians, the dates on the newspapers to 2013 and maybe the location to somewhere in Thailand, and the whole thing would work exactly the same. Also, 27-year-old Hemingway was a precocious son-of-a-bitch.
The Greatwinter Trilogy (1999, Sean McMullen)
He had me at librarian flintlock pistol duels and chivalric diesel-powered air combat, but the narrative is basically
[deep breath] YAGAHAMBABAMAMAMABADOOBOOMALBAGHLAGAHAHA! for three long novels.
J-Pod (2006, Douglas Coupland)
Like all Coupland’s books, the first 100 pages are a dazzlingly brilliant snapshot of human culture and the issues facing a particular generation, and the other 428 pages are optional.
Born to Run (2009, Christopher McDougall)
An examination of the human evolutionary superability to run extremely long distances, argued so convincingly it inspired me to get seriously into running for almost 13 hours.
Evolution (2002, Stephen Baxter)
Every great step forward taken by life on the long evolutionary road to modern humans was, according to Baxter in this and pretty much all of his novels, an extremely bad thing. And life is nothing but pain and dead babies and we should all give up because in the end the sun just explodes. That’ll teach NASA to knock back his application to be an astronaut.
The Hydrogen Sonata (2012, Iain M. Banks)
There’s a trend in degustation menus now where you get “flavours of beetroot” or whatever, and the actual meal is just slightly coloured foam. It tastes really rich and detailed and interesting, and somehow it fills you up, but afterwards you realise you just ate essentially nothing but hot air.
The Power and the Glory (1940, Graham Greene)
I could only get 12 pages into my second-hand copy because someone had written “CHRIST FIGURE” about sixty times in the margins in 1970s Year 12 handwriting. Anyway, I don’t need Greene to rub it in about how I’ll never be one eighth the novelist he was while simultaneously holding down a high-stress diplomatic job in the middle of a World War.
Under the Dome (2009, Stephen King)
Yeah. Novel writing is hard. You keep at it Steve.