Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Quick and dirty, because I'm backlogged!

I read K.J. Parker's novella Blue and Gold because of this post at Reading the End, and now I'm going to read the rest of K.J. Parker because while it doesn't actually read like Miles Vorkosigan--the world and story and storytelling are all different, and the character is a completely different person--it's all about a narrator who has many hands against him, but is super freaking clever.  (I know that invoking Miles is a very big deal, and I don't want to overuse this.  I repeat that the book is nothing like those books, but the character's appeal is, like Miles', in his extreme competence.)

And he's maybe not a very good person; it gets harder to decide as the story goes on.  Oh, it was so good, thank you, Jenny!  (Also, a bunch of Parker's work is available on the Kindle in convenient omnibus form.  I own this now.)

I read Drew Weing's Set to Sea because I've been enjoying his webcomic, The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo.  Honestly, there isn't a lot to say about it, except that it's kind of a lovely little book with a very simple story about a man who wants to be a poet but is impressed as a sailor.  The moral is kind of about living the life you have, and how that can lead to the life you dream of.  I wish I had more to say about it--the format, with one drawing per page, makes it a very short story, but the art and the broad-strokes rendition of a life at sea made it really appealing.  I don't know--not perfect for everyone, but a nice little volume.

I was about to put in a few kids' comics and books that I've read recently, but I think I might do a Christmas suggestion list next week, so we'll save that up, shall we?  Because who doesn't have a seven year old who needs some comics for Christmas?  And there are only so many volumes of Zita the Spacegirl and Amulet out there.

So let's polish this off with another novella, Ajax Penumbra 1969, by Robin Sloan.  This is a companion--you might even say a prequel--to Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, which we read for book club a while back

I'm going to start by pointing out my annoyance at having Ajax Penumbra clearly defined as being of Spanish descent, because I had always pictured him as Southeast Asian.  So that was kind of a bummer.  Really, this is a charming adventure about searching for a lost tome, and the adventure part is a really fun romp.

But after reading Bookstore, the similarities here actually kind of weakened the whole thing.  First, what really jumped out at me here is the fact that books are kind of a fetish object in this whole series.  These are people who love and study and hunt down books, but they mostly don't read them.  They're about books as objects, not about the ideas and people and lives that are within them, so that the meaning of it is kind of lost.  When I revel in the sheer pleasure of a big pile of books, I'm thinking about reading them; I don't think Robin Sloan is.

Also, somehow Ajax has a computer genius best friend, just like what's-his-name in Bookstore.  It worked really well in that one, with Google culture and the web as an information source thing.  But here, it's big punchcard machines and again, it's kind of weird to work them in.  But at least they're addressed for what they are--it's not just about having a computer--it's about the data you can hold and process in them, and then the real things you can do with that data, like build tunnels under cities and figure out how many people will be riding on the train on a certain Tuesday three years from now.

Anyway, I'm complaining, but really, as I said, it's mostly a treasure hunt romp.  And it's short, and if you liked Mr. Penumbra's Bookstore, then Ajax Penumbra is charming and worth the brief reading time.

There!  A month around the edges of my reading, all in one post.  Enjoy!

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