Reading Through the Backlog

The enormous backlog of books is not shrinking very fast. I kinda bought a bunch more YA fantasy, which did not help to shrink the pile. But I haven’t read any of them yet because The Thief, The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner and A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb were all so good that I really hesitate to read any more YA fantasy right now. Anything else is pretty likely not to be as good, that’s one thing, and then I’m still sort of savoring the experience of reading the above titles and just don’t want to read anything else that might interfere, if you know what I mean.

The four books listed above, plus Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Klause, which I also enjoyed; plus my own City in the Lake, plus a good handful of others, were all reviewed last year by a Tor guest reviewer (Megan Crewe), by the way. I figured that anybody who put City on a best-of-YA list was going to be a reliable guide to books I would love, so I’ve been working my way veeery sloooowly through that list, and so far I’m totally right!

So as a pause from YA, I read Celestial Matters by Richard Garfinkle instead. That was different. SF, kind of alternate history, except that the reason that the history is alternate is that the science is alternate. For the Greeks and their allies, Aristotle and the other Greek philosophers were right — so the planets are embedded in crystal spheres that encircle the Earth, and the atmosphere extends ALL the way up, for example. Newtonian physics doesn’t apply and all is weird. Particularly because for the Chinese, Taoist philosophy is true and really works. Doesn’t that supply chances for Greek and Chinese scientists to talk past one another! I mean, the basic principles that actually work are totally different for each of them! It’s pretty wild, especially once the main character (Greek) has to work with a Chinese scientist in order to save the ship after they steal a piece of the sun.

Now I’m actually reading a mainstream literary novel someone loaned me: The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s beautifully written. I love the language. But it’s written as though you’re reading journal entries written by the main character, which means that the reader is kept at a distance not only from the main character but from all the characters. It’s an interesting effect and I’m not sure I like it. One certainly doesn’t fall into the story.

Most of the characters are neither very likeable nor very unlikeable. The main character himself is also neither likeable nor unlikeable. Possibly as a result, I neither like nor dislike this book.

I’m reading it because it’s there, but halfway through it, I still don’t actually have much of an opinion about it. If the main character (his name is Harrison, but because you actually encounter the name so seldom in the book, it’s hard to remember) — anyway, if Harrison winds up having a pretty decent life, then I’ll probably end up more or less liking this book. If not, then probably I won’t. Could go either way at this point.

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