Recent Reading: What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton

So, I picked up a e-copy of Walton’s WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK SO GREAT because I thought it would be interesting to see what she thought of AN INTERIOR LIFE and also, of course, because short little snippets about books are a handy thing to have around for reading during breakfast or whatever.


I get why someone or other (on Goodreads? I don’t remember and don’t care enough to look it up) was disappointed in this book. The columns Walton wrote for are completely unchanged from the versions that appeared online, but lack the comments on each post, so they do feel more suitable for blog entries than for essays collected in a book.

On the other hand, it’s not too annoying to google “Jo Walton Teckla” (for example), if you want to see whether commenters agree with Walton that this book is good and grows on you with re-reading (she did dislike it the first time she read it), or with me that it is not only fundamentally and unsalvageably unpleasant to read but also that the broader political situation is simplistic and unworkable.

(The answer is, lots of people apparently like TECKLA, but at least one commenter agrees with me about it.)

I do think that Brust partly saved TECKLA by writing PHOENIX, but still, I doubt I’ll ever re-read the former.

It’s interesting to me that Walton included in the book ALL of her posts on Steven Brust’s books; also all her Bujold posts. I don’t think any other author got this treatment. Cherryh got about four posts, for example, not thirty. Walton does point out things in Brust’s books that I never noticed, and after reading through her posts on the series, I re-read DRAGON. I’ve always liked that one and I haven’t re-read it so often that I have it memorized. I’d like to go back and re-read more of them, but later, later. Haven’t gotten nearly as far with my WIP this weekend as I should, but you know, I did actually come to Indy to gaze at the dogs and chat with friends — not to immure myself in my hotel room for hours and hours.

Anyway! Walton’s book has pretty much worked well for me. So far I’ve stuck pretty much to reading her posts about books I’m familiar with. They’re short and thought-provoking; not reviews but comments and thoughts — you probably knew that — and in general chock full of spoilers. In case you didn’t know that, I thought I’d mention it.

One other entertaining thing I’d like to mention: Walton has one essay about how she always goes on with series even when they go sharply downhill. Wow. I sure don’t. It’s always interesting to see how other people react to stories, but I’m having a hard time even imagining that. If everyone tells me “No, no, stop with DUNE, don’t read any sequels,” then I’m happy to stop with DUNE and don’t at all feel compelled to go on. Same with movies: If someone I trust says, “It’s almost as bad as “Highlander II”, I don’t require personal experience of the fact.

So now, I’m curious: do you all feel compelled to go on with sequels even if people you trust beg you not to?

Also, what did you all think of TECKLA? Was that a thumb’s-up or thumb’s-down experience for you? This was the single post (so far) where I disagree most adamantly with Walton’s take on a book.

I do wish she’d specifically reviewed more of Cherryh’s books, btw. The ones I’d most like to see her post about are the Chanur series and CUCKOO’S EGG.

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