Books I read 4/7/2015

A person gains attention on the internet mainly by talking about themselves. To that end: here are the books I read this week, and how I feel about them. Why would you be interested in this? I have absolutely no idea.

This Week I Read:

Last Call by Tim Powers – As a rule, I don't see the point in ever reviewing a book negatively. I'm not a professional reviewer, I don't have any obligation to anyone to try and present an impartial opinion, I'm obviously not playing any sort of role in a larger aesthetic and cultural discourse, and therefore saying anything bad about anyone else in a public forum just seems mean and cheap and nasty. Who cares? There are so many good books in the world, spend your time talking about them. At some point you start meeting these people and attaching the names on their books to hands you've shaken and smiling faces and people who seem altogether decent or who at least seem like people, trying to get through the day like all of us and why do you want to have done anything to even in some minor way add to their burdens? (I haven't ever met Tim Powers, I'm speaking abstractly at this point) But then again Tim Powers has sold about a million books and won every aware you can win, and will in all likelihood never see this review and so I don't feel quite as bad about it.

This is kind of a big build up especially because actually I pretty much liked Last Call, I just didn't like it to the degree that I thought I would given some of the other things he's written. Tim Powers is such an enormously imaginative writer, his stuff is always weird and clever in a way which the vast majority of the rest of us in the genre only distantly aspire to. And there's a lot of that on evidence in Last Call. The beginning is very mean and fierce, and the entire idea of stealing bodies and whatnot, the fortune teller, lots of fun bits. But not all the subplots work as well, and like a lot of these sort of things the early build up is more fun than the pay off. I dunno, endings are tough. It's not really fair because I went in comparing it to Declare which is just stunningly fucking cool, if you haven't read that stop reading this review and pick it up ASAP. And then after you're done that go ahead and read Last Call, because it's really quite good despite this damn-with-faint-praise thing I've been doing for about four hundred words now. The truth is that even one of Tim Power's lesser works is probably better than 90% of the rest of the stuff in the genre.

Unrelated to this, it's really weird that when you type 'Last Call' into goodreads the entire first page are for bodice rippers. Were There Sword Fights: No, but there was pretty much everything else. People get shot and there are magic fights and etc. So I think I'm going to count this one.


The Great Sea by David Abulafia– Do you have--(you might, what do I know, you're reading this blog post)--some interest in writing a work of high fantasy? Then this is exactly the sort of book you need to be reading. A sweeping history of human activity in the Mediterranean, going back to pre-history and extending up to the modern day, thoughtful in its conclusions and evocative in its language. Here is Leonidas at Hot Gates, here the bastard Don Juan saves the West at Lepanto, here Napoleon's hopes for an Egyptian empire go down in a hail of shot and splinter. Here false-Converso Jews scuttle through the trading ports of the levant, here the Ragusans plot and scheme against the Doges of Venice, here is the interplay of nations and cultures and languages on a vast scale. This is just absolutely enthralling stuff, a magisterial history, the sort of thing which one might look at in the moment before dying, nod their head, and drift off happily. Kudos to David Abulafia—this is worth every moment of the time it will take you to finish it. The best work of non fiction I've read in a long time. Were There Sword Fights: Not described in vivid detail, I guess, but there's a lot of battles.

Right Now I'm Reading: Yeah, nothing actually. I gotta pick something up tomorrow. Rjurik Davidson and I both promised we would read the others book ( after having already reviewed it) but I kind of suspect in the end we'll both prove to be liars. I'm insanely busy all of a sudden with work and moving out of my apartment and going back to being a vagabond again, and also finishing up Those Below, and don't have quite as much energy to throw into my studies. Which is not an excuse. Maybe I'll read the Mahabharata. I dunno.