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Moar books!

Catching up on book reviews, yay!! Also, I will shortly be doing another bookshelf purge and free giveaway, so watch this space ;)

Tooth and Claw"Jane Austen with dragons" sounds like a recipe for disaster, yes? And it could have been, easily. Luckily, however, Walton does a masterful job with this weird mashup and gives us a clever, well-written and engaging tale. All the classic Austen components are there: the maiden sisters worried about their lack of dowry, the centrality of reputation and honor, the rigid ideas of class, an intra-family lawsuit (shades of Bleak House!), a missing heir, even a (slightly) dirty vicar. Then there are the dragon elements: they breathe fire, sleep on gold, eat raw meat, live for hundreds of years, and kill the runts of the litter. Instead of these things just being tacked on like window dressing, however, Walton makes them an integral part of the characters and the story, weaving them into an entertaining and diverting story.

It isn't epic fantasy by any means, but it's great fun and I enjoyed it thoroughly; if she writes more novels set in this world I would read them with relish.

Eye in the SkyPhilip K. Dick's Eye in the Sky, another book that I wanted to like more than I did. One of the difficulties with reading older classic sci-fi is that sometimes you forget how impressive it was when it was first published -- you're jaded by all the amazing stuff that's been written since. I have a feeling this was a remarkable book when it was first published, but it fell a little flat for me.

Which is annoying, because the premise is exactly my kind of thing: a physics accident propels a group of people into another world, where they have to figure out not only the rules of their strange new world but how to escape it. And then they have to do it all over again. And again. The various worlds they fall into and out of are all very different, but each one is so short-lived that I barely had time to suss out what was going on before I was jolted into the next one; there's an abruptness to it that I found frustrating. I wanted more, and more detailed, explorations of the various neurotic obsessions that were externalized as these separate worlds.

The book also suffers a bit from being so very firmly grounded in 1957. Many little clues betray this, the most obvious being that the main villain of the piece is Communism, or rather prejudice against/fear of Communism. It's hard to grasp how enormous and looming a threat Communism was perceived to be in the 1950s; because it was a very specific enemy with a very specific lifespan, this "dates" the story a bit.

Worth a read, mostly as a psychological variant of the "many worlds" hypothesis. Plus I'm amused by the fact that the original cover shows a bunch of expendable redshirts, nine years before Star Trek made them a cultural icon :)


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Aug. 14th, 2013 03:38 am (UTC)
The book also suffers a bit from being so very firmly grounded in 1957.

One of the books I have read many times is called Alas, Babylon, which was written in the 50's about nuclear war. It is extremely dated (one of the characters questions the validity of blacks and whites eating at the same table together, a real Wild-west mentality, etc), but it still has some moments that ring true for me. I wouldn't be surprised if Stephen King had read it; The Stand has loads of similarities (SK's character is called Randall Flagg, the character in Alas Babylon is called Randall Bragg, to name but one).
Aug. 15th, 2013 01:13 am (UTC)
Oh, I love Alas, Babylon!! I'm a big fan of (post-)apocalypse stories, and that's a great one. I haven't run into too many people who have read it, how fun :) There are some things about it that "date" it, I do agree. In Eye in the Sky, though, the "dated" part (EVIL COMMIES) is a main prop of the story whereas in Alas, Babylon (if I recall correctly) the dated stuff is more in the smaller details, isn't it? But I haven't read it in a while, I need to go back. The part I remember most clearly is the kids hammering pennies into arrowheads and not wanting to bother learning to read :/

Interesting suggestion about The Stand (another perennial favorite of mine). I'll bet you're right. King is a pretty widely-read dude.
Aug. 15th, 2013 01:20 am (UTC)
Um, babe, I think you might be getting Alas Babylon mixed up with a different book :) Those things (hammering pennies and not learning to read) didn't happen in this book. It's by a guy named Pat Frank. ;)
Aug. 15th, 2013 01:39 am (UTC)
Whoops, yup -- that was Earth Abides by George Stewart. Also a great post-apoc book.

I just went and got my copy of Alas Babylon off the shelf and you're right -- it's pretty dated :)
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