March 14, 2006

On Books: February '06

Huh. Only two weeks late with this. Not bad. Here's what I read in February...

Charlie Huston: Already Dead
Now famous for his incredibly brutal, gritty novels Caught Stealing and Six Bad Things, Huston takes an offramp on the crime fiction highway and enters Horrorville. Already Dead is a novel about vampires in modern-day Manhattan. this concept did not thrill me. I could care less about vampires. But I like Huston so I gave it a shot...and I'm pretty impressed. Already Dead is a great novel that reads like a mystery aside from the whole blood-sucking thing. I don't know enough about the other trillion vampire novels out there to gauge how unique an approach this was but I liked it. If you enjoyed his previous novels, this one won't disappoint.

Stephen Dedman: Foreign Bodies
Each month, I have a new imperative - read one or two of the books that have been on my shelves for years. This was one. It was your standard dystopian science fiction novel in which the world has gone to hell in a handbasket and authoritarian regimes are running the show. There was nothing at all original about the plot or the way it was executed. The writing was decent but, on the whole, there's better stuff out there that deals with the same things more effectively. Anything by William Gibson, for instance.

Sujata Massey: The Floating Girl
Another in the lackluster Rei Shimura series. Last month I think I blamed Massey for cheesy dialogue. And I will do the same this month. I honestly think she's trying to convey something cultural, something inherently Japanese and proper, in her dialogue but it comes off sounding stilted and not at all realistic. That said, she can write a decent story and the education she delivers about Japan is well worth struggling through awkward dialogue.

Peter Carey: Wrong About Japan
During February, I became thoroughly entranced by Japan, specifically Japanese manga, or graphic novels. A few months earlier, as luck would have it, I picked up this slim volume from the author of Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang. It's the true story of the trip he and his manga-obsessed son took to Japan. It's interesting but terribly under-developed. I'd have liked it more if it had been twice the length. It just comes off sounding like shallow travel narrative. It's not bad. It's just not great.

William Nicholson: The Wind Singer
When I read Nicholson's The Society of Others a couple months ago I was astounded. It was Nicholson's first novel for adults which really limited what else from him I could go back and read. So I picked up the first of his children's trilogy. The Wind Singer is very Narnia in scope and style. That shouldn't be a surprise coming from Nicholson, who wrote the screenplay for Shadowlands, a movie about C.S. Lewis. That's not to say Nicholson isn't original. He is. The Wind Singer is wonderfully written full of imagery which more than adequately sated my overactive imagination. It is, in parts, a little brutal, a tad scary and there's a lot of death. I enjoyed it but I wouldn't let a 10 year old read it.

Nick Laird: Utterly Monkey
Laird is Ireland's answer to Nick Hornby or Jonathan Tropper. Sure, that sets the expectations high but he can live up to it. Utterly Monkey is a novel about work, hating work, screwing up work, and, most of all, friendship. It sounds cheesy but it's true. It's a very good novel, not heavy and definitely not light.

John Sandford: Mortal Prey
One word - solid. Even Sandford's worst book - not that this is it - is solid. He's just an excellent writer. This chapter in the Prey series finds hero Lucas Davenport facing a familiar foe, a foe that I quite liked the first time she surfaced. It could have been a bit better but it was, of course, solid.

Posted by Chris at March 14, 2006 07:47 PM

Utterly Monkey sounds like it's up my alley...

Posted by: Dawn (webmiztris) at March 14, 2006 07:58 PM

I'm gonna have to give Utterly Monkey a try. Which, out of context, is probably the weirdest thing I've ever typed.

Posted by: Contary at March 14, 2006 08:43 PM

I see at least three books I'd like to read on that list.


Posted by: candace at March 14, 2006 08:48 PM

Seriously, job, wife, baby; how do you read so much ? I'm still working on a Newsweek from October 04. Don't spoil it and tell me who won the election.

Posted by: Lisa V at March 14, 2006 10:53 PM

The Nick Laird book sounds excellent - I'll definitely check it out.

p.s. penis dick. bwah ha ha!

Posted by: Vaguely Urban at March 15, 2006 01:29 AM

Ooh, these are great, thanks! I'm trying to get out of the chick-lit rut and read something interesting for a change.

Posted by: Carla at March 15, 2006 02:32 AM

Huh, I had spotted the Wind Singer while looking for things to buy with my Chapters gift cards and store credit a while back, so it's on the shelf awaiting its turn right now.

Posted by: Gavin at March 15, 2006 07:24 AM

Um, how do you have the superhuman ability to still be reading books for pleasure??

Posted by: bd at March 15, 2006 09:31 AM

Utterly Monkey.... I love that title. I think I'll read that.

Posted by: jodi at March 15, 2006 01:51 PM

How do you have time to read that many books in a month. It usually takes me that many months to read 1 book.

Posted by: Bill at March 15, 2006 04:06 PM