Almost entirely fiction this week, although I have been dipping in and out of Harlan Ellison’s Watching, a collection of film essays. More on that when I actually finish it.
- Newton’s Cannon by J. Gregory Keyes
This is a book I’ve been trying to read for quite some time, but odd circumstances always seemed to keep me from it. I’m glad I finally got a chance to make it through. Keyes has imagined a rather bizzare alternate history, where Isaac Newton has discovered the secret of alchemy, Louis XIV has achieved immortality through a strange Persian elixir, and young Ben Franklin stumbles upon an international plot of intrigue that threatens to destroy England. There are odd historical and literary figures dropped here and there throughout the novel, and an ending that I absolutely did not expect. There are three more books in the series, and the first installment makes no pretense to standing alone, so I suppose I’ll have to wait until I read the next three to truly evaluate the story. It’s a page turner though, and I enjoyed Keyes’s imaginings a great deal.
- Coraline by Neil Gaiman
One of the problems with having fallen out of the habit of reading on a regular basis is that books I would have normally read the moment I bought them lay untouched for months. Such was the case with Neil Gaiman’s delightfully spooky young adult novel Coraline.
Coraline is a bright, bored young girl with a broad imagination and loving if inattentive parents and an assortment of weird neighbors. But something mysterious is lurking on the other side of the big door in the living room that opens on a blank wall…or does it? She soon discovers a mirror world on the other side of the door, populated by beings claiming to be her Other Mother and Other Father, and it will take her ingenuity and perseverance to set her life back the way it was.
This is just as wonderful quirky as Gaiman’s best work always did, and my enjoyment of the book was doubled by the fact that, with her peculiar combination of contrary whimsy and earnest practicality, I couldn’t help but picture our heroine as a young nrivkis. 🙂 Highly recommended. Read it to your kids.
- Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
Another book I had been neglecting, Paladin of Souls is the sequel to Bujold’s fantasy novel The Curse of Chalion. I love the setting and the characters of this world, and I grew to quickly like Ista, the reluctant recipient of the gods’ favours. Bujold’s talent for breathing life into her three dimensional characters is in great evidence here, the dialog is crisp and the plot is a page turner. Of course, the centerpiece of the book, as it was in the previous, is the odd, intricate cosmology of Chalion’s gods. Paladin of Souls is, ultimately, that rarest of all novels: a sequel that is at least the equal of it’s original. I am looking forward to Bujold’s continued efforts on this series.