Thursday, February 02, 2006


Just Read: January

I'd been planning on doing a "Just Read:" post for each book I finished this year, but a month in, the best I have so far are a very draft posts. So to steal an idea from, I think I'll try for a combined, monthly post.

So, here's the list for January!

The Lamplighter by Anthony O'Neill
Discovered: Post-Christmas loot
About it: A professor of philosophy and a grave-yard night watchman team up to investigate a series of murders seemingly unrelated aside from their strangeness and savagery. Oh, and there's also a mysterious young woman who dreamt the murders as they were happening.
I really enjoyed the first half of this novel - it was a great period mystery. I found having a philosopher involved made for a slightly different but very interesting story (much like throwing a mathematician into Jurassic Park).
Unfortunately, I think I missed the point slightly - I had assumed the professor was the main character. That meant I was disappointed with who the killer turned out to be, and with the ultimate fate of the two investigators. But that's more a problem with me than the book - it just wasn't what I was expecting.
My Rating: 2.5/5

Dragon's Egg by Robert Forward
Discovered: Lent by Gordon
About it: The story is about a neutron star that is drifting past the solar system, the humans who go to study it, and the alien race that has evolved on the star's surface. The book is really two stories told in parallel - one from the human's view point, and one for the cheela's view point. It was a great, hard-science sci-fi story. I found it just as interesting reading about how the humans were planning to study the star as it was reading about the evolution of the cheela society. Robert L. Forward did an excellent job of crafting a different race of aliens - these guys certainly aren't your humans in rubber suits. It was interesting seeing how human experience ended up shaping the cheela culture.
The end left me with one thought - "well, I'm guessing mankind now puts a global effort into cryptography", but maybe that's just my solution to the final problem.
My Rating: 4/5

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Discovered: Post-Christmas loot
About it: Two magicians are trying to return magic to England in the 19th century. The language suits the story perfectly - I'm assured it's written in the style of Jane Austin. I found both Strange and Norrell to actually be quite fleshed out characters. They could have been very 2-dimensional (you've got the cranky old wizard, and the young wild wizard), but they both seemed more than that. I wasn't too impressed with the very end (what? You'd rather hang out with Norrell?), but it was such a tiny thing that it certainly wouldn't stop me from recommending the book.
My Rating: 3.5/5

Less Than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis
Discovered: 2 years after reading American Psycho, I felt I was ready for some more Brett Easton Ellis
About it: Clay comes home to LA for Christmas, and tries to pick up his life where he left off. His friends and family all have their own problems, and combined with far too much coke and a general lack of empathy makes it very hard for Clay to relate to anyone. Clay alternates between being the most human, normal and sympathic character to just as messed up, selfish and sociopathic as everyone else. I was thinking that it there weren't going to be any seriously messed up scenes (unlike American Psycho), but turns out I was wrong.
My Rating: 3.5/5

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