Sunday, July 26, 2015

Murchie Plus Books: July 19th to 25th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by photographing my dog beside every book I read, barring the digital comics I get in single issue form.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday.

Not pictured: I read Marjorie Liu's run on ASTONISHING X-MEN, as planned, and I had a mostly great time with it. It's got me even more excited for MONSTRESS (Liu's forthcoming creator-owned collaboration with artist Sana Takada), and I was pretty damned excited to begin with.

I also read NATION X, a miniseries packed with short stories about how various X-Men engage with their new home on Utopia. I enjoyed the majority of them, and one story in particular made me realize I rather like Magneto. Huh. I can't say as it even occurred to me to ask myself whether I felt one way or the other about the guy.

(Sidebar: Magneto throws me off these days because he's now a bald guy who wears white instead of a purple-clad dude with flowing white locks. It always takes me a second to recognize him.)

I read X-TERMINATION, too, since it crossed over with ASTONISHING X-MEN, but I wasn't really into it. Oh well. Not every X-Men comic has to be my cuppa, right?

And I finished off my Hugo reading so I could cast my final votes. Whew! It feels mighty good to be done with all that. Mighty, mighty good. I can now read whatever the hell I want, staring with the rest of Doctrine of Labyrinths and some of the ARCs that've piled up. I mean, I've got a copy of FOOL'S QUEST burning a hole in my Kobo, and I haven't even touched it. How? Why? Have I been replaced with a Skrull who acts sort of like me hasn't quite mastered my normal behavior?

I want to say no, I haven't, but that's exactly what a Skrull would say. So, yeah.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, is flopped partway inside a blanket cave mad out of a red tapestry comforter. His paws extend before him. A white Kobo with The Three Body Problem's blue-tinted cover on its screen appears at the mouth of the cave. The illustration depicts a pyramid in a frozen landscape.

Murchie was pretty durned grumpy throughout the early part of last week. He was all about the blanket caves and the long naps and the not eating his daily cheese. Sigh.

The cheese thing turned out to mean he wanted to have daily cookies instead, which is fair enough. As to the rest of it, I think THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM is at least partly to blame. I began the week with Cixin Liu's Hugo-nominated novel as planned, and... well, it wasn't my thing. At all.

When I was a young person, I avoided science fiction because I thought it was all ideas-over-people, and I'm a character-oriented reader. I eventually figured out SF could be just as charactery as any other genre, but I doubt I'd have got there if I'd been reading stuff like this. THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM is idea-heavy, to the point where its characters are just kind of... there. I initially thought I might connect with Ye, but then the focus shifted away from her and the prose slipped into heavy tell-not-show territory and my interest died an ignoble death.

I read a few reviews before I made a firm choice, but practically everyone said something along the lines of, "The science is great, but don't expect much from the characters." A few also mentioned how the person who seems to be the central character fades away in the second half. So I tapped out before the book made me as grumpy as it made my dog.

Murchie sprawls on his red comforter, a look of boredom on his face. Directly against his chin is a white Kobo with the cover of The Dark Between the Stars on its screen. It features a spaceship surrounded by a glowing green nimbus.

Then I decided I might as well bust through to the end of the Hugo nominees, so I opened THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS by Kevin J. Anderson and dove in.

Alas, this one wasn't for me either. The book suffered from what I think of as the A GAME OF THRONES1 problem: each of the many POV characters gets one short chapter at a time within a larger cycle, so it takes for bloody ever to get a feel for who anyone is.

That's not much of a problem if you're in it for the story rather than the characters, but it takes a hell of a strong story to make me ignore uninteresting characters. And I think THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS is aimed at an audience that's already familiar with and invested in this setting.

Once again, I turned to reviews to help me make my decision; and once again, the reviews told me the book and I weren't a good match. Several people emphasized how this is very much the eighth book in a series, too, even though it technically starts a new arc. The chapters I read reinforced this impression with their catch-readers-up-with-as-you-know-Bob approach.

So that's that. I've finished the Hugo-nominated novels, and THE GOBLIN EMPEROR came out on top just as I predicted it would. I think ANCILLARY SWORD probably has better odds of winning, and the commentary I've seen also makes THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM a prime contender, but I shall cling to hope until the last possible moment.

Murchie perches on a fuzzy white pillow. Before him is a red-bordered iPod with The Vor Game's cover on its screen. It features a spaceship headed into a wormhole.

Hey, it's Miles Vorkosigan! We haven't seen him in a while.

(Well, I haven't. Maybe your reading list is different from mine.)

As you've probably gathered, I'm reading (well, listening to) the Vorkosigan Saga in publication order rather than chronological order, and it's been fascinating. Bujold jumps all over her own timeline, as is wildly apparently in this volume set immediately after Miles's graduation. We've already seen him in action as an established soldier who also moonlights as admiral of a successful (if sometimes financially insolvent) mercenary company. Here, he's a new graduate who's barely even checked in with the Dendarii over the last three years. We know he's going to bridge the gap, so the question becomes how.

The answer is pretty episodic; so much so that I'm not entirely sure what the plot is, beyond, "Miles does stuff after graduation and presumably takes back control of the Dendarii (unless Bujold is gonna pull a Marvel and erase that part of her story because of reasons, but I figure we all know she's too good for that)." That hardly matters, though, because all the episodic stuff is pretty durned interesting. Miles is an engaging guy who gets himself into all sorts of trouble. I like him very much.

I should've finished this one yesterday at the latest, but I'm currently suffering from what I believe to be a respiratory virus and it's messed up both my concentration and my stamina. So I've put Miles on hold until I can a) take walks again and b) actually follow the story.

Murchie stands on his hind legs, one front paw resting on a small glass-topped table. His noise is raised. In front of him is a trade paperback copy of the second One Piece omnibus.

I tried to interest Murchie in posing beside the second ONE PIECE omnibus, but he insisted on scrounging for scraps instead. There wasn't even any food on that table, but nope. He had to investigate.

Silly Murchie.

I gulped this three-in-one down pretty durned quick and am now eager for more. I'm still not in love with ONE PIECE, but I'm right on the edge. I anticipate many hours of manga-centric enjoyment in my future, just as soon as I can get my hands on some more.

Murchie sits in a pink and beige plush dog bed on a deck. Beside him is a paperback copy of The Virtu. Its blue-toned cover features a red-haired man perched on an outcropping, knife in hand.

I know I said I'd read this right after THE THREE-BODY PROBLEM because fuck everything else, but the truth is, I almost never mean it when I talk like that. I say I'm gonna read whatever the hell I want, but I end up being responsible and fulfilling my readerly obligations instead.

So I polished off all the remaining Hugo nominees, then reread THE VIRTU for the fifth time.

This one is my heart attack book, along with THE GOLDEN FOOL by Robin Hobb. There is so much tension and so many misunderstandings and so many scenes where people want to connect but just can't and OH MY SOUL.


I shall say no more than that, because it's the same with this one as it was with MELUSINE. If I really get started, I'll never, ever stop. These are my favourite books. Y'all already know Mildmay is my favouritest of favourite characters (yes, even above Kate Bishop), and Felix is also on The List. I must restrain myself.

Murchie lays on his fuzzy pillow, ears perked as he watches something outside the frame. beside him is a paperback copy of Unexpected Art. Its cover features an enormous, inflatable rubber duck floating in an urban harbour.

Finally, I've been reading my way through UNEXPECTED ART, a collection of installations and site-specific works from around the world.

Here, too, I could easily go overboard in explaining just how much I love installations, so I'll let this quote from Florentjin Hofman regarding his SLOW SLUGS (2012; metal, football nets, and 40,000 plastic bags) do most of the talking for me:

The slugs are ascending this steep staircase that leads up to a huge Catholic church, essentially signifying their slow crawl toward death. The work reminds us of religion, mortality, natural decay, and the slow suffocation of commercialized societies.

I love that so, so much, because it's total bullshit but it's also true.

I may write more about this book, and about installations in general, when I'm done. I haven't decided yet.

Next week: THE MIRADOR. At least one review copy; probably THE PHILOSOPHER KINGS, because I really should've read it a month ago, but maybe FOOL'S QUEST if I can't restrain myself any longer. Some comics.

  1. No, I did not love A GAME OF THRONES, largely because it'd take a hundred pages for the narrative to cycle back around to any of the characters who interested me. Truth be told, I didn't love any of the books besides A STORM OF SWORDS, though I'd say I loved the series as a whole.

    I liked the show quite a bit more than the first book because it let me see most of the characters at least once per episode instead of leaving me hanging for ages; however, I tapped out once I heard what they did to Sansa. I wasn't up for watching that.


  1. Monstress! I too am ridiculously excited.

    FWIW, I'd really like to read an installations post from you.

    Lastly, do read The Philosopher Kings so you can come discuss Certain Events with me :P

    1. I took so long to read THE PHILOSOPHER KINGS that my library has a paper copy in transit for me. Sigh. So much for staying on top of things during the Hugos.