December Round-Up

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you’ve all had a great holiday season, and are continuing to enjoy it if you’re lucky ūüôā

Without a festive season to enjoy (I really hope I’m not stuck in Addis for December again next year) I managed to get a fair bit of reading done.

December 1

Heart-Shaped Box¬†by Joe Hill was a reading challenge book I read with a friend. It was recommended to us as a particularly scary horror novel. I didn’t find it all that scary, but Joe Hill has clearly inherited some storytelling genes from his father Stephen King and I thought it was a good read overall. 7/10.

Me and the Devil¬†by Nick Tosches on the other hand, had very little in terms of story and rather a lot (often too much) of random meandering and weird sex. I think this is the kind of book you’re likely to enjoy only if you feel some kind of kinship with the narrator, a sixty-something bitter writer who drinks women’s blood and functions as a fictionalised (well, I assume) version of the author. While I admired a few things about this novel, it was mostly pretty boring.

Kraken by China¬†Mi√©ville was, to my unhappy surprise, a total disappointment. It is officially my least favourite of¬†Mi√©ville’s novels, and I’ve read all of them except¬†Iron Council.¬†I expected to finish it within a week, but I ended up taking more than two to slog through it. I was bored, easily distracted and, worst of all, I was at a loss to explain why I didn’t like it. It had all the kinds of things I usually love about¬†Mi√©ville’s novel, but this time it just didn’t work for me. Since I didn’t really have anything interesting to say, I decided not to review it for now. I’ll give it another chance some day, but for now it’s a 4/10.

December 2

The Constantine Affliction¬†by T. Aaron Payton (Tim Pratt) was a much more enjoyable metafictional mash-up of all sorts of entertaining genres – crime and mystery, steampunk, sci fi, and horror. It’s set in Victorian London, where the titular Affliction causes victims to change sex – a catastrophe for such a prim and prudish society. With lots of gender play and outlandish plot, it’s a really fun read. Review to follow soon.

Earth Thirst¬†by Mark Teppo is an upcoming publication from Night Shade Books. Vampires are re-imagined as eco-warriors (for example, they sleep in the ground because the Earth nourishes and heals their bodies). They lament the damage that humanity has done to the Earth, and although the blurb gives the impression that this is a post-apocalyptic novel, it’s set in the present day. Devious corporate plots that threaten the vampires make up the story, and it’s got loads of action, but I found it forgettably average.

The Uninvited¬†by Liz Jensen was my last read for 2012, and it was a good book to end the year, despite being a rather tragic one. In a disturbing global phenomenon, young children start killing their parents. The narrator, Hesketh [?] is investigating a series of workers around the world who sabotaged the companies they loved. Hesketh is very good at his job, partly because he has Asperger’s Syndrome, gifting him with an incredible talent for spotting patterns. He sees the connection between the saboteurs and the child murderers, but although this makes for a good story in itself, it’s Hesketh himself who really made this a great book for me. Jensen goes into the details of Hesketh’s psychology and daily life as someone with Asperger’s, and for me he became one of the most likeable and memorable characters I’ve come across this year. I recommend the book for that alone, but I’ll tell you what else I liked about it in my review.

The Lion, The Witch and the WardrobeBefore¬†The Uninvited¬†I re-read¬†The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe¬†by C.S. Lewis for a reading challenge. I don’t think I’ve read this since childhood, when I fell in love with it and wished very hard that my cupboard could also be a portal to another world. In my childish innocence I didn’t even notice the Christian allegory, which was so grotesquely obvious this time around. But although I dropped my rating from four stars to three, I still like this, and it still made me long for Turkish Delight. It might just be nostalgia working its magic, because I don’t really like such childish books anymore.¬†

January has gotten off to a slow start. I’m trying to catch up with my reviews of¬†The Constantine Affliction, Earth Thirst¬†and¬†The Uninvited,¬†so I haven’t finished any books yet. But I will have to get cracking – I’ve set myself a reading goal of 85 books for the year, and I’m planning to read Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle and¬†Cryptonomicon, which means I’ve got some dauntingly long books ahead of me.

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