Posts

Celestial Bodies

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 Celestial Bodies, by Jokha Alharthi This novel has racked up the firsts.  Jokha Alharthi is the first Omani woman to have a novel translated into English, where it then won the Man Booker International Prize for 2019.  It's the first book translated from the Arabic to win that prize.  So, quite a book! This is a generational family novel, all taking place in one tiny Omani village.  And while my experience with multi-generational family sagas is pretty minimal, I think this one is a little different from the norm.  It bounces back and forth in time in a truly disconcerting manner; there are many short chapters focusing on various family members.  The thread that runs through it is a stream-of-consciousness narrative from Abdallah, the son, husband, and father who otherwise barely makes an appearance.  Yet he is a linchpin for the whole thing, right in the middle generation, a connection between families, and more openly emotionally raw than anyone else, especially his enigmatic wi

Two Simak Titles: Goblin Reservation and The Trouble With Tycho

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 I enjoy Clifford Simak and found two titles to read this month: The Trouble With Tycho is a very short novel, originally published in Amazing Stories in 1960.  It was then put into an Ace Double, which I sadly do not have.  Mine is a reprint from '81. Chris Jackson is a prospector on the moon, searching for valuable minerals, metals, and the rare, delicate lichen that can actually cure mental illnesses.  He runs into Amelia, an illegal prospector planning to make a run into Tycho, which is a super-bad idea.  The first couple of moon missions landed in Crater Tycho, and died there.  Subsequent missions to find out what happened disappeared too.  Nobody gets out of Tycho alive, but Amelia insists that her brother (now hospitalized) found a way, and together she and Chris can figure out the mystery and cash in on the massive amount of equipment they can salvage.   It's a pretty good adventure story, with an exciting finish, but you'll have to read it.  What IS there in Tyc

Learning From the Germans

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 Learning From the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil, by Susan Neiman It's actually been a while since I read this -- it was a long, slow read and very worthwhile, and I finished somewhere in the start of January.  So probably this post will be shorter and less deep than I would like! Susan Neiman has been studying German history and culture for a long time, and she got to thinking about German efforts to face up to the past.  How have those efforts worked, and what can we learn from them?  Are there lessons we can apply in the US? Neiman offers in-depth analysis of various programs in Germany, which is fascinating.  Just after WWII, occupying forces put up posters of the concentration camps with captions saying "this is your fault."  Unsurprisingly, that did not make German people feel very repentant.  In fact a lot of people felt that they were the true victims -- after all, look how much they lost!  It took time and perspective for people to start to realize that th

The Runaway Robot

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Enjoyably doofy cover art  The Runaway Robot, by Lester Del Rey One of my favorite things about January reading is the Vintage Sci-Fi reading event, and even though our host is on sabbatical this year, I'm reading some old SF anyway.  It's a fun way to start the year! I thought this would be a fairly simplistic children's story, and was surprised that the plot turned out to be more complex than I expected.  I would say it's a middle-grade novel, ages 10+, but it's a fun read for anybody.  The story is narrated from the point of view of the robot, which is nice. Rex is a 'companion' robot, and has been with Paul for sixteen years, Paul's whole life.  On Ganymede, it's important to keep a sharp eye on tiny children who don't yet understand that they can't take off their spacesuits when they're outside the house, and since Paul's father is the governor of the Ganymede settlement (which grows important but boring native fungus crops for m

Magic Mirrors

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 Magic Mirrors: the High Fantasy and Low Parody of John Bellairs Hey everybody!  I've been happily goofing off instead of blogging, and now I have a real pile.  Every day I tell myself I need to do some blogging, and every day I decide to do it tomorrow.  I really was going to dive in today, and then I found out that today is John Bellairs' birthday.   He would have been 84 today.  (He died in 1991, at the tragically young age of 53.)  I guess it's no coincidence that yesterday evening I had the impulse to read The House With the Clock in its Walls for the 100th time!   So obviously I need to use today to post about the Bellairs book I put into my TBR challenge for this year... Magic Mirrors is a collection of Bellairs' works for adults, a couple of which aren't easy to find these days, and one incomplete manuscript that had never been published.  I was thrilled when I discovered that this book even exists; while I own and have read two of the pieces, the others

Back to the Classics 2022

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 Hooray, Karen at Books and Chocolate has decided to run her Back to the Classics Challenge for another year!  Here are the categories: 1. A 19th century classic. Any book first published from 1800 to 1899 2. A 20th century classic.  Any book first published from 1900 to 1972. All books must have been published at least 50 years ago; the only exceptions are books which were  written  by 1972 and posthumously published. 3. A classic by a woman author. 4. A classic in translation.  Any book first published in a language that is not your primary language. You may read it in translation or in its original language, if you prefer.  5. A classic by BIPOC author. Any book published by a non-white author. 6.  Mystery/Detective/Crime Classic. It can be fiction or non-fiction (true crime). Examples include  Murder on the Orient Express, Crime and Punishment, In Cold Blood. 7. A Classic Short Story Collection. Any single volume that contains at least six short stories. The book can have

Samguk Yusa

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 Samguk Yusa: Legends and History of the Three Kingdoms of Ancient Korea, by Ilyon the monk, trans. Ha Tae-Hung In the 1200s, a Buddhist monk by the name of Ilyon, from the Kim family, set down the history and legends of the three early Korean kingdoms of Silla, Paekje, and Koguryo -- with a strong emphasis on Silla.  He seems to have written these stories down privately, for his own amusement, and the book was not subjected to official restrictions.  It was probably not printed until after his death, and the book was nearly lost, as the carved wooden plates used for printing were found to be unusable.  Fortunately, a nobleman of the 16th century was able to find an original copy of the book, and had a new edition prepared in 1512, thus ensuring its survival.  Since very little is known about early Korean history, this is an invaluable text. The book is written in Chinese, because at this time, Korean had no writing system.  Koreans borrowed the script of the powerful, sophisticated em