March 23, 2004
A few books

When I went off to SXSW I finished three books I had been reading.

For Us, The Living by Robert A. Heinlein

I saw this book and was startled. I have read every Heinlein book written and this was not one of them, until now... Evidently, Heinlein wrote this book in 1939, before he really began his successful writing career. The book has been missing and rarely talked about for years. Robert James, a Heinlein scholar, tracked down the book and got permission to get it published. Amazing story. Literally, there was one last manuscript in the world, unnoticed for almost 50 years, and he found it.

The book is not for general science fiction fans. The story is rather weak and has a few major holes. Heinlein fans on the other hand, will find it fascinating. This book, from 1939, basically lays out the world view that Heinlein expounds upon in his novels for the rest of his career. The novel is the genesis for most of his themes on personal liberty, sexual freedom, libertarianism, military service, and even information technology. His vision in this book carried his stories well into the 60s where he found widespead fame.

If you've never read Heinlein, this book is not for you. If you appreciate Heinlein, this book is worth the read.

Eastern Standard Tribe by Cory Doctorow

This is Cory's second book and I devoured it in a couple of days. I really enjoyed his first book and was looking forward to this one. He doesn't disappoint. Set a little over 15 years into the future, the novel touches on many interesting ideas like the world spanning tribes, communication technology, electronic currency, industrial sabotage, and even police methods.

But the book seems rushed. Not that I can point out a hole in the storyline, but everytime I wanted to know a little more about something, we were off to the rest of the story. The book zips through the story in record speed getting to the end and leaving the reader wanting to know more. I don't know if was an editing decision or Cory's own fast paced nature, but I was left wondering where they put all the extra stuff. Are the deeper explanations of tribes and their history stored in a folder on Cory's laptop? If so, I want a copy...

I'm not asking for Cory to go Neal Stephenson style, but he should feel freer to expound upon his ideas and characters in the book. Perhaps his experience in writing short fiction is where this comes from, where you write to size and brevity matters.

Don't get me wrong, it's a great book and you should go pick up a copy immediately. You'll enjoy the book immensely. I just wanted a longer novel.

The Knight by Gene Wolfe

This is the first book in a new series by Gene Wolfe. I assume that since the subtitle is The Wizard Knight, Book 1 and it appears Book 2 is to follow.

This is a fantasy book that combine some elements from the traditional elf/giants/magic realm and mixes in a little 'fish out of water' story with (of course) the courageous hero.

Our hero appears in a new world by magic and doesn't seem too concerned that he has left the modern world and been thrown into a magical land of monsters and adventure. He quickly becomes a player on the stage of this world and gets himself into all kinds of trouble.

Wolfe doesn't bother with much of the Tolkeinesque order and cohesiveness. Sir Able simply falls in and out of Aelfworld and the reader is given little explanation as to what is really going on. Kinda like watching a movie and every 10 minutes you fast forward though 5 minutes, getting a flash of images, but not really understanding how we got to where we are.

The overall prose is great with the detailed scenes conjuring wonderful images and characters. The various characters encountered are great and look to be fun, ongoing presences in the ongoing storyline. Wolfe's vision of how a Knight acts and behaves is an interesting take on the concept of the Hero Knight that has been written about for centuries.

I look forward to the next book in the series and will try not to let my desire for details and logic to derail my enjoyment of the book.

Posted by michael at March 23, 2004 09:48 PM