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Seven books - Qualified Perceptions
firstfrost
firstfrost
Seven books
The Portable Door, In Your Dreams and Earth, Air, Fire, and Custard (by Tom Holt)
EAF&C was a Christmas present from justom. I started reading it, and the first four pages were (I thought) quite brilliant. As I kept on, I noticed "Hmm, this is another book, like the Michelle West series, which pretends that there's all this backstory as if it happened in previous novels. And here I said that rarely happens." Then I kept going, and it seemed like it was being made clear that there were exactly two books worth of backstory in fairly discrete adventures. Eventually, I decided it wasn't actually like Michelle West at all, and there actually were previous books. The second book was acquired from the Porter bookstore, but they claimed inability to get the first one. Happily, Amazon, which has everything, had the first, though it means that now they put everything Tom Holt has ever written in my Gold Box.

I was hoping, I think, for Terry Pratchett, but this was much more Douglas Adams. The main character is feckless and gormless; the plots kind of lollop along in random directions until they bump into things, or, like hamsters, forget where they were going and turn around entirely. The brilliant four pages do finally tie in, but somewhat in the way that a marble ties into a jelly donut - it'll go in, and stick there, but there's something not quite right about the combination. There are nice bits, and interesting characters (though many of them are ciphers, doomed to behave however the plot requires). The last book goes rather off the rails, forgets it's a train, and starts dancing around with a lampshade on its head (Tom Holt kinda writes this sort of metaphor, which is why I keep doing it), and there's an utterly dumfounding ending, though it's not quite at the end.

Anyway, I think this would probably be ideal for someone who likes Douglas Adams more than I do; I'll give the first two books three and a half stars, and the third book three stars except that the first four pages get four stars.

The Time Traveller's Wife (by Audrey Niffenegger)
This is a remarkably heavy book. Not dense reading, but dense paper. Perhaps it's secretly written on lead. Various book-suggesting algorithms, such as Amazon, have been suggesting that I buy this book for quite some time, and they were right. It's sweet, and touching, and sad, and delicately written - I'm astonished that it's a first novel. The time travel is consistent, if not really treated in a science fiction manner, and it works for the mechanics of the story. And it provides a lot of food for thought about love, loss, free will, change, that sort of thing. Five stars

Grift Sense (by James Swain)
I was amused by the various descriptions of casino cheating and semi-cheating, but other than that, there wasn't much to pull me in. The main character is cranky and not-very-sympathetic, and the supporting characters are pretty much all bad guys. It's probably a good example of someone else's genre, but not really mine. Two stars.

Salamander (by Thomas Wharton)
A loan from remcat, who guessed I might want to read it after I had contemplated looking for it based on her review. A bit like Tokyo Cancelled with stories embedded in stories, but with a lot more explicit contemplation of books and stories. It appeals to both the book-reader and the book-haver in me; I suspect it would appeal even more strongly to a book-maker like twe. It's caused me to think a lot about the idea of an infinite book (a conceit in Salamander) - a story that keeps going, maybe circular, maybe just always full of new and unread pages. Would I want one?

The book-reader in me says yes, of course. I am saddened by permanent endings in books. By the elves going across the sea in Tolkien (and Prydain), by the magic going out of the world. By wrapups. I want to imagine that the characters continue on, having new adventures in some future that I'm not reading. If one of my most perfect stories could just keep going, wouldn't that be lovely? But on the other hand, the book-haver in me might be saddened. Because then I'd only read just that one book, and never get to a new one. I don't reread books much at all - a lot of people have their Comfort Books that they read over and over. I don't. I'll reread the beginning of a series again if I don't remember it, before reading the next (which is why I have failed to read Judas Unchained because I have to read Pandora's Star again first), but that's about it. Still, if I liked the book, I don't want to send it away. But better than having books I like, I acquire, far more than I need to, books that I haven't read yet and might like. I pet the covers and ogle the better cover art. I like the feel of books, and the idea that an unread book might contain the perfect story. So if I had the one infinite book, I would lose that magical promise, that potential. The coolest thing about Salamander is how it's made me think about this sort of thing. Four thoughtful musing stars.

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (by M. C. Beaton)
This is goofy fun. It's a short little "cozy" mystery, with an old lady in a cottage in the Cotswolds, except that it's not really, because the old lady is a cranky, domineering retired PR executive, not a fluffy Miss Marple. It's short and shallow and total popcorn, and mostly enjoyable for the genre expectations clash. (I got this from paperbackswap and it's already gone back into the system. But I could do worse than blowing an hour here or there on this series). Three non-nutritive stars.

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Comments
desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: April 7th, 2006 03:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh good, you like The Time Traveller's Wife. I find this strangely reassuring.

You've heard my opposing aesthetic ("stories should have endings") before, so I won't repeat the spiel. :) I will suggest, though, that the sadness-at-the-ending is part of the experience of being moved by the story, and that the experience might be diminished without it. (Though the pleasure of ongoingness might well make for a net positive.)

Now I'm curious about Salamander, of which you've managed to give a precise sense of your expierience reading it without actually saying anything about what it's about. :) Perhaps I'll go see what remcat said about it. :)
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: April 7th, 2006 03:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
(I think remcat's description gives a stronger impression of the plot than it ended up making on me. You might want to mentally average the two together. :) )
desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: April 7th, 2006 04:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ah yes, I remember having read that when she posted it, now that I look. :)
remcat From: remcat Date: April 7th, 2006 06:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm just glad you liked it -- I always have that moment of "eegad I have given someone a book and what if they don't like it what a royal waste of time and how embarassing too!"

chenoameg From: chenoameg Date: April 7th, 2006 04:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I would love to borrow the Tom Holt & the Time-Traveller's wife.
(I keep meaning to read Tom Holt, but can never figure out whether a given book is the beginning or middle of something. Conveniently you have solved that puzzle for me.)
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: April 7th, 2006 04:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Sure. :)
remcat From: remcat Date: April 7th, 2006 08:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I also felt strangely reassured that you liked the TTW. I read it for M&M book club, and the other moms had a tough time "getting" the idea that chronology could be different between two characters in the same relationship. One actually made a chart! That was kind of cool.

firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: April 7th, 2006 08:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
The different chronology was one of the things I thought worked really well. Neither of them ever really has a choice about falling in love and ending up together, because each of them comes to the relationship knowing (from the other) that it's already going to happen.
desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: April 7th, 2006 09:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
And, though they're both in love and sharing a relationship, it's in some ways not the same relationship (well, more so than is always true). Both because of often not sharing context/memories, and because their ages don't stay in sync. So they have almost a series of relationships with each other. This is both interesting and poignant...
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