I read Book of the Dun Cow to get rid of the irritation at Foop!. Then I read Book of Sorrows because it was next. Now I have to read something cheerful to get rid of the grief from Book of Sorrows... somewhat like the old lady who swallowed the fly.
The Book of the Dun Cow (by Walter Wangerin, Jr)
Narnia : Lord of the Rings :: Book of the Dun Cow : Watership Down This is one of those books that I'm always a little surprised isn't more well known. It's lovely. An epic battle between Good and Evil, with joy and despair and love and grief and moments of beauty, cast with animals of the barnyard and nearby woods. And Wangerin has a simple but marvellous poetry to his writing. Like Narnia, faith is woven through the story (the author is otherwise known for his religious books), so if either that or talking animals annoy you, you probably won't like this. Otherwise, five stars.
The Book of Sorrows (also Walter Wangerin, Jr)
I reread the Book of the Dun Cow because I had acquired its sequel, the Book of Sorrows. It's a very different book. As the title suggests, it's far sadder - more about despair and grief, with enough love to twist the knife. Good having triumphed over evil in the previous book, this book starts up with the tone of - well, it's sort of an angry prayer. Yes, we won the battle against evil. But where were You, God? Where were You when all those on our side got killed? And don't give me any of that bullshit about 'those footprints are when I carried you' because they didn't get carried, they got DEAD. It starts like that, and then it just gets doomier. If it were depressing I would have to hate it. But it's high tragedy, not petty: sorrow unfolds with a terrible and inexorable glory, and in the end faith will out and suffering enobles. So this one is five stars too, but I don't know if I could read it again.
Bios (by Robert Charles Wilson)
I am used to my planetary exploration science fiction novels being 400 pages rather than 200, so this threw me a little. Other than that, though, there's not much new and different to it. Horribly dangerous planet, heartless corporate politics, and (SPOILER SPOILER) ooooh, the whole ecosystem is kind of conscious. Enh, whatever. One weird thing: there's a thread about how they've never found sentient life anywhere else in the universe. But by "sentient" the characters (and presumably author) explicitly means "spacefaring". The native fauna that keeps a community fire going, carves and fire-hardens spears, knaps flint, has settlements large enough to be seen from orbit, and so on, isn't sentient - they're "animals". Honestly, this seems to be setting the bar for sentience a little higher than I think is warranted. I've read books where the aliens use that metric, but humans seem to generally want to consider their species sentient even before the twentieth century. Two stars.