Books Read in August, 2020
July, 2020 Locus
The Stars Now Unclaimed by Drew Williams
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (r)
Black Lotus Kiss by Jason Ridler
Adrift by Rob Boffard
Incomparable by Brie and Nikki Bella
Lady Zorro: Blood and Lace #1-4 (Comics)
Origamy by Rachel Armstrong
Zorro: The Roleplaying Game by Alan Bahr et. al. (RPG)
The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron
Sword of Sorcery featuring Amethyst #0-8 (Comics)
Mutant City Blues Roleplaying Game 2nd Edition by Robin D. Laws and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan (RPG)
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer (r)
Marilyn in Manhattan by Philippe Ward, adapted by Brian Stableford
The Archive of Alternate Endings by Lindsey Drager
August, 2020 Locus
July/August, 2020 Reader's Digest
And that was reading that I did in August of this year. This was a very good month of reading on my part, both in terms of the quality and quantity (above my monthly average) of the books read, and there were two re-reads in August. The variety of reading this past month was pretty good, but needless to say, my bookcases are still stacked with a pretty large To Read Queue (TRQ). The books I enjoyed the most were:
The Stars Now Unclaimed by Drew Williams - Drew Williams's first novel, and the first of at least a duology, is a tour de force that reminds me of a lot of other science fiction I've read over the years, but has some innovative stuff to it. To quote from page 13: "On every world, there are always men with guns. Even the pulse couldn't change that." The pulse, a sort of wave of radiation, I guess, that tore through the galaxy about 100 years before the novel begins, knocked every inhabited planet, moon and terraformed asteroid back down at least a rung or two on the technological ladder. It's also why the stars are now, well...unclaimed. It's why our at first unnamed protagonist and her marvellous ship, Scheherezade (Schaz for short), can't just land on the planet (also unnamed) when the novel starts. And, the consequences of the pulse are why they're visiting the planet to begin with. The novel feels at times episodically written, because in several places the reader is told something while a page or five later we're told a different thing that contradicts the earlier information (at first glance, at least). That said, The Stars Now Unclaimed is a terrific read, with a few slow bits here and there, but feels almost Star Wars-y with its action scenes and sequences of character building and interactions. While our protagonist (whom we learn towards the last third of the novel is named Jane Kamali) and her ship, Schaz, provide much of the characterization here, there are several other characters who shine as well: the robot "sidekick" (she's definitely not one!), a grumpy teen, Jane's former love interest...plus many more, including an entire secret society of (inadvertent) apocalyptic warriors. However, Jane, the protagonist, steals the show here: she's fun, she's funny, and she's got a real (and quite complicated) motivation. There's plenty of playful banter during the course of the novel, but it's also smart enough to have the slow. serious talks as well. The book is often cheesy, but also breezy, and that's definitely part of its appeal. Some might say that the ending is predictable, but I think it's a pretty good first novel by an author whose work I look forward to in future. Recommended.
Incomparable by Brie and Nikki Bella - Okay, I admit it... I read this book as a guilty pleasure. This book is a raw, honest, and revealing co-memoir by Brie and Nikki Bella: twin sisters, WWE Hall of Fame inductees, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and stars of the hit E! shows Total Bellas and Total Divas. In most ways, this book reads like journal entries, with Nikki and Brie alternately posting sections in each of the chapters. I didn't really know that much about the Bella Twins history and life, besides what I've seen on tv, and I enjoyed learning more about Nikki's and Brie's journey to becoming successful wrestlers and female entrepreneurs. I did appreciate that they brought attention to certain issues such as female stereotypes, childhood trauma, and co-dependance. Overall, I enjoyed this book. I recommend it highly to those who might be interested in the Twins' story.
The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron - Forty thousand years in the past, the last family of Neanderthals roams the earth. Girl, the oldest daughter, is coming of age and her family is determined to travel to the meeting place to find her a mate. But the unforgiving landscape takes its toll, and Girl is left alone to care for Runt, a foundling. As Girl and Runt face the coming winter, Girl realizes she has one chance to save her people, at great cost to herself. In the present, archaeologist Rosamund Gale works well into her pregnancy, racing to excavate newly found Neanderthal artifacts before her baby arrives. Linked across the ages by the shared experience of birth and early motherhood, and inspired by the recent discovery that many modern humans have inherited DNA from Neanderthals, Girl's story and Rosamund's story examines the often taboo corners of women's lives. What a terrific book, and what an excellent read. As a huge fan of anthropology and archaeology, I love stories like this, but... I always ask myself whether the author has the science right. And in this case, the author does exactly that - and in the process, gave me a much greater appreciation of my Neanderthal ancestors. The world of Girl and her Neanderthal tribe comes to *life* in the writing of this book, and it was a true joy to read. I loved the back and forth presentation of the story, which reminded me of Connie Willis's work at its best, as the parallels between Girl and Rose helped to bring the story home. This was one of the most intriguing and highly captivating novels I've read to this point in 2020. Highly, highly recommend it.
The Archive of Alternate Endings by Lindsey Drager - Tracking the evolution of Hansel and Gretel at seventy-five-year intervals that correspond with Earth’s visits by Halley's Comet, The Archive of Alternate Endings explores how stories are disseminated and shared, edited and censored, voiced and left untold. In 1456, Johannes Gutenberg’s sister uses the tale as a surrogate for sharing a family secret only her brother believes. In 1835, the Brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm revise the tale to bury a truth about Jacob even he can't come to face. In 1986, a folklore scholar and her brother come to find the record is wrong about the figurative witch in the woods, while in 2211, twin space probes aiming to find Earth's sister planet disseminate the narrative in binary code. Breadcrumbing back in time from 2365 to 1378, siblings re-imagine, re-invent, and recycle the narrative of Hansel and Gretel to articulate personal, regional, and ultimately cosmic experiences of tragedy. To be honest, I liked this novel and while I appreciated what the author was trying to do, I'm not sure all of it works that well. The book has many themes, central to them being the nature of stories and storytelling, labyrinths and breadcrumbs, natural phenomena and their mathematical models, gay men and their relationships with siblings and family. I rather enjoyed the more conventional sections of the book that had one or two narrators, but the experimental sections with multiple, alternating points of view drove me to distraction a few times. In some ways, the book is closer to meditative, essay-like musings rather than conventional stories, but the connections are pretty interesting. Near the end, the Gretel/sister character says: "I try to warn him, but boys are easy to deceive." How true. I recommend this book to anyone seeking something that has an experimental nature to it, but perhaps those who are fans of Hansel and Gretel will find this take of interest.
I pretty much enjoyed all the books that I read in August, but these are the ones that stuck out in my mind.
Overall, I managed to read 10 novels, 2 RPG and RPG products, 3 magazines, 13 comics, and 0 graphic novels in August. This brings the year total for 2020 to a set of numbers that look like this: 65 books, 16 RPGs and RPG products, 15 magazines, 81 comics, and 2 graphic novels.
Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. :)