You may have noticed that reviews have ground to a halt again, which is the upshot of voluntary reading having ground to a halt. Three developments:
1) I’ve been working on my bizniss instead, because I finally found a girl who was both very photogenic and willing to work for handcuffs. I met her at a party and I was totally that guy who was like, “Hey you’re pretty, wanna model for me?” and yet it worked. (Go check it out! Many new shiny things!)
2) I just found out that I can apply for grad school this year, as in,
January 15th December 1st, as in, WHOA SHIT, ALL HANDS ON DECK, because apparently I need to submit a research paper (“writing sample”) with my application. (And before you ask, it’s linguistics.)
3) I got a job. This is a funny story.
So my roommate recently started law school (this is why I’m in California; because I came along for the ride) and being as she’s into ladies, she joined the campus GLBT law association. They have regular social events that I invite myself along to and alternately call myself a law groupie, a small business owner, a bum, or “it’s complicated” when people ask what I do.
At one such event, held at the auspiciously-named “Headhunters” bar, I wound up chatting with one of her professors, and it came out in conversation that I needed a job, and he needed a houseboy.
Yesterday I tossed out half his silverware and blew the leaves off his hot tub. Today he gave me a hundred bucks to go shopping at Ikea. My life is surreal sometimes.
I’m going to hold off from any extended analysis until I’ve read the last one, because there’s still a lot of plot stuff to get wrapped up, but Rope of Thorns was a worthy successor to Book of Tongues. A number of the things I’d said were vague in the first book get explained better here (re: the Aztec mythology and Rook’s motivations), Ed Morrow gets more developed as a character, and some kickass ladies join the cast.
There’s less of what I enjoyed the most about Book of Tongues — Chess and the Reverend being crazy about each other, all over each other — but my worry that their relationship would drop off the map was premature. Despite spending most of the book a couple hundred miles apart, they are still at the center of each other’s universes, for good or for ill.
And Chess Pargeter — brutal, callous, contrary Chess Pargeter — is shown to be that rarest of things: a character who can change.
The tragedy will be if Rook can’t do the same.
In other news, I’m also reading John Boswell’s Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe, which is enormously intellectually stimulating, but also very slow going, since his style makes the process more like gymnastics than reading. Hint: brush up on your Greek. (And Latin, and Slavic, and French, and Aramaic, and…)
I think a Guy Gavriel Kay would not go amiss for my next fiction book.
Same dude who won a Pulitzer for Guns, Germs, and Steel — and I can see why they’re reluctant to give him a second one, but really, this is the book that should have earned him that.
Jared Diamond: required reading for anyone doing world-building
After finishing A Book of Tongues, I looked at Soiled Doves and went, "You know, I bet Gemma Files read that in her research."
That said, it's one of the worst pieces of nonfiction I've ever goddamn read. Not particularly nuanced or well-written to start with, it is staggeringly judgmental (perhaps the title should have tipped me off) and in desperate need of a proofreader. Rather than presenting the information and letting the facts speak for themselves, Seagraves feels the need to sprinkle her prose with language that would sound amateur even in fiction — despicable! sordid! degrading! — and enough references to "iniquity," "sin," and "the ugliness of raw, naked vice" to make it clear that she's not just offering sympathy for the prostitutes' bad working conditions, but also judging the hell out of them for it.
In conclusion: lousy writing, and so badly biased that it makes the content suspect.
(This has been a hard book to review, because it's an extremely immersive reading experience, and after resurfacing it took me a couple days to be able to write about it objectively. So yeah, flawed or not, it's powerful stuff.)
A Book of Tongues is set a few years after the end of the Civil War, in an alternate world version of the wild west, in which some people are "hexslingers," magicians wielding power that they themselves can't always control. The nominal protagonist is a Pinkerton agent named Ed Morrow, working undercover to infiltrate the gang led by Reverend Asher Rook, former Confederate chaplain turned hexslinger, and his lover Chess Pargeter, gunslinger extraordinaire.
But, agonizingly, not perfect — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
(Written years ago, posted now.)
Just finished In the Beginning… Was the Command Line, Neal Stephenson’s rambling essay on the intersections of PC technology and culture. To be honest, most of his opinions are not unique. You might hear them from any tech-savvy geek who’s watched with mixed feelings as his subculture becomes public domain, and if he weren’t Neal Stephenson, I doubt many people would be paying money to hear them. But he is, and they are, and it’s a thought-provoking read.
Oh Neal Stephenson, you curmudgeonly genius you.