I started reading a John Updike book, because it sounded dystopic and vaguely relevant to the Dredd fic I’m writing. Made it about twenty pages before I was like, “Man, fucking boring old people.”
Then I picked up Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow and found fucking AWESOME old people.
The Sparrow tells one story in two parallel timelines: when humans discovered that they weren’t alone in the universe and eight brilliant people set out to make first contact, and then decades later when the single broken survivor came limping home.
This book is brilliant.
(This book review is long and rather rambling, because I have many things to say about postwar Japan but no real thesis here.)
The first book I read by John Dower was Embracing Defeat, which is about the incredible diversity of ways in which the Japanese rebuilt and redefined their devastated country and national psyche after their defeat in WW2. As I recall, a chapter had been assigned reading in one of my classes, and the professor kindly photocopied it for us but upon finishing the chapter I immediately went out and bought the book itself.
It is a virtuoso piece of history writing — exhaustively researched, but leavened by Dower’s style which is compelling and incredibly humanizing to its subjects. Judging from my bookshelf, one might conclude that I have three interests: queer academia, prostitutes, and postwar Japan. Embracing Defeat was the book that sparked my interest in the third — specifically, in the period of the American occupation that immediately followed Japan’s surrender. There was so much that could have gone so badly, but it didn’t. It would have been so easy for America to flub Japan’s reconstruction the way we’re flubbing Iraq’s, and leave the region in a state that would only lead to more bloodshed and oppression, but we didn’t. For once, we got it right. The postwar occupation is one of the very few moments in history that you can look back on and be justifiably proud of how America acquitted itself.
Not so much during the war, however.
Santa Olivia, by Jacqueline Carey.
Read it cover to cover in one go. It’s easily the best book I’ve read since Kay’s Tigana.
More coherent review to follow, after I come down from the reading high.