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Books (Pictures Optional)

I’ve been reading. (I’m pretty much always reading.) Caught up on the trade collections of Kirkman’s Invincible comic, which I still enjoy, though it can be rather mind-blowingly gory — dudes getting their internal organs punched out through their backs, etc. And there was a bit where a cute little kid dies that was rough for me. Used to be, when I read stories where cute kids died, I’d think, “Okay, plot manipulation lever activated, whatever.” But now that I have a cute kid of my own, I find them hard to read.

Also read the first volume of the complete Peanuts, and — besides being a beautiful book — what an amazing achievement. Schulz was so good, from the very beginning. Wow. I think Peanuts contains the entirety of the human condition. The first volume of Bloom County (also beautiful) was a lot rougher going to start, but it settled into the comic strip I so loved in my youth pretty quickly, irreverent and wacky and energetic and biting.

In truth I’ve read a zillion other comics this year — Batman stuff, Superman stuff, Marvel Zombies, the lovely Good Neighbors graphic novels by Holly Black, The Tale of One Bad Rat — whatever looks interesting on the shelf at the library really.

I’ve also been reading books that don’t have pictures. The Serialist by David Gordon was fun and amusingly meta, about a hack writer who stumbles into a murder mystery and half-assedly solves it. As someone who’s written both porn and pseudonymous horror/paranormal novels, the narrator’s experiences with such things didn’t quite ring true for me, but I don’t wanna be one of those readers — like the military history buff who complains that the buttons on the uniforms of the soldiers in a novel were made of the wrong material or whatever — so I’ll leave it at that.

K.J. Parker’s Scavenger trilogy was good. Brutal, of course, and rough going at times, but I liked it, and it prefigured a lot of things Parker did better later (in the Engineer trilogy in particular). Parker is famed as a writer of “fantasies without magic,” but the early books (Fencer trilogy, Scavenger trilogy) actually do have a fair bit of magical (or magic-ish) elements, from reality-altering dream-states to telepathy, with hints of vaster supernatural machinations as well. Those elements are always treated very grittily and realistically, though, and magic is never really a solution to anything — magic either makes things worse, or operates more like a natural disaster than like a system people can manipulate.

I also liked Expiration Date by Duane Swierczynski, a mystery with time travel elements and a likable loser protagonist. (I’m fond of those in novels.) The time travel system wasn’t intricately worked-out enough to delight hardcore science fiction readers, I don’t think — it was pretty weird and idiosyncratic — but I enjoyed it.

Now I’m reading Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, and it’s interesting and quirkily written, but I hope some events start to transpire soon. It’s a bit too much musing, philosophy, cute sci-fi and ontology jokes, and sitting in a time machine not doing much in particular for my taste. I’m always more fond of novels in which there are events.

Also reading Bill Bryson’s Home (mostly because I’m going to be writing a book that’s largely about a house sometime next year), and as always his voice is very pleasant and it’s crammed with interesting anecdotes and snippets of history, prompting me to annoy my wife by reading sections aloud.

Let me praise the Berkeley library system, and in particular their LINK system, which is essentially interlibrary loan for a bunch of neighboring library systems — but unlike the Oakland system’s interlibrary loan, LINK is free. It’s enabled me to get all sorts of nice things, and just wander a few blocks to my local branch to pick them up.

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