Dig into genre


018) The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, finished March 13

Although not a propulsive as the blurbs claimed, this is still a fun book. But part of its fun in 2018 is trying to figure out what,
in 1969, was cool new science and what was imagined science. And how well the novel predicts our world today. Crichton's no dummy---he was off by some decades at times, but he had a fairly good sense of where computers were going, and medical tests.

The novel is, in conceit, a work of nonfiction drawing on formerly classified texts to recreated the five days in which Earth was invaded by an alien microorganism. The primary characters are reasonably well drawn and the use of background info and science feels very honest and real. It reads, in other words, like a work of popular nonfiction. The Hot Zone would be an obvious parallel.

The book even has a references section! And while some of the articles cited are by the fictional characters, others look quite legit.
But articles published in Nature sixty years ago are hard to Google---especially when the results are flooded by Andromeda Strain bootlegs....

One thing that built suspense was the authorial editorializing on errors the scientists make in their hurried studies. But that suspense is largely deflated when the novel ends in a deus ex machina that deflates any issues that had once seemed terrifying.

If I had written this post immediately after finishing the book instead of waiting a couple hours, I might not have realized that the ending was so deus-y, but it totally is. Just suddenly the problems gone! Woot! It's a relief in the moment so it takes a moment to realize it's a bit of a rip-off. In Crichton's defense, however, Jurassic Park's entire raison d'ĂȘtre, arguably, is to redeem the overly simplified conclusion of this his first science-fiction novel. So good on ya, Crichton.

This book has been on my shortlist since high school, but it never quite became the book I spent my money on. I picked up a free copy a few years ago, but it wasn't until the Big O read Jurassic Park and Lost World and wanted more Crichton that this book got read. And then he pushed it on me. I'm so glad to have finally knocked it out.

I don't intend to read more Crichton outside, I hope, someday rereading Jurassic Park and then, perhaps, following it up with Lost World, myself.
under two weeks


019) Star Wars Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to a Galaxy Far, Far Away by Tim Leong, finished March 22

This was a pretty disappointing book. I was expecting more actual facts like comparing the number of words per opening crawl or whether light-side or dark-side characters talk more about the force. (And those, few, pages were great.) But a lot of these charts merely chart Tim Leong's opinion (for example, he considers walking carpet to be the harshest zinger in the Star Wars universe [tied with slimy, double-crossing, no-good swindler], but no random bar graph can prove that), or are poorly designed jokes.

Plus, frankly, I just don't care about the tv shows. I'm never going to watch them.
two or three days


020) Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen, finished March 25

I picked this up on the recommendation of a friend, who thinks it would make a better template for a Supes movie/show than the schlock of late. The basic concept is this:

In a world that is essentially our own, this poor kid growing up in smalltown Kansas is always getting razzed because his name is Clark Kent.
His relatives always give him Superman-themed gifts and the kids at school never tire of pushing him over. Then, one day in adolescence,
suddenly, holy crap, he has superpowers. Roughly Superman's.

Let it rip.

I enjoyed the story, but at first I thought it was too meta to work as a film. And that's sort of true of the first percentage of the book.
But eventually it outgrows its meta beginnings and grows into something new and exciting and pretty remarkable.

Clark grows up, falls in love, shares his secrets, gets married, has children, grapples with being a father, grapples with old age.

Sure, there's superheroing going on in the background, but this Clark Kent values his privacy far more than his fictional namesake---hardly anyone knows he exists.

And so this is a book that using superheroing as more than a metaphor for adolescence (I'm stealing from Busiek's intro here), but explores how that metaphor works at other stages of life as well. And with aplomb.

It's not totally unique in this respect of course---Dark Knight Returns and Kingdom Come explored ages far from adolescence, and I'm hopeful the Incredibles are going to continue looking at life writ broad. But this is one life from near-beginning to near-end, and that patience of scope made for a good read.

But I don't see a film here. I see a LIMITED TELEVISION EVENT of, say, five or so hourlong episodes. That's how I would want it done.
three days


The other books of 2018

1 – 4
001) Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 3 by Ta-Nehisi Coates &‎ Brian Stelfreeze & al., finished January
002) The Complete Peanuts 1950-2000 by Charles M. Schulz & al., finished January
003) The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, finished January 10
004) El Deafo by Cece Bell, finished January 12

5 – 9
005) Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice by Mike Maihack, finished January 13
006) Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve by Ben Blatt, finished January 15
007) Glister by Andi Watson, finished January 18
008) Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished January 20
009) The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun by J.R.R. Tolkien, finished January 21

10 – 11
010) The Vision by Tom King et al., finished January 23
011) Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds, finished January 24

16 – 16
012) Anthem by Ayn Rand, finished February 8
013) The City in Which I Love You by Li-Young Lee, finished February 14
014) Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle, finished February 21
015) It Needs to Look Like We Tried by Todd Robert Petersen, finished March 7
016, 017) Fences by August Wilson, finished March 8

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final booky posts of
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