04 August 2004

Fiction Reading

It looks like my reading has finally slowed down a bit. Probably because I've finished all my library books (except one graphic novel I just got recently). Course there are all those books I own waiting to be read. Those will be next, if I can only decide where to start.
  1. The Samurai by Shusaku Endo. Now what had I written about this? It's one I found while wandering the stacks pulling interesting-looking volumes off the shelf. It's a loosely-based-on-a-true-story tale of a samurai sent as an envoy to South America and Spain to arrange possible trade during the early years of Christian missionary work in Japan. It has all kinds of interesting cultural detail about Japan and Spain, and it was fascinating to see the west through the eyes of a complete outsider. It seemed rather like Lone Wolf and Cub in some ways, and not just because they both have samurai, and even though the latter is manga and therefore mostly visual. They both seemed to evoke the same emotional responses (in some parts).
  2. Fables of the Irish Intelligentsia by Nina FitzPatrick. Another randomly browsing the stacks pick. About all I can say is that it was supposed to be contemporary Irish fiction, and it was. In other words, it was good enough, but not particularly memorable. There were interesting characters, but none that really grabbed me. Good cover, though.
  3. Sherwood edited by Jane Yolen. This is an anthology of YA stories about Robin Hood (betcha never would have guessed from the title). As I'd expect from any Jane Yolen-edited book -- (oops, there goes Netscape again; good thing I decided to type this in NotePad first -- it's a lovely bunch of stories. They range from pretty good to really, really good, and from funny to serious. I do like YA fiction. More grown-ups should read it. I think many would enjoy it.
  4. City of Saints and Madmen by Jeff VanderMeer. This is the other book I was reading at the same time (not exactly, but sort of) as Rats and Gargoyles. Basically, I had to start a new book for basic reading pleasure while working on decrypting one of the stories in City. Yes, decrypting. It totally suited the story, too. And, even though I had to resort to the Internet to get the last few words (five or six, I think), it was much more satisfying a story when forced to turn it from strings of numbers into words that made sense before really reading it. The rest of the book is a collection of faux travel guides, glossaries and stories dealing with VanderMeer's fictional city of Ambergris and its environs. It makes for a rich, baroque read that is not to be taken lightly, but which is all the more satisfying for it. Perhaps it wasn't so wise to pair it with Rats and Gargoyles, which was itself rather lush and dense, but in the end I think they complemented one another interestingly. If you're at all jaded with the fantasy genre (and even if you're not), this is something to have a look at. I'll be searching out more of VanderMeer's stuff for sure.
  5. A Death in the Venetian Quarter by Alan Gordon. Ah, and after a heavy meal, something light and fluffy. If a murder mystery set during the fourth crusade can be called either light or fluffy . . . But the main characters are Fools. Jesters (plus a few troubadours). Still, Gordon's fiction is quick to read and not too taxing on the brain. Just the thing.
Okay, I was wrong in my last post, I had five books to write about, not three. Oh well.

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