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Wot I have read

It's been a while since I posted on this subject and I've got through a fair few books:
- The Physiognomy by Jeffrey Ford, an urbanish fantasy about phrenology gone mad. I enjoyed this but because it was my bedside book it's taken a while to read. On the other hand, it seems to be about four different stories all fighting to get out, so it's not easy to get a view of the story as a whole. There are sequels but I'm not sure this was strong enough to make me want to read them just yet. The Drowned Life and The Shadow Year are better books from Ford.

- The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya, a post-apocalyptic story set in Russia and told from the point of view of an annoying simpleton. Perhaps it works better in Russian, as Riddley Walker must in English, but whilst this starts off as charming in its descriptions of the miserly mouse-eating existence of those in the far future of a nuclear holocaust, there's nothing particularly redeeming about the length of the piece. I did finish it but I was rather bored in the last third.

- Finch by Jeff Vandermeer. This feels like it might be a last look at Ambergris, the city of mushrooms and squid. At this point int its history, the Grey Caps, the mushroom underlords, dominate the city as their strange constructions seem finally to be showing their purpose. The tone of this book is surreal noir as the titular Finch is a detective looking to solve a strange locked room murder. Once again, I enjoyed this but the city and its inhabitants are marvellously strange and, despite the great vistas, claustrophobic, but Finch is carried too much by events and never much becomes an active character, so that it's difficult to engage with him. Much is resolved from the back story making this a book that would be difficult to appreciate without having read the previous in the series and whilst the explanation was interesting it didn't quite ring true for me. It drank from the same well but was better than the end of The City & The City, but not by much.

- The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I read 628 pages of this in about 4 days so it's certainly well written but it too has its longeurs particularly as, once again, the narrator is rather external to most of the events. Not very much happens for a book this length and it wasn't massively engaging. It's a bit like an East Coast Brett Easton Ellis, to whom I've just realised it is dedicated. Tartt is certainly a clever writer but it left me a bit cold.

- Phobic by Comma Press. This is yet another collection of short stories from this terrific small publisher. I think I've got about 12 of them now. To a certain extent these are what I call an ultimate exclamation story in that the punchline comes at the very end and without it the story often wouldn't necessarily amount to much. That said Maria Roberts' By The River has terrific menace throughout except for a weak last line.



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 7th, 2010 10:39 am (UTC)
Ooh, I hate The Secret History. It may well be my most hated book ever. It is just so smugly pleased with its own supposed cleverness.
Jun. 7th, 2010 12:04 pm (UTC)
I suppose if you do Ancient Greek at Uni, they aren't may ways of making it pay except by boasting about it in your fiction. Also, the wonderfully, marvellous, almost divine Julian, what did he actually do, except turn a blind eye to murder?
Jun. 7th, 2010 02:23 pm (UTC)
Mm, that's one of the things that really got on my goat. If it was the author saying "look how easily taken-in my narrator is for thinking this guy is so great", that would be OK if clumsy. But actually she really does think he's great.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )