Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Top 10 Books on My Spring “To Be Read” List

 Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started on the Broke and the Bookish blog.
They set the topic, we make the lists. Visit their site to see more on this topic

1. John Rees, The Leveller Revolution
I’ve had a preview copy of this on my stack for a few weeks now and I’m just getting around to making time for it now. The Levellers are part of a really interesting moment in history when common people rose up against kings and aristocrats and said, “Sorry, we don’t need you anymore.” This is the first book in a long time that attempts a comprehensive history of the movement, and it’s a fun story too, although I will say that the main characters didn’t fare very well in the end.

This is the beginning of a new series for Stross, whose Laundry Files and Merchant Princes books have set a pretty high standard. It’s set in the world that he created for Merchant Princes, but using different characters and set at a different point in the timeline. I’m excited about this. His creative impetus in the Laundry Files had been sort of running down and it seemed like he needed a new challenge of some kind. This is near future type urban science fiction, and you can expect the snappy, uptempo writing that is Stross’s hallmark and some interesting speculation a what the next decades of human civilization might bring.

I’ve been trying to make some more time to read sci-fi and this new book by McDermott looks fantastic. It seems like sci-fi writers have been doing a lot better job lately of imagining how cloning and faster than light communication might allow interplanetary travel and colonization. This is another one of those books (Neptune’s Brood and The Voice of the Whirlwind are other examples) that look at the complications of being a clone and how lives divided into multiple bits can get very, very complicated.

There’s been a lot of Wonder Woman buzz lately, especially with the new movie starring Gal Gadot set for release later this year. The run of Wonder Woman comics contained in this collection is part of DC’s Rebirth series, which have tried to show some of their older characters in a slightly different light. The focus here is on Wonder Woman’s origin story and on the ways that her life on Themiscyra. For those familiar with other Rucka projects (such as Gotham Central, Lazarus, or the Star Wars comics he did), this is less dark and hard boiled, but still benefits from his talent for tight plotting and interesting secondary characters.

I really like a sci-fi book with a bit of scope to it, and that it John Scalzi to a “T.” If you’re going to tell stories set against the vastness of space they should be (at least as far as I am concerned) big enough not to be dwarfed by their environment. For fans of Scalzi’s Old Man’s War trilogy this should be more of the thing that worked so well already.

This is the second volume of a projected trilogy that Hicks started last year. I’ve been waiting for this ever since I got hold of a pre-release copy of the first one last winter. This is a classic buddy story of intrigue in a mythical city located at the heart of vast political conflicts. Drawn with richness and subtlety by Hicks (who also did the wonderful Friends with Boys in 2012) and beautifully colored by Jordie Bellaire, Nameless City was one of the very best things I read last year and I can hardly wait to find out where the story goes.

I’ve read a lot of books about the Civil War, but among them Stephen Sears’s book about Gettysburg stands out as particularly excellent. Sears managed to pull together a startlingly large amount of information and to organize it in a way that actually brought something new to the way I understood the battle. That doesn’t happen often. I’m interested to see what he can do with this topic, which seems like it will involve broader political and biographical issues. I expect I will be entertained (and frankly you can’t say that about every history book).

No one does speculative futuristic sci-fi like Kim Stanley Robinson. This one looks like it hits pretty close to the bone, since it looks at what life will be like in New York City once the sea level rises enough to flood the lower parts of the city. This is a thing that is happening, irrespective of whether you believe that humans are causing it, so I think it’s intrinsically interesting to speculate about what kind of civilization challenges that sort of transformation is going to bring.

Admittedly, I read this in the individual issues as they come out, but I’m looking forward to reading volume two of the trade because the story line can get a little fragmented when you only see it moving every four weeks or so. I absolutely love this comic. Hellcat is a fairly minor figure in the Marvel universe, but they’ve taken her and done something really different: they’ve made her fun. The artwork is kind of old school and will sort of remind you of the old Archie comics. But the storylines are updated and entertaining. It’s just one of those things that is really pleasant to sit down and savor.

I know, I know, Greg Rucka again. I only heard about Lazarus after it was well underway. But it is one of the very best continuing series currently running. Set in an alternative future in which liberal capitalism has given way to a kind of neo-feudalism, presents a bleak picture of intrigue and violence. Make no mistake, this story is grim and gory, but it is also weirdly beautiful and compellingly plotted. This is some dark stuff, and it took me a couple of issues to really get into it, but once I did I was hooked and I am on pins and needles until the next one comes out.

~John F.

No comments:

Post a Comment