I’ve had a pretty good start to the year, volume-wise. More than I’m used to, more than I’m prepared to write about in depth. But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been some good stuff happening behind the scenes in 2018.
So without further ado, here are 7 Mini-Reviews of some books I loved and absolutely didn’t love in January and February.
Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perotta
Mrs. Fletcher has the dubious honour of being the most disappointing book I’ve read this year (so far). I’m pretty sure Tom Perotta has lost me for good with this one. There has been a pattern of diminishing returns with The Abstinence Teacher, The Leftovers, and now Mrs. Fletcher. I’ve just about had enough of his suburban “drama.”
The book’s about a middle-aged recent divorcee who seeks sex and companionship in all the wrong places (porn, lesbian flings, young men, etc.). It’s one of those books that just didn’t go far enough. If you’re going to titillate, Perotta, then push the limits a bit. Go for it, for crying out loud.
This is pretty weak sauce, in that it won’t satisfy fans of literature or smut.
City of Golden Shadow by Tad Williams
I’ve vowed to finish all of Williams’ criminally under-read (from what I can see) science-fiction series before the end of the year. The first in the Otherland quartet, City of Golden Shadow introduces us to an ultra-sophisticated virtual reality software that contains countless worlds. Book 1 featured characters going to a land of giant insects, a disfigured Oz, a bizarre cartoon reality, London during The War of the Worlds, 16th-century Venice, ancient Egypt, the Odyssey‘s Ithaca and more.
In true Williams style, Book 1 was very much a setup for a massive, sprawling tale. City of Golden Shadow is about 900 pages in paperback and it literally just scratches the surface. As insane as it sounds, the story basically just starts at the end of the book. It’s nuts.
Thankfully, it’s pretty great. The characters are enjoyable, you’re constantly kept on your toes, the mystery will suck you in, and it’s all really fun and really smart at the same time.
Comics for a Strange World by Reza Farazmand
Comic strips can be extremely subjective, so take my recommendation with a grain of salt, but Reza Farazmand’s Poorly Drawn Lines series (this is the second collected book) is hilarious. It’s not quite as good as the first, but there are enough gems in here to keep you from regretting the purchase. If nothing else, they’re fun coffee table books that your friends can pick up and flip through for 30 seconds and get two or three chuckles.
If you’d like a preview of what Reza does, check out his Instagram page. He posts stuff on there all the time. If you’re unsure about buying the book, just give him a follow.
The Infinite Future by Tim Wirkus
It’s rare for me to like a book this much and not write about it in depth (which I haven’t done, to this point). It’s mostly because I think it deserves a second read before I really delve into it. I liked it that much.
The Infinite Future reminded me a lot of another of my favourites, The Tragedy of Arthur, in that it presents a fictional manuscript as a real life discovery. The story is about three huge fans of reclusive, little-known sci-fi author named Eduardo Salgado-McKenzie. The three join together in an attempt to track Salgado-McKenzie down to find out if his fabled masterpiece–which was never published–actually exists. Rumour has it that he lost his mind in the writing. Is it real? Is it that good?
This was such a delightful, intelligent toast to fandom, regardless of the medium. It reminded me why I love fiction (and science-fiction). It was terrific, and so much fun. I hope it finds an audience. To date, it’s only receive 41 reviews on Goodreads (which, as you know, is basically nothing).
Goodreads Rating: (for now; it might be a 5 after another reading)
Superman Rebirth: Vol 1 (Deluxe) by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason
Like I said in my review of Batman Rebirth: Vol 1 (Deluxe), I’ve never really been a fan of DC Comics, but I’m I’m quite enjoying the Rebirth re-launch. Starting from (relative) scratch helps quite a bit, and these hardcover collections are top notch.
This volume was a bit ho-hum. Some good stuff, some skippable stuff. I wouldn’t recommend it to non-Supes fans.
But there’s a really fun sub-plot happening with the children of Superman and Batman, the heir apparents, as it were. They have a fun, antagonistic relationship, something that can be a nice change of pace in a Superman book.
Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday
This was frustratingly close to a 5-star read. Or, I should say, the first half is absolutely 5-stars, while the second half drags it down a bit.
The structure of the novel is what hooked me. It is essentially two (very) loosely connected novellas, capped off by a 30-page short story at the end. The first story, about the relationship between a 72-year-old author and a young 27-year-old aspiring writer, was incredibly captivating. I wanted it to go on for 400 pages, but instead it’s just a bit over 100. It was really interesting seeing this kind of relationship–where the older male uses his fame to seduce a younger woman–written by a woman, not a man (which seems to often be the case). There was so much depth and nuance, here. It’s not an easy relationship to figure out. Like I said, I wanted so much more of it.
The second story jumps across the Atlantic to follow Amar, an Iraqi-American man who, on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan, is detained by immigration officers and spends the last weekend of 2008 in a holding room in Heathrow. It’s a fine story on its own, but I kept wanting to see it connect to the first story and it really doesn’t. Not in any significant way (at least not in a direct way). The fault is probably mine, as a reader, and my unfair expectations. Had I let the story come to me on its own terms, I’m sure I would have thought more of it. As such, I will definitely be reading this one again.
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
Incredibly dramatic at times, incredibly flat at others. It’s hard to talk about The Reader without giving away much of what makes the story important (which is why I haven’t written about it). Long story short: an older women (mid-thirties) starts a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old boy in post-war Germany. But then she suddenly disappears.
He doesn’t meet her until he is a grown man, a law student, and he encounters her when she is on trial for … well … I can’t say that now, can I?
It’s something of a modern classic, and I can see why. But honestly, I’d suggest you just check out the Kate Winslet re-telling and save yourself a bit of time.