What have I been reading lately?
I read The City and the City
by China Miéville, a mystery novel taking place across two city-states,
but the city-states actually seem to be in the same location. The
unusual setting got far more mileage than I thought it would, but I
didn't think much of the flat characters. I would be willing to read more Miéville in the future.
I read A Perfect Vacuum by Stanislaw Lem, a collection of
reviews of books that don't exist, mostly books of the postmodernist
sort. This format allows it to describe really fascinating books that
probably wouldn't work in practice. My major complaint is that Lem
didn't use the premise to its full potential--most reviews simply
summarized the books they were reviewing, without much actual judgment.
I would have liked to juxtapose the contrasting perspectives of the
book's characters, the book, the reviewer, and the reader.
I read The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling, which is
mainly an exercise in juggling lots and lots of characters and the
dynamics between them. The main plot arc is about class struggle and
urban development politics. I enjoy having lots of unsympathetic
characters, so this was a book for me.
I just finished reading Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake,
which takes after the apocalypse, with the prior dystopia described
through flashbacks. The dystopia is a world where scientists are
developing pigs that grow human organs, where sex slavery is common, and
where the upper class (mostly researchers) live in compounds separated
from an increasingly impoverished lower class.
I'm not generally a fan of speculative fiction, but I liked the
parable of a coffee company that developed a coffee plants whose beans
would ripen all at the same time. This of course leads to rioting
because all those coffee pickers are out of jobs. It's funny how the
technology leads to more efficient production, but ultimately harms the
quality of life because it concentrates wealth. One hopes that in the
real world, as scientific technology progresses, political "technology"
can keep pace.