Monday, April 14, 2014

Currently reading

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.