Okay, so I’ve been pretty good about keeping up with booklogging the books I’ve read recently, but I still have a backlog of legacy paper books sitting here, so let me try to get rid of that. I read most of these a while ago, so a catch-up post it will be.

Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food is a polemic in favor of eating natural, unprocessed foods. It’s insufferably smug and epistemologically incoherent, but because it appeals to my modern yuppie tastes and prejudices, I am able to mostly forgive it. I can’t actually recommend the book, but I would recommend following its advice.

Brian K. Vaughan’s The Escapists is not exactly a sequel to Michael Chabon’s The Escapist, but it’s set in the same world many years later (basically now), and features a handful of talented teens as they try to break into the comic biz. As slightly-meta coming of age comics go, it’s pretty solid.

Which is more than I can say for Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim, vols. 3-6. I had hoped these books might evolve into something with more depth, which they never quite did. The art is terrible (it is literally impossible to tell characters apart by anything other than their haircuts), the storyline is banal and/or nonsensical, the characterization is superficial and slight, and the writing is only rarely better than pedestrian. Not really recommended.

And finally, there’s S.M. Stirling’s first three Change novels (starting with Dies the Fire). These are the story of a world in which a Magical Plot Contrivance suddenly makes all electricity and explosives (including gas and steam powered engines) stop working. The first one is basically the direct aftermath of an apocalypse; the next two take place years later and are about how the impromptu, ad hoc societies created in the wake of that apocalypse have evolved.

There are more of these novels (though the first three end a plot arc and feel finished), and I’m given to understand that the later ones follow the further historical evolution of these invented societies, which is fairly appealing to me. There’s something inherently fascinating about watching the contingent accidents of history lead to different outcomes — I suspect this is the key attraction of alternate history, so that even as these aren’t quite alt-hist, they will appeal to the same sort of people — and these books have a huge dose of that.

They also have Stirling’s bizarre mix of right-wing macho wish fulfillment fantasy mixed with a heavy dose of strange wtfishness, with the characters. Every time you are ready to roll your eyes at how obvious he’s being, he moves things slightly off-axis, just enough to unbalance you while not quite abandoning that obviousness. It’s as if he started off trying to make a cartoon world that would confirm all his secret desires, one where dudes like him would be awesome and get the girl, but the characters and events took on a life of their own, and suddenly the hero of the book is a hippie-ass Wiccan priestess folk singer.

Anyway, I liked these books, and intend to read the rest of them, but I can easily see how they wouldn’t be to everyone’s tastes. I think I’d recommend starting with the Nantucket books and see what you think of those.


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