I’m in sort of an unusual situation right now, because normally when I have a massive backlog, it’s due to having read lots and lots of comic books, due to how easy they are to read. But you know what else is easy to read? The Kindle, that’s what. And between that and a spate of laziness in re updating, I’ve now got one of those “hey, I think I vaguely remember that” backlogs. So let’s talk real quick-like about the books where I don’t have much to say.
First, Galen Beckett’s The Magician’s and Mrs. Quent and The House on Durrow Street , which is basically Jane Eyre meets Cthulhu. This sounds like a great premise, and it nearly is, but the execution is uneven at best. I was going to say “as you’d expect from a first-time novelist,” but it turns out that Galen Beckett is actually a pseudonym for Mark Anthony, who has written some Forgotten Realms and DragonLance novels, and maybe it’s not so much that he’s an awkward first novelist as just that he’s an awkward novelist. Still, the books weren’t bad. And hey, he’s a better standalone novelist than R.A. Salvatore.
Next up, let’s talk about Walter Jon Williams’ The Green Leopard Plague , which is a collection of short stories. Walter Jon Williams is a reliably excellent writer, and these were, for the most part, excellent stories. You should read his stuff.
Then there’s Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo , which you may have heard of due to it being a massive bestselling novel. As always, I’m sort of baffled by what random quirks of fate make something massive and bestselling. This is a pretty standard thriller, smarter than The Da Vinci Code (but what isn’t), but not particularly outstanding in any way. Although the Swedish setting does provide for a frisson of exoticism, and probably represents the book’s main virtue.
And speaking of mainstream fiction, let’s talk about Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss , which I read after thinking to myself, “Self, you like all sorts of fiction, not just the scientifictions, so why do you never read actual straightforward literary fiction?” and realizing that I had no good answer for that question. So, a quick skim of award-winner lists, and here we were. This ends up being a multi-generational, time-and-place-skipping thing about imperialism and emigration and family and such, set primarily in India. It’s mostly a personal story (or a series of personal stories), seeing people’s lives and how they’ve been warped and shaped by colonialist institutions. A good book, and probably one that deserves a better write-up than this.