Other People’s Books
Someone recently asked me what I was reading, to which my immediate response was a quick laugh — like I have time to read for fun right now. Nevertheless, I have been buying books, and here’s some of the most recent. From the bottom up:
The Ancestor’s Tale, by Richard Dawkins — Dawkins is the current bete noire of the creationists and the IDers, mostly because he’s able to break apart their tinny little “scientific” arguments with his mighty hammer of evolutionary biology knowledge, and they of course hate that, since their game is to muddy the waters enough to confuse the people with a bare bones understanding of biology, and thereby shoehorn their nonsense into science classes. This book traces back the evolutionary ancestors of humanity going back to the first single-celled organism, and (so far as I’ve read, at least) does so in a way that a reasonably intelligent person can find not too hard to follow. Should probably be required reading for anyone on a school board. I’ll be donating my copy of the book to the local library after I’m done reading it.
Roger Zalazny, The First Chronicles of Amber; Robert Heinlein, Expanded Universe; Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle — Clearly, I’m continuing to use the Science Fiction Book Club to stock up on books from dead guys. I used to own some Amber books as well as Expanded Universe, but in both cases that was in junior high and high school and God only knows where those books might be at the moment; time for a hardcover upgrade. And I’d never read High Castle before, and I figure it’s better to read Dick from the era in which he wasn’t communicating with aliens or ghosts or whatever it was he was hallucinating in his later years. What’s really interesting is how short all these novels are — I thought Old Man’s War was reasonably short, but each of these novels are about two-thirds the length. When did all us writers become windbags?
Orphanage, by Robert Buettner — The other recent debut novel that’s getting compared to Starship Troopers and Forever War; it’s a paperback release but the SFBC has a special hardback edition, and since I couldn’t find the book in my local bookstore, I went ahead and got that version. I’m only a couple of chapters in but so far, so good; Buettner’s writing more of a straight-ahead SF military story than I did, as far as I can see. I think I may be helping to move a few copies of this book, since every now and then Amazon has one of those “buy both these books!” links jamming the two books together, and elsewise I’ve noticed that when my Amazon ranking gets a bump for whatever reason, so does his. It’s “The Long Tail” in action. If I am indeed helping him sell, that makes me happy; I’m a big fan of trying to lift all the boats in the water. Of course, it could be that he’s helping me. In which case: Thanks, Robert.
Coyote Rising, by Allen Steele — Got this at the local bookstore. I enjoyed Coyote, so this sequel is a natural purchase. Some of the reviews I’ve seen have given Steele flack for the political systems he’s put in the book, the gist being people wondering why he’s kicking socialism when it’s already so obviously down. Well, it’s not down in the book, and secondly, I don’t know, I think people are spending far too much time these days obsessing over the political angles of things. I don’t think Steele’s making a huge statement about socialism, so far as I’ve read; I think he’s working within the parameters of the story he’s constructed. At the very least, I haven’t felt like it’s been annoying polemical so far, and I have a pretty good ear for annoying polemics.
Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation, by Olivia Judson — A really neat conceit: An evolutionary biologist/journalist who explains concepts about sexuality in the animal would by creating an “advice column” format and having various species write in with their sex problem. This is exactly how popular science should be approached: By making it fun and interesting even for people who get scared at words like “science.”
The Good War, Studs Terkel — I’ve somehow managed to get through 35 years of life — some of which in Chicago, for God’s sake — without reading any Studs Terkel. Seemed like a good time to fix that. Also, I’ve recently become interested in oral histories as a form, and again, this seems like a good place to start.
That’s what on the reading list, should I get the time to, you know, read.