Books

Thoughts: Death’s End, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

At first I was putting this off because I wanted to let the story sit for a while, and then I found myself putting it off because I didn’t want it to be over. How can it be over?! I know that Cixin Liu has given me more than I deserved. He gave me a whole extra book after the perfect ending of The Dark Forest! He took me to a time before The Three-Body Problem and then all the way to the end of the universe! He even gave me a sort of wink at the end to reassure me that my secret opinions about the choices of the characters were all correct.

Spoilers everywhere, as this is the last book in a trilogy!

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Thoughts: East Lynne, by Mrs Henry (Ellen) Wood

So a few years ago I read Lady Florence Bell’s At The Works, a study on Middlesbrough life in the 1800s, because it’s local to me and no one ever talks about places local to me unless they’re blaming us for Brexit (which, by the way, is very misleading and pack that in, please). One question on the surveys of the Boro steelworking families was about their reading material, and a large proportion of them were enjoying Mrs Henry Wood*’s East Lynne, so out of a weird desire for connection with the past, I stuck it on the list.

And what a roller coaster it has been.

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Thoughts: La Nuit, by Elie Wiesel, translated by Marion Wiesel

(It was really difficult to find Marion Wiesel’s name as the translator of this edition – Elie Wiesel mentions in his note on the text that his wife translated it but her name seems to be nowhere in the Kindle edition. Publishers: name translators.)

Holocaust memoirs are a genre of writing that I never thought I’d ever be familiar with, so this is a very strange place for me to be in. I say familiar, but it never really becomes familiar in some ways. There’s always something new, everyone’s lives are different. Everyone’s lives were different, whether they got to share their stories or not. I read this one in French because I need to keep my hand in, and because the French version was published before the English, which was a good enough arbitrary reason for me to read it instead (the original was in Hebrew).

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Thoughts: The Walls Around Us, by Nova Ren Suma

From dense and serious to pure indulgence. Nova Ren Suma is quickly becoming one of my favourite weird authors. Her Imaginary Girls was unlike any YA spec fic I’d ever read, so everything else she’d ever written went on my list as soon as I was done (unfortunately, not enough to satisfy my endless appetite for weird. Why are the best ones never prolific? Kit Whitfield, another writer of totally off-the-wall premises, is the same). I had a lot of difficulty finding Imaginary Girls and was pleased to find that The Walls Around Us is just on Kindle. Hint hint. Nova Ren Suma is ridiculously underrated.

Spoilers ahoy.

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Thoughts: Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman

This is another book recommended by a friend, and I admit I was a bit wary about it at first, mostly because I read Freakonomics in the recent past and something about its overly friendly hip nerdness had… not exactly rubbed me up the wrong way, but made me suspicious, perhaps? I have of course read other non-fiction books on brains and intelligence of a different kind (notably The Mismeasure of Man and Intelligence: All That Matters) but for some reason I got a Freakonomics type vibe from Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Which is all moot because I was totally on the wrong track.

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Thoughts: The Dark Forest, by Cixin Liu, translated by Joel Martinsen

This is the second book in Cixin Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy. I enjoyed The Three-Body Problem, that weird grim sci fi tangled up with China’s Cultural Revolution, but I loved The Dark Forest.

More spoilers! Be warned!

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Thoughts: The Inheritors, by William Golding

I feel like I should have a lot to say about this one, but I don’t think I do, and I’m disappointed with myself. I should have clever things to say – it was a clever book, but what can I say more than I enjoyed it?

When you hear the name of William Golding, you think of savage schoolboys, but he had a few other tricks up his sleeve, apparently. The Inheritors is about the end of the neanderthals* and the beginning of the age of humanity. Basically, the ultimate historical fiction.

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Thoughts: Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer

I go through phases of being a Goodreads stalker, seeing what my friends are reading, what their new friends are reading even, seeing what they thought of the books they’ve read (I don’t give my own ratings but naturally am perfectly happy to peruse other people’s) and how many books we have in common in our reading pasts and futures. So I’d seen Annihilation around before it was suggested for Casual Brunching Book Club (name not final) and I was glad to have an excuse to read it. It was generally well received and though I’d read the blurb I didn’t really have any idea what would happen, which is as it should be for a book like this. Which is also my way of saying this review will be full of spoilers so look away now.

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Thoughts: Foxcatcher: Foxcatcher: The True Story of My Brother’s Murder, John du Pont’s Madness, and the Quest for Olympic Gold, by Mark Schultz and David Thomas

Now that is a title.

I’m about six books behind in this because I’ve been been trying to get through some editing, so expect a regular drip of reviews for a while. I’m always a bit embarrassed to admit I’ve been prioritising my own writing over paying attention to other people’s books, because of course I’m just an unpublished hack on the internet, and all these books I’ve read, however dire I proclaim them to be, are Real Books, published by Real Publishers and sometimes hunted out of obscurity by Real Tastemakers. The drafts I ashamedly talk about working on are, to you, imaginary, abstract things which will never see the light of day, let alone be worthy of actual financial investment by a stranger. I’m keenly aware of this, and that’s why I’m often ashamed of talking about my writing here.

Except not this time.

Are you thinking of reading Foxcatcher? Don’t. Watch the film instead. If you’ve already seen the film, then congratulations! You have had the full Foxcatcher experience! Have a nice drink to celebrate.

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Thoughts: The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

Spoilers spoilers spoilers! If you want to read this book, don’t read this post.

I’m skipping a book here (Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation) because I’m going to meet up with friends and discuss it at a later date, so forgive me.

I picked up The Three-Body Problem because Spuggy had already done so, and he recommended it, and my TBR will never be too long to accept a recommendation from people I love.

It’s… weird. A lot of it was probably lost on me, both scientifically and culturally. But I could not stop reading it. Spoilers spoilers spoilers.

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