Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book review roundup

1. Day of the Locust by Nathanael West: My book club read this right after Water for Elephants (which all of the women in my club loved), and it was startling how similar it was - - both books follow a depression-era love triangle that can only be solved with violence. And a dwarf features prominently in both. I wouldn't say I liked Day of the Locust, because the characters and situations they found themselves in were so morally bankrupt, but unlike Water for Elephants, the characters crackle with vitality and behave in a sensible, if unpleasant way. I was also struck by how much the book reminded me of Hemmingway's novels, including the impotent protagonist, and fetishization of latin culture, with cockfighting being described in far more detail than the lovemaking. Amazon link.

2. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova: I read this for my book club, too, and it's another book I wouldn't really recommend. It's sort of like The Mummy, crossed with an Agatha Christie novel. Tedious, chaste, but also comforting. At 700 pages, it's probably twice as long as it needs to be, and it's far more interesting as a travelogue and history of the muslim conquest of Eastern Europe than a story about vampire hunting. Amazon link.

3. Woken Furies by Richard Morgan: I absolutely loved Morgan's first two Takeshi Kovacs cyberpunk thrillers, but this one was far too aimless and meandering. The universe Morgan has created is intriguing enough that I still enjoyed the book in the same way that I enjoyed Revenge of the Sith. Amazon link.

4. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin: The first 50-100 pages are as good as any I've read. I was instantly absorbed in the world of gods kept like fearsome, untrustworthy housepets. But the book really slows down after that, and I eventually realized that it's not much more than a romance novel with fantasy trappings. And worst of all, and this is a significant spoiler, by the end of the book, she removes the most interesting aspect of the world - - the gods are released from their servitude. I'm in no rush to read the sequels. Amazon link.