The Great Readening Of Summer 2010

Quick reviews slash impressions of the novels I worked my way through during this past Summer.

Kitty Goes To Washington by Carrie Vaughn. The second book in the ongoing series about werewolf and radio talk show host Kitty Norville. As with the previous novel in the series, it was exciting and had a number of absurd unbelievable scenarios which would be ripe for comedy. The world has recently learned that supernatural beings exist, and Kitty is called as a witness at a hearing in Washington regarding whether or not an institute dedicated to researching the supernatural should keep its funding. Not unexpectedly, plots thicken.

I couldn’t help but laugh out loudly as the reader ended up with the following scenario for a chapter or two: a sassy female werewolf late night radio talkshow host, a good natured celebrity medium, and an opportunistic reporter from the junk press going together to investigate a lead, with an assassin specialised in taking down supernatural beings as potential backup. Like straight out of a tabletop roleplaying game. Which isn’t a bad thing, just a ridiculous thing, considering it’s published fiction. I’m not big into the supernatural pulp genre though, so for all I know this might be a fairly mundane scenario in this kind of fiction. Speaking of roleplaying games, there’s some pretty decent fodder here for possible World of Darkness campaigns.

It also has a suave were-jaguar from Brazil as a Kitty’s hot latino love interest. And guess what the title of the newest Kitty novel is? Kitty Goes To War. The absurdness of the Kitty-verse is hilarious, and it manages to be genuinely exciting. So I guess I enjoyed it. It’s not great literature, but it’s pretty good pulp. But it started to annoy me that everyone seemed to shrug a lot. How often do people actually shrug?

The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. The story takes place in late 19th century Britain, and revolves around young wealthy socialite Dorian Gray, who serves as the muse of painter Basil Hallward, and through him befriends fellow wealthy socialite Lord Henry Wotton, who fills Dorian’s mind with thoughts of hedonism. Dorian consequently breaks down in tears as he realizes that Basil’s portrait of him will forever remain young and beautiful while he himself will have to pay the toll of life, and will age and decay, and pleads to the heavens that the painting grow old instead of him. This is gradually discovered to be the case.

The second chapter is incredibly gay. All it’s missing is a latino were-jaguar. Apparently contemporary critics felt the book was too homoerotic, and Oscar Wilde made an effort to make it less so in revised versions, if Wikipedia is to be believed. None of the other chapters were quite as as gay, and I felt the book shifted style a bit too often; some chapters would have lengthy monologues, others would have briefer quips between characters, and others were almost entirely descriptive. One such descriptive chapter I wasn’t able to get through as it was so incredibly tedious, as Wilde goes on about various hobbies and interests Dorian have taken up in the past few years, including an interest in jewelry and textiles. It didn’t always seem to come together into one cohesive story, several parts feeling like disjoined digressions.

The premise is a novel one, and it has some interesting themes I’m sure you could analyze to death, but I wasn’t as impressed as I hoped I would be. On the plus side I did pick up on a few nuggets of information going through the novel, such as Victorians believing to some extent that someone’s character will affect his or her appearance, and thus that sinful people will look wicked. Those crazy Victorians.

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett. The 37th novel in the long-running comedy fantasy series Discworld.

The first third or half of the book was genuinely funny and interesting, but after that it sort of petered out. It has about three or four subplots, and, it seemed to me, hardly a main plot. I guess the main topic of the book is that the game of football – or foot-the-ball – is introduced to the Discworld universe, and is made to resemble the real life sport. It has been a trend in the Discworld universe to modernize it and make it more similar to our own world, particularly in the later novels, introducing concepts and institutions similar to those we find in real life; they now have a newspaper, a telegraph, and a mail service and banking system. If they’re given some fanciful and funny fantasy twist, then I’m all for it, but I personally find the lack of them more intriguing, and do you really need to dedicate entire books to introducing them?

Also, some of the new important characters in this novel seemed like recycled versions of previous Discworld characters. It was fun seeing the wizards at Unseen University again though, who serve as a perfect parody of actual universities and academics, speaking from personal experience.

I’m curious how many novels will be written after this one, and what will happen to the Discworld series, given that Pratchett has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a couple of years ago. Will a successor be named? Or will it simply end? The best case scenario, in my opinion, would be if a few renowned British fantasy authors each contributed a novel a year for a few years, perhaps based off of some of Pratchett’s notes, with the series coming to an end after that. Perhaps Neil Gaiman and J.K. Rowling could each contribute a novel. A short story collection might be more realistic, though.

Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede. For some reason I decided to buy The Enchanted Forest Chronicles box set; it was on sale for about half the price, the art looked nice, and it had gotten good reviews. It collects all four novels in the series. I’m not a big fan of the fantasy genre, but I have a slight thing for funny fantasy, hence why I enjoy Discworld.

The book was fine, but unimpressive. It starts off amusingly enough with an un-princess-like princess challenging various fairy tale norms and conventions, then gets bogged down by the weight of its own story and setting and becomes just another light hearted all-ages fantasy affair. Perhaps a better read for young girls, with its themes of independence and individuality and princesses, rather than experienced connoisseurs such as myself. I’ll eventually work my way through the rest of the series, and we’ll see how the other installments fare.

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One Response to The Great Readening Of Summer 2010

  1. Pingback: Scathing Post-Juletide Reviews, pt. 2: Terry Pratchett’s I Shall Wear Midnight « Kirkeby Kritikk

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