The Library of Babel: April 2002

This page contains the archived copies of book log entries for April of 2002.

Current Book Log

Return to Archive Index

April 29, 2002

The Bad Beginning by "Lemony Snicket." There are two kinds of children's books out there. One kind are all sweetness and light, and are written especially for the sweet, innocent, well-behaved (and presumably also spherical and frictionless) children that elderly relatives will insist were the only kind of child found back in the idyllic days before the whole country went to hell in a handbasket.

The other kind is written with a more realistic image of the typical child in mind. This is the sort of kid's book the pseudonymous Lemony Snicket writes. This is a silly book, but rather than glossing over the uglier side of life, it positively revels in the theatrical misfortunes of the Baudelaire siblings:

In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.

It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.

The Baudelaire children (Violet, Klaus, and Sunny) are orphaned on page eight, thrown into the care of the uncaring bureaucrat Mr. Poe, then shuffled off to live with the loathsome Count Olaf, their (geographically) closest relative. Olaf treats them abominably, and has vile plans to get his hands on their inheritance, but none of the other adults in the story notice or care, leaving the children to fend for themselves. Which they do quite well, as it turns out, though the happy ending they deserve is yanked away from them at the end, as they're sent off to live with another relative (who will turn out to be loathsome as well, in the next book...). If ever a book cried out for Edward Gorey illustrations (see also the Edward Gorey tarot), this is it (though Brett Helquist does a nice job in his own right...).

As usual, Kate's comments are pretty accurate. This is a popcorn book for an adult, with some wonderful ghoulish touches and some delightful asides that are really meant to be appreciated by parents reading them to their children. I wouldn't pay ten bucks for this even if I won the lottery, but it was an amusing enough read when borrowed from somebody else.

| Permanent Link

April 24, 2002

Passage by Connie Willis. This is a new Connie Willis novel, and thus, it's nominated for a Hugo Award. Actually, we're set up for an Irresistible Force vs. Immovable Object steel-cage death match between this and Bujold's Curse of Chalion (which has the distinction of being the first book to appear in this book log). It's a rare year in which I read a majority of the Hugo nominees, and reading this will get me most of the way there, with The Chronoliths likely to finish the job. (I've been warned that Perdido Street Station probably isn't my thing, and I know that Ken MacLeod isn't, so it'll stop there). I've generally liked Willis's other work, so when this got the inevitable Hugo nomination, I bumped it to the top of the To-Read pile.

Rare as it is for me to read a majority of the Hugo-nominated novels, it's rarer still that I agree with the sort of review which says "This long novel would've made a nice novella." Guess it's my year for rare occurrances, because this long novel would've made a nice novella.

This was a tremendously frustrating book, but explaining why will require massive spoilers. For the sake of any of my readers (all six of you) who might care to have this book remain un-spoiled, I'll post only a few general comments here, and direct you to a spoiler-laden rant for the full story.

The book is the story of Dr. Joanna Lander, a psychologist investigating near-death experiences (NDE's), who sets up a collaboration with Dr. Richard Wright, a neurologist who has discovered a way to simulate NDE's, and is convinced that they may hold the key to life-extending treatments. These are pretty much stock Connie Willis characters-- both funny, quirky, attractive, and perfect for one another, though they're too wrapped up in their work to notice. They're also placed in a trademark Connie Willis setting, a sprawling hospital so complicated that the difficulty of navigating its many corridors serves as a running joke of sorts. Their research subjects are quirky to the point of uselessness, so Joanna herself decides to become a test subject, and they proceed to plumb the mysteries of Life and (Near-)Death. Or something.

There's some promise to the set-up, and for a little while the story has a nice horror-ish feel reminiscent of Willis's Lincoln's Dreams, which had a similar focus on dreams and visions. The plot is dragged out in a truly excruciating manner, though, and a couple of characters seem to appear for the sole purpose of slowing the plot to a crawl. The grand resolution to the central mystery is just too reminiscent of a headline from The Onion to seem profound, and the very end is unbelievably daft. The writing is competent enough, and the story is enjoyable on an episodic sort of basis, but the overall structure of the plot is criminally stupid.

I said above that this seems to have set up a gigantic clash between Willis and Bujold for Hugo supremacy, but this may well be a year when neither of them wins. Curse of Chalion is a fantasy novel, fantasy novels tend not to win Hugos (with a few exceptions). And, well, Passage just isn't very good at all.

| Permanent Link

April 21, 2002

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Every now and then, I look back over what I've been reading, and say "Wow, I read a whole lot of crap." (This pre-dates the book log, btw, though the book log makes the process more quantitative...) On those occasions, I run out to the nearest bookstore, and buy a bunch of books that have garnered critical praise of one form or another, and read a few so that I feel like less of a cultural slacker.

Happily, despite the oft-repeated claims of many genre fiction fans, critical praise is not a foolproof indicator of a dull and depressing read. The Eyre Affiar is an excellent counter-example-- it's gotten all manner of glowing reviews, and yet "romp" is really the best word to describe the book. It's set in a weird alternate England where time travel is common, people can step in and out of works of literature, proseletyzing Baconians roam the streets handing out pamphlets about who really wrote Shakespeare's plays, and Richard III is staged like The Rocky Horror Picture Show:

There was a moment's pause and then the curtains re-opened, revealing Richard at the side of the stage. He limped up and down the boards, eyeing the audience malevolently past a perticularly ugly prosthetic nose.

"Ham!" yelled someone at the back.

Richard opened his mouth to speak and the whole audience erupted in unison:

"When is the winter of our discontent?"

"Now," replied Richard with a cruel smile, "is the winter of our discontent..."

A cheer went up to the chandeliers high in the ceiling. The play had begun. Landen and I cheered with them. Richard III was one of those plays that could repeal the law of diminishing returns; it could be enjoyed over and over again.

The book follows the adventure of Thursday Next, a member of the Special Operations bureaucracy which runs Britain (except for the Socialist Republic of Wales) as a virtual police state. Specifically, she's a SpecOps-27, a LiteraTec, charged with tracking down literary crimes (forged Shakespeare folios, and the like). When the manuscript of Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit is stolen, Thursday is drawn into the pursuit of criminal mastermind Acheron Hades, which eventually leads to literary murders, kidnapping, and a climactic showdown inside the pages of the original manuscript of Jane Eyre.

This is a resoundingly silly book in many ways, as the names alone should make clear. In addition to Next and Hades, there are chapter epigraphs from the writings of "Millon De Floss", a SpecOps-27 officer named Victor Analogy, a Goliath Corporation operative named Jack Schitt, a policeman named Oswald Mandias, a Paige Turner, and a host of others. "Judith Prietht" in David Foster Wallace's The Broom of the System is the only example I can think of where it might be more obvious that the author was giggling to himself while typing the manuscript. If that doesn't make clear what sort of mind you're dealing with, a bit of poking around the book's official web site will-- this is the work of a man who painted Escher's interlocking lizards on a replica Porsche. Nothing is too weird...

This is also one of those rare books which makes me feel under-educated (I was forced to call Kate for a plot summary of Jane Eyre at one point, never having read the book...). I know there are a bunch of literary jokes I'm not getting, but the ones I do get are enough to make this one of the funniest books I've read in quite some time.

This is an extremely odd little book-- part cop story, part alternate history, part literary experiment, and all fun. There's enough stuff jammed in here that the book constantly threatens to spiral into complete incoherence, but Fforde manages to hold it all together. It's a little too complicated to really be called coherent, but by the end of the book most of the subplots resolve in an interesting way: Jane Eyre has a much improved ending to her story, Thursday's love life resolves itself, and we discover who really wrote the works of Shakespeare.

This is a terrific little book, and I highly recommend it. Better yet, there's apparently a sequel on the way...

| Permanent Link

April 17, 2002

The Evolution Man, or How I Ate My Father by Roy Lewis. This is much more my sort of book than it is Kate's. It's the story of a horde of early hominids roaming around prehistory inventing things (fire, cooking, art, music, weapons) and debating their place in history ("I doubt if we have reached the Upper Pleistocene yet. I wish I could think so, Ernest, but looking at you, listening to you, I cannot think it."). Some of the characters and events are fairly unpleasant, but I don't find that as off-putting as Kate does, and I'm a sucker for gimmicks like Uncle Vanya, who wanders by the cave occasionally to deliver harangues insisting that the family should return to the trees:

"Don't tell me it's evolution, Edward-- besides, it's not for you to decide whether you are evolving or not. What you are doing, out of your own mouth, is something absolutely different. What you are doing, I deeply regret to say, is trying to better yourself. And that is unnatural, disobedient, presumptuous, and, I may add, vulgar, middle-class, and materialistic. Now then, Edward," said Uncle Vanya nastily. "Out with it. You think you're fathering a totally new species, don't you?"

"Well," said Father uneasily, "I did just have the thought--"

"I knew it!" cried Uncle Vanya triumphantly. "Edward, I can read you like a-- like a-- well, I know exactly what you're up to."

There are some delightfully silly bits in this book, and some wonderfully biting satire (I'll hear the above passage every time Leon Kass opens his mouth). In addition to Uncle Vanya's ranting, Uncle Ian's recounting of his travels to Asia is priceless:

"It was hard work, going from cave to cave; but in the end I came to Palestine. There I found the Neanderthaloids fighting with immigrants coming from Africa."

"Why? Shortage of game?" asked Father.

"No, no, it's a bountiful country, flowing with milk and honey," said Uncle Ian, "But there's something in the air there that makes primates as cantankerous as gorillas that have eaten sour apples."

As Kate remarked, this is a deeply cynical book at the core, but it's funny cynicism for the most part, and well worth a read. I can sort of see why it would appeal to Terry Pratchett (who has more inherent faith in the goodness of the species than Lewis does), and it should appeal to Pratchett fans who don't mind a more cynical take on the world. It's an odd little book (and a very quick read), but worth a look if you see a copy.

| Permanent Link

April 15, 2002

A Working of Stars by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald. The seventh novel in the Mageworlds series, from the second-best counter-example to the rule that collaborative novels tend to suck.

The Mageworlds books start off as a fairly obvious Star Wars clone: an evil empire founded on mystical powers (hence the "Mage" in the series title...) threatens to overwhelm the freedom-loving worlds of the galaxy, and must be resisted by a plucky band of mercenaries, roguish space traders, and a princess of sorts. Granted, the parallel isn't quite exact (in particular, Han Solo and Princess Leia are the same person...), but the setting seems to owe a lot to the movies (indeed, Kate's initial description of them was "They start out as Star Wars with the serial numbers filed off").

They quickly become much more than a Lucas hommage (if that's even what they were), though, as the plot is ten times twistier than anything Lucasfilm is ever likely to come up with, and each successive book changed the landscape completely. Characters you thought were good turned out to be evil, characters who seemed unremittingly evil turned out to have better motives than previously suspected, and the whole "Intergalactic Civil War" ("Gentrification!") plot turns out to be only a part of a larger conflict.

This book is a direct sequel to The Stars Asunder, which dropped back in time to investigate the origin of the Mageworlds themselves, some large number of years before the events of the earlier books of the series. In keeping with the cosmology of the books, and their fine disregard for causality, this book shares two characters with the earlier novels-- one a much younger version of a major character, the other... not. Explaining how this works out would be a spoiler, though I will note that it was probably the weakest element of the book.

I'd attempt to summarize the plot, but it's not easily encapsulated, and would necessarily be spoiler-ridden. I'll just say that this is a worthy entry in the series. It's probably the darkest of the books so far, and not as action-packed as some of the other entries, but the writing has lost none of its sparkle, and the plot moves along quite nicely. There's room for a sequel, to be sure, but it wouldn't be a terrible place to stop and move on to some other part of the story, if the authors so choose.

If you enjoy rollicking space opera in the Star Wars vein, and you haven't already started reading these books, start with The Price of the Stars. There might be somebody out there writing better space opera than Doyle and Macdonald, but I can't think of any recent space operas that are more fun than the Mageworlds books. (Iain Banks's Culture books are better novels, but run a bit dark and Peter Hamilton is a bit too ludicrous...)

If you're already a fan, what are you waiting for?

| Permanent Link

April 12, 2002

Valediction by Robert B. Parker. More Spenser, chosen a while ago by the ultra-scientific method of picking up the cheapest of the Spenser novels available in a local used book store. This one appears to be the book right before A Catskill Eagle: Spenser's girlfriend Susan graduates from Harvard at the beginning of the book, then moves to California, where she gets into a relationship which will eventually require Spenser and Hawk to go rescue her.

These books make good reading while sick: the plot moves along nicely enough to distract me from a hacking cough, and doesn't suffer too much from a somewhat reduced ability to concentrate on the finer points of the writing. In fact, they may be slightly improved by paying a bit less attention to the details...

Unfortunately, this specific book isn't that great. It's a bit mopey, as Spenser bums around for fifty or a hundred pages pining for the absent Susan (he's surrounded by people who are much too good to him-- one of the nine minor characters who turn up to commiserate should've smacked him upside the head for moping...), and sleep-walking his way through a case that should've taken about fifteen minutes to solve. The bad guys only seem threatening because Spenser's not in top form, the banter doesn't really crackle like it does in some of the other books, and the biggest thrill I got out of the book probably came from recognizing the Liberty Tree Mall and a couple other spots in the Boston area that I happen to know.

Not the best of the Spenser books I've read. Worth the buck-fifty I paid, but not a whole lot more.

| Permanent Link

April 11, 2002

Scion of Cyador by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. We've developed a bit of a backlog in the book log, due to the Martian Death Flu I contracted from a colleague last week, which still has me hacking and coughing like a twenty-year smoker this week. At least the fever and general lethargy have passed... Last week, I could manage to focus enough to teach my classes only through an effort of will, which left me too drained to do much else. I did read a couple of books while waiting for various cold pills to kick in, so I'll post them here over the next couple of days.

This book is a direct sequel to Magi'i of Cyador, reviewed in the very early days of this book log. It picks up the adventures of Lorn, the eponymous scion, and follows his career as he continues his rise through the strata of Cyadoran society.

As I said about the last book, I'm hard pressed to explain what it is I like about this series (now well into the double digits). By all rights, these ought to be dreadful-- the names are daft, the world remains sketchy, the prose relies heavily on cutesy literary devices-- all of this ought to bug the hell out of me, but I find the books oddly soothing. They even make pretty good reading for times when I'm sick, precisely because they are oddly soothing.

I think it has to do with the fact that, while the books do tend to have the same basic "callow young man becomes Person of Importance" plot, they spend about the same amount of time on mundane domestic concerns as they do on the world-shaking events which the protagonist sets in motion. And the characters go about shaking the world with the same quiet competence they bring to their personal affairs. This book is roughly equally divided between the political and military intrigues surrounding Lorn's career, and his attempts to set up a happy home life with his wife, Ryalth (sections which may be particularly effective for me, as one who is counting the days (45) until I get to make my own attempt at domestic bliss...). It also helps that the books aren't really flashy-- while Lorn is supremely competent at everything he turns his hand to, he's not showily competent, if that makes any sense. I never quite get the same sense that the Hand of the Author is smoothing the path for the character that I do in many other novels with similar plot arcs.

These are certainly not books that fit all tastes-- many people I know consider them the worst sort of dreck imaginable. But if you like one of them, you'll probably like them all (save maybe The Towers of Sunset), and this one is no exception. I'll buy the next one (in paperback) when I see it, even though I really can't nail down why...

| Permanent Link

April 7, 2002

Three Doors to Death by Rex Stout. Another Nero Wolfe book, this time a collection of three stories. This was one of the very few I hadn't read before, and one of the last we didn't own. Being stuck at home doing laundry and minding the slow-to-cook dinner I made tonight, I read it immediately.

I've logged enough Nero Wolfe books (Please Pass the Guilt, A Right to Die, and Not Quite Dead Enough) that there's not much to say, other than to note that the third story in this volume, "Door to Death" was made into an episode of the current TV series on A&E (Warning: They've opted for a hideously awful site design. If you want something informative, go to this page, where the background pattern is awful but the information is excellent). Instead of lengthy commentary on the book (which is a good one), then, I'll just quote this exchange between Archie and Wolfe, after Archie has returned from an assignment at a fashion show where "six of the girls [he] was waiting to marry" were modelling clothes:

As I explained to Wolfe in the office that evening, after I had reported a blank and we were conversing, "Imagine it! After the weddings I will of course have to take a good-sized apartment between Fifth and MAdison in the Sixties. On a pleasant autumn evening I'll be sitting in the living room reading the newspaper. I'll toss the paper aside and clap my hands, and in will come Isabel. She will have on a claf-exposing kitchen apron with a double hemline and will be carrying a plate of ham sandwiches and a pitcher of milk. She will say seductively 'Two-ninety-three,' make interesting motions and gestures without spilling a drop, put the plate and pitcher on a table at my elbow, and go. In will come Francine. She will be wearing slim-silhouette pajamas with padded shoulders and a back-flaring hipline. She'll walk and wave and whirls, say 'Nine-thirty-one' four times, and light me a cigarette and dance out. Enter Delia. She'll be dressed in a high-styled bra of hand-made lace with a billowing sweep to the--"

"Pfui," Wolfe said curtly. Enter another, naked, carrying a basket of bills, your checkbook, and a pen."

He has a personal slant on women.

| Permanent Link

April 6, 2002

Angry Lead Skies by Glen Cook. A new Garrett novel, the first in a couple of years. Once again, our intrepid hero finds himself wakened by a pounding at his front door:

I peeked through the peephole.

I cussed some. Which always makes me feel better when that old devil sixth sense tells me that things are about to stop going my way.

Nowhere in sight, for as far as my eagle eye could see, was there even one tasty morsel of femininity.

I was so disappointed I grumbled, "But it always starts with a girl." My seventh and eight senses started perking. They couldn't find a girl, either.

Then my natural optimism kicked in. There wasn't a girl around! There wasn't a girl around! There wasn't anybody out there but my old pal Playmate and a skinny gink who had to be a foreigner because there was no way a Karentine of his type could have survived the war in the Cantard.

No girl meant no trouble. No girl meant nothing starting. No girl meant not having to go to work. All was right with the world after all. [...]

Then I made my big mistake.

I opened the door.

While there may not have been a girl on the front step, Garrett finds plenty of women before the tale is done, and trouble enough for a whole army of women on his doorstep. It seems that Playmate (a nine-foot blacksmith and stableman with ambitions to be a preacher) has taken a bright but disturbed young man under his wing. Cypres "Kip" Prose, the young man in question, has lots of brilliant ideas for handy devices to improve life (among his inventions are pencils and rickshaws), but he's being stalked by strange elfin beings in silvery clothes, who are capabale of amazing and unusual feats of sorcery, and who may or may not be associated with the strange plague of flying silvery disks which have lately been sighted in the skies of Garrett's native TunFaire.

The not-elves in question turn out to be exactly what they sound like, and it's hard to know quite what to make of the premise. It's either stunningly audacious, or a sign that Cook's running low on ideas for this series. I tend to believe the former, as with the exception of some slightly tired sex jokes, this is one of the most enjoyable entries in the series. It is a silly book, as Graham Chapman might've said (far sillier than the last Garrett book I read, Old Tin Sorrows), but it never quite slides into slapstick. The plot bumbles along amusingly as Garrett finds himself caught in the middle of a strange four- or five-way squabble over Kip Prose. It's also not without its more serious moments, as the social upheaval following the end of the generations-long war in the Cantard continues, and dramatic changes to the social order are starting to be made, with technology soon to be added to the mix. By the end of the book, Garrett has exacted some well-deserved revenge on an old friend, and may be on his way to becoming a respectable captain of industry.

This is a fun book, though probably a terrible place to start reading this series, as it makes lots of references to past episodes. The only complaint I have with it is that it may have the worst cover painting of the many bad cover paintings visited upon these books so far, with the artist having painted Garrett as a flat-chested woman in a fedora... That, or Leonardo DiCaprio...

Fans of the series should enjoy this latest installment. It doesn't quite start the series off in a startling new direction, but there's life in the story yet. There's also a blatant hook for a sequel, which seems to have interesting possibilities. It'll be interesting to see where Cook goes from here.

| Permanent Link

April 4, 2002

John the Balladeer by Manly Wade Wellman. I found this last weekend in Schuylerville, New York, which is just about the last place you'd expect to find a really good used book store. There is, however, a really good used book store there...

This is a collection of Wellman's Appalachian fantasy stories, featuring the eponymous John:

Where I've been is places, and what I've seen is things, and there've been times I've run off from seeing them, off to other places and things. I keep moving, me and this guitar with the silver strings to it, slung behind my shoulder. Sometimes I've got food with me and an extra shirt maybe, but most times just the guitar, and trust to God for what I need else.

I don't claim much. John's my name, and about that I'll only say I hope I've got some of the goodness of good men who've been named it. I'm no more than just a natural man; well, maybe taller than some. [...]

Up these heights and down these hollows you'd best go expecting anything. Maybe everything. What's long time ago left off happening outside still goes on here, and the tales the mountain folk tell sound truer here than outside. About what I tell, if you believe it you might could get some good thing out of it. If you don't believe it, well, I don't have a gun out to you to make you stop and hark at it.

(Taken from "Farther Down the Trail", a collection of little vignettes that were used as filler in some earlier collection, and are clumsily thrown together here).

These are stories rooted in folklore and folk music, of a guitar player wandering the back woods of North Carolina looking for and singing old folk tunes, and encountering magic good and ill. In the various stories collected here (spanning some thirty-five years of writing), John encounters all manner of odd monsters and folkloric beasts, from undead witches to animated skeltons, to giants out of the book of Genesis. Christianity is also critically important in this world, with Bible verses having real power to ward off harm, and Jesus Himself makes an appearance (in one of the weaker stories).

It's hard to say exactly why I like these stories (I own four of the five Silver John novels, too, and they haven't been easy to locate), seeing how I'm not particularly religious, and I'm a Yankee to the core. There's just a simple sort of charm to the whole thing-- the narrative voice is engaging (all but one of the stories are told in first person by John), and for all the Southern-fried Lovecraft character of the villains, these are upbeat and hopeful tales. John encounters all manner of curses and witchery, and eons-old creeping terrors from the depths of nightmare, but every one of them can be turned aside with sturdy Christian faith and a few hymns picked out on a guitar with silver strings.

These are great comfort reading, in their way. I think the novels actually work slightly better than the short stories, as the narration has the unhurried flow characteristic of the region, which makes the short stories feel a little cramped. Still, stories like "Nine Yards of Other Cloth" (in which John meets his beloved Evadare), "Trill Coster's Burden", "The Little Black Train", and "Shiver in the Pines" are well worth reading. The "American Tolkien" claims floated in the introduction and cover copy are a little overblown, but John's an enjoyable character to spend some time with, and Wellman has created a uniquely American fantasy landscape that's a nice change of pace from most modern fantasy.

| Permanent Link

April 2, 2002

Jumper by Steven Gould. This book was first published in 1992, and may soon be reprinted as part of Tor's new "Young Adult" line (It appeared on one list of books to be published by Starscape, but isn't mentioned on the web site). I've kicked around the idea of re-reading it a few times in recent years (usually when recommending it to other people), and the recent mention finally got me to dig it out of the boxes in which my paperbacks currently reside.

This is basically a Heinlein juvenile for the '90's and beyond. It's the story of David Rice, the son of an abusive alcoholic father, who suddenly discovers that he has the ability to teleport. While the science isn't as rigorous as some of the old classics (no attempt is made to explain the source of David's ability), the basic structure is essentially the same as the "juvenile" novels which so many SF readers credit with turning them on to the genre. David discovers his power, then sets out to exploit that power in a relentlessly logical manner, building a new life for himself. He gets nice clothes, a new apartment, a girlfriend, and eventually sets about making the world a better place. There's a certain element of wish-fullfilment in this book-- were I to suddenly discover the ability to teleport, I'd like to think I would handle myself half as well as David does in this book.

There's a sort of episodic structure to the book, too, that's somewhat reminiscent of older juvenile novels. The book is broken down into reasonably distinct sections which might almost be given nineteenth-century titles: "In Which I Move to New York City," "In Which I Obtain a Wonderful Girlfriend," or "In Which I Take On Evil Government Agents." If you're not wild about a particular thread of the plot, just wait a little while, and something different will come along.

This book is significantly darker than the great juvenile novels of the past, though. The cover blurb from Lois McMaster Bujold puts it about right: "Don't compare Jumper to Heinlein, though. Heinlein never had this much psychological depth, never got this real." The abuse that David suffers is disturbingly real, and it has real consequences in his life (among other things, it does provide a much better than average reason why the generally bright young protagonist doesn't seek adult help...). He's perhaps a bit too well-adjusted for a child raised in that sort of environment, but not by a whole lot. While he's coldly logical and competent in making use of his power to set himself up with a better life, the turmoil and insecurity of his personal relationships are realistically and sympathetically handled. There's also a terrorism plot in the latter part of the book that forces David to deal with some of the larger moral issues involved, and no easy answers are given.

Some people have expressed surprise that this would be considered for publication as a YA book, given some of the darker elements (there's also some sexual content). This is one of those broader societal change things, I think-- while it's much darker than the "Golden Age" SF juveniles, it's not really that much darker than, say, Terry Pratchett's Johnny books, or The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. Pratchett uses a lighter tone, while Gould provides raw and direct first-person narration, but both Jumper and the Johnny books touch on issues that simply weren't talked about when Heinlein was writing, but are now staples of more mainstream YA fiction.

This is a very good book. It lacks polish in places (it was Gould's first novel), but it's a solid pice of work. Gould has a couple of other YA-ish books out (Wildside and Helm) as well as a more "adult" book Blind Waves, which are also good, but not quite as effective as Jumper. I recommend picking it up when you see a copy.

| Permanent Link

As I'm not as ambitious or conscientious as Kate is, this isn't using any weblogging software at the moment-- I don't figure it will be updated regularly enough to require automatic archiving and the like.

The comment feature is provided by YACCS, and is dead simple to install. If you're looking to add comments to a weblog, it's a good way to go.

Obligatory silly little counter:

Begun: 7 August, 2001