Books read in March 2014

Ruden_AssApuleius: The Golden Ass. Translated by Sarah Ruden.

This translation of a novel written in the Roman Empire almost 2000 years ago was recommended by Elizabeth Hand in F&SF (2013-5/6), and I am sincerely grateful to her for pointing it out. OK, I have not read the original, neither any other translation, but in any case this one was thoroughly entertaining. Ruden has used modern expressions where Apuleius has used the colloquial Latin ones. The novel is a picaresque with several inserted stories, but the main story is about Lucius who is turned into an ass, who cannot talk but understands what is said. There is a lot of violence and sex, even bestiality, and the style is humorous throughout. Highly recommended!

 

HomelandCory Doctorow: Homeland.

This direct sequel to Little Brother, with the same characters and ideas, failed to interest me. It was too much “more of the same”. Still, the central idea, how to use a gigantic Wikileaks-style document to attack corruption, is interesting but should have been developed more.

 

HildNicola Griffith: Hild.

I sincerely looked forward to read this book since I liked her Ammonite and Slow River. This is a historical novel with no fantastic elements. Actually, when Hild makes predictions which appear supernatural, they are based on her active listening and ability to read. Hild is a real historic person living in the 7th century in Britain, where there are conflicts between a lot of small kingdoms and the two branches of Christianity based in Rome and on Ireland. There are also conflicts based on the slow removal of the pagan religion. All this is interesting and many of the characters are well described, especially Hild herself who is depicted as a very strong person. The problem with the novel is that there are just too many characters and too many expeditions to various parts of Britain. Lovers of long fantasy series probably would like it better.

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Philip E. High: The Prodigal Sun.

This sf from the 1960s was actually quite readable, with a fast-moving and compelling story about a human with super-powers who returns to an Earth that has been devastated by war and is now ruled by a dictatorship.

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the-red-first-light-by-linda-nagataLinda Nagata: The Red: First Light.

Another excellent military sf with combat squads linked with each other and a commanding centre. The story is set entirely on Earth, to begin with in Africa, and the most interesting about it is the uncertainty about why there has to be a war. Is it demanded by the defence industry or is it the media industry that needs a story to tell? The story is well told with believable if somewhat crazy characters. This is just the first book in a series and it is OK as it is, even if there are loose ends.

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