What We’re Actually Reading: October Round-Up

So I’ve read a bunch of books since I started this feature, but I’ve found I haven’t always actually had all that much to say about any of them. So why not run through a bunch really quickly?

Good Omens

What’s It About?

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman write a story about the apocalypse where Satan’s minions accidentally lost the antichrist. Hijinks ensue.

What’s It Like?

I’m one of the miserable masses that hasn’t read a whole lot of Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett, so this seemed like a good way to kill two birds with one stone. It’s a pretty fantastic, pretty hilarious read. And it’s also a revered cult classic, so I know I’m going to get a lot of hate for this next part: the antichrist himself was painfully boring. Maybe it’s largely because he pales in comparison to the many other much wittier, much more interesting characters in this book (seriously, something like a quarter of the book is required to just introduce all of them). But for a book about the chaos that ensues when nobody knows where the antichrist is, and the antichrist himself doesn’t know he’s the antichrist and has just been raised like a normal, unassuming boy, it’s kind of a shame that the antichrist is the least interesting part of it all? But it’s a largely hilarious book, aside from the figure around which the entire plot revolves.

Can You Explain It In Terms of Other Books We Read On This Blog?

I guess if I’m going in the “the main character is the worst part of this whole thing” direction, I suppose House of Night? Except if all of its “quirky” supporting characters were actually… say… characters. Also it has jokes in it.

I know House of Night has “jokes” in it. That’s the joke.

Good Omens has better jokes in it that what I just did. Obviously. Gaiman and Pratchett wrote it.

good omens

No Country For Old Men

What’s It About?

A man happens upon a shitton of money from a drug trade gone bad and decides to take it, prompting the absolute worst possible butterfly effect. I don’t want to spoil anything, buuuuut it’s a Cormac McCarthy novel. Every single person suffers as a result of this decision. Sometimes for beautifully karmic reasons. Sometimes for a devastating lack of reasons. Apparently it was made into a movie that won the Academy Award for best picture. I totally missed that.

What’s It Like?

Hey, everyone. Cormac McCarthy is maybe my favorite author. I really like books that are supposed to make you feel miserable and dead inside, unlike the books we read for this blog that accidentally make you feel miserable and dead inside. That being said, I’m actually not sure what there is for me to say about a Cormac McCarthy novel? That hasn’t been said already? It’s a little slow at times, especially at the end, so I maintain that anyone new to McCarthy should pick up All The Pretty Horses first (which also gets slow, but in a way that works towards getting you in the character’s head a bit better, I think).

But one thing that sets this apart from his Border trilogy or The Road is a clear-cut villain. Like, aside from the purposelessness of the human condition. Unlike the others I’ve read, there’s an actual antagonist in here, and – much like you’d expect from McCarthy – he is goddamned haunting. And also probably emblematic of the purposelessness of the human condition. It’s a Cormac McCarthy novel.

Can You Explain It In Terms of Other Books We Read On This Blog?

It’s like Divergent: a person obtains an unfathomably great gift by chance, people want to kill them about it, and by the end of the story it means nothing.

no country for old men

The Silkworm

What’s It About?

JK Rowling, who I always thought could maybe write a pretty great mystery novel since some of the better Harry Potter novels are pretty much intricate mysteries anyway, writes a series of pretty bland detective novels, featuring: 1) grumpy man detective and engaged female assistant who totally aren’t going to end up together eventually, 2) like 8000 pages before the murder mystery even gets to the murder part, and 3) suspects so forgettable I forgot which ones were red herrings and which ones were unnecessarily convoluted parts of the puzzle.

What’s It Like?

It’s the second in the series and I might give up on it at this point. Much like The Cuckoo’s Calling, it’s mildly fun, but ripe for “well, it certainly lacks some MAGIC haha get it because she wrote Harry Potter” jokes. The twist whodunnit is a bit more clever this time around, but the complete lack of memorable characters isn’t leaving me itching to go back.

Can You Explain It In Terms of Other Books We Read On This Blog?

10% the “omg who could possibly be after Christian???” mystery that was ostensibly the plot of the last Fifty Shades book, 90% the inscrutable will-they-won’t-they of the first few chapters of the first Fifty Shades book.

the silkworm

The Humans

What’s It About?

A science-focused alien race monitors other planets and sends one of its own on a secret mission to Earth to eliminate any information of an important scientific breakthrough, because humanity has been deemed to be a violent race without value. OR IS IT? As he spends time as an impostor among the humans, he discovers there’s more to humanity than meets the eye.

What’s It Like?

A trope goes to a world full of tropes, and learns that the tropes are different from the tropes he expected.

Can You Explain It In Terms of Other Books We Read On This Blog?

When Divergent tried to say something profound about the human condition, but it’s still mostly known as the one that’s not The Hunger Games.

the humans

Love In A Cold Climate

What’s It About?

Mildly-to-considerably scandalous events happen in upper-class life in interwar England, which either already has you riveted or not remotely interested. It’s cool. It’s a sort of parallel novel. It’s sort of the lesser of the two novels. Some of the scandals are more interesting than others (a young woman marries a MUCH OLDER MAN – it’s more interesting than it sounds) and it’s intriguing how they all meet up at the end (especially in a way that’s oddly progressive about homosexuality for 1949), but none of the characters remain especially interesting for the amount of time we spend with them.

What’s It Like?

Reading Oscar Wilde, but not. Again, you already know if your interest is piqued. Also despite the characters being largely accepting of homosexuality, it still has some dated representations of homosexual characters, so, uh, tread carefully.

Can You Explain It In Terms of Other Books We Read On This Blog?

Half Pamela but with a pathetic, sad old man (which is considerably more amusing). Half House of Night‘s over-the-top reminders that Damien is gay.

love in a cold climate

Here’s Some Music Recommendations, While We’re At It

Talking Heads are one of my favorite bands, so it’s great that at the peak of Talking Heads’ powers, two of them also started a side-project for their own experiments with the funky, rhythmic music they were making. The Tom Tom Club is well worth exploring if you’re a huge Heads fan and don’t know about this yet.

Want some South African jazz? Yeah you do. Check out Bokani Dyer.

I love Portishead. I love gentle music with weird electronic guitar shit going on subtly in the background. I like when two totally different things find a way to work together like that. God, it’s a shame The Civil Wars broke up.

0
Advertisements

7 comments

  1. Anonymous Reply

    I know you guys always said you wouldn’t read Twilight on this blog…

    But I am hoping you will read that new gender bending Twilight version that Meyer released for Twilight’s tenth anniversary. I’m curious but I don’t want to read it myself. 😀 I’d much rather read it with your commentary.

    0
    • matthewjulius Reply

      Hahaha I saw the news yesterday and wondered how long it would take for someone to ask if we’re doing it. I don’t know yet, but my curiosity is piqued

      0
  2. Bellomy Reply

    I’m actually a little surprised you didn’t like “The Silkworm”, I enjoyed it much more than “The Cuckoo’s Calling”. The biggest problem with TCC was pacing, and “The Silkworm” was much, much better on that front, in my opinion at least.

    If you’re looking into sci-fi and fantasy, try “A Canticle for Leibowitz”. What a masterpiece. For an even older but great book, try “The Man Who Was Thursday”, which is the second funniest book I’ve ever read to the Hitchhiker’s series (I’ll count them as one).

    If you want to read a couple of great books on writing, I highly, highly recommend “Writing Down the Dragon” and “Death Carries a Camcorder” by Tom Simon. Mr. Simon is criminally under-read and he’s one of the best essayists I’ve ever seen.

    As always, “Awake in the Night Land” by John C. Wright remains a sci-fi masterpiece.

    0
    • Judy Reply

      I also enjoyed “The Silkworm” and agree about “The Cuckoo’s Calling”. “A Canticle for Leibowitz” is a masterpiece. Can’t wait to try “The Man Who Was Thursday” on your recommendation.

      0
      • malcolmthecynic Reply

        Be prepared for the ending of “Thursday”, it gets very surreal. Just keep in mind that the book is subtitled “A Nightmare”, and also keep in mind that Chesterton converted to Catholicism during the course of writing the book. I think it’ll help you understand what, exactly, he’s trying to get across.

        0
  3. E.H.Taylor Reply

    I’ve only read one of the books you’ve listed and might need to look at some of the others. I was contemplating “The Silkworm”, but I honestly wasn’t fond of “The Cuckoo’s Calling” and so have been continually pushing it further down my ‘To Read’ list.

    I’m currently reading three books: A Mind to Murder by P.D. James, Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson, and I’m rereading Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey (I remember really enjoying it, but I haven’t looked at in a few years).

    0

Leave a Reply