Saturday, September 30, 2006

Books Read

The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead

This author is fiendishly clever. A person could start reading this book and think it's a straightforward scifi novel: imagine a city where many if not most buildings are skyscrapers, and the elevator inspectors have a crucial position of power in the city. Among those inspectors are the Empiricists, who inspect elevators in the usual way, by physically inspecting the bits and pieces and ticking things off a list, and there are the Intuitionists, who enter an elevator and 'feel' where the problem lies. Clearly this is a scifi world where people have some sort of paranormal talent, and the world of elevators is a Big Deal.

But as a person gets further into the story, she realizes that this world shares quite a bit of the history of the real world, including the rampant racism and the struggle of black people to enter competitively into the world of whites. The reader thinks, "Wait a minute, wouldn't elevators be the center of the world to an elevator inspector?" Maybe this world isn't such a scifi world after all, but a funny fishbowl look at an insular guild with all the trappings of politics, bribes, and bigotry. Funny thing is, the Intuitionists have a better track record than the empiricists. It's a quick read, but don't let that fool ya. I'm still thinking about it two weeks later. Heh, elevators as metaphors of the human race.

Grass Dancer by Susan Power

I like to read Native American authors. I must admit I grew up with a romanticized vision of American Indians that white people are prone to having. I also grew up with an unconscious racism that I hope I have rooted out and purged from my self-understanding. As with any fiction, I get an opportunity to get inside the head of a character and her life, and with this book I get a glimpse of the grass dancer. I get a glimpse of the social webs that inform attenders of a powwow, a glimpse of the real presence of ancestors in a native's life. The author warns, quoted here, "I worry too much that people read my work sometimes as History, Sociology, Ethnography, when it's really fiction, and that's all it's meant to be." And she tells a good story, albeit backwards. Most chapters step back in time, sort of like peeling off layers of quilts to find the core of the story that is the body of the ancestral archetype.

The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 1: The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

Darn it, there's too many patrons at my current library who like scifi/fantasy and are making me aware of more books that I just have to read. Ah, at least they're usually quick reads. In this universe, various countries are run by magicians who get their magical power from djinni. Magicians are no great beings, but petty overlords that think of their djinni slaves as demons, and non-magicians as commoners. As is often the case with fantasy, this trilogy shows some promise in the exploration of class and bigotry.

The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint

Another take on dangerous fairies and the people who attract their attention, and outcast teens becoming something special. A girl moves to town with a past and a free spirit. I've known a couple of strong young women why got messed up around age 13 but they got past that and are now ahead of the game. Tough smart and kind this character reminds me of them. She gets to know a ghost which leads her to the slightly cruel world of fairies. The book is as much or more about her friendship with Maxine who learns to find herself again a character so thus to life

Shadows in Darkness by Elaine Cunningham

A woman must leave the police force when a drug bust goes bad. The first hint that all is not as it seems is when her dying cop friend watches her leave the scene and sees her blue halo.

Clues of corruption and deeper intrigue keep the book moving along, with sexy elven tension kicking it up a notch. Reminds me a lot of Laurell K. Hamilton but with more complex story threads.

Redefining Our Relationships by Wendy-O Matik

I could have written a lot of this book. I have discovered for myself and written a lot of the ideas of this book. I find it interesting that there are so many ways in which people who really give polyamory a fair shake with integrity come upon the same universal ideas. Those who judge it from the outside don't, and those who haven't yet experienced it, don't. This would be a great book for someone who wants to experience polyamory, but wants to know more about what it can be like.

Killing Color by Charlotte Watson Sherman

Very earthy earth mother out of Africa book of short stories. A hint of sacred sexuality enters almost every story. I like that. Every story also has this pulsing ancient wisdom coursing through the bodies of characters, a very physical spirituality. I like that too but not all the time. I didn't get the sense that the characters were different people, but more different aspects, and not very different, of one person.

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