Random News on Books: Vol. I

Links a’ Poppin’

All sorts of interesting stuff out there today, kids. So rather than make a bunch of wee lil’ posts – which would probably better from an SEO standpoint, but from a my usual lazy standpoint, not so much. Thus without further ado, I present to you: the inaugural volume of this semi regular feature produced by Barking Book Reviews (from lot 17 of Gecko’s Park Studios): Random News on Books from Teh Interwebz.

From the Books Section of the New York Times:
Two Potential Airplane Books

The New York Times books section is always a good place for the literary minded; I’ve rarely been steered wrong by a reviewer here. These two books below I doubt I would ever get around to reading, however, they are definitely, at least to my mind, worthy airplane books.

What are airplane books, you ask? These are books that, as stated above, I ordinarily wouldn’t bother to read – not because they are bad or uninteresting, per se, but are nevertheless found lacking when compared to the always-growing list of books I actually do want to read. But I would read these books if I were half hour away from getting on a long transatlantic flight and suddenly realized I forgot to pack a book in my carry-on. I’ve been faced with this dilemma, and the ensuing panic made me realize for the first time that my reading habit perhaps approaches obsessive-compulsive levels.

I was more than mildly freaked out about it, this not having a book to read. So much so that I ran back through the terminal in search of a book store, and ended up purchasing Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife, a fictional yet thinly-veiled account of the life of Laura Bush (!)

I know, right? But it was the only book in the airport bookstore that either  a) I hadn’t read; b) was pop-culture dreck; or c) otherwise didn’t insult my intelligence. And as it turned out, it’s actually an entertaining read – I actually researched the life of the actual Laura Bush after I finished it; it was that interesting. I wouldn’t have bothered with American Wife otherwise, to be honest – again, not because there is anything wrong with it, just not something it would have occurred to me to read under ordinary circumstances.

So, that’s an airplane book. And so are these, at least with regard to me. You, of course, may think otherwise.

Rusty Chapman Leads the Serial Murder Leagues in Left Handed Decapitations on Cloudy Days in Months Beginning with ‘R’

The New York Times reviews Popular Crime, a nonfiction piece that looks at famous crimes over the course of American history through the lens of baseball-like statistics. As spectator sports go, I confess baseball ranks up there with watching paint dry. In other words, almost as boring as watching golf.

As others have observed before me: baseball is 15 minutes of action squeezed into three or four hours. As such, I’ve never understood the true fan’s fascination with the statistical minutia of the sport.

The author of Popular Crime, one Bill James, is apparently some sort of legend among the baseball statistician cognoscenti; he has written books on the subject according to reviewer Nathaniel Rich, who cops to being one of those statistically analytical fans of both baseball and James. Despite this admission he seems to be fairly objective of James’ foray into the statistical analysis of crime. And in spite of finding baseball statistics as exciting as driveway root removal, Popular Crime sounds somewhat interesting – thus its status as a potential a airplane book.

Lost Horizon for American Ovaries

Is Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder a Heart of Darkness for the reading-popular-fiction-on-the-beach set? Er, maybe not, says the New York Times’ Janet Maslin. Nevertheless, State of Wonder sounds just interesting enough that it could likely serve as an adequate airplane book.

Fertility drug research; cranky, old-but-still-brilliant researcher in the heart of the Amazon jungle; unexplained deaths – as I say, potential for a tolerable diversion on a long flight, at the least. I would have made several Heart of Darkness jokes here, but Maslin already took care of that in her review.

A Pseudopodic History of Science Fiction

A rather interesting graphic history of Science Fiction by artist Ward Shelley.Over at Worlds Without End there is a new review up on Feed, a novel by Mira Grant – the review is by one Allie McCarn, who actually has her own book review site, Tethyan Books. Bias admittal: normally, I would not have anything to do with any book that has zombies in it, at this point.

Not that I don’t like zombies as much as the next person, but they are kind of like the Stairway to Heaven of horror and science fiction. I like Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven – or rather, the first 10 million times I heard it. Now, I’m done with it. I don’t ever need to hear it again. The rest of the Zepplin catalog? Sure. But not that. I feel that way about zombies, too.

But Feed is a Nebula Award winner, so it must not be completely without merit. After reading McCarn’s review, it even sounds like I might be able to stomach the zombie conceit in the novel given the right circumstances – it sounds like it would be a pretty good airplane book.

Incidentally, Feed was the Io9 bookclub book for May.

Also noted on Worlds Without End: the effing sweet history of science fiction diagram, which you see pictured here – originally from artist Ward Shelley – is now available as a print. I rarely spend money on such things, but I’m trying to talk myself into this one. It’s more justifiable than much of what I piss my money away on, to be quite frank.

Also, if you click on the graphic to look at it full size, it’s pretty big. If you’re on a pokey connection, it’s gonna take awhile.

Q: What Does it Take to Transcend Twighlight’s Onerous and Creepy Ending?
A: Getting Head from a Dragon

Cover of Touched by Venom by Janine CrossSpeaking of Io9, there’s a couple of interesting posts over there on science fiction and fantasy literary genres. First off, contributor Jess Nevins – described by Io9 as a librarian, pulp fiction historian, and comic book annotator (would that I could ever attain that level of cool – cool being a relative term, I know, but I’m a nerd) – discusses the portrayal of the mad scientist in fiction throughout the ages. And that’s just part one.

There is also a very amusing post for the Io9 Daily 10 today: Fantasy Sagas That Are Wronger Than Twilight. I have mixed feelings about the fact that of the 10 books or series of books listed in the top 10, I’ve only partaken of two of the respective authors (not to mention this abuse of innocent grammar in that headline from media professionals that should know better) One is Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series (I read the first one, many moons ago, but never got around to continuing); the other is Laurell K. Hamilton’s Narcissus in Chains. I read several of the Anita Blake novels back in the day, until the characterizations and plotting just got to too stupid to bear; I bailed out long before this one.

Anyway, the rest of the 10 sound interesting, as in “interesting.” There are a couple that even sound worthy of airport book status though, and one I might even add to my Possibly Maybe pile. The Cat’s Fancy by Julie Kenner is one I wouldn’t hesitate to read on an airplane (again predicated on the idea that I forgot to include a book in my carry-on). Although to be honest, that’s only if there is a Kindle edition; as self secure as I am, I’m not sure I’m confident enough to be seen reading such a book in public.

Of course if I have my Kindle, I can download whatever I want. But you get the idea.

Then there is Grunts by Mary Gentle. This is parody of Tolkien; I love Tolkien, so all I have to hear is the words parody and Tolkien, and I’m all but sold (National Lampoon’s Bored of the Rings is absolutely brilliant). To quote Io9:

This parody of Lord of the Rings and its many imitators is generally very well-regarded and has a loyal following — but even this brutal novel’s biggest fans say it’s not for everyone. For one thing, this is the book that gave us the phrase, “Pass another elf. This one has split.” And then there are the S&M Hobbits, who roam around in BDSM gear killing people, while their mother is doing other naughty things with all comers.

This. Yes.

But as far as this list goes, I don’t see how Janine Cross’ Touched by Venom isn’t in the top 5 at least. Dragon-on-woman oral sex:

[the dragon’s] mouth a thumbnails length from my sex, [and] his firm gums brushing my buttocks …

And we’ll end this post with that vision in our heads.

Postscript. Hi John.

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