Archive for December, 2006

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Thank you, my friends!

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52 Books: Epilogue

So I pretty much made it to the end without much fuss or drama – I’m actually at about 55 books not counting the many serial online novels I read this year. Not that tough lah. Though admittedly, I deliberately went for easy-reading as far as possible so I wouldn’t have too much of a backlog. Sometimes I’d read 3 short books in a row and read nothing for the next 3 weeks. Also, part of the point of this project was to get my own writing cogs oiled up and do a little creative writing myself. Unfortunately I’ve been spectacularly unproductive in that respect.

In any case, here’s a little post-mortem for 52 Books, 52 Weeks:

Favourite fiction book:
Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

Favourite non-fiction book:
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Pros:

  1. I’ve got a great reference for everything I’ve read so far. I stopped forgetting what books I’ve read and re-borrowing stuff.
  2. Publishing reviews forced me to be a better writer, and to think a little harder about what I’ve absorbed. I did cop out a couple of times though.
  3. I read a little more non-fiction than I’m used to, and I’ve rather enjoyed it.
  4. I definitely read a lot more than usual this year – always a good thing to read more.
  5. It got this blog Tomorrowed, and High Browse Online-d, which was very very cool.
  6. People came by to say hello cos of the reviews, and I made a couple of friends online as a result.
  7. I got to plug some books and writers I really enjoyed – usually I feel pretentious telling people about good books. This was a good workaround.
  8. People now think I’m smarter than I really am, which is the whole point, really.
  9. It was fun!

Cons:

  1. I passed on a lot of books I really wanted to read only because they were too long.
  2. Now I’ve becoming a bigger bibliophile, I’m going to start buying books. I’ll still go to the library, but I’ll buy the authors I like. It’ll be like downloading a single first and buying the CD later. Er, this means I’ll be spending more money – not good.
  3. The reviews got a little too much like homework at some point.

On the whole, I’d say it was easily worth the time, but I won’t be continuing next year. That is to say, I will be reading craploads as usual, I just won’t confine it to a book a week, I might end up reading more, who’s to say? I’ll still post reviews though, or maybe just some notes. Reading some really good hard scifi this year’s inspired me to get up to speed on some hard science as well, so I’ll be taking my own sweet time going through a couple of tomes this year.

I’ve put the whole year of reviews in a new Reads page for easy reference.

52 Down 0 Left (52 Books, 52 Weeks)

The Emperor Xerxes of Persia intends to add Greece to his empire, and he’s brought along an army of millions. Spartan King Leonidas has only his 300 bodyguards with which to defend his tiny nation of free men, and does so with both tragic and triumphant consequences.

It’s easy to fall into superlatives when discussing Frank Miller’s work – now especially with his increasing visibility in Hollywood – and 300 is no different, the art is cinematic and moody, the dialogue suitably loaded with gravitas and Miller’s usual retinue of tortured heroic characters are in attendance.

But I’ve come to detect an unpleasant subtext to all of his work since he announced his plan to write Batman going after Osama Bin Laden. Now, Miller has arguably greater ownership of Batman than any other living comics writer, but the notion is faintly ridiculous, even by comic book standards. 9/11 seems to have polarised his worldview into something as black & white as Sin City. Here’s an extract from an article he wrote, published September 11 this year.

Now the real thing had shown up. The real thing murdered my neighbors. In my city. In my country. Breathing in that awful, chalky crap that filled up the lungs of every New Yorker, then coughing it right out, not knowing what I was coughing up. For the first time in my life, I know how it feels to face an existential menace. They want us to die.

Yeah, very Bush administration, I know. 300 seems to fit rather neatly within this ‘us versus them‘ dichotomy, with the added bonus of the Persians being a rather swarthy race and the Greeks being the historical source of freedom and democracy. I know I’m talking about popular fiction here, and comics are – despite recent developments – still not the first place to find measured political discourse. But I expected more from Frank Miller.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic book, but I just feel like I’m not reading the same writer anymore, y’know what I mean? I guess this is what it feels like when you grow out of your heroes. Good thing I’m pretty sure I’ll probably still enjoy the movie.

300
(ISBN No: 978-1569714027) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

51 Down 1 Left (52 Books, 52 Weeks)

First Contact occurs in a planetwide spectacle but the actual aliens are nowhere to be seen. The source of the signal is traced light-years away and a crew is dispatched to figure out the purpose of the message. Siri Keeton is the lobotomized protagonist – able to decode and encode any message without needing to understand its content – sent to record the real Contact.

The crew consists of a surgically-induced schizophrenic – 4 geniuses sharing one body, a biologically-modified synthaesist – able to taste radio frequencies but unable to feel his fingertips, a pacifist soldier whose greatest triumph was an act of treason, a resurrected vampire of an ancient intelligence beyond the ken of any homo sapiens, and our almost-autistic narrator.

Cory Doctorow describes Peter Watts as a writer of angry sci-fi, which is quite apt considering the way technology seems to have evolved in his fiction. Science has reached an apex, but the world of Blindsight is bleaker than your typical future dystopia. Ostensibly an amalgam of Alien and Solaris, Watts also evokes some incredibly mind-reeling ideas about sentience and the definition of life – Blindsight is at once horrific and illuminating, quite a depressing read, but perfect for the rainy weather.

Blindsight
(ISBN No: 0765312182) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

My final book this year will be 300 by Frank Miller.

Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time – Jarvis Cocker

Yet another 90s Britpop frontman, except Jarvis is way more brilliant. Fucking ace, he is.

Beautiful – Brett Anderson

No trace of irony in the performance at all. Cute, but some Xtina hysterics would’ve been funny.

A Special Christmas Box

Justin Timberlake + SNL = crazy delicious

I bet this is written by the Lonely Island guys again (they did Lazy Sunday).


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