Visions of Paradise

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Summer reading

Summer is my prime reading season, and I finished 10 books the past 10 weeks, a typical pace for me. I enjoyed most of the books I read, but none of them was the type of “instant classic” like last summer’s The Judgment of Caesar, by Steven Saylor. So here are the books I read this summer in a rough descending order of enjoyment:

Title / Rating / Author
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan / B+ / Lisa See
Roma / B+ / Steven Saylor
Year’s Best Science Fiction 23rd vol/ B+ / Gardner Dozois ed.
Pillars of the Earth / B+ / Ken Follett
The Alien Years / B / Robert Silverberg
One for Sorrow / B / Mary Reed & Gary Mayer
The Sky People / B / S.M. Stirling
Flatlander/ B / Larry Niven
The Dragon’s Nine Sons / C / Chris Roberson
Use of Weapons / C / Iain M. Banks

A few comments:

While I enjoyed Roma, its wide spectrum drained it of the type of depth Saylor was able to indulge in his more narrowly-focused The Judgment of Caesar and Last Seen in Massilia, which is why it was a bit less successful;

Year’s Best Science Fiction must be rated on a harsher scale than the other books since editor Dozois had the entire year’s output of f&sf to choose from, and while I enjoyed the book overall (especially such stories as Robert Reed’s Great Ship mystery “Camouflage”, Harry Turtledove’s alternate history adventure “Audubon in Atlantis”, Chris Roberson’s bittersweet Celestial Empire tale “Gold Mountain”–which was far superior to his adventure novel The Dragon’s Nine Sons set in the same series–and, especially, Alastair Reynolds’ classic “Zima Blue”), there were too many stories in the book which were just all right, not really deserving of a “year’s best” designation.

While I really enjoyed Pillars of the Earth, the author’s thriller tendencies made parts of it a bit melodramatic and not totally-believable. Still, I look forward to reading his other historical epic World Without End.

Probably the most successful book overall that I read was Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, which fell just short of being an A book. I am also looking forward to See’s other acclaimed Chinese novel Peony in Love.


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