Reading #55

I've been keeping loose track of the books I read for a while now, on various platforms. I'm going to try doing it here for a while.


Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile

Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile by Taras Grescoe
Taras Grescoe really doesn't like cars: or rather, he really doesn't like what happens to cities when car-centric development is the dominant mode for decades or longer. I'm more or less in agreement with him on this, so I am a receptive audience for this book. In fact the arguments against car-centric development were for me the least enjoyable part of this book, as I've heard most of them before and agree with them. More interesting to me were the many different alternatives, from the supertrains of Tokyo to the success of Bus Rapid Transit in Bogota to the bike culture of Copenhagen, where a mindboggling 36% of citizens commute by bike. (For a U.S. comparison, even in enlightened Portland only about 6% commute by bike.) This is a polemical book, but its strength is in portraying the culture of each city through its transit. 

Graphic novels

Pyongyang: A Journey in North KoreaThe Invisibles, Vol. 1: Say You Want a RevolutionLocal

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle
Nonfiction: Guy Deslisle went to North Korea to work with an animation team there. He doesn't get much direct access to North Korean life and culture of course, so rather, the books is largely about the isolation of being in a tiny Western enclave walled off from the rest of the country for months on end, with occasional glimpses of the world beyond. Funny, and sinister.

The Invisibles Vol. 1: Say You Want a Revolution by Grant Morrison
I have the full run of the Invisibles in single issues, I'm starting to pick them up in graphic novel form so I can actually read them. Morrison is bonkers, but the pleasure of reading this first volume is the knowledge that he hasn't even really gotten going yet.

Local by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly
Beautiful hardback collection of Wood and Kelly's Local. The conceit is that each story takes place in a different city (and, less obviously at first, over a span of many years) and stands alone, though the thread through all of them is one young woman, Megan. Not every story works well, and one (with the violent brothers) doesn't work at all with the rest, but many do, and the sum total is magnificent. It's a coming of age story done as elegantly as I've seen in comic form. Wood's prose and Kelly's art work perfectly together.


Wolf Hall2312For The WinThe Last Colony (Old Man's War, #3)

Wolf Hall: A Novel by Hilary Mantel

If you've seen A Man for all Seasons, you can think of this novel as a response of sorts. It's a historical novel, with the general setting being the English Reformation, King Henry VIII and his wives, and all that. (Henry VIII wife mnemonic: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived — which is only sorta accurate but is memorable.) It's seen through Thomas Cromwell, commonly seen as a sinister manipulator — and he still is, in this novel, except you have a bit more sympathy for his sinister manipulations. Mantel has a very odd style for the narration which threw me off the first go at reading it, but it grew on me.

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
Set in a future history that's sort of but not really the same as his Mars trilogy, Robinson is writing a love story with a little spy action and a lot of world-building and future history telling. The love story is between a mercurial woman from Mercury (-ish, Robinson's future people have some creative gender options and do take advantage of them) and a saturnine man from Saturn. They fall in love in a crisis, fall apart, and fall back together again, while getting to tour some of the bits of the future Solar System that Robinson hasn't had a chance to do yet, and pulls back to Earth again and again. (KSR is trying to make the point to his space-happy fans that Earth is, should be, and always will be the main event, even if humanity does every spread beyond it.) It's good, read it.

For the Win by Cory Doctorow
At some point I'm going to figure out why so many science fiction authors felt they had to write a MMO book. Possibly they all lost a year to World of Warcraft and had to justify it to themselves. This is Doctorow's, and it's pretty good. Young people across the globe, involved in MMOs in one way or another, are oppressed, become radicalized, and organize to protect themselves.

The Last Colony by John Scalzi
I read this thinking I hadn't before; I had. This happens. It's a fine follow-up to The Old Man's War, but not nearly as strong. I am looking forward to the serial novel he has in mind next, I think it's high time more writers experimented with writing for digital devices.


RedshirtsNeuromancer (Sprawl, #1)Count Zero (Sprawl, #2)Mona Lisa Overdrive (Sprawl, #3)


Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi
Clever Star Trek parody wrapped around a mild philosophical puzzle with some sentiment tagged on. Fine, but I hoped for a bit more.

The Sprawl Trilogy (Neuromancer / Count Zero / Mona Lisa Overdrive) by William Gibson
Rereading these for the nth time. My preferences have slowly changed: I would have said a few years ago that Count Zero was the best of the three, now I prefer Mona Lisa Overdrive.