Monday, July 11, 2011

100 Books a Year Update

As noted in a post back in February, I am attempting to see if I can finish 100 books in 2011. It's been quite a busy year, and I'm falling behind. I'm not sure I'll complete my goal by December 31st. But the journey has been fun (well, mostly) so far. In addition to the ten books noted earlier, I've finished another 26:

A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens, 1843): No need to explain the plot or themes of this old classic, the first book I've ever read on an electronic device (my iPhone).

Typhon Pact Book One: Zero Sum Game (David Mack, 2010): Part one of a pedestrian, overlong, by-the-numbers four-part media tie-in series based in the Star Trek universe.

Typhon Pact Book Two: Seize the Fire (Michael A. Martin, 2010): Part two of the above-mentioned series.

Typhon Pact Book Three: Rough Beasts of Empire (David R. George III, 2010): Part three.

Typhon Pact Book Four: Paths of Disharmony (Dayton Ward, 2011): Part four. Reading this series was really more of a chore than a pleasure; these are the hazards of being a Star Trek completist.

Coyote Destiny (Allen Steele, 2010): The latest in Steele's series of novels about a group of humans who become the first people to colonize an extraterrestrial planet. Not bad, but not as invigorating as the first couple of books in the series.

Watch (Robert Sawyer, 2010): Second book in a three-part series about an artificial intelligence that emerges from the World Wide Web. Better than some of Sawyer's recent efforts, but still not nearly as good as his earlier work.

Fellow Traveler (William Barton and Michael Capobianco, 1991): Soviet cosmonauts of the far-future year of 2002 capture a nearby asteroid in order to enrich Earth with its metals and minerals. Hilariously ill-timed novel written just before the USSR's collapse portrays the Soviets as cartoonishly good and the Americans as cartoonishly evil, with a benevolent Gorbachev still in charge. Ponderous, but with a reasonably thrilling final act.

Echo (Jack McDevitt, 2010): Space archeologist/grave robber Alex Benedict stumbles onto a deeply troubling mystery. My brother has kind of soured on McDevitt, but I'm still enjoying his work; I think Jack has built two very cohesive, believable and appealing SF universes over the years. Reading one of his books isn't exactly like visiting old friends...it's more like returning to a safe and cozy vacation home.

The Messiah Stone (Martin Caidin, 1986): Truly awful novel about a mercenary in pursuit of a legendary stone that gives its owner the power to control minds. Laughable prose, cardboard characters with motivations that change wildly from one chapter to the next, unforgivable racism and misogyny - all this from the guy who created the Six Million Dollar Man. Really regrettable. Unfortunately, I picked up the sequel at the same used bookstore, so you'll see it in the next update...

The Kings of Eternity (Eric Brown, 2011): Delightful throwback to a simpler sort of science fiction, with aliens, ray guns, romance and British gentlemen. Engaging characters, efficient and even somewhat lyrical prose, a straightforward but sensible plot. Very much in the mold of Wells and Verne.

Michaelmas (Algis Budrys, 1977): Overlooked but masterful SF from one of the old greats. Presciently imagines the consequences - both good and bad - of the combination of mass media, the Internet and artificial intelligence.

Falling Free (Lois McMaster Bujold, 1988)
Brothers in Arms (Lois McMaster Bujold, 1989)
Mirror Dance (Lois McMaster Bujold, 1994)
Memory (Lois McMaster Bujold, 1996)
Komarr (Lois McMaster Bujold, 1998)
A Civil Campaign (Lois McMaster Bujold, 1999)
Diplomatic Immunity (Lois McMaster Bujold, 2002): Many years ago, I borrowed Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor from the Leduc public library. I loved Bujold's character-driven space opera, but didn't learn until years later that it was merely the first book in a series. Last year I re-read Shards of Honor and started devouring the sequels. This year I've nearly caught up, with only Bujold's latest, Cryoburn, unread.

Casino Royale (Ian Fleming, 1953)
Live and Let Die (Ian Fleming 1954)
Moonraker (Ian Fleming, 1955)
Diamonds are Forever (Ian Fleming, 1956)
From Russia, with Love (Ian Fleming, 1957)
Dr. No (Ian Fleming, 1958)
Goldfinger (Ian Fleming, 1959): This year I decided that I would read all of the original Bond novels, and I must say, so far they've surprised me in many ways.For instance, the literary Bond isn't the cartoonish, unflappable rake of the films; he's a man of great depth and pain, full of fear and vulnerability. Fleming gives Bond a remarkably believable character arc that spans, at the very least, all the novels I've read so far. And it's fascinating to see how close - and yet how far - the films stray from their source material. Certain scenes from the books are replicated quite faithfully in the movies; other adaptations are less true. Moonraker, for instance, is probably the worst Bond film, yet had it hewed more closely to the source material, it may have made a truly excellent Connery-era film. I look forward to finishing the series later this year.

James Bond: The Authorised Biography of 007 (John Pearson, 1973): Once I started reading Fleming's novels, my appetite for more of the literary Bond grew. Its canonical status is uncertain, but I enjoyed this book's fanciful conceit, that being that Bond was a real person and that Fleming merely chronicled his adventures, somewhat enhanced to serve as a propaganda tool against the communist bloc.

Including the ten mentioned in my first post on this subject, that makes 37 books read so far this year - 13 or 14 behind where I need to be at this point. I'll finish the Bond books for sure, and Harry Potter, and I plan to tackle some of Jeff's recommendations a little later on - the hard-boiled detective fiction that's sitting on one of my shelves.

As you can see, I've read a lot of books that form part of a series this year. That's a conscious choice; I thought perhaps it would make reaching 100 books easier, with one series novel propelling me to the next. I'm not sure if it's working, given that I'm off the pace, but perhaps this strategy will pay dividends as 2011 winds up.

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