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Saturday, March 28, 2015

February 2015 Review Roundup

As noted last month, at regular intervals I'll offer some thoughts on a few of the books and films I've enjoyed (or not) during each calendar month.

February was a slow month for movies; I only watched seven, all of them 2014 Best Picture nominees; I was playing catch-up before heading to the Fitzpatrick Oscar party. You can find my thoughts on the nominees here.

This year I'm making a conscious effort to get a little closer to gender balance in my reading, and my February reading list reflects that with seven books by women: three by the sublime Shirley Jackson (We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Come Along With Me and Just an Ordinary Day) and two by Ursula K. LeGuin (The Word for World is Forest and The Lathe of Heaven), one of SF's most-respected luminaries, male or female. Indeed, it's rather shocking that until this year I'd barely read any of LeGuin's work; you'll see next month that I've continued to explore her work. Una McCormack's Star Trek tie-in The Crimson Shadow and Jo Walton's Nebula-winning Among Others rounds out the works by women I read in February.

Of these seven works, the tie-in is predictably forgettable, while Jackson's Come Along With Me and Just an Ordinary Day are a bit of a letdown after the amazing We Have Always Lived in the Castle and her other earlier works. Castle, at least, is a wonderful story of small-town alienation and obsessive love; Jackson once again explores the frayed edges of the social universe and exposes all our human weaknesses.

The Lathe of Heaven is my favourite of the two LeGuin novels I read in February, both for its high concept (what if one man's dreams could re-write reality?) and its compassionate portrayal of both protagonist and antagonist.

Among Others is modern fantasy of the sort that's enjoyed considerable popularity in the wake of Harry Potter, but I don't hold that against Walton's work; I plowed through this engaging tale of a young British witch in a couple of hours, and regretted turning the final page. It helps that the main character is a voracious reader of science fiction; she and I had a lot in common.

I don't have much to write about the books by men I read this month, other than I found it interesting that Joe Haldeman's latest, Work Done for Hire, turns out to be a mainstream novel and only looks like SF. It's an interesting change of pace for one of my favourite SF veterans.

As of this writing, by the way, my books by men/women count is tied at 17 each. We'll see if that egalitarian reading record holds up as the months go by. 


Anonymous said...

Hi Earl,

Not sure why you've yoked _Among Others_ to Harry Potter: they have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. _Among Others_ is a brilliant crossover novel and a gem for anyone who have is healed by reading (SF and fantasy in particular). We're discussing it in my seminar next week and I'm keen to hear the students' responses.

Earl J. Woods said...

Well, I don't know; I think it's fair to say that Among Others and the Harry Potter books at the very least fall broadly into a common subgenre, despite being very different in tone, style and purpose. Regardless, I'd love to hear how your students respond to the book; it's certainly one of my favourites so far this year.