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Reading July 26-31

Nathan Bradford had a post on Tuesday about the The One Question Writers Should Never Ask Themselves When Reading. That question is: "Do I like this this?" It’s not a good question because its answer is the end of the discussion. You can’t argue with taste. If that’s the end of the discussion, the writer learns nothing about why the book may be popular or critically lauded, or whatever.

I agree, but also disgree. I still read for enjoyment. Life is too short and there are far too many books for me to spend time on something that isn’t working for me as a reader. I’m also a slow reader. If I get the equivalent of 30 books read this year that will be the end of a tremendous effort for me. This doesn’t mean I’m going to put a book down with a "this sucks" and not give any thought to why it’s not grabbing me. I’m just not going to spend time pushing through while there’s other books on my shelves. (Sometimes, I do push through because I get curious about how an author might resolve something. Lately, I’m less likely to do that and more compelled to move on.)

Is this a failing on my part? Perhaps. It’s one of many. I’ll keep it mind.

Reading-wise, I rounded out the month with enough long short fiction that I’m calling it book #19.

"What Lies Beneath" by George Mann, short story. I was a little disappointed with the denunciation. I wish Mann would have continued writing the piece as a series of letters instead of switching to a drawing room.

"Somewhere a Band is Playing" by Ray Bradbury, novella. Half of the Now and Forever anthology. Lots of Bradbury tropes, but turned slightly on their heads and made adult. Nice, but maybe a little too stream-of-consciousness. I started to read the other story in the anthology, "Leviathan ’99," but I don’t care for Bradbury’s scifi. To "why?" that statement, because there is no science to it and I don’t think it needs to be science fiction. I understand human-condition-in-the-future, but in the end, it’s the same as human condition in the present. Bradbury doesn’t offer a hard enough science juxtaposition for me.

A much better science fiction/human condition story is "The Island" by Peter Watts. The science is harder and the questions posed are more interesting. Also read "It Takes Two" by Nicola Griffith. This story is the long way around to a sci-fi concept. Both "It Takes Two" and "The Island" are up for Hugo awards in the Novelette category.

Valerie Valdes pointed out that Mr. Luck might have some similarity to Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently. It’s probably been over a decade since I read those books. They were, remarkably, near the top of the book boxes in the storage closet, so I’m rereading them next. (Btw, Valerie is writing a really fun web serial called Broommates. Worth a look!)