Tag Archives: Christopher Moore

Books Reviewed 2015

Here is  housekeeping post, collecting all the books reviewed here in 2015.

Looking back at this list, I see that this year saw Terry Pratchette’s last book (a wrenching experience), and new novels by old favorites Stross, Perry, Macguire, Holt, Gaiman, among others. I also read older but still good histories by Goodwin and Graeber. I read several books about banking, Papal and otherwise, and overlapping works about Italy, fictional and (supposedly) real.

Over the year, I reviewed a sampling of important books about contemporary digital life, including cryptocurrency, the “sharing economy”, social media, and “mind change”.   These works covered a spectrum from enthusiasm to dark worry, giving us much to think about. There are many more I did not have time or energy for. (I will say more on this topic in another post)

Throughout 2015 I continued my ongoing investigation of the question, “what is coworking?”, including reviews of two recent (self published) books about coworking by practitioners. (More on coworking in another post.)

Shall I name some “Best Books” out of my list? Why not?

Fiction:

There were so many to pick from. I mean, with Neil Gaiman in the list, how can I choose? But let me mention two that are especially memorable

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
Very imaginative and well written, and, for once, not so horribly dark. This book lodged in my memory more than others that are probably equally good.

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
Published a few years ago, but I didn’t read it until this year. A wonderful, intricate story. The flight of the parrot is still in my memory.

Nonfiction:

There were many important works about digital life, and I shall try to comment on them in another post. But three books that really hit me are:

Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
From several years ago, but I didn’t read it until this year. Highly influential on the ‘occupy’ and other left-ish thinking. This is an astonishingly good book, and long form anthropology, to boot. Wow!

Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
An exlectic little self-published book about “home coworking”, which I didn’t know was a thing. Kane walked the walk, and made me think in new ways about community and coworking.

Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
Unexpected amounts of fun reading this short book. It does an old, graying nerd no end of good to see that at least some of the kids are OK. Really, really, OK.

List of books reviewed in 2015

Fiction

A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambias
After Alice by Gregory Maguire
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
Bats of the Republic by Zachary Thomas Dodson
Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen
Chasing the Phoenix by Michael Swanwick
Candy Apple Red by Nancy Bush
Chicks and Balances edited by Esther Friesner and John Helfers
Corsair by James L. Cambias
Count to a Trillion by John C. Wright
Diaspora by Greg Egan
Distress by Greg Egan
Electric Blue by Nancy Bush
Forty Thieves by Thomas Perry
Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong
Get In Trouble by Kelly Link
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
Koko the Mighty by Kieran Shea
Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald
Mort(e) by Robert Repino
Numero Zero by Umberto Eco
Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
Rebirths of Tao by Wesley Chu
Redeployment by Phil Klay
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy
Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Shark Skin Suite by Tim Dorsey
String of Beads by Thomas Perry
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume Nine ed. by Jonathan Strahan
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff
The First Bad Man by Miranda July
The Fortress in Orion by Mike Resnick
The Future Falls by Tanya Huff
The Good, the Bad, and The Smug by Tom Holt
The Mark and the Void by Paul Murray
The Relic Master by Christopher Buckley
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu
The Unfortunate Decisions of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff
Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
Ultraviolet by Nancy Bush
We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler
Witches Be Crazy by Logan J. Hunder
Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

Non Fiction

Arrival of the Fittest by Andreas Wagner
Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols
Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper
Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs
God’s Bankers by Gerald Posner
LaFayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
Let’s Be Less Stupid by Patricia Marx
Live Right and Find Happiness by Dave Barry
Merchants in the Temple by Gianluigi Nuzzi
Mind Change by Susan Greenfield
Mindsharing by Lior Zoref
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
No More Sink Full of Mugs by Tony Bacigalupo
Not Impossible by Mick Ebeling
Pax Technica by Phillip N. Howard
Peers, Inc by Robin Chase
Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
Speculative Everything by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Age of Cryptocurrency by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey
The Art of Forgery by Noah Charney
The Next Species by Michael Tennesen
The Reputation Economy by Michael Fertik and David C. Thompson
The Social Labs Revolution by Zaid Hassan
The Ugly Renaissance by Alexander Lee
Twentyfirst Century Robot by Brian David Johnson
Women of Will:  Following the Feminine in Shakespeare’s Plays by Tina Packer

 

Book Reviews

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books Reviewed Third Quarter

Books Reviewed Third Quarter

A bit of housekeeping:  here is a list of all the book reviews that appeared in this blog in Q3 2015.  Mostly new or recent releases, with a few old but good thrown in.

Fiction

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
Book of Numbers by Joshua Cohen
Chasing the Phoenix by Michael Swanwick
Chicks and Balances edited by Esther Friesner and John Helfers
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman 
Koko the Mighty by Kieran Shea
Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore  
The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross
The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year Volume Nine ed. by Jonathan Strahan
The Good, the Bad, and The Smug by Tom Holt
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley 
The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
Time Salvager by Wesley Chu 
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis 

Non fiction

Reimagination Station: Creating a Game-Changing In-Home Coworking Space by Lori Kane
Digital Gold by Nathaniel Popper
Let’s Be Less Stupid by Patricia Marx
Mind Change by Susan Greenfield 
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Peers, Inc by Robin Chase
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin 
The Art of Forgery by Noah Charney
The Next Species by Michael Tennesen 

 

Book Review: “Secondhand Souls” by Christopher Moore

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore

Christopher Moore’s latest novel is a sequel to A Dirty Job (2006). He treats us to the San Francisco that only certain people can see, full of magic and supernatural danger. On any day SF is weird, but now things seem to be so not under control, what with the underworld rising and the balance of dark and light apparently in flux.

Moore has written more than a dozen novels, each goofy and gently humane and beautifully funny. If you haven’t read all of them, go to the library and read them.

If I tried to tell you the bare facts of this story, it would sound dark and terrible. But that would be misleading because the strange crew of characters are truly lovable, the weirdness is just normal, and its all joyful and very funny.

For fans of San Francisco, Moore is deeply attached to the history of the city, as well as its mystical secrets. Many of the characters and events in this book are archetypes from the life of the city, and it is interesting to speculate on the question of which parts of these stories are fictionalized autobiography. We have our suspicions.

I admire his writing, it is deceptively simple, cheerfully strange, and funny without being stupid. Each character is unique (ain’t that the point?), in that SF way. The plot makes no sense at all, yet we are pulled along by the peril of the people (for certain values of “human”) involved.

By the way, this novel was not too long. It was interesting all the way to the end.

Let’s keep this short and to the point: I expected great stuff and I wasn’t disappointed. Get it. Read it. Read everything you can get by Christopher Moore.


 

  1. Christopher Moore, Secondhand Souls, New York, HarperCollins, 2015.

 

 

Sunday Book Reviews

May Fiction Roundup

Recent fiction worth noting.

The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore (HarperCollins, 2014)

Yes! Another story from Christopher Moore, one of the most imaginative and naughty comic writers active today.

Serpent follows Pocket, who we got to know in Fool (2009). In the earlier story, Moore mined King Lear and other sources, this story moves to Venice to exploit Othello, Shylock, and E. A. Poe. Oh, and Marco Polo. Why not?

As in all his stories, there is a lot of confusing and complex conspiring and double dealing, love and loss, all portrayed in wonderful comically bawdy language. Drawing on his famous sources, Moore is able to rise to new lows of banter. I mean, in contemporary fiction, how many codpiece jokes can you work in?

Super good stuff.

(If you haven’t read Moore’s works, stop right now. Go get them all. Blood Sucking Demons. The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove. Fluke. Read them all as soon as possible.)

Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland (Penguin, 2014)

Another dark comedy from Douglas Coupland. I really liked some of his previous works, including J Pod (2006) and Generation A (2009). WPE disappointed me.

Despite the title, the protagonist evokes some sympathy, if only because his misdeeds are so excessively punished by events. Actually, none of the people are especially nice, but he manages to give us sympathy for every one of them. That’s the good part.

The story makes little sense, but that’s OK. It is a matrix for delivering his clever writing. That’s the bad part.

The novel is supposed to be full of witty, irreverent banter. It didn’t work for me. I guess if you already know what a spork is, a “witty” discovery and explanation thereof just isn’t that interesting or funny. Sorry.

In past novels Coupland has been unsparing in his satire and critique of contemporary society, including corporate life. This novel turns the acid onto the TV industry, which deserves punishment. But this isn’t a challenging target, especially since TV tends to be unconsciously self-satiric. Coupland’s fictional “reality TV” show is barely disguised facts already aired many times.

It seems clear that Coupland has had some bad experiences in airports, especially in the US. Again, certainly worth satire, but difficult to create fiction that is better than reality. And beefing at length isn’t that interesting, nor is it funny.

For some reason, Coupland is really down on America. Not only does he make his English characters say outlandishly slanderous things (and, who are Brits to beef about American culture and politics?), he populates the novel with a number of cardboard caricature Americans. For example, if you believe this story, apparently Americans no longer swear, and get all “puritanical” if you use naughty words. Really?

While the food in vending machines in US airports isn’t good it also isn’t representative of all food in the US—nor do English characters have any standing to complain about anyone’s food, thank you very much.

Honestly, these Americans don’t resemble anyone I’ve ever met, so it is difficult to find any humor in such trashy anti-Americanism. Perhaps Coupland should visit some places in the US outside an airport and TV reality show, he might discover ordinary people.

If there was supposed to be a deeper point to his social commentary, I missed it.

This is definitely not one of his best books, and not particularly recommended.

Lockstep by Karl Schroeder (Tor, 2014)

A classic “Rip Van Winkel” situation, the protagonist is accidentally lost in space, to awaken from stasis thousands of years later. The world he finds is strange and awesome.

Schroeder sets the story in a fascinating interstellar civilization, which has achieved multi-light year spanning society through the mechanism he calls “lockstep”: everyone suspends life for 30 years, and wakes for 30 days. (The technology is worked out in detail.)

This process makes it possible to connect distant planets by travelling during the suspension: travel to another planet happens overnight. Other benefits of lockstep include absurdly long life (real time) and lower environmental impact (per minute of waking time).

This technology really, really messes with time! We are all used to more or less one, universal experience of time. But lockstep gives people options for how time works. There are infinite settings for the “frequency” of waking times, as well as the option to drop into real time.

The psychology is interesting. For people in lockstep, life is lived full tilt, rebooted when they wake, and put away (or else disposed of) before going to sleep. People on different frequencies never meet, except when they periodically synchronize, being awake at the same time. This “jubilee” may be planned or left to happen.

People not in lockstep live “fast”, experiencing years between each lockstep “turn” for the steppers. In the 40 years of lockstep time (in the 360/1 frequency), 14,000 years have passed in real time. Civilizations have risen and fallen, languages and cultures evolved, and humans transformed. Lockstep experiences waves of “immigrants”, who are culturally and possibly biologically alien—evolved or encountered in the intervening centuries.

Also, as the characters in the story discover, individuals can experience serious displacement. A few years in lockstep means any family you left behind is dead and gone. Sentencing someone to real time is a death sentence as far as the lockstep society is concerned. Human relationships are difficult to maintain, except by “travelling together”.

Phew!

Naturally, Schroeder delivers these ideas via a pleasant story, with a young protagonist lost in time due to an accident, who tries to return to his family. This proves to be not at all easy, given the multiple temporal streams. He was asleep for 14,000 years real time and 40 years lockstep time. His younger siblings are middle aged, his mother is asleep. But humans, post humans, AIs, and whatever have spread to 40,000 worlds in the centuries. Very complicated.

Highly recommended.

The Folklore of Discworld: Legends, Myths, and Customs from the Discworld with Helpful Hints from Planet Earth by Terry Pratchett and Jacqueline Simpson (Anchor Books, 2014)

If you haven’t read everything Terry Pratchett has written—stop right now and go do it.

This is one of several authoritative guide to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. This book is a happy collaboration with another imaginative folklorist, Jacqueline Simpson (author of, for instance, British Dragons (1980)).

One of the joys of the Discworld stories is the complex cultures we find there, which resemble our own history in messy, twisted ways. One of the reasons Discworld seems so familiar is that it is full of folk stories, beliefs, and practices which are like those from our own past. The stories develop partly because, Pratchett admits, he thinks of folklore “in much the same way a carpenter thinks of trees”.

The book is organized topically, reviewing the culture of Discworld alongside stories, people, and events of our own Earth. They document the similarities and differences (which are attributed to “leakage” between realities, or whatever).

For anyone who has read everything Discworld (which should include you), it is great fun to have the master himself pull together details, and point out relationships to Earthly folklore.