Warbooks

I took several warbooks to my seaside vacation last month and managed to read three. I’ve never read that genre before and I wanted to get acquainted with it in the name of research for one of my writing projects. My picks were essentially random, from the several dozen old pocket books I inherited from my father and largely ignored because they’re mostly stuff I’m not interested in – books about the Second World War and Vietnam, books about mafia, books about Japan and books based on a variety of successful movies*. Anyway, the three books I read are, in the order I read them: GOING AFTER CACCIATO by Tim O’Brien, AN AFFAIR OF MEN by Errol Brathwaite and AND THEN WE HEARD THE THUNDER by John Oliver Killens. And the extraordinary thing is, not one of them is really a warbook.

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Hyperion

By D. Simmons

After reading the first of four books, I wrote a one-line comment on Goodreads saying, “Liked it despite numerous annoyances.” After reading the second, I change my statement to “Didn’t like it despite numerous qualities”. These are mainly related to the authors indisputable ability to create and maintain suspense, and to surprise. Book one ends with a cliffhanger so epic that I had to pick up book two immediately. But I won’t be reading the rest of the series.

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Mrs. Dalloway

by V. Woolf

What an odd book! With no plot whatsoever, the narrative flows from one point of view to another, sometimes smoothly and sometimes making nearly unintelligible jumps. Almost every character that’s mentioned, no matter how thin their connection to the titular Mrs. Dalloway, her friends and family, gets to to ‘speak their mind’. I struggled to find connections. At times I struggled to tell what the hell was going on. But despite the oddity, I mostly enjoyed reading it. The writing is unorthodox, occasionally poetic, and I was struck by its beauty more than a few times. So here I’ll save some highlights:

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The City & The City

by C. T. Miéville

I devoured this book in three late-night readings and I couldn’t stop thinking of it during the days in between. It defies generic placement; calling it sci-fi would attach to it a load of unwarranted expectations, yet saying it’s just a noirish crime novel staged in a fictitious setting would hardly do it justice. It’s a captivating, unsettling and above all, incredibly original work of art and imagination.

Before you continue reading, be warned that it will be very hard to avoid spoilers in this review, and that your enjoyment in and appreciation of the book might be entirely ruined if you do get spoiled.

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Altered Carbon

I read Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan, and liked it a lot. It’s a noir-ish SF novel set in a somewhat dystopian future where, thanks to the discovery of the relics of a technologically advanced alien civilization on Mars, humanity managed to spread over a number of distant worlds, and, more importantly, work out a technology of digital human storage which allows one’s mind and memories to be saved after the death of the body, and downloaded into another. Takeshi Kovacs is an ex spec-ops soldier who gets killed in the prologue and then ‘re-sleeved’ into a new body when hired by one of the most powerful people on Earth to solve a bizarre murder mystery. It’s through the challenges this tasks presents for him that we learn both about the setting and Tak’s not-exactly-amiable character.

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