- All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear
- American Creation by Joseph Ellis
- Snow by Maxence Fermine
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
I’m a little reluctant to admit that I had never read a book by Elizabth Bear or Neil Gaiman until last month. I expected them both to be fine writers, and I was not disappointed. Their use of language was sure and deft. I was both admiring and envious of their ability to use precisely the right word, to conjure an image with a phrase, to bring the reader into the scene. Gaiman, especially, has the confidence to leave spaces in his narrative, to avoid overexplaining and belaboring the point, to trust to his own subtle hints and the reader’s intelligence to fill in those spaces.
All the Windwracked Stars began with a great premise. The elements of Norse mythology—Ragnorak, valkyries, the World Tree and the Midgard Serpent–are brought into a far future where technology is so advanced as to be magic. The whole setup was weird and compelling, but ultimately I didn’t love the book as much as I’d hoped to. There was a distance between me and the characters, me and the conflict. I didn’t care enough about Muire or the Main Guy Dude (see, I don’t even remember his name). Kasimir was the only one I connected with. There was a sense of meaninglessness to the story, and even the resolution did not dispel that for me. I admire the writing and the premise, but the story didn’t touch me. All the while I read, I kept thinking of the Eliot line about the world not ending with a bang, but a whimper. And that’s kinda what I felt about the end of the novel.
The Graveyard Book, though: original, tightly-written, thoroughly enjoyable, with a cast of delightful characters. I would not mind returning to that world, or following the further adventures of Bod. Now I must seek out more of Gaiman’s work (his adult work, I mean. The Wolves in the Walls, though a fun and funny picture book, does not count, hee).
Snow is a little book which reads like a fairytale. It felt like a string of beads; images, poetry, stories within stories all roped together. I found an undercurrent of pretension in the book, but it did not detract me from enjoying the story, with its romance and drama and grief, just made me gloss over the the writer’s artistic philosophy. I suspect I am too much of a pragmatist to appreciate it. 😀
American Creation was my non-fiction read and took me the bulk of the month to get through. I feel like my view of the Revolutionary War and the early years of the US are overly influenced by Ellis, since I’ve read so many of his books. He does make the history accessible, and his chapter on the early dealings of the new country with the Native Americans was poignant and sobering. Not really adjectives I expected to use for this book!
I’m up to book 26 (well, 27, if you count the one book I’ve read so far in May!). Have you read any awesome books this year?