The book meme

Apparently having been tagged, I have to do this….

1 Total number of books I’ve owned

Pass. I have 2 and a half full ‘billy’ shelves from Ikea, which are all starting to double up, plus a row of computing books in the office. Most I bought myslef, but I ‘inherited’ about 50-100 non-fiction books from a couple who left Crawley, mostly political and social commentary, some of it religious. I think I read half of one of them…

2 The last book I bought

I bought a few books about six weeks ago (I tend to splurge):

The Scar by China Mieville (I’d read King Rat and Perdido Street Station and was hungry for more of his weird dark fantasies)
What a Carve Up! by Jonathan Coe (Never read him before, and it looked like a good social satire)
The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson (Strangely, I picked this only because the local Ottakars Book Club was featuring it)
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Hey Nostradamus! by David Coupland
Martin Cruz Smith omnibus: Red Square and Gypsy in Amber (Haven’t read his stuff for ages, having been hooked by Gorky Park – and only 50p)
Mammoth Book of Best New SF 17 edited by Gardner Duzois (29 short stories from 2003).

3 The last book I read

I am about halfway through Best New SF 17, so maybe that doesn’t count. As it’s a collection of short stories anyway, I will discount it. Before that I finished The Scar. This is set in the same world as Perdido Street Station, but in a different city. Mieville obviously loves cities, and this one, Armarda, is like no other. Constructed from stolen and salvaged ships, it sails the oceans, surviving and growing through piracy. As this world is subject to strange magic and bizarre human hybrids, the city is hardly a normal place. Told from several points of view, with each character trying to out-plot the others and with their own dark secrets, this is an intriguing read. And Mieville can write incredible descriptive prose. Loved it.

4 Five books that mean a lot to me

a) Sideshow by Sherri S Tepper. Tepper is an American writer, often tagged as a ‘feminist’, which I suppose would put a lot of people off. Certainly the main protagonists of her novels are mainly female, and often find themselves up against a male-dominated society which perpetrates fairly awful abuses. Sideshow is set on a world which has become a haven for ‘pure’ humanity, after the rest of the inhabited galaxy has been assimilated by the Hobbes Land Gods. These ‘refugees’ are in various societies, each seperate and each brutal in the way it behaves. The ‘uniqueness’ of each society is policed by ‘Enforcers’ who ensure that they are not interfered with, despite their nastiness. My pseudomyn comes from one of the characters, Danivon Luze, a boy rescued from child sacrifice who becomes an enforcer and then… well, you have to read it.

b) White Teeth by Zadie Smith. A second woman writer, this time English and about my age. Some of the main characters are my contemporaries, and there is enough familiarity for me to identify with some of the characters. Not that anything like the actual plot happened to me, but the timing, growing up in the eighties, having friends with strong views on Salman Rushdie etc. certainly does resonate. The writing style was very easy for me to get into, and evoked a lot of memories. The TV miniseries was ok, but nothing like the book for style.

c) The Crow Road by Iain (M) Banks. I could have put almost any of his books on this list (and easily filled it with five: Consider Phlebas; Use of Weapons; Dead Air; Complicity; and Against a Dark Background. In fact, the only ones I don’t really love are Walking on Glass (too poncey) and Canal Dreams (reads like a screenplay for a mundane American action movie). Crow Road, however is just about my favourite. It starts off like a murder mystery, and it seems like that it mainly what it is, but really there is a whole lot more to it, as the protagonist finds out more about his strange family and, in doing so, about himself.

d) A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick. Better than Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (filmed as Blade Runner), with more character emphasis than the excellent Man in the High Castle and less off his head completely than The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. This is an exellent book about the effects of a psychotic, addictive drug on a society, and in particular on one man.

e) Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. The stupidity of War. As much as I think that fighting the Nazis was most definitely the right thing to do, this (and Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut), brilliantly captures the basic inhumanity of a system which is set up to kill people. The sheer insanity of most of the characters and their situations is so well described that it is entirely believeable. Which is the scariest thought of all.

What did I have to reject coming up with that list? Lord of the Rings, of course, as the definitive fantasy with elves and dwarves (in other words, everything else since basically sucks). Altered Carbon and Broken Angels by Richard Morgan (cyber-noir I suppose).

I’m not sure who I can tag for this. I’ll think on it.

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