Category Archives: Book and film reviews

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan is a nicely written adventure novel of ideas about how to understand the history of slavery, the human stain, through examining the lives of particular people involved in the peculiar institution. Some horrific descriptions, and … Continue reading

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Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue is a fine “American” novel in that it is: (1) set in New York around the time of financial collapse, (2) the theme is basically about characters finding meaning in a consumerist culture without … Continue reading

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Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear

Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear is billed as a “space opera” and indeed it seems written with adaptation to Netflix in mind. Hard to explain otherwise the gratuitous “sexy space pirate” character (yes, that is what she is called in … Continue reading

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Semiosis by Sue Burke

Semiosis by Sue Burke is a decent sci-fi novel of ideas: Earth colonists land on an Earth-like planet where there is little animal life but some plants have evolved sentience and have domesticated some animals….Writing is clear, story moves along … Continue reading

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Tom Sweterlitsch, “The Gone World”

The blurb on this novel by Tom Sweterlitsch, The Gone World, “Inception meets True Detective” says it all. You can almost feel the writing hurrying to meet some Netflix deadline for an original series. It’s a mess. Lots of great … Continue reading

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Robert Reed, “Down the Bright Way”

This book Down the Bright Way appeared in 1990. Reed’s Greatship series is one of my favorites, but I was disappointed in this book (which is not a Greatship story). The writing almost seems juvenile, rather than his more mature … Continue reading

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Excession, by Iain Banks

First of my Christmas sci-fi books to be finished was Excession, by Iain Banks. Enjoyable but unlike others I found the exchanges between ship-minds to not be very interesting. They seem modeled entirely on message board banter of computer programmers. … Continue reading

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“Sevastopol” by Emilio Fraia in The New Yorker

A very intellectual meta short story about the nature of stories. Some Borges, some Tolstoy, some Rayuela. I read it with intellectual interest, but at the end there was (for me) no emotional resonance. So what does one do with … Continue reading

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Recent reading

Elnathan John, Born on a Tuesday. I wrote this on Twitter, which seems enough: Finished Elnathan John’s novel Born on a Tuesday yesterday. Very powerful, great straightforward prose, keen insights. A tiny bit derivative of Allah n’est pas obligé but … Continue reading

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Gnomon by Nick Harkaway

Very long. For the first 300 pages I was really enjoying it. My kind of novel: some science fiction (AI surveilled society), some time travel (to ancient times), some style (I had just finished Chandler, and as first Harkaway channeled … Continue reading

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“God’s Caravan” by Tiphanie Yanique in The New Yorker

“God’s Caravan” by Tiphanie Yanique  November 4, 2019 The New Yorker. I really enjoyed the story (I listened to Yanique reading it on the podcast). It starts slow, and slowly builds, adding layers of complexity as you move along. With … Continue reading

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Recent short stories in The New Yorker

“The Bunty Club” by Tessa Hadley from the October 28, 2019 issue of The New Yorker.  Hadley has several stories with fugue states embedded in them, where the narrator and reader are no longer sure that the continuation of the … Continue reading

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A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, by C.A. Fletcher

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World, by C.A. Fletcher. Enthralling dystopia set in a future England with very few humans left. More for the young adult audience. The ending a little too pat for my … Continue reading

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Farewell, My Lovely, by Raymond Chandler

Farewell, My Lovely, by Raymond Chandler. Definitely second-rate Chandler. The Big Sleep was much better. Amusing for the historical snippets, not amusing for the casual bigotry, and the writing is sloppier than The Big Sleep. Plot also more convoluted: let’s … Continue reading

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I’m Thinking of Ending Things, by Iain Reid

I’m Thinking of Ending Things, by Iain Reid. Billed as a “literary thriller” I thought this might be a good read after some more mundane books. But I was wrong. The novel was interesting for awhile, but then it started … Continue reading

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The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler

My neighborhood book group read this and we had a fun discussion. This is a great novel. Sure some parts are no longer politically correct, but you have to read past that. Chandler’s writing is so literary: crafted, thoughtful, evocative. … Continue reading

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Fiasco, by Thomas Ricks

From 2006. Not the best-written book. Lots of vignettes, often little narrative flow. He drops characters that he should be coming back to: Cheney is never mentioned after page 100 for example. I don’t think any Iraqi leaders other than … Continue reading

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Trivia from movie version of The Big Sleep

From a great blog post on the film The Big Sleep: http://www.waynesthisandthat.com/bigsleep.htm Agnes Lowzier, the saleslady at Geiger’s bookstore and Joe Brody’s accomplice, played by Sonia Darrin. Although her face is very familiar it’s difficult to find information on her. … Continue reading

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Looking forward to Yo la Tengo in SF on Tuesday!

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Naomi Novik, Spinning Silver

I wanted some light reading after my trip to Burkina Faso, and Leslie had checked this fantasy novel out of the library. I enjoyed the good writing, and the deep character development. But the mixing of realistic shtetl Jews in … Continue reading

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