Perhaps not what I should have read this summer, but what I did read this summer.
And note: when I say read, I mean primarily listened to as audio books. Does this count? Is it cheating somehow? I love audio books, but I’m not sure that they have been accepted by the mainstream as an honorable way to consume literature.
Here it is
Summer 2015 Listens:
The Rolling Stones by Robert Heinlein – In Progress.
This is one that I read long ago – either during high school of college, but I really wanted to share with my son. It’s a Sci-Fi story from Heinlein’s juvenile series about a pair of twins, Castor and Pollux Stone, who go rambling through the solar system with their family – a mix of cantankerous geniuses who obviously learned to converse from repeated viewings of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in ‘Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolfe.’
Aurora by Kim Stanley Robertson – In Progress
This one I’m listening to by myself. It’s an interesting account of the last years of a many-generational space flight from Earth to Tau Ceti, a Sol-like star about 12 light years from Earth, and the first years of the colonization of Aurora, a moon orbiting a ‘SuperEarth’ planet. Interestingly, Tau Ceti is Spectral Class G like Sol, making it a popular science fiction setting (among other books, Heinlein’s ‘Time For the Stars’ also follows a colonization trip to the same system)
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
I read this when it came out. I was in college and just starting to study Biology and therefore found the book to be absolutely magnetic. I was drawn in and taken for a ride at the time. This time around I was equally drawn in to the story – Crichton is nothing, if not a page-turner. But I was also dismayed by the anti-GMO tone of the novel this time. I think a lot of solid moral arguments are made and some good (but obvious) philosophical questions brought up. However, I would be as bad as John Hammond (the park’s creator) in my zeal to clone dinosaurs if it were even remotely possible. Unfortunately, it’s not. DNA has a half-life of about 50,000 years, which means that on the outside limits, it’s probably only around for half a million years – not long enough for any dino DNA to remain.
You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day
I have a mixed reaction to this book. On the one hand, I completely recognize that Felicia Day has worked her ass off to get where she is now. But, on the other, even if I worked equally as hard, I still would be stuck being me. Her book wants to encourage others to follow their dreams – however geeky they may be, but … really? Most of us are just lucky to have a day job that keeps us fed (…hmmm…). Nevertheless, you can only be on her side as she relates all the fun twists and turns of her life.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This was a solid geeked-out masterpiece. I think it has a pretty restricted audience of nerds born between 1968 and 1979, mostly male, middle class, computer geeks with affinities for 80s music and movies, and a history that includes many hours devoted to role playing games. Since I’m in that demographic, along with Will Wheaton (who reads this audiobook) and Chris Hardwick, I completely loved it and ‘got’ almost 100% of even the most arcane references.
Carrie by Stephen King
What the hell? I’ve seen the original film countless times and love it. I also love the recent 2002 remake with Angela Bettis (who also stars in May – also in 2002 – one of my favorite films of all time). I can’t remember if I’ve ever read this before, but there’s a good chance I did when I was in high school. Listening to Sissy Spacek read was delightfully nostalgic (Just like listening to Rosemary’s Baby as read by Mia Farrow was earlier this year) and gave me a sense of the story looping back on itself in the way that a good standup comedy routine comes back to the first jokes to ‘tie it all together’ at the end.
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
I wondered whether of not to read / listen to this at all. Then I debated whether it should be read or listened to. Then I decided that the only way to get through it quickly enough to not have it spoiled for me by hearing online book clubs talk about it was to listen.
When I finally did, I was at odds with myself. Initially, it took me several chapters to get into it, then I completely enjoyed the last half of the book. It will never replace Mockingbird, that book is something else entirely, but it was still good and I am happy I listened to it.Atticus, I forgive you. As much a hero as you were to all of us, you’re just a man of your time.
The Fold by Peter Clines
the Fold started strong. I immediately liked the protagonist and thought the story was incredibly interesting and well crafted. However, it did collapse into a Planet of the Apes style scrimmage at the end (maybe I mean Battle for the Planet of the Apes?) This book wanted me to like it and I wanted to like it, but in the end… meh. It was OK.
Unnatural Selection by Mark Roeder
I thought this was going to be a lot more lighthearted than it was. I stuck with it as long as possible, but just couldn’t. Thesis: We’ve gotten to a point in human history that being a jock is less likely to make you a success than being a geek. Surprise. (by the way, I have a hard time imagining that the geeks are out competing the jocks genetically – but that’s like comparing the geek’s (K reproductive strategy) to the jock’s (r reproductive strategy). There – I made the book better than it was already.
The Unwelcome Guest by Scott Meyer
Last of the trilogy of another set of geek fantasy novels (see how I self-identify?) Again, this was great. Each book in the Meyer’s trilogy: Off to be the Wizard and Spell of High Water was unique and delightful. Be sure you’re in the same demographic as Cline’s Ready Player One, but it you are, this is a trifecta.
Bag of Bones by Stephen King
Good. Typical Stephen King. I liked it plenty, but I don’t think it’s a favorite that I’ll be coming back to time and again.
Ha! Not much:
The Dead Zone by Stephen King
This is one of King’s own favorite books, written early in his career, when he was probably still worried about being a flash in the pan. I’m hovering near the end of this book. It’s a great read, but I have just run out of steam for it myself. I’m hoping that I’ll finish it in the next push though.
Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock
Again, something I read in high school that I often think about. Moorcock forces you to identify with a tortured soul that you have nothing in the world in common with. He then builds up a world of pain and harshness around this character and then makes you watch as he torments his protagonist. Published as a single book in 1972 (books are collections of short stories published elsewhere), it feels even older and probably influenced a hell of a lot of fantasy books and film that came after it. I’m not sure how much I like the Elric Saga, but I find it ever-present in my mind. I guess I’m fascinated with it, like it or not.
What have you read this summer?