What I’m Reading (May Edition) Published a few seconds ago Apologies for the flood of book bites. I let myself get backed up. Also, I thought you might be starving.
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
This is my favorite of the MaddAddam Trilogy. I’m not sure if that’s because the main characters are women or if it’s because, with the basics of the plague and the end of the world already taken care of in the first book, Atwood simply explores the existing world more. No need for backfilling in story. No need to provide the outlines of a world. The world’s there, so now we can truly explore what it’s like for some people to live in it.
MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
This is my least favorite of the MaddAddam Trilogy, although that still means it’s pretty damn good. Very good, in fact. Atwood’s language intoxicates, and her ability to create real, interesting, fully-fleshed characters in only a few words or a single scene is amazing and enviable.
The novel is strange in that all of the big problems are done by this point in the trilogy. The plague has happened. Most everyone has died. Humanity as we know it is doomed. All the disparate characters have been reunited. So the tension is…lax.
Which isn’t to say it isn’t a great read, or that the language or plot doesn’t pull you along. It’s simply that the novel is of a different species than the other two, more purely philosophical, smaller in scope even though it’s larger in terms of what stories mean, and how we convey history and meaning from one person/generation to another. And those stories are the price of entrance and the reason for staying.
Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles
I bought this book because I believe it was one of a genre I’m calling Horror of Place. You can find this in a book like Horrorstör (warning, the description of the book is actually the description for another book, which I thought at first was some sort of meta-marketing) where an IKEA-like shopping center becomes the villain of the novel. And Will Wiles’ second book is The Way Inn, which concerns a conference surrogate (a person who goes to conferences in other people’s places) attending a conference for conference organizers, and finds himself in a hotel that seems supernatural and/or mad, insane, absurd.
Care of Wooden Floors is definitely absurd, even if that absurdity wears itself lightly. And it’s not horror, except in the way that watching any sort of train wreck is horrifying. But it is funny, and interesting, and strange. The main character is not a great human being, but the novel makes you care for him anyway. For a character who is indirectly responsible for both the death of a cat and a human being, this is a pretty amazing achievement.
Unreal City by A. R. Meyering
In many ways, it seems like this book and The Riverman come from the same kernel of an idea. They both involve alternate worlds, familiars that either take you there or guide you once you’re there, and a fantasy of absolute power for the main character in that other world.
But even though I’d read The Riverman first, and loved it, and so the comparisons were unavoidable, Unreal City quickly carves out a space for its own unique story. This novel is about grief, the main character’s twin sister having the summer before she is starting college. It’s also about how our grief and anger and depression affect others (revealed when we learn how the sister died and who killed her) and how friends and loved ones can counteract that darkness within us.
It’s actually very Stephen King, with some truly horrific imagery as well as exploring the darkness of the soul. For example, an extremely tall and thin antlered-man-thing with no jaw, drooling, staring through your bedroom window.