Tuesday, March 24, 2020

"Japan Sinks" by Sakyo Komatsu

When the film Twister came out, I heard that some of my family members from Kansas found it genuinely frightening. Being familiar with a plausible disaster, and to some extent repressing it daily to function--I can imagine how seeing that in fiction could be cathartic and affecting, while for a general audience, we're mostly going to laugh about the flying cow.

I feel like this might be in a similar category: having never lived under the shadow of earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, merely reading about extreme versions of them felt a little distant and unreal for me. But I can imagine this book being shocking to someone more familiar with those disasters.

This is totally readable, though it feels more like a listing of disasters than any actual plot-based novel. The cast and scope is surprisingly large, with the result that only the events themselves do much developing.

What's the word for when something is both "dated", and "of a place/culture"? I can't quite place a lot about this novel, just because I don't know much about Japan generally, and specifically not about in the late '60s. It's odd to me how little the legacy of WWII was visible in here--possible it was just invisible but present throughout.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Covid-19 Updates

Hey all! As you no doubt know by now, public gatherings are a no-go right now, so all events on the calendar should be taken with a very large grain of salt. Safe to assume that most are cancelled. At least some groups are trying online formats for club meetings, though, so worth checking out the individual event pages.

Also, this is a fantastic time to support your local bookstore--many of them are offering free or reduced shipping. You've likely got more time to read on your hands than usual, and they could really use the business.

Check out our recently updated list of Chicago indie & used booksellers.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

In Case You Missed It, So You Don't

Hey all! Day-job and other responsibilities have put a dent in my reviewing/writing time of late. But! Still keeping the calendar updated, and there is some great stuff coming up! I've also updated/streamlined the Book Group Page a bit, planning on adding a few more stable resources on here.

Two events to particularly put on your metaphorical radar:

  • Deep Dish is March 14th @ Volumes. Chicago's premier science-fiction reading event, featuring a slew of great authors!
  • Bucket O'Blood in Avondale is once again celebrating, not Lovecraft's birth, but rather his death. The Lovecraft Funeral Procession is March 15th, and is a good chance to celebrate Things About Weird Fiction You Like, while also acknowledging that HPL Is Super Problematic So Pretty Okay He's Dead, Actually. Also to drink some beer with fun folks!
Cons and other gatherings, upcoming:
  • C2E2 is this weekend! It is a lot! They've got a good roster of literary guests this year.
  • April 17-19 is the Windy City Pulp & Paper Convention (mostly for collectors, I gather), out in Lombard.
  • May 2nd is the illustrious DePaul Pop Culture Conference; this year it's on supeheroes. Can't recommend these enough! Fun, intimate, one-day conference, great mix of academic and fannish energy.
  • It's already time to start thinking about Wiscon, May 22-25 up in Madison. Wonderful con, this year featuring Rebecca Roanhorse and Yoon Ha Lee.
Author events! There are so many! I'm sure I'm missing some!
Looking for something to read?

Saturday, January 4, 2020

"The Empress of Salt and Fortune" by Nghi Vo

A lovely and well-constructed novella, The Empress of Salt and Fortune follows a kind of archivist monk as they catalog the contents of the former residence of the titular empress. The surface story is very gentle and quiet, with Cleric Chih and their assistant, a magical bird, recording objects and learning more about them from Rabbit, an elderly servant.

The story they learn along the way, though—a deeper history of how the empress In-yo orchestrated a coup from her exile, and the secrets from that struggle that Rabbit has kept for decades—is an empire-spanning story of intrigue, deception, and violence, so it's fascinating to see it filtered in this very anthropological way. Each chapter starts with Chih describing objects of a different room, and then recording the oral history that they evoke from Rabbit.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Notable 2019 Reads & Re-Reads

As is my wont, I'm wrapping up the year by going back over what I've read. This was a pretty great year, book-wise, with a couple really outstanding new releases.

I didn't read or write quite as much as I'd planned this year: big life events (e.g. "marriage") and an occasionally-overpowering work schedule. That said, have ventured a bit more seriously into reviewing, and am working myself up to a few more serious projects.

My book-club schedule was also a bit more modest this year, but it's great to see them all going strong. Chicago's bookstore and lit scene continue to impress; the Chirbies were particularly good.

Wiscon was lovely, empowering, and thought-provoking, as usual. I didn't get to many SFF events in the latter half of the year, but caught some great stuff early on--including Maria Dhavana Headley on Beowulf, Nisi Shawl on Octavia Butler, Three Literary Perspectives on The Handmaid's Tale, and loads of content around One Book, One Chicago's selectionDo Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep?including a great panel at DePaul.

Anyways, here's my list, and some brief notes. Happy reading!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

"The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man" by Dave Hutchinson

Dave Hutchinson is a weirdly good writer, and I don’t quite know how to characterize The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man precisely because of that skill. Absorbingly readable, it’s nonetheless doing some very odd things at the meta level, things that left me with a definitive feeling of “huh” when it was all over.

Alex Dolan is a recently out-of-work science writer, a Scot, who is offered a lucrative book deal by an eccentric American billionaire, Stan Clayton. Reluctantly signing on, Dolan makes his way to the still-developing Sioux Crossing Supercollider in Iowa, Clayton’s pet project. Lightly enmeshed in the lives and politics of the science team and native Iowans, Dolan is also roped into light espionage by the British government, and faces an escalating series of threats from an unknown antagonist. Finally, three-quarters through the novel, Dolan must deal with a bizarre accident at the supercollider, and its aftermath.