Last month was another good reading month, as I finished 5 books, and several were very good reads. My favorites were both science fiction novels, one a classic, one a new popular book that I’ve finally gotten around to reading.
The classic was Greg Bear‘s The Forge of God. This is the first Bear book I’ve read. It had a lot of the elements I like: an apocalyptic event, first contact with aliens, high-falutin’ theories about the nature of consciousness and the universe. It was also an emotionally wrenching story, as the Earth is literally ripped apart before our eyes. My only criticism is: where are the strong female characters, playing an active role alongside the men? This phenomenon of relegating women to supporting roles isn’t unique to Bear; many sci-fi writers of his era do this, and I find it very irritating, not to mention unbelievable. Although I liked the book a lot, I don’t see myself tackling another Bear novel anytime soon.
The new science fiction book was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I’m sure if you’re a geek, you’ve already read this. It is specifically designed to appeal to geeks, particularly those of us who grew up in the ’80s, as it is riddled with pop-culture references from that time. I thought the dystopian near-future world that Cline created was very believable, and he injected into it a suspenseful, fast-paced story that perfectly captured the mood of those ’80s movies he constantly references: Goonies, War Games, etc. This is not great literature, but it is a very fun read.
I finally finished The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. It was hard to get through, and I’m never going to reread it, but I’m glad I did get this classic under my belt. I didn’t like it as much as East of Eden. It was too political, too abstracted, while East of Eden is just a ripping story. But Steinbeck’s ideas and politics resonated with me, and I thought they were just as germane today as they were when the book was published. Everyone should read this novel at least once.
On the fluffier side, I read a novella by Stephen King, Ur, which was clearly intended as an advertisement for the Kindle, but I had to read it because of the Dark Tower connections. If you’re a Dark Tower fan, this is a fun one; otherwise, it’s not essential reading. I also got Robert Heinlein‘s The Door Into Summer for the Kindle at a bargain price. I keep vowing not to read any more Heinlein, but let’s face, the guy is entertaining. However, the weird ending of this time-travel novel really put me off, so this really is the last Heinlein for me.
My son is getting old enough to listen to longer books now, so on car trips, we listened to the audio versions of two childhood classics: Stuart Little by E.B. White and James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. One of the best parts of parenting is getting to revisit favorite books from my own childhood. I still love James, and I think Stuart is bizarre but often hilarious. My son preferred Stuart.
Roundup: 4 novels and 1 single read; 2 audiobooks listend to. Click the titles below for my full reviews or reading notes (some links will take you off this site). My rating scale is explained here.