Saturday, August 28, 2010

minor dilemna, and Friday review (belated) for 8/27/10

So, I have a chapter and a half to go in Keegan's First World War. I'm pretty sure what I'm going to say about the book, but I don't want to do a review of it until I've honestly finished it. So, perhaps I will review it later this week - Wednesday, maybe.

I did read some other stuff this week, however, so I should post reviews of them.

Tanya Huff - Blood Price

This is the first of Huff's vampire quintet. Over our trip, we managed to find (at a very nice used bookstore in Palo Alto) the short story collection which comes between book 4 and book 5 of the series, and so my wife re-read the whole series. She suggested that the first book had not aged well, and I wanted something light to transition to the Keegan, so I grabbed it. In many ways, she's absolutely right - this book has not aged well. It (just) pre-dates wide spread cell phones, so there are several minor crisis points where people cannot contact other people because people are either screening their calls (people used to let their answering machine pick up phone calls, to see who was calling. Did you know that? Did you do that? Anyway.) or are away from their phones. Huff's detective, Vicky Nelson, is supposed to be in her early 30's, but on a couple of occasions she voices opinions that make her sound much older - a short rant on the decline of the verb "to say", for instance ("so then she goes 'nuhuh!', and I'm like, 'unhuh!', etc") doesn't strike me (as someone in my early 30's) as something that someone in their early 30's would worry about. Perhaps. Finally, the antagonist in this book, unlike some of the later ones (as I recall) is a little flat - he's a nerd, and he's a caricature, too complete in his nerdiness. (He's also a demon summoner - that's why he's the antagonist).

All that to one side, this is still a good read. Vicky is a strong female protagonist before there were a lot of strong female protagonists. She has real relationships with the people around her, and the plot never takes back seat to her sex life. It's easy to see the influence of Huff on the authors of later paranormal romance novels (now a valid sub-genre, folks!), but this is not, and none of the books in the series ever are, a paranormal romance. Plus, in order to get to the later books, you need to read this one; it sets up the characters.

The other book I read this week was:

Richard Wilson - Don't Even Think About It
This is a take-down of the whole Dangerous Book phenomenon, what Wilson describes as the "good childhood gestapo", which contends that there is a perfect way to raise your child, and that it doesn't involve any sort of electronic games. Wilson goes through most of the activities that such books prescribe - making things out of wood, running around outside, taking family vacations "away from it all", and deflates the whole thing with dry English wit. The central premise is that authors of "ideal childhood" books are remembering an idyllic childhood that never really existed - Wilson contends that, looking back at his pre-computer, pre-electronic childhood, he found it less than idyllic, and wonders why you would wish it on anyone else.

I found his discussion on tracking wild animals to be particularly amusing, such that my wife had to steal the book and read the section herself, to see what I was laughing at.

The whole book was largely rant-y, but it was an amusing rant. I'm not sure that I accept all of the premise - surely there is a happy medium between constant video games and entirely no video games - but as an assault on the "this is the best possible way for your child to live", I found it valid.