Of course, here I am, posting this a month later than I wanted to. I got behind in November, and I’m not sure why. But I did.
I knew October would be a difficult month for personal reading. Dean and I taught the two-week Master Class. During 2008, I read 400,000 words in that two weeks. I suspect I read as much or more in the 2009 class. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for leisure reading.
Plus I left the class and flew to Indianapolis for Bouchercon. Conventions steal reading time as well. I managed to read on the plane and late at night in the hotel room, but that was about it. And, to make things worse, both teaching and conventions put me back in critical voice, which makes it very hard for me to enjoy anything. So it’s amazing I found anything to like at all in October. But I did, and here are my recommendations.
Child, Lee, Gone Tomorrow, Delacorte, 2009. I started reading Gone Tomorrow in the middle of the Master Class. By that point, I need plot and a damn fine sentence-by-sentence writer, as well as good characterization. Child provided it all.
The novel is set in New York, and deals with terrorism, as well as the changes in the laws that protect us. A rather terrifying novel, all in all, and not just for the possible suicide bomber on the subway. I don’t want to say too much about this book for fear that I’ll give too much away. Let me simply say this is as close as anyone I’ve read has ever gotten to a perfect thriller.
Extremely well done.
Lovesy, Phil, “Homework,” Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, November, 2009. I read this issue out of order because it was the issue given away for free at Bouchercon, and I started reading it there (late one night when I didn’t want to drag the Kindle into the bathtub). Phil Lovesy is Peter Lovesy’s son, and a good mystery writer in his own right. This story, about a particularly smart student, works on a variety of levels—not just as a homework assignment. Worth checking out.
Reed, Kit, “Camp Nowhere,” Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, July, 2009. Wow. Scary, suspenseful, memorable and creepy. This story, about a family spending time away at a “therapy” camp, has too many layers to explain here. But it’s heartbreaking and frightening, and is a YA novel in miniature. Excellent stuff that reminds me why I always bought Kit Reed’s stories when I edited F&SF.
Robinson, Peter, “Going Back,” The Price of Love and Other Stories, William Morrow 2009. Robinson has several stories in his new short story collection that feature his character Inspector Banks. This novella, which falls between a couple of the novels, stands alone just fine. It’s an interesting treatise on how much illegality we as a culture are willing to tolerate, so long as the criminal is also doing something good that we’d rather not do. Fascinating story which feels like a short Banks novel.
Wolcott, James, “What’s A Culture Snob To Do?” Vanity Fair, August, 2009. A lovely little essay about some things that have actually crossed my mind lately. Until recently, other people could make judgements about you based on your choice of reading material, the music you kept in your house, and your DVD library. Now everything is digitized. Music is private, reading has become private, and movies can be streamed straight to your computer.
Wolcott wonders how we’ll get to know each other if we can’t impress each other with the flotsam and jetsom of our intellectual life.
On my recent Bouchercon trip, I took my Kindle. The device impressed people. (If I wanted to pick up men, the Kindle is the way to do it. At least, men of a certain age, anyway). But I read my Washington Post as I do every morning, and I even eschewed the Indianapolis Star Tribune because I had my own paper to read—something I had never done on a trip before. And the Lee Child I mentioned above? I read half of it in hardcover and half in Kindle edition because I didn’t want to schlep the actual book most of the way across the country. (Normally, I would have waited to finish it until I got home—but the book was too good for that, and…and…)
Anyway, I think Wolcott has his finger on one of the many things changing in the culture. Take a look by hitting the link above. It’ll take you directly to the article. Then see what you think.