The World Without Us, Alan Weisman
This book tries to imagine what the world would be like if we were just raptured away or abducted by aliens, with little or no warning. Despite being ostensibly a book about the world without us, it turns out to mostly be a book about us. Or, more accurately, what we’ve done to the world, which the world will have to cope with whether we’re here and part of that or not. If you’re science-aware, there’s probably not much to learn — in fact, if you’re up on your climate science, what’s here is very basic when it comes to that. It does muse interestingly on certain specific animals and habitats which would benefit from a world without humans. There’s some good stuff on places where humans don’t go, which are proving to be wildlife sanctuaries even when they’re utterly radioactive.
But mostly, I think I hoped for a bit more of the future, and a bit less of the past and present. Of course, the past can tell us what some environments used to be like without human intervention, or after specific types of human intervention. And of course, the present shapes what will come. And we can’t really predict evolution — look at the differences between the stuff in the Burgess shale and later forms, for example. Or even the way that mammals succeeded the dinosaurs. But I still hoped for a bit more about the future, what kinds of animals might thrive, what it might look like.
If you’re already depressed by what humans have been up to, this will make you feel worse. A lot worse. None of it was news to me, but still… Yeesh, we’ve messed up.
The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, Alan Garner
Originally reviewed August 12th, 2009
I remember reading some of Alan Garner’s books when I was much younger. I found them creepy as hell then, and he certainly does know what kinds of images to evoke to have that feeling of danger and creepiness. There’s a lot of claustrophobia in this book — tunnels and water-filled passages and being packed in tight. There are parts of the description that are just brilliant.
The mythology aspects are pretty cool, too. The references to Ragnarok, etc. I don’t know whether it’s that whole ‘younger readers can accept the unnatural much better than adults’ thing that people mentioned when reading Diana Wynne Jones, though, but I found it hard to follow and it all piled in on top of everything else in a haphazard, difficult to process manner. Didn’t help that I read parts of it when everyone was around talking, and parts in a cafe, but I think part of it was the writing.
Overall it’s pretty fun, but the characters aren’t terribly well developed. I know it’s a trope of fantasy for younger readers that the kids get to tag along, and be equal to adults, etc, etc — I love The Dark is Rising, which is almost as guilty of it — but it makes me shriek, the way the adults easily accept the kids being dragged into it, and the way the kids seem to just… deal with it. Realism, you can not has it.
I’m going to read the sequel, since I have it, but I can’t say I exactly recommend it. It doesn’t come together very well for me, for all that bits of it are brilliant/cool/fun.
Despite the busy week, I did find time to get to a bookshop — aided and abetted somewhat by Robert @ Bastian’s Book Reviews, of course. I haven’t had time for much reading — you wouldn’t believe how many random clothes I seem to have acquired to sort through — but I have squeezed in a few minutes here and there. Soon, of course, I shall be off to stay with my partner for a few months, and I intend to start out by luxuriously flopping on the floor with our bunny and a book.
Books bought this week:
These have all been on my wishlist for a while, so I was happy enough to finally pick them up! I was very good and resisted other books which haven’t been on my wishlist.
Books read this week:
Reviews posted this week:
–Voyage of the Basilisk, by Marie Brennan. Predictably, loved this reread. Yay for plots and intrigue and deranged practicality! 5/5 stars
–Forest of Memory, by Mary Robinette Kowal. I got more into this than I expected, and wanted to know more. 4/5 stars
–Fated, by Benedict Jacka. Solid urban fantasy, which handles a complex power surprisingly easily (the protagonist can see potential futures). I want to read more. 3/5 stars
–The Skeleton Cupboard, by Tanya Byron. Avoid. Horrible disrespect/dismissal of trans people in the very first chapter. 1/5 stars
–In the Labyrinth of Drakes, by Marie Brennan. Last book for now in this series. I loved it to bits, and it’s really important in the development of Isabella and answers so many questions. 5/5 stars
–SPQR, by Mary Beard. A good survey of Roman history, focusing on the rise of the Empire rather than its decline. 4/5 stars
–Flashback Friday: Liar, by Justine Larbalestier. This is a book I devoured and still find myself pondering at times. 5/5 stars
–Top Ten Tuesday: This week was meant to be funny books, but I’m bad at humour, so instead I did ‘books that made me make delighted noises’.
How’s everyone doing? Lots more reading than me, I hope!