Category Archives: Craig’s Book Reviews

What Craig thought about the books he’s read

Fuzzy Nation Review

Fuzzy Nation, Scalzi. Yes. Few phrases will cause me to inwardly wince and outwardly sigh quite so reliably as (any variation of) “Franchise reboot.” Never having read Little Fuzzy, I don’t know in what ways or to what extent FN re-imagines it, or why Scalzi and his enablers believed that course was warranted; nothing in the text struck me as especially ground-breaking or made me think “there’s no way this could have been written in 1962.”
Perplexities about why this book happened aside, the book itself is an entirely enjoyable corporate intrigue set in a distant star system.

Faith, Hope & Love Review

Faith, Hope & Love, Owen. Yes. According to the (starred) Publishers Weekly review excerpted on the front cover, this is a “savage indictment of Britain’s welfare programs.” That is not a reading I would have brought to this particular text, which to me seemed more a tale of family and choices. Well written, if sloppily edited here and there.

Hogfather Review

Hogfather: A Novel of Discworld®, Pratchett. Yes. Due to a cluster of bad planning on my part, I found myself facing a long bus ride with no book and a nearly dead cellphone, so I stopped in to the library to test my hypothesis that Pratchett’s Discworld® books make reliable “I need something to read right now” material. So far, the hypothesis is holding up, though book club discussions make me suspect that may be due to my not thinking very hard about them while I’m reading them.

My Favourite People Review

My Favourite People and Me 1978–1988, Davies. Non-fiction. Like Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, this memoir has what I think of as a non-traditional structure. In this case, each year constitutes a major section, with each of Davies’s “Favourite People” during that year given a sub-section. Unlike ZSW, the parts that are not straight-ahead memoir are contextual, historical, and atmospheric. The structural conceit is, unsurprisingly, stretched to the limit a number of times, with the nominal subject of a sub-section frequently taking a back seat to other notable people or events.
Given that Davies is a fairly thoughtful guy who grew up about the same time I did, I found it easy enough to identify with his accounts, though since he is English and I am not, I found the stories of exciting Cricket encounters less gripping than I otherwise might have. Even the football, of which I am also a fan, did go on a bit for my taste. I did find one parallel especially entertaining, though: In the 1979 section, he writes “There was a feeling amongst my peers that, culturally, American was best.” At the same time, my peers and I were discovering Monty Python, and had quite the opposite feeling. If I were to write a similar memoir, there could be several sequences in which my friends and I annoyed those around us by affecting ridiculous accents that we fancied were British.
Overall, it holds together reasonably well, and I enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about Davies than I had seen in QI.

Among Others Review

Among Others, Walton. Yes. Walton continues to perform reliably for me. My only issue with this coming-of-age story, set in roughly the same era when I was coming of age, is that there is so much nostalgia and name-checking that, when it was over, I felt like there should probably have been a bit more story.

Night Watch Review

Night Watch, Pratchett. Yes. This was my first Discworld novel, though its Discworldness made no apparent difference to my reading. Pratchett’s writing is really quite solid, and I enjoyed Night Watch quite a bit: engaging characters, likable and detestable as required; flexible setting; compelling story.
I do not love Pratchett so much that I am going to become a completist, by any means, but I do think he is a reliable fall-back if I’m out of book with nothing else pressing.

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland Review

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland: a Book, Oswalt. Non-Fiction. I neglected to check the title page, so I don’t know for sure, but I believe the primary title should be rendered
☐ Zombie
☐ Spaceship
☐ Wasteland

and my own scorecard would look something like
☐ Zombie
☒ Spaceship
☐ Wasteland
I had somehow expected this to be a novel—even managing to miss the ‘B’ on the spine—so I was a bit surprised to find it instead more a series of sketches, many of them autobiographical.
Even the not-obviously-autobiographical material provided insight into Oswalt’s life and career: I suspect the script punch-up notes section would have been both funnier and sadder if I had ever worked as a script doctor, which makes me sorry and glad I have not.
The ability to make other people laugh nearly inevitably springs from a deep supply of what Roy Blount calls “sefflo” (short for “self-loathing”), and I think it’s fair to say Oswalt is not an exception; however, ZSW does an excellent job of letting the reader not look too hard in that direction. Oswalt can, after all, make us laugh.
Contractually obligated mechanical notes after the jump Continue reading

Home Fires Review

Home Fires, Wolfe. Yes. My usual fear with Gene Wolfe books is that I’m going to have to work harder than I want to. For Wolfe, then, this was relatively light reading, meaning I think I missed only about a third of what was probably going on. I admire Wolfe’s skill and economy with language, and enjoyed this book greatly. It certainly didn’t hurt that I was reminded of Dollhouse, though it did make me miss Topher.

Zero History Review

Zero History, Gibson. Yes. I got less of a Clancy vibe off Zero History than I did from Spook Country, so that was pleasant. I enjoyed it sufficiently, though it was certainly not the most compelling book I’ve read in the last year or so. As is sadly common, the editing is pretty sloppy, with offenses varying from the use of “comprise” in a way Strunk and White would never have countenanced to the just flat wrong “…whom Inchmale said had more brains in his little finger…”
Notwithstanding the mechanical flaws and the sedate pacing, Gibson delivers with the ideas and story we have come to expect.

Object of Beauty Review

An Object of Beauty, Martin. Yes. Martin’s writing is mechanically nearly flawless, and while it started out a bit writerly for my taste, either he settled down or I became more tolerant. This rather lengthy excerpt (edited somewhat to remove plot-related irrelevancies), I believe, will tell you all you need to know to make a decision about reading the book:

“How can an artist have no effect on you for years and then one day it has an effect on you?”

“I call that the perverse effect. Those things that you hate for so long are insidiously working on you, until one day you can’t resist them anymore. They turn into favorites. It just takes a while to sort out the complications in them. Those artworks that come all ready to love empty out pretty quickly. It’s why outsiders hate the art we love; they haven’t spent time with it.”

The writing and story were easily good enough that I finished and enjoyed the book, and I greatly appreciated the photographs in the book of many of the art works that Martin discusses, but it never completely pulled me in the way I prefer a book to do.