March 29

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104 in 2014: The March of War

This month I’ve been binge-watching John Green play FIFA 2011FIFA 13 and FIFA 14, while he discusses life and the writing process. I’ve also been binge-watching Thug Notes. This has prevented me getting a lot of audiobook listening in. Still, here are my reads for March. You’ll note they look a lot like the reading list for Crash Course Literature.

19. The Odyssey by Homer

Odyseey coverI thought I already knew this story, but was surprised by the fact that the tale I knew, which is basically the return home and the destruction of the suitors, is a tiny part of the narrative told mostly in flashback. There’s an awful lot of other stuff clustering around the cinematic bits of this story, and in learning about it, I came to enjoy the story far more deeply. Penelope is a fantastic character, for example, and if you know only the abridged version of this story, see seems very static and passive. In the full version of the story she’s a cunning actor, besieged but still holding out bravely while her resources for resistance crumble.

The book is well worth the read, or listen, even if you think you already know the story. You may need to be patient with the way the story is paced, however. It doesn’t follow modern conventions of storytelling, being originally for recitation, so it lacks some of the brevity and page-turning trickery of newer stories. I’d say this is broadly appealing, pacing aside.

My earlier post of book club discussion questions contains links to the catalog and free online versions.

20 Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

Oedipus coverI’m sorry we don’t have the rest of the myth cycle this comes from, because it is well written but fragmentary. This gives it an uneven feel as a story, because we have neither the rising nor falling action. Well, that’s not strictly true: I just haven’t read Oedipus at Colonus or Antigone, which were written later and elaborate the story. Recommended for those interested in the way that plays have evolved over time.

Again, my earlier post of book club discussion questions contains links to the catalog and free online versions.

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21 Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Hamlet coverBrilliant, of course, but I’d like to highlight the excellent version on DVD with David Tennant as Hamlet. It is staged in a modern setting, and uses metaphors of observation in a way that is distinctly dependent on the text, but is fresh and clever. I think it’s incredibly accessible – far more than some of the period-piece Hamlets we have in the collection.

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22 Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

FrankensteinI was disappointed by this. I understand that it is a character study of the doctor, rather than a monster movie, but I didn’t find his character as engrossing as it needs to be to draw the reader along. The pace is slow, and the philosophical issues which were so shocking and exciting back at publication are now little more than curios.

Let me give you an example: I’m listed as an organ donor. I’m not shocked at all by the grave robbing and tying bits of people together in this novel, indeed I have volunteered to have it done to myself once I’m done with my various bits of gibblet.  I can say that, and no-one is shocked or offended or scandalized. We may get a joke or two about recycling, and one or more of my relatives may chip in about how they might be eyeing off my liver, but that’s about it.  We really have moved on from this book as a society. I find it very hard to recommend as something other than an exercise in form for those who want to know where later works draw their inspiration from. I hate that I can’t hold this up as a peerless jewel of early science fiction by a female author, but in good conscience, I can’t recommend this book broadly. The Library Service has more versions of this than any sensible person would read.

23 & 24 Marvel Zombies 3 and Marvel Zombies 4

Of negligible interest.

25 On War by Carl von Clausewitz

When I say I read On War, what I mean is that my wife and I recorded it, and released it into the public domain as a free audio book. It’s ridiculously long, and I’ve been steadily digging away at it for about a year. I’m tremendously pleased with the results. I’ll post the details in a separate post once the post-production team is done with it. The new book I’m going to record is The Tale of Terror, which I became aware of while writing for our 28 days of Horror event, so, thanks book coasters!

The book from my personal library that I finally got around to reading was

26 New Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko.

New Watch vcoverThis is the fifth book in the Watch series, following the somewhat confusingly-named Final Watch. In it, there is a man sensitive to the existence of the Light and Dark Others, mystical humans who live hidden among us, and fight a Cold War we have been observing in the earlier books.  He calls the Others “dogs” or “wolves” depending on their orientation. The story starts when he sees something else. Something new. Something he calls a “tiger”.

Recommended for fans of urban fantasy, but I’d also recommend reading the series in order.

You’ll recall in my first post for this reading challenge I said that nominating a number of books was like saying how many kilos you’d like to lose?  19 kilos so far, gang!  See you next month!