Books in September

Robert Galbraith – Cormoran Strike 4: Lethal White
Looking back I read the first three books of this series over the span of about three weeks. Despite this book being 650 pages long I charged through it in just 4 days. Frankly if not for the annoying necessities of work and sleep getting in the way I would probably have read the whole thing through in one sitting. I found the book completely engrossing, the slow build of the cases alongside the tumultuous personal lives of Strike and Robin left me incredibly frustrated every time I had to put the book down. The book is carefully balanced between personal stories and the cases, with the different threads intertwining and continually delivering satisfying moments. I’m not so naive I can’t see that I’m being manipulated by cheap tricks like cliffhangers at the end of the chapters and “Come and meet me, I need to tell you something urgently” tropes, but the tricks are delivered very well and they just work. At the end I had that deep joy and satisfaction of a great book, but that sadness and almost emptiness of having run out of pages. Roll on the next one.

Genevieve Cogman – The Invisible Library 3: The Burning Page and 4: The Masked City
This is a very readable series, but it’s not really one I’m falling in love with. It can feel a little clinical at times, as if it’s hitting milestones which are ‘due’ in a series of this type, but then the emotion of those milestones doesn’t necessarily play out. It feels oddly devoid of passion, even when characters talk about their loves (books, people, allegiances) it feels a bit trite and regurgitated. But even without that passion it is a well built universe that’s evolving nicely, I particularly liked the development of the fae, and the idea that they deliberately and accidentally turn their lives into great stories – influencing those around them into tropes and stereotypes. It’s a nice construct that gives an excuse for cliche storytelling. It’s an effective action/adventure that keeps the pages turning. It just doesn’t leave me really feel anything.

Stephen Fry – Mythos
The subtitle of this book is “The Greek Myths Retold”, and I was really enticed by the idea of someone with Stephen Fry’s wit, turn of phrase, and sense of humour retelling the myths that I’ve always loved. The problem is, that this book could have been written by absolutely anyone. There was barely any of Stephen Fry’s personality in the retelling, it just felt like someone had done a solid job of compiling the familiar stories, in a fairly unremarkable narrative. There were very occasional asides that I could actually hear in his voice, but for the most part it was a slightly dry retelling of familiar stories. It’s as good a retelling as any other, but I was hoping for a lot more spark.

S.J. Morgan – One Way
This is incredibly similar to Andy Weir’s The Martian, but is also the complete antithesis of it. Both works are about people stranded on Mars and both also have a similar fascination and commitment to explaining the science and engineering of how things work (or don’t work). Both have a central character who is thrown into something they didn’t expect and must now “science the shit” out of the problem. But where The Martian feels like a positive story about what humanity can do when they’re working together, One Way is about the horror humanity can inflict on each other. Reading (and watching) The Martian made me feel better about the world, while One Way gave me a growing sense of sadness and depression. Technically, One Way is not quite as well put together as The Martian either; Morgan does a solid enough job, but I was always multiple steps ahead of the characters and frustrated at their slowness. It was a compelling read, but it is ultimately quite disposable and all in all, I’d probably recommend just reading The Martian instead of this. Even if you’ve already read it, read it again.

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