As a wrap-up to 2005 and a kick-off to 2006, here’s the second of an intermittent series of book reviews in brief:
Looking for Jake, China Miéville (2005) — China Miéville is the recent king of what can only best be described as weird fiction, combining elements of horror, fantasy and science fiction in his works. Looking for Jake is a collection of short stories and a novella that demonstrates Miéville is equally capable with shorter forms as novels. While not every story will grab every reader, Miéville’s talents are unquestionable. They are fully on display in “Different Skies” where he turns a unique pane of glass into a wonderful bit of foreboding horror. He also takes us back to New Crobuzon, the world he created in his award-winning novels, in “Jack,” a tale about a Robin Hood-type character in that unique world. Yet Miéville also is not afraid to bring the real world into his stories, with “Foundation” dealing with the first Gulf War and “The Ball Room” dealing with a fairly ordinary setting in a large retail store. An excellent introduction for those who have not previously read any of Miéville’s work and a nice fix for those of us who enjoy it.
Man-Made Monsters, “Mad Marv”(2005) — A collection of horror stories predicated on the theme that to the extent monsters exist in the modern world, they are going to be the result of science, technology or the government acting in an unchecked fashion. Although the idea is a good one, the execution suffers. “Mad Marv” tends to chase too many ideas in most of the stories rather than sharpening the focus. In the end, these stories are more suited for a magazine than a collected work. (As an aside, this book was read before Miéville’s and, thus, the assessment was reached without comparing the two, as evidenced by my longer review at Blogcritics.)
New Rules, Bill Maher (2005) — Humorist Bill Maher’s latest entry into books of politically-oriented humor reflects his style. He seems to find a middle ground between, say, the stridency of a Michael Moore and the fact-intensive approach of an Al Franken. This book is a collection of “polite musings,” all listed in alphabetical order by the name of the “rule” Maher assigns. These are “rules” Maher thinks would make the world a better place. All find their source in recent events or modern society; all are tinged with satire and humor. It is to a certain extent, a shotgun approach, as each rule contains it’s own pellet(s) striking at some aspect of modern politics or life, ranging from the popularity of Paris Hilton and NASCAR to the background of the Pope to the Bush administration and the war in Iraq.
Don’t try to talk to me about Desperate Housewives. If I had the slightest interest in other people’s sex lives, I’d be a Republican.
Bill Maher, New Rules