I hope other people still read books but I guess I’ll reply to my own post here!
Read two books and most of the way through a third since the last post:
Cold Storage - Robert Koepp
A Crichton-esque thriller - it could almost be “The Andromeda Strain 2” - by a Hollywood screenwriter, it’s a book that starts off very well (better than Crichton, actually), and remains decent, but never quite becomes great. I won’t spoiler anything, but if you’re looking for a fun thriller with slightly unusual and well-rendered characters and a barely-believable-but-let’s-go-with-it premise (about as believable as The Andromeda Strain or Jurassic Park - far more so than stuff like Timeline or Prey or god help us State of Fear) it’s definitely better than most, and doesn’t have the tiring vague misogyny or libertarian or authoritarian agendas that tend to appear in a lot of thrillers (looking at you Cussler, Clancy, et al!).
Sorcery of Thorns - Margaret Rogerson
Somewhat superior somewhat YA-ish (but mercifully free of “tournaments” or “tests” or “trials” or anything of the sort) fantasy novel about a potentially dangerously twee subject, that nevertheless manages to avoid dipping into the twee or otherwise inducing eye-rolls. It’s about a teenage girl raised in a library which is basically a prison for semi-sentient books of spells, who intends to become a warden for said books. But things do not take an entirely expected course, which results in a far more interesting book than might have otherwise occurred. The characters are engaging and plausible (the latter being somewhat rare in YA novels), the nastiness of the world pitched at a very believable level, and the story remains consistently page-turning. The author also has a knack of making things seem shocking which probably shouldn’t be, which is good. Definitely a “genre novel” but of a superior kind. I kind of hope there aren’t any sequels (in ends in a way that doesn’t necessitate any, which is nice), because I suspect it would be hard to replicate how well it works.
Circe - Madeline Miller
Circe is much-feted lately, and with good reason. It’s a fantasy novel about the ancient Greek mythological character Circe, a rather major mythological figure much-obsessed over by the Victorians as she was a woman alone who seemed to do what she wanted, but wasn’t a bastion of apparent righteousness like Athena (who they were admittedly also obsessed with), who in myth is an demigod and witch who interacts with a lot of other Greek mythological characters.
I haven’t finished it yet, but around 75% of the way through, it’s abundantly clear why it’s so well-regarded - not only is it beautifully written, and emotionally engaging, but it weaves together a large number of Greek myths and makes them seem utterly naturally connected in a way that they totally aren’t, but feel like they totally should be. She makes the themes of various myths and the causes of various events resonate with each other in a way that is rather impressive, to say the least. I suspect it will actually overwrite a lot of the myths in my mind because it’s fuller and more plausible and somehow real than them. It also manages to make them seem modern and relevant without getting too, I dunno, obvious or clumsy about it, and without ever losing the setting.
Apparently HBO is busily in the process of making an 8-part mini-series out of it, which seems sensible, though will require some real precision casting to not turn into a shit-show. They desperately need a relative unknown as Circe herself.