Friday, June 25, 2010

3-fer Thursday (On Friday)

The Questions:

What have I been reading lately?

What am I reading now?

What will I read next?

The Answers:

Saberhagen Redux: This past weekend I tore through Jack Williamson’s Lifeburst, a good, old-fashioned space tale. Williamson was, literally, a Grand Master of SF, publishing his first story in 1928, and his last novel in 2005. Prolific and versatile, Williamson’s body of work traces the evolution of modern science fiction. He has been one of my favorite SF writers for many years. That having been said, Lifeburst was just fair. The antagonist, a “Seeker” is a member of a biomechanical race designed as weapons in some forgotten war long ago, immediately bringing to mind Fred Saberhagen’s Berserkers, and frankly, Saberhagen does it better. Williamson’s story is an almost archetypal SF bildungsroman centered on a highly capable and resourceful young man, and Williamson carries it off as if he’s done it a hundred times before. Which he has, and often with far more skill. Still, I took this one off the pile because I wanted a fun read, and it was definitely that, and comforting in its familiar progression. Even Grand Masters have to pay the rent, Readers Mine.

Unconditional Surrender: Sunday night I finally picked up Jean Edward Smith’s Grant, and now I’m thoroughly sucked in. This is a great biography, and a great book. The research is meticulous, the scholarship of the highest caliber, and it grips the reader like the best of novels. I’ve read many biographies of US Grant, and none have been as well done as Smith’s. I’m only a couple of hundred pages into the book, so I don’t want to rave too much, lest it fall apart and disappoint, but I think this is that rare perfect diamond of a biography which will become a seminal work on the life of Grant. More on Smith’s Grant later, but this one’s worth buying. In hardcover.

I’m also still working on The Television Genre Book, edited by Glen Creeber. I’m happy to report that, after the introductory chapter, the book has become far more readable. It still drags at times, and occasionally sinks into the impenetrable mire of academese, but overall it’s proving to be a handy introduction into the field of TV genre studies. Of necessity, the generic categories used are very broad and general, and seem to me to be a bit out of date. Then again most of my TV watching life has been during a period of increasing generic hybridity (I can do academese too, by the way). In other words, I grew up watching shows that tended to mix and match different genres, making easy pigeonholing of the shows as “cop show” or “science fiction” or “horror” very difficult. Most interesting thus far are the bits I’m learning on the history of generic development as TV broadcasting evolved in response to new technologies, economic realities, and social changes. Still, this one’s definitely an I’m-reading-this-because-it’s-good-for-me/I-need-the-information-in-it book.

What’s Next? Soon, it’s honeymoon time, Readers Mine, two weeks at the beach with very little to do but walk, read, eat, love, and live, so I would venture to say that Allan Quatermain may come back on the scene, or maybe even Mikhail Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time, which has been on the pile for a few months now. So many books, so little time…. YEA!!

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