Books (#SFWApro)

MOCKINGJAY is, of the course, the final Hunger Games book in which Katniss and District 12 (or the survivors) join forces with District 13 to wage war on the capital, only for Katniss to realize that the revolutionaries may not be good guys either. Not as good as the first two books, but still very good; part of what makes it work is showing that Katniss becoming the face of the resistance isn’t that different from playing in the Hunger Games.
The bad thing about THE WORLDS OF CLIFFORD SIMAK is that I already have three or four stories (a common problem). The good thing is that it’s a good collection, including the Hugo-winning “Big Front Yard” in which a Yankee barter whiz becomes the face of interplanetary diplomacy, plus “Dirty Zebras” (aliens trade via teleportation), a tale of an alien practical joker, what happens when everyone in the world becomes a precog and what happens when a computer reads too much fiction (“Lulu”). I’m always inclined to describe Simak as folksy, and I feel he is, in a good way—there’s often a sense that human decency and a little horse sense can solve most problems—but that makes his work sound much simpler than it is.
Despite my usual distaste for fantasy novels with minimal fantasy elements, TOURISTS by Lisa Goldstein worked for me. A severely dysfunctional family spending a year abroad in a fictional country. As they grapple with their own demons, they also cope with a sectarian war between factions searching for a mystical sword wielded by two kings, but disagreeing which was the rightful ruler. The magic is subdued and could probably have been eliminated, but the story worked for me just the same.
As one project I’m working on involves Gilles de Rais, I picked BLUEBEARD: The Life and Times of Gilles de Rais by Leonard Wolf looked like the best of the Bluebeard biographies available, but it’s not the bio the legendary French warrior turned monster deserves. While Wolf makes valid points about flawed theories on what turned de Rais from a hero to a symbol of evil, that’s mostly so he can push his own interpretation. His analysis also relies on far too many What He Must Have Thought interpolations and quotes from novels about de Rais to bridge the gaps. And he really gives far too little on de Rais’ career as a military supporter of Joan of Arc, preferring to focus on the Maid of Orleans herself (I don’t know how much info there is available,but I get the impression there’s more than Wolf bothered with). An adequate guide, but I’d have liked better.

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