Maps, James Bond (sort of), women drivers and more: books read (#SFWApro)

THE CURIOUS MAP BOOK by Ashley Baynton-Williams is a collection of five hundred-plus years of eccentric maps, including the symbolic (1914 Europe portrayed as a pack of snarling dogs), maps as games (racing around the Great Capitals of the World, for instance) and jigsaws built around maps. More interesting as a visual time-passer than for hard information, and probably not much use as research for Oh the Places You’ll Go (which is what prompted me to check this out of the library)

FOREVER AND A DEATH by Donald Westlake has a financially strapped scheme (a former Hong Kong wheeler-dealer who lost big when the Chinese took over) planning to level the city with an earthquake maker, only to run into unexpected opposition from various people (an environmentalist, a cop, an engineer) pulled into his orbit. This was based on an idea Westlake proposed for the second Pierce Brosnan Bond movie, only to have it shot down for both marketing reasons (if the handoff went badly, it would be like making an action film about Tianamen Square) and practical (Westlake’s writing style didn’t allow for the kind of outline that Eon required to plan shooting, sets, etc.). In its own right good, but the relative realism works against it — the ensemble badly needs a central hero and the ending is very anticlimatic.

LAST FIRST SNOW: A Novel of the Craft Sequence by Max Gladstone is a good fantasy set in what appears to be a modern-day alt.Aztec empire where in the aftermath of a Great War against the gods a poor neighborhood is resisting a magic-backed effort to push them out in favor of gentrification and shopping malls. Very good.

DRIVING WOMEN: Fiction and Automobile Culture in Twentieth-Century America by Deborah Clarke looks at the complicated relationship between women and cars and the uneasy reaction of society to the idea of women gaining more mobility, more freedom and possibly get into more trouble, and how to reclassify the woman driver so she was still feminine (“But attempts to make a car specifically for women always fell flat.”). Using fiction, Clarke shows cars serving as an extension of the motherly role, a small piece of serenity in a crowded life or a way for women to intrude into male space. Interesting, but too academic in tone to really win me (I think more analysis of TV or movies over serious literature might have added some insight). And the chapter on Mother as Cyborg (beginning with an analysis of the sitcom My Mother the Car) really fell flat

EXIT WOUNDS by Ruta Modan has an Israeli cab driver dragged willy-nilly by a female soldier into her efforts to find out if her lover (his father) was a recent victim in a terrorist bombing. Neither the story nor the leads’ relationship follows a conventional narrative, but I enjoyed it. Cover by Modan, all rights to current holder.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST: Heroes for Hire (by a variety of people, with Mary Jo Duffy doing most of the writing) reprints the first couple of dozen issues of the unlikely team up and friendship between Luke Cage and Danny Rand (I assume this was a way to keep Iron Fist in action after his own comic folded). This starts with the criminal Bushmaster forcing Luke to hunt down Danny’s girlfriend Misty only to have the two heroes (and Misty and Colleen) take him down instead. The resulting series is adequate superhero action, entertaining but not particularly standout. If I were fonder of the leads (I am fond of them, but they aren’t at the level of Flash or Green Lantern in my personal pantheon) I’d like it better, so YMMV.

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Filed under Comics, Reading

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