Skyscrapers, lost cities and more: books read

SUPERTALL: How the World’s Tallest Buildings Are Reshaping Our Cities And Our Lives, by architect Al Stefan is a good look at the complexity involved in erecting skyscrapers that make the Empire State Building look puny — the higher you go, the more serious a problem wind becomes, for instance — and the tech that makes it possible. Stefan covers improvement in concrete (I finally know what Portland cement is!), computer modeling, superfast elevators and dampers to rein in the swaying. The downside, of course, is the massive ecological and community damage these buildings can do (a big stretch of concave glass in a London “fryscaper” concentrates the sun enough to burn things below), usually for the benefit of the exclusive rich folks in the building. While several cities have come up with solutions, a lot more needs to be done.

CANTO: If I Only Had a Heart by David M. Booher and Drew Zucker, has a plucky slave set out to complete the quest of a legendary knight against the sinister Shrouded Man to find out why he enslaved Canto’s people and to secure their liberty. This has some nice twists — the slavers are slaves themselves, getting easier treatment for dominating Canto’s people — but this Neverending Story-inspired graphic novel doesn’t quite hit the mark.

SHADOWLANDS: A Journey Through Britain’s Lost Cities and Vanished Villages by Matthew Green looks at the Hebrides’ neolithic community of Skara Brae (abandoned and covered by sand), the Welsh border town of Trellech (ravaged by plague), Wenchelsea (harbor silted up), coastal Dunwich (devoured by Cthulhu — er, the ocean), and parts of Norfolk taken by the army to use as a war-game setting. A running theme is the arbitrariness of so much of this — the 21st century’s surviving cities aren’t so much better as luckier. Stiff writing style but an interesting enough topic to be worth reading anyway.

Writers have many stories about disastrous book-signings and in THE BOOK TOUR Andi Watson offers a fictionalized black comic take. Fretwell, a literary author, endures empty stores (“We’re usually so full!”), sales clerks who can’t find his books, bills his publisher refuses to reimburse — oh, and the police are very interested that he’s the last person to see one female store owner, the latest victim of a serial killer. Oddball, but enjoyable.

BLOOMSBURY GIRLS by Natalie Jenner is a low-key drama set in London in 1950. The three protagonists are working in the Bloomsbury bookstore in London, all nursing various ambitions (love, professional success, questing for a rare book) which the store’s male upper management seems determined to block. I picked this up to see how the author handles the period detail, which turns out to be a lot of emphasis on fashion and makeup, references to the post-WW II rationing still in effect and some literary references (Daphne DuMaurier, The Naked and the Dead).  All of which worked — indeed, while the book is Not My Sort of Thing it’s surprisingly enjoyable. But then, that’s why I sometimes pick up Not My Sort Of Thing books.

MARVEL-VERSE: Thor is a rather odd collection of Thor stories from (I think) several different Thor continuities so I’ve no idea why they were all thrown together in this. As so often happens with anthologies, some stories are a blast, some are “meh” but overall it’s enjoyable.

#SFWApro. Covers by Watson and Jack Kirby

1 Comment

Filed under Comics, Reading

One response to “Skyscrapers, lost cities and more: books read

  1. Pingback: Around the world from Gaul to New Mexico to Nowhere: books | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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