Tuesday, December 26, 2006

some fresh book reviews

Here's some of the books I've finished in the last two months or so, along with some capsule reviews:

Justice League America: World War Three, by Grant Morrison & co.
Grant Morrison closes his run on JLA with a bang, taking us from Atlantis to Heaven to cosmic space in a dogged determination to out-do every previous comic-book end-of-the-world storyline. The result is hyper-kinetic and deliriously crammed: a psychedelic mandala made out of superheroes. There's no room for (much) character development here, but amid the fireworks there are still moments where the story manages to feel surprisingly moving and personal. A blast.

Kalpa Imperial, by Angelica Gorodischer
Fabulist allegories investigating the relationship between power, humanity, and storytelling, using Empire as the central metaphor. Often fascinating, although the book has a tendency to skew towards abstraction: this has the feature of making the stories feel more universal (a plus) but also saps them of concrete details that would make them more memorable.

Oblivion, by David Foster Wallace
Strong collection from Wallace, with the opening and closing stories ("Mister Squishy" and "The Suffering Channel") being the high-water marks. These two stories are perhaps the strongest pieces of fiction I have ever read about life in corporate America, revealing yet another vast field of human experience that Wallace has seemingly obtained mastery over. Impressive.

The Garden of the Departed Cats, by Bilge Karasu
Strange narrative about a traveller who grows embroiled into a conspiracy / human chess game, interspersed periodically with fables, metafictions and allegories. Sounds promising: the combo of "fantastic tales plus framing narrative" recalls Calvino, and the tales themselves are akin to Kafka's parables. But in the end, the book misfires more often than it connects, rendering these comparisons tragically superficial.

Time Maps, by Eviatar Zerubavel
Brief, readable book about the ideology of historical narratives and timekeeping systems (i.e., the calendar). I'm no stranger to the ideological dimension of the quotidian, so the revelations on hand here didn't feel especially startling, but having so many examples so accessibly presented kept the book enjoyable.

All of these reviews are mirrored over at my LibraryThing page, for those of you who are into that sort of thing. Plus they're also on the Raccoon Books page for the year-in-progress.

Since the year's almost over, some year-in-review posts will appear soon (my anuual one for albums of the year and for books of the year). But I'm still on the road, moving ever further north and not logging a lot of time on the computer, so those posts may not appear until early 2007. Stay tuned.