Sark hands

Wednesday reading — murders, martyrs and marriages

What I've been reading

I read After the Apocalypse, a collection of Maureen McHugh's short stories, on a rec from Jo Walton's list of 8 SF books that excited her from the last decade, and all the stories in it are good. Some of them are really really good.

I read Solitaire—I think because the above list or one of the books on it reminded me that someone else had recced it or something?—but I really kinda didn't like it, even though Octavia E. Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin really did. It starts out with this bizarrely mundane twist on the Chosen One trope, where kids across the world with a certain precise birth time are called Hopes and groomed to take up places in a newly-minted earth-wide government as an openly-acknowledged PR exercise, so, like, for something awesome, like learning magic or swordplay, substitute seminars on management techniques for Jackal, our particular privileged princess. Then Bad Things Happen and Jackal gets framed for terrorism and railroaded into accepting a sentence of subjectively-induced virtual solitary confinement. A good 80 pages in the middle of the book attempts to chronicle this ordeal, necessarily selectively, and I didn't feel like it sold me on/conveyed the fact that solitary confinement is torture, but it was also kind of a slog to read. Finally, she's released and I get really annoyed because I thought we would finally learn more about how this world is supposed to work and we pretty much don't and the conclusion is unconvincing. A very frustrating reading experience.

I reread As You Like It and was sad that Rosalind ditches Celia for Orlando.

I read Cecilia, a novel of who St. Cecilia might have been, since it is known that the traditional stories of her martyrdom are quite late and their accuracy is questionable. I really liked it and I'm surprised by how negative the Goodreads reviews are.

I read When We Wake, Karen Healey's new book, which I also really liked. (Cutesy LJ-user Easter egg: Australian teenagers in 2128 share the latest ontedy—you know, gossip.)

Perhaps the antipodes were on my mind when I was casting about for some nice comfort rereads, because I settled on Ngaio Marsh's Inspector Alleyn books. (The fact that I had ebooks of a bunch of them from the library was also a factor.) I started in order and reread A Man Lay Dead, Enter a Murderer and The Nursing Home Murder. I wasn't nearly as strict with published order when I first started reading Ngaio Marsh, nor as critical a reader, and the chronological perspective is interesting, starting with the fact that the first book, although indeed promising in bits, is really quite terrible in so many ways. (I always was partial to the torture scene in that one, though.)

What I'm reading next

There are quite likely to be more Ngaio Marshes involved.

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