Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The first two books of the Summer reading adventure


Today we start our run-through of our vacation reading by discussing the first two books on our list.

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

First some preliminary words on these first two books.

I was surprised to find that Kim Stanley Robinson is a boy!

And then I was a little surprised to find that Arkady Martine isn't.

Not that any of that mattered much either way. It just provides a bit of symmetry.

I read and loved Kim Stanley Robinson's more recent book The Ministry for the Future, so delving into his older and award winning, maybe even classic trilogy about the colonization of Mars seemed close to a sure thing for me. If I had to pick one book from my 12 that I was most sure I would read all the way through on this trip it would have been Red Mars

I read a couple of chapters to make sure I was interested. I was, mildly, then I set it aside and read practically everything else I had.

I honestly still mean to read this book, but it didn't seem super important that I read it anymore after I started.

I may be being generous in that assessment though. For the most part the book seemed full of unappealing manipulative, political characters, and I do not read very well without sympathy. It might be a reading flaw of mine.

A Memory Called Empire was also an award winning book, winning the Hugo Award a couple years ago, which maybe brought it to my attention because I am an absolute sucker for that kind of thing! I also mean to finish this book, but I am much further along in it- perhaps as much as two-thirds of the way through, and I mostly, but not entirely, set it aside in the interest of filling out my reading project we're talking about right now, not because of a flagging interest.

This is a book about a maybe far flung future with very complicated cultures, and is a lot about politics and diplomacy in this space empire world. I expected from the reviews that it would be a grand scale space opera, which I'm not so sure it is. The story seems a bit closer in for all that.

 Most positive comments also commend its world building.

Its world building is fine, as far as that goes, but is definitely of the "I'll tell you a careful one percent of the world, and you fill in the rest" variety. This works, but I never quite want to give this version of world building full points. After all, aren't we the readers doing the heavy lifting here?

Still, the main character is interesting, clever, thrown into the deep end, and we the readers are kept in a fine and difficult space of everything being strange, but somehow we never feel lost in this, to which much credit goes to the author after all. I like the book and reserve any greater judgement until I know how it all comes together in the end, which is a place I am planning on reading my way to in the near future.

Tomorrow or sometime soon we'll move onto our next three books, one of which was read aloud, and including the first one I read all the way though.

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