Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Soulless, War and Peace, Gene Wolfe short stories

I was very disappointed by Gail Carriger's Soulless, probably my fault for not reading the reviews thoroughly enough.  Billed as an Austenian comedy of manners with werewolves and vampires, it's actually a romance.  Which would be okay, but the romance angles takes over in the dumbest places; one time, even in a jail cell, while the two main characters are waiting to be experimented on.

In a more serious vein, I've started on War and Peace, and am also dipping into a massive retrospective of Gene Wolfe's short fiction.  War and Peace is, of course, famous for being very long and having a huge cast of characters.  It was certainly daunting at first, because the opening takes place at a party where it's hard to even know which people will turn out to be important and which ones are just window dressing.  But after that, it settles down, and I'm finding it very readable.  Tolstoy takes us from Russian high society to the battlefield to an isolated farm estate, and it's all enthralling.  (Although the size of the novel is certainly off-putting -- my kindle tells me I'm 18% of the way through, and I've already read a normal novel's worth of text).

The Gene Wolfe retrospective is a great way to become (re)acquainted with Wolfe's short fiction.  Although I usually think of him as a novelist, because his themes tend to be so complicated, his short fiction is usually top-notch, whether at the three-page length or the fifty-page length.  In some cases, I'm revisiting stories I've already read and loved, like "The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories," which is an amazing story; it's even more amazing to see that it came so early in his career.  In other cases, there are stories which I've heard of, but had never gotten around to reading, like "The Fifth Head of Cerberus," which absolutely deserves its classic status.  And then there are a few which I'd never heard of, and which provide a very different glimpse of Wolfe's writing, like "The Recording," which is not even science fiction.  Of course, there are a few duds, but this is a fine collection (and I'm only 1/3 of the way through)

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