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Reading: May 2011’s Books

Far later than intended, we have the May round-up posts, where I write a little about all the media I consumed throughout the month (June’s will hopefully go up next week, but haven’t been worked on at all yet). This month started with television, then came film, and now it’s time for the books.

Olaf is the only author returning from April, but Terry is back from February and Neil is making his first appearance since January. The other four are all new.

Sources: Olaf, Richard, Kurt, Neil, Yahtzee, Stanislaw and Terry.

I’m going to attempt to keep these relatively brief this month, with no more than a paragraph per book and to try and avoid wasting time making synopses and things, just a quick opinion. So without further ado:

April 26th - 'Star Maker', by Olaf Stapledon.

As I finished this on the first of May I shared my thoughts on the whole thing in last month’s round-up. It’s a magnificent book.

May 2nd - 'Black Man', by Richard Morgan

A very different sort of sci-fi to Star Maker. I didn’t like protagonist Carl Marsalis as much as Takeshi Kovacs (main character of three other novels by Morgan) but he is still a good character. The Thirteens, genetic variants designed specifically for aggression and lessened social limitations, work well as the central protagonist, antagonist and general bogeymen of the setting, Morgan tells an interesting story, the book has some moving moments and plenty of strong characters.

May 13th - Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five falls under the modern classics (and the presence of time travel and aliens makes it science-fiction), one that most people have heard of but which I’d never read and am making the effort to do so. It’s a very short book but an absolutely brilliant one. Calling it a funny book almost doesn’t seem right considering its subject but it really is darkly humorous and satirical. Vonnegut writes magnificently and it was a real joy to read. While I don’t have a list of favourite books worked out even in my head I still have no doubt that Slaughterhouse-Five is near the top of that non-existent list.

May 15th - American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

Yes, Slaughterhouse-Five is so short that I was done with it in two days, just a couple of hours of reading. This version of American Gods is the ‘author’s preferred text’, adding in twelve thousand words that were cut in the original edit (Amazon has it at 672 pages compared to the original release’s 352). I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel the length at first as it allows Gaiman to really dig into each part of the story, but it’s still a good book and I can’t imagine how it would read without 320 of its pages. The gods make for interesting characters and there are some parallels to how gods function in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, the author Gaiman worked with on Good Omens, which I read back in January.

May 24th - Mogworld, by Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw

This is the first book from Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation fame. It’s a different style of humour to ZP (which is for the best as that wouldn’t have worked as well in a fantasy novel as it does in a five-minute video), and in some ways reminded me of Discworld. Mogworld‘s protagonist, Jim, is something of a reluctant hero but the way his story plays out felt fairly fresh and I enjoyed the book.

May 28th - Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem

This is the original source of the Solaris story (or at least the English translation, as my Polish isn’t quite good enough for me to read the very original), so along with the two film adaptations (both of which I watched last year) it means I’ve experienced this story three times. All three put a different spin on it and tell a slightly different story, and Lem’s version focuses upon the nature of the planet in a way that wouldn’t have translated well into film, so I’m glad I decided to read it.

May 31st - The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett

I only just started it on the last day of the month (which is a tiny bit annoying, for reasons I’ll get to in the Goals section below) so I’ll discuss it in June.


May Verdict

Quality – Every book this month was enjoyable, with Black Man being particularly good and Slaughterhouse-Five being absolutely fantastic.

Quantity – Five books is a decent amount considering I’m only reading for about an hour a day (not including the one day spent finishing off Star Maker and another starting The Wee Free Men).

Newness – Everything was new except for The Wee Free Men, which I’m reading again ahead of the three unread books in the series.

Goals – These were my goals for May:

  1. “keep to what I’m doing, reading daily and for at least about an hour per day” – Achieved
  2. I’d like to manage another month just reading new books” – Failed
  3. The list of what I purchased in April that I posted a couple of days ago shows that I have one unread book from there, Black Man, so I would like to read that in May” – Achieved
  4. “I’m down to just one purchased book so I could do with building up a buffer of a couple” – Achieved
  5. “I’d quite like to read at least one book I own but have never read before, a token effort towards working through the backlog” – Failed

That’s another pretty good month for reading then. I’m reading for a fair amount of time each day and both reading and purchasing plenty of new books (technically I bought seven, though one was sent back and the other was a pre-order). I had enough new books that I didn’t even consider reading an unread one that I already own, despite having plenty of them. Starting to re-read The Wee Free Men on the 31st means that I only just failed the second goal and as I’m doing that to read three unread books I’d say that only counts as a failure in the smallest of ways.

For June then I still have The Road to read, and as the fourth Tiffany Aching book, I Shall Wear Midnight, releases in paperpack next month I’m going to go through the whole set again, which starts with The Wee Free Men (which I’m already reading) and then going onto A Hat Full of Sky and Wintersmith (both of which I own but have never read). In addition to that then I’ll keep goals one and five from May (reading The Wee Free Men means I can’t stick to goal two), and by the end of the month I might need to buy some more books. That’s sufficient for June, I think.

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  1. July 10, 2011 at 15:03

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