Books read in May 2011

Tony Hillerman: The Shape Shifter

Cover for the ShapeShifterThis was the first book I read from Hillerman and I liked it. Apparently some of the characters and the setting appears in other books by him. It is part time mystery and part time mysticism. The mystery part is about solving a crime, which end sup being  a series of crimes. The mysticism part comes from the Navajo religion and its notion of shapeshifters, people who can you guessed it shift shapes.

What I most liked about the book was the way it depicted Navajo culture and way of being. It happened through the main character a, a just retired officer, who in himself is an interesting figure. I didn’t care much of the crime, particularly that theb solution to the mystery was easy to guess once the plot was outlined enough. But they way the people and their philosophies were depicted made me want to finish the book. I feel I learned something about Navajo attitude to life and nature and reading more about the author I am convinced it is accurate.

Barry Lyga: Goth Girl Rising

Cover for Goth Girl RisingIt is a sequel to “The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl” that I utterly enjoyed a few months ago. I had high hopes and they were met only halfway. In the first book Kyra–who is this books’ protagonist and was in supporting role in the first one–had an exciting mystique around her. Here that is unveiled and as often, the plain truth is less satisfying than the unknown that can turn into anything.

Reading this book I felt much more that I am not the target audience, than with the first one. That one made me remember the emotional state I often was in my teenhood. The sequel didn’t make me nostalgic at all.  I might have enjoyed it more if I had a recent breakup behind me and could identify with the characters in it. Without being even close to that state I didn’t muster up enough sympathy for the people in it. Nevertheless I am glad I read the book, because it contained some good insight about how other people deal with angst and tips how not to help them.

Isaac Asimov: The Caves of Steel

Cover for The Caves of SteelI have a growing ambivalence reading sci-fi books written a long time ago. This one, the first in Asimov’s robot series is from 1953. The fact that the future a a lot of sci-fi books are set in is already upon us, yet is so different than what the authors back then imagined is discomforting. Fortunately this book is set at a time that is still a bit ahead of us, although possible not much. It is on an unimaginable overpopulated Earth with 8 billion people. Currently we are already approaching 7, so this is not so unimaginable any more.

The crime story, figuring out who murdered a scientist, is engaging enough. But the real strength of the book is the musing about social relations and human prejudice against both robots/AI and against humans who have left Earth a long time ago. It shows the arbitrary nature of racism and that if you have enough contact with the “other” you will soon find what unites you as opposed to what separates you.

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