Poems, by Iain Banks and Ken MacLeod

Poems, by Iain Banks and Ken MacLeod

Unless someone seriously goes against his publicly (and hopefully legally) stated wishes, there will only ever be 30 Iain Banks books, including this one, his last and only posthumously published work. It combines his personally selected poems, mostly unpublished, with the poetry of his friend and colleague Ken MacLeod. Now, I have to be up-front here: I know very little about, and have a hard time understanding poetry. I know enough to be fairly certain that my lack of knowledge concerning the form probably shares a strong causal relationship with my difficulty in appreciating it. I say this just to be clear. I think that like most folks who pick this one up, I read it more as a fan of Iain Banks, than as someone who knows literally anything… Continue reading

Ethics in the Real World, by Peter Singer

A wonderful collection of short essays, aimed toward every day people. Each designed to introduce some difficult ethical questions to those that may have never been forced to confront them in their day-to-day lives. The only failure of this book is, in retrospect, actually a success, it being inherent to the function of what the book set out to achieve; the essays are too brief, and as a result, often too black and white. The author, a utilitarian, undoubtedly understood that this was unavoidable, and chose to sacrifice a more complete, complex examination of each ethical quandary, in favor of reaching those most likely in need of asking these questions, by keeping the essays concise and to the point. Easily digestible in a few minutes. Demonstrably, this could be seen… Continue reading

Relief Map, by Rosalie Knecht

Relief Map, by Rosalie Knecht

This was a such a great story, with a cast of characters that I swear I grew up with. It brought back a lot of memories of the shadier aspects of being a teenager in a tiny town, and how much can change for you in one summer when you’re young and haven’t really done anything terrible yet. The characters were mostly teenagers, but I wouldn’t call this YA fiction. It’s more of a coming-of-age story set within a powder keg of a small town, featuring universal human themes. The prose was clear and descriptive, which really brought the story to life. The style here is reminiscent of Kent Haruf’s Plainsong, and his favorite location of Holt Colorado in some ways. Although, it’s entirely separated from that geographic location. The… Continue reading

The Dispatcher, by John Scalzi

The Dispatcher, by John Scalzi

The Dispatcher is a tightly constructed urban fantasy mystery novella, set in a world with only one difference to our own. When someone dies, their body disappears, and they re-materialize back at their house alive and well. Most of the time. This sets up a fantastically unique murder mystery, with a character and setting that I really hope he returns to. Some elements of this reminded me a little of Altered Carbon. This could be a long running series, and I would definitely read it all. Usually I’m not into urban fantasy at all, but this one is quite different. Most people hear Urban Fantasy and think “Oh, that’s like werewolves and vampires and magic and stuff right?” which is an easy assumption to make since so much of it… Continue reading

Reality Hunger, by David Shields

Reality Hunger, by David Shields

You’ll usually find this in the literary criticism section of a book shop, and having now read it, I can’t exactly argue with that placing, but I can say that it would also be right at home in many other sections: cultural anthropology, sociology, memoir, philosophy, history, poetry, or even general fiction (if I’m feeling particularly objective). It’s a lot of things in one, which means that the book itself fully embodies the crux of its own argument, to get all postmodern on you, which simply put is: the distinction between fiction and non-fiction is not as black and white as we think. Or written another way, and quoting directly from the book: “Writing is writing. Every act of composition is an act of fiction.” I picked this book up… Continue reading