What are you currently reading?
The Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, on audio, which I downloaded from the library as soon as I finished The Bone Clocks on CD. Once again, I'm not sure what I'm reading at the start, and I had to google at one point to make sure my copy wasn't missing a section (it wasn't; if you've read this you know what I mean). But sure, Mr. Mitchell, tell me more. I'm still at a very early point...
Skin Game by Jim Butcher, also on audio. Also very early on. Trying this because it's one of the Hugo nominees for Best Novel. See below re: the series it belongs to.
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, in a paperback I bought when the sequel came out, thinking I would need to reread it before venturing into the second book. And I was right. I liked it a lot the first time, and I like it more on rereading because the stuff that took me a long time to get a handle on the first time through (the various cultures the narrator is navigating, the relationship with language, the relationship with gender) is stuff I now understand and underneath is a ripping yarn. I'm about halfway through the reread, it should go fast.
• What did you recently finish reading?
Storm Front by Jim Butcher, the first book in the Dresden series. (Skin Game mentioned above is the 15th). I wanted to read the first book to at least get some grounding before going forward. This was rocky for a few reasons: most notably, the audiobook was obviously really cheaply, poorly produced -- which is funny because I think I first heard of this series when someone mentioned that James Marsters from Buffy was the reader and it's not really him so much as they must have blown their budget on a 'name' actor instead of things like pacing and correcting mistakes and making sure words are pronounced correctly. (He also reads Skin Game and it sounds fine, so there seems to have been a learning curve for all involved).
Re: the book -- I didn't hate it, I wasn't actively turned off by the narrator (maybe because I'd been warned he's kind of a sexist jerk and expected it to be worse.) And it's a very polished, well-plotted book. But it really struck me that (1) absolutely nothing is subtext; the first-person narrator spells out everything that happens and why, in a way that's really not necessary in a plot-driven book that has dialogue and lots of scenes -- everything seems overexplained and there's nothing for the reader to do, if that makes any sense and (2) the book handles stakes poorly; we're told early on that, for various reasons, the narrator expects that he's going to be executed by the magic police or w/e and we keep hearing this over and over again so there's no way for the stakes to escalate. And obviously, even if this weren't a 15 book series, it's very unlikely the first-person narrator/protagonist of this kind of novel is going to die at the end of the book. Plus the character doesn't have any relationships to care about (except with his cat) so between those things there is nothing that's going to happen to this character that I'm going to care about so.... I'm not saying Jim Butcher should have threatened the cat, I'm just saying that would have given me some reason to be following this dude's story. (Yes, there are women in the book who get threatened and harmed but that's a whole other set of issues.)
After I finished the book, I found out that the author wrote it for a writing course when he was 25, which SORT OF explains it not being a great book, but I generally have a lot of affection for first novels by young writers, because I expect them to be messy and raw and not very polished (Dennis Lehane also wrote A Drink Before the War for a writing class when he was in his 20s and that's busting out with excess and weirdness and multipage rants about what 25 year old Dennis Lehane thought was wrong with race relations and social inequality and gentrification in early 90s America, and that's a terrible book in places but parts of it are transcendently great). I don't know the story behind Storm Front but I'd guess a very savvy editor got their hands on it and figured out how to turn it into something that would sell -- which CREDIT WHERE IT'S DUE, at least they did their editing, which does not always seem to be the case with commercial fiction that goes on to make a lot of money. (Imagine if the editor of Twilight insisted that it needed an actual plot structure.) (I personally enjoyed reading Twilight much more than I enjoyed reading Storm Front but see above re: me and weird first novels and add my overidentification with Bella Swan.) Or maybe I'm wrong, maybe Butcher was just that good at plotting out of the gate. I find the particular ways that this book doesn't work to be interesting though.
Oh, and I also finished The Bone Clocks. That sure was an ending that novel had, I tell you what.
• What do you think you’ll read next?
Ancillary Sword. Or The Goblin Emperor. Or The Three Body Problem. And I should crack The Dark Between the Stars at some point, I suppose. And oh apparently my book club is reading The Goldfinch this month. . .uh, maybe I'll catch up with that in August.