Sunday, September 23, 2007

Finn and Glasshouse both superb books

Books now read in ’07: 90
Title: Finn
Author: Jon Clinch
Genre: Fiction
Date Completed: 9-16
Pages: 283

Books now read in ’07: 91
Title: Glasshouse
Author: Charles Stross
Genre: Science Fiction
Date Completed: 9-21
Pages: 335

Books now read in ’07: 92
Title: This Shape We’re In
Author: Jonathan Lethem
Genre: Fiction
Date Completed: 9-21
Pages: 55

Two books could not be more different than Finn and GlasshouseFinn is set on the banks of the Mississippi in the mid-19th Century, while Glasshouse is set several centuries in the future – yet I thoroughly enjoyed them both.

Finn is a bold re-imagining of a classic work of American literature. The Finn of the title is Huck Finn’s “Pap,” a violent, willful, doomed man. Author Jon Clinch provides the reader with both a father and a mother for Huckleberry Finn, surely one of the most iconic figures in American literature. Huck’s parentage, as envisioned by Clinch, is extraordinary, yet probable.

But this book does belong to Huck. Just as Pap had a only a cameo role in Huckleberry Finn, so Huck has only a brief appearance in Finn. This is his father’s book, and his story is given to us in a powerful, lyrical, original voice.

I hope the National Book Award judges are paying attention. This book deserves further notice.

Glasshouse is by Charles Stross, the premiere science fiction writer today. It begins – as this genre often does – on a far, distance world in a far, distant time where humans routinely back themselves up (like we do our computers) and can take virtually any shape they desire from that of a centaur to a sexy woman with four arms (and she knows how to use them).

The genius of Glasshouse is that an assortment of humans who have recently undergone memory wipes volunteer (sort of) for an experiment that results in them living under conditions similar to life in the mid-20th Century. There’s something going on below the surface, of course, and discovering exactly what the great experiment is really about is among the joys of this entertaining book.

Ultimately, Glasshouse is not so much a space opera as an old-fashioned prison break. It is another superb effort by Charlie Stross.

As for Jonathan Lethem’s This Shape We’re In I dunno. I have no clue what it’s about.

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