I’ve been reading a lot lately, which is good. Reading is fuel for the writing mind, a way to help fill up the brain after spilling its contents all over the pages, and since I’ve been writing a fair amount lately, it stands to reason that I’ve also been reading. So, what’s on that list?
Dr. Sleep, Stephen King. King catches us up on Danny Torrance, last seen as a terrified six-year-old boy trying to escape his father and other monsters in King’s epic, 1977 work, The Shining. Now in his 40’s, Torrance works in a nursing home where he uses the shine to help comfort elderly people as they die. He’s struggling every day with addiction. Danny finds himself having to defend a young girl with prodigious psychic ability from the True Knot, a wandering band of what you might call psychic vampires.
Generally speaking, I enjoy reading King even if I don’t like the story (does that make sense? I enjoy how he tells a story). Of his recent works, I felt Under the Dome (the book, not the TV show) and 11/22/1963 were far better. This was more like Duma Key, solid, if unspectacular, but at least it wasn’t The Tommyknockers. It’s worth picking up if you like King.
Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell. This is one of those books I’ve been hearing about for years, and like many of those books that are much-hyped, I was disappointed. Cloud Atlas is six interconnected stories spanning roughly 300 years of our past and future. Each of the stories is told in a different way–journals, letters, novels, futuristic holographic recorders–and each of the stories maintains a very different voice.
Mitchell did a fantastic job of creating different characters and writing each section in different styles and voices, but to be honest, the structure of this novel felt gimmicky. I found some of the sections quite dull, some of the narrators extremely irritating, and the conclusion less than satisfying. Much like The Secret History, this novel had some great writing, but failed to live up to the hype (though I liked this one better than Secret History; don’t get me started on that one).
Having put down Cloud Atlas, I was a little worried about picking up the next, much-hyped title, The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. Narrated by Death itself, The Book Thief is the tale of Liesel Meminger, a young girl who is sent by her mother to live with a foster family just outside Munich, Germany in 1939. Liesel slowly forms close ties with her foster family, other children in the neighborhood, and, eventually, the Jewish man her foster father ends up hiding in the basement. Like Cloud Atlas, this novel utilizes some unconventional storytelling methods, such as drawing and hand-written books in the middle, yet it never feels gimmicky. I found The Book Thief to be fantastic, well worth the hype, and I was sorry to see it come to an end.
Right now I’m reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, and I probably shouldn’t say anything about it, as I’m not quite finished (but will be in the next day or so). Station Eleven follows several interconnected lives before and after a new strain of flu brings down civilization as we know it. Twenty years after the fall, Kirsten Raymonde travels with The Symphony, a troupe of actors and musicians who perform Shakespeare for the survivors “Because survival is insufficient.” The story skillfully weaves past and present together to tell a complete tale (of course, I’m not finished, so it’s entirely possible that this will all fall apart at the end, but I doubt it). So far, this is a very satisfying read, and I’m excited to see how it finishes.
That’s it for me. What have you been reading lately?
EDIT: I forgot to add, the Magpie updated her Japan blog this weekend, which includes some pictures from her visit to an exhibit about the manga/anime Shingeki no Kiyojin (Attack on Titan). Stop by if you’re so inclined.