Saturday, 1 January 2011

More 2010 reading

1. One Billion Days of Earth, Doris Piserchia
Classic Sci-Fi, set long in the future, when humans have become something distant and over-evolved, and earth is split between humanoid descendants of rats and some strange conscious animal hybrids. A thing called Sheen comes out of a crater and goes around loving people and then subsuming them.

2. The Comforters, Muriel Spark
An oddly self-confident girl takes a job at a society for producing autobiographies, and starts enhancing the manuscripts she's given to type up. In the meantime she's writing a novel of her own. Very good. Funny and somehow not conciliatory.

3. A Guide to the Birds of East Africa, Nicholas Drayson
Gentle humour set among middle-aged bird watchers in Nairobi. I lent it to my grandma and she liked it. It's quite Alexander McCall Smith-like but in a good way.

4. Dictionary of the Khazars: a lexicon novel, Milorad Pavic
Odd.  Comes in male and female versions, which have one paragraph different between them.  I bought this at the Waterstone's in Exeter near the Cathedral, which has a great selection of translated and unusual things on a table quite near the front.  I talked to someone there about it, and he said it's harder and harder to keep these things out with good display space, but that actually they sell really well.  Go Exeter!  Anyway, the premise of this book is that it is a dictionary of all that is known about the Khazars, a medieval people who lived somewhere in the region of Transylvania, who decided they needed a religion and invited representatives of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religions to a debate so they could decide which one to pick.  The book is split into three sections, each containing all that is known about the people from within each of the three faiths, all of whom claim that they were the ones who persuaded the Khazars.  Also included are dictionary entries on how the information got transmitted.  I really liked this.

5. The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps and The Courage Consort, Michel Faber
Very very good.  Michel Faber can really write.  I hadn't read the Courage Consort before because it sounded too technically musicy, but it's not, and it's very good.  They are both novellas, the first quite a spooky one about an archaeological dig at Whitby Abbey, and the second about a group of singers rehearsing in an isolated house.

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