Books Read: March 2021
This month has been strange and odd for me in ways that I’m not quite ready to talk about fully anywhere, but I did read and at times it was what brought some sense of direction to my current situation.
A Memory Called Empire
Mahit Dzmare arrives to be the ambassador to Teixcalaan from her small space station and finds that not only has her predecessor most likely been murdered, but the memory machine that was implanted in her brain with his memories to help her isn’t working. That’s the beginning of this fast paced story that is about memory, death, individualism, and diplomacy. I highly recommend this one, I’m on the hold list for the second book and am hoping it’s just as good. Arkady Martine creates a fascinating world, but also the exploration of individuals and memory is fascinating.
Castle in the Clouds
A bit of a change and a lighter read, a YA novel that follows Sophie Spark as she spends her first holiday season away from home working as an intern in an old hotel in the Swiss Alps. Of course there is intrigue and a bit of a mystery and many characters that both work in the hotel and are staying in it. I relate to Sophie as I think I was much like her at that age and found the story charming.
The Night Watchman
This is the first Louise Erdrich book I’ve read, but it certainly won’t be the last. Centered on the story of a tribe’s fight to not be terminated by the federal government, we follow as they write letters, talk to people, and pull out all they can in order to remain a tribe in the eyes of the government. It’s a story about something I knew nothing about and it’s engaging and became a page turner as I worried and wondered what would happen with each character.
The Wedding Date
A romance, of all things, but a community I belong to regularly talks about what they’re reading and a long thread on romances put me onto this book and I decided to give it a try. There are things that almost always annoy me about these books (why aren’t people more upfront and talking about more before the end?), but it was entertaining and kept me engaged. A nice light read that I needed.
I’ve read quite a bit of Olivia Laing’s nonfiction, but this was my first venture into her fiction. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really like the book for the first two thirds, but something about the end brought it around for me and I saw the beginning in a very different light. If you still have a hard time with the events of 2017, best not read this one, because it’s very much of its time, but in some ways you watch Kathy grow and change and truly fall in love and during that process she becomes a much more likable character.
This book of short stories by Ted Chiang surprised me. I think it got on my list through an end of year best books list, and while some of the stories weren’t as compelling to me, there were three that were absolutely amazing. Chiang is challening notions of memory, what does it mean to be alive, choices we make as humans and how we make them, creation myths, and what exactly is technology and what isn’t. Even better, he has some notes on where the ideas for the stories came from which I found equally fascinating.
We don’t normally think of it as such, but writing is a technology, which means that a literate person is someone whose thought processes are technologically mediated. We became cognitive cyborgs as soon as we became fluent readers, and the consequences of that were profound. (p 226)
My species probably won’t be here for much longer; it’s likely that we’ll die before our time and join the Great Silence. But before we go, we are sending a message to humanity. We just hope the telescope at Arecibo will enable them to hear it. The message is this: You be good. I love you. (p 236)