by Jarrah Hodge
I read A LOT the past few months: fiction and non, feminism/gender related and not so much. So even though the reviews are short and sweet, I’m going to break this up into two posts. If you’ve read any of the books on the list, let me know what you thought. If you’ve read something else good lately, comment below and maybe it’ll make it into my Spring 2013 book list post.
In Other Worlds: Science Fiction and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood
Overall, this is probably a book more for the Atwood fan than the SF fan who isn’t familiar with Atwood. The first part of In Other Worlds feels like you’re hanging out with Margaret Atwood drinking wine when starts to hit the point of having too much to drink and begins ramblingly postulating on science fiction, mostly focusing on her relationship with the genre. It was interesting but I thought told us more about Margaret Atwood than it did about “science fiction and the human imagination”. The best segment was Atwood’s musings on the interconnected relationship between dystopia and utopia, which provided an interesting framework to look at Atwood’s books as well as many other SF works.
I felt the second part of the book, in which Atwood shares her reflections on specific works such as Brave New World and the stories of Ursula K. LeGuin, was more interesting and insightful. Though I had expected more gender analysis throughout the book, Atwood does hit on it a bit in this section. For example she points out that most dystopias have been written by men and from a male point-of-view:
“I wanted to try a dystopia from the female point of view – the world according to Julia, as it were. However, this does not make The Handmaid’s Tale ‘a feminist dystopia,’ except insofar as giving a woman a voice and an inner life will always be considered ‘feminist’ by those who think women ought not to have those things.”
Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach
I’m a big fan of Mary Roach but I was disappointed by Spook. It lacked a coherent flow and despite the fact that the subject matter (scientific and not-so-scientific attempts to prove the existence of a soul and/or afterlife) was really interesting, the book itself actually managed to bore.
I also felt she tried way too hard to keep an open mind to some obviously-fringe “science”. While it made sense to reach out in good faith to cover these groups of “researchers” – such as the people who go into the wilderness to tape-record ghosts – it feels in her writing like she’s bending over backwards to say that while she didn’t experience any ghosts, maybe it was just her. I know she wasn’t aiming to write a scholarly book but in comparison just to her other books her research seemed spotty. I’m thinking no one who has a strong belief on the issue of the paranormal – believer or skeptic – comes away satisfied reading this.
Beyond the Wall: Exploring George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire edited by James Lowder
Beyond the Wall is a collection of essays looking at A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) from a variety of angles. Two of the essays I was particularly interested in reading came from writers who appeared on a 2012 Geek Girl Con panel on Game of Thrones. While I found the panel problematic in its explanations for the practically non-stop rape in the series, I thought it would be fairer to also read the panelists’ articles, especially because the time in the panel was short and the lack of a moderator may not have allowed the panelists to have a more nuanced discussion. Read more