It’s WWW Wednesday. This meme is from shouldbereading.
• What did you recently finish reading?
I just finished two books (one on my Nook, one paper): Retribution, the seventh in Val McDermid’s Tony Hill-Carol Jordan mysteries; and The Just City by Jo Walton.
The Just City is, as you might expect from Walton, who never wades in exactly the same river twice, totally different from anything she’s done before, except in the quality of the writing. Walton’s a deceptively simple writer, and her powers of observation, and her ability to convey what she observes without frills, is wonderful. And the premises of the book are just astonishing. What if the goddess Athene decided to try an experiment, creating Plato’s “Just City” with The Republic as its template (who thinks of this sort of idea? Holy cow). Athene goes to great lengths to populate the city with teachers from across time who will help the children brought there grow into citizens and “philosopher kings,” according to Platonic outline. And of course all this goes pear-shaped in ways that demonstrate that, whatever Plato was thinking, his grasp of human nature was a little wobbly. The book asks questions about free will, and art, and eros vs. agape. It’s kind of stunning. Meanwhile, Apollo has incarnated as a child in the city, seeking to learn not just the things that the Just City can teach him, but very personal lessons about choice–his own and others. Also: Sokrates shows up. And there are robots. And…
It’s just an astonishing book.
Meanwhile, Retribution. I really enjoyed the first few books in this series, which follows Tony Hill, a deeply damaged profiler with no social skills, and Carol Jordan, a detective inspector (yes, British series) with a fondness for Tony, and for the bottle. Hill and Jordan have a tortured, weird relationship (they seem to be in love, but not in a way that will ever lead to anything other than one of them stomping off being tortured), and they’re both brilliant at what they do. In Retribution one of their former nemeses (?) escapes from prison and starts to wreak a terrible punishment on everyone who he sees as the instrument of his incarceration (which means Hill and Jordan are top of the list). Unfortunately, I felt like this was a book in which McDermid has fallen a little in love with her bad guy, and has run out of things to do to keep Hill and Jordan apart. I read this book because I keep hoping McDermid will get back the spark of the first couple of books. Sadly, no.
• What are you reading now?
I just started The Lady of the Islands, a fantasy collaboration between BVC’s Shannon Page and the late Jay Lake. I mean, just started it, as in last night. It’s set in the world of Lake’s Green books, and hurrah, the heroine is a woman of a certain age, smart and accomplished. So far I’m enjoying it a lot.
• What do you think you’ll read next?
Jo Baker’s Longbourn just came in at the library and has moved to the top of the list; I’ve heard very good things about it. Meanwhile, I’m feeling that prickly “I need to read some non-fiction” feeling I get sometimes. I’m thinking of reading Bad Blood, a work about the Tuskeegee syphilis experiment (it’s research, really. But also, I’m kind of a sucker for medical history). Or maybe Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty, and the Mad-Doctors of Victorian England. Cause really, with a title like that, how could I resist?