Sunday, May 04, 2008

Book Reports

Thanks to readers' suggestions, I have a book list for the next several months. I just finished reading Eifelheim, by Michael Flynn, and it's a good one. The plot basically is "Aliens land in 14th century Germany," although that doesn't begin to convey the depth of the book. I don't know anything about the author, but he appears to be well-informed about both contemporary physics and medieval philosophy and theology. I imagine this is a rare combination. Depth of religious feeling is unusual in sci-fi and Eifelheim compares well in this respect with the gold standard of Walter Miller's Canticle for Leibowitz.

I'm not sure what's next on the list; depends on when I can get to the library next. In the meantime, I'm reading whatever I can find in the house. I re-read Alan Garner's Elidor, which was fine, but too short. Right now I'm in the middle of Horace Walpole's Castle of Otranto. Most of what I know about HW is based on Macaulay, who basically considered Walpole a boob. The Castle, unfortunately, will not change that opinion. Stylistically and narratively, it is a mess, and finds readers today only by virtue of being the first gothic novel.

It's interesting that "taproot texts" like this are often so unreadable to moderns. I also find Mary Shelley's Frankenstein pretty lame, and only of historical interest. On the other hand, Bram Stoker's Dracula is still a good read today and fully the equal (or superior) of Stephen King and his ilk.

1 comment:

bulbul said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of 'Dracula'. I read it a long time ago in translation and reread it just the other week while I was researching Stoker's connection to Arminius Vambery. Naturally, Stoker's (or perhaps Vambery's) remarks concerning the Slovak people only doubled the fun :)
I hope very much your list includes Sapkowski's Last Wish. Sapkowski is the biggest name in fantasy in these parts, bigger even than Tolkien himself, deservedly so in my opinion. I've been recommending his work left and right ever since I learned of the English translation and I'm dying to hear what people who are not from our neck of the woods think of him.