Last week (01 Aug- 08 Aug 16) was a bumper reading week, in which I powered through some old favourites in order to recap for a new release, tackled some stuff that I’d been really struggling to get through and started a few other bits and pieces.
The Sandman Slim Series by Richard Kadrey (8 books)
These are a nice easy read; Kadrey’s writing goes down smoothly and the tension is kept taught enough to pull you through the novels with barely a pause for breath. James Stark, the series titular Sandman Slim, is a ‘sympathetic bastard’; a likeable antihero. You don’t root for him because he’s the good guy, (it’s tough to marry good and Stark at the start of the first novel) but once you understand his motivation and are introduced to his scathing wit, it’s hard not to fall in love with the guy, as he goes from assassin to uncomfortably burdened hero. The setting is a wonderful mash-up of urban fantasy, action and noir, like Paradise Lost by way of the Big Sleep.
I re-read these for the second and in some cases third time because the Perdition Score, book 8 in the series, has recently come out. It does not disappoint.
Go forth and put these books in your brain pan; recommended without reservation.
Paradise Lost by John Milton
I struggled with Paradise Lost, I won’t lie. I’ve been trying to get through it on the train back and forth to work and it’s not easy. Aside from the fact that I’m simply not used to reading verse, it’s not the kind of thing that you can absorb amidst the cacophany of the Pengam to Cardiff commuter.
This one is a sort of compulsory read; I have to study it. I wouldn’t necessarily be reading it otherwise. I’m sure I would have gotten to it eventually but it wasn’t high on my list of books to read.
I’m still undecided on it. I’m not a big fan of verse per se, but I really like the idea. It’s sort of Bible fan fiction. Once he’d decided to write an epic poem, possibly about ‘Albion’, Milton eventually came around to the idea that it should be a Christian epic, and Paradise Lost was born (that’s an oversimplificiation, obviously).
The fall from Heaven and Satan’s rallying of his troops, and their construction of Pandemonium, along with Satan meeting Sin and Death, his escape from Hell and the war in Heaven are easily the best parts of the book. My gut, initial reaction is that Satan is another sympathetic bastard, certainly more likeable than Adam, who by modern standards is a tedious goodie-goodie, who only takes time out of his pious schedule to berate Eve or fawn over angelic guests. The mysogyny in this book, whether Milton’s personal brand, or the general culture at the time (or both!) is pungent, noxious, and near overwhelming.
It was actually Paradise Lost that prompted me to go back to the Sandman Slim series.
It’s worth a read, but like a lot of the classics and especially of this time period it’s important to ‘read them in context’. The time period and the culture that they were written in are just as important to understand them as the words written on the page. Adam is riotously boring and wholly sexist by our standards, but by the measure of the day it was written in, he may be a model Christian.
Books I Started Last Week
- How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton
- Magic: A Very Short Introduction
Hopefully will have more next week but with a lighter load considering the essay writing I have to do. If you’ve read any of the books above and want to share a thought, or have a book recommendation, I’d love to hear it, so please pop a comment below.