Reporting from Mount TBR (May Edition)

My plan to read less in 2021 is coming along nicely. Normally, by the end of May, I’d have put down a hundred or so books. Last time I “noticed” the number of books I’ve read this year, it was 50-something. This noticing was incidental, by the way. A part of my desire to reduce the number of books I read was my desire not to keep track of the numbers, but I still occasionally play with the data in Notion, sorting by author and subject, and the number of titles pops up at the bottom of the chart. I look. It’s hard not to look. I really do love data.

My plan to climb Mount TBR is also coming along nicely. I read three titles from my teetering backlog—although two of them were audiobooks, so there was no teetering involved. Still, it was nice to sort two digital files from Not Started to Finished.

I also read a handful of new books, two of which were absolutely awesome and therefore will be included in this “report.”

Dawn (Lilith’s Brood #1) by Octavia Butler (Mount TBR)

The paperback omnibus volume, Lilith’s Brood, has been on my TBR shelf for far too long. I think what held me back from reading it sooner was the size (three books in one make it over 750 pages) and the idea I might have to concentrate a little more than I sometimes like to when reading.

But the only way to eat a whale is to take a bite, or so they say (or something like it), so I decided to read just the first book and see how it went. It went well!

Dawn is oddly compelling. At times I wasn’t sure if I liked it, but when I wasn’t reading, I couldn’t wait to get back to it. I enjoyed how utterly alien and unknowable the aliens were and the insidious way they grafted themselves to humanity. Creepy, but in a good way.

The only other book I’ve read by Butler is The Parable of the Sower. I barely remember it, except that I liked it. I never continued that series, though, which usually means I had a hard time with something. I definitely plan to continue with this series, and I may even go back to finish the other one.

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (Mount TBR)

I rarely go back to re-read a book. There are too many new books to experience for the first time. But as I get older, I do find there are books I want to revisit. They tend to be science fiction classics.

I read Stranger in a Strange Land for the first time when I was twenty-five and it was one of those books that changed me. With this book and others, Heinlein helped me focus a lot of my thoughts about society, religion, and the seeming futility of it all, which is why he is still regarded as such an important and influential writer.

This time through, I read the expanded, uncut version, which is 40,000 words longer than the original published version. I think I prefer the original version, simply because a lot of the extra words felt unnecessary. There were a number of scenes and conversations that could have been (and were) condensed to address redundancy and boredom. Overall, however, I really, really enjoyed this re-read and doing so might have restored Stranger in a Strange Land to the top of my All Time Favourites list. I’ll have to re-read Dune first, just to be sure. And maybe Hyperion. (I could just accept that all three books are justifiably great and let them share honors, but to be honest, I’m looking forward to experiencing them again, even though this will be my third time reading Dune!)

Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

What I liked the most about this book was the honest exploration of a young man’s feelings toward family, friendship, and intimacy. In the author interview at the end, Khorram talks about how Darius is fascinated with different kinds of love and I really got that from the book. I also felt the push-pull of being with family, those we hold close and those we don’t know well, and that weird feeling of familiar disconnect when we’re among extended family that we either haven’t met before or haven’t seen for a very long time.

I also thought the author’s portrayal of depression was both sensitive and timely. In all aspects, this is an outstanding book and one I’d recommend to all readers.

The Mountain Man Omnibus (Mountain Man #1-3) by Keith Blackmore

What is it about zombies? Zombie apocalypses have become my favourite apocalypses and I’m not entirely sure why. There are a lot of same-same zombie stories out there, but as long as they’re populated with interesting characters who pursue interesting goals, I’m still happy—just as I was twenty-five years ago when I couldn’t get enough of nuclear aftermath and asteroid destruction apocalypses. It wasn’t so much the method of Armageddon, but what happened afterward.

But I always appreciate a new take on the genre and that’s exactly what Blackmore delivers with the Mountain Man series. I’m only three books in, but I’ll be burning another few Audible credits in order to continue and it’s all because Gus is a completely different kind of hero.

He’s old, bald, possessed of questionable personal hygiene, descriptively unattractive, antisocial, and a drunk. I adore him.

What makes Gus such a compelling character are his inner voice and his arc. You’d think such a guy has nowhere to go and you’d be wrong. No one just ends up old and antisocial. An apocalypse happened. Gus has a right to be a little snarky. Also, antisocial tendencies are definitely in order when the world is trying to eat you. It’s his relationship with Captain Morgan that really does it for me, though. Oh, and the horrifying and different breed of zombies introduced in Safari (book 2). I don’t want to say more, because I don’t want to spoil it. Suffice to say, Safari is one of the best post-apocalyptic novels I’ve read in years.

Other notable reads:

Best Laid Plans (Garnett Run #2) by Roan Parrish. Ah, Charlie.

500 Miles From You (Scottish Bookshop #3) by Jenny Colgan. I really want to move to Scotland.

Fatal Depth (Rise of Oceania #3) by Timothy S. Johnston. Mission Impossible, submarine style. (Read my full review at SFcrowsnest.)

Featured Image Credit: grandfailure, Depositphotos

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