Reporting from Mount TBR (September Edition)

I’ve never been much of a re-reader. I’ll watch a movie fifty times (no joke) but tend to read a book only once. Over the past two years, however, I’ve started re-reading some of my favourites, but have refreshed the experience by opting for a different format. Audio instead of print, or vice versa. I’ve re-read my favourite Le Guin’s just because the stories are so great. I re-read Dune to prepare for the new movie. I’m re-reading the Vorkosigan Saga because Mr. Jensen has been listening to them on audio, and I’m jealous of the fun he’s having.

In between all of this re-reading, I’m still managing to hit the TBR. Not as aggressively as planned, but I *think* I bought fewer books than I read over the past two months. Maybe.

Mount TBR Reads

Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra

End of the world stories are my go-to. I pick them up in any format and will suspend disbelief for a lot longer during an apocalyptic scenario than I will for any other premise. So, of course, I was going to read this series, even if the first volume had to sit on my shelf for about seven years first.

The series is almost a cross between Frank Herbert’s The White Plague and The Disappearance by Philip Wylie but definitely a story all its own. The ending surprised me, which I liked. My favourite aspect of the comic, though, was the character development. Their journey spans years, and each of the main players change throughout, sometimes doing things I didn’t like, but that only made them more real. Given the overwhelmingly speculative nature of the series, that’s a pretty neat accomplishment.

Golden State by Ben H. Winters

Ben Winters’ mind works in wonderfully absurd ways. I loved his Last Policeman series but put off reading this novel for a while because I was afraid it would be too different. It is, but it isn’t.

Golden State is clever in a way that had me almost constantly reaching for meaning, but not obtuse. The writing is brilliant. I wanted to highlight many, many passages.

Blackwater by Michael McDowell

A southern gothic horror family saga, where people die suddenly and horribly or purely to prove a point and/or inconvenience others. Blackwater has to be one of the most intriguing books I’ve ever listened to. The narrator is superb. I savored this audio, listening for about four weeks during which I lived the lives of the Caskey family in the small town of Perdido, Alabama.

Blackwater is a strong contender for book of the year. Highly recommended.

Re-reads

The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold

Not the beginning, but probably the book that best defines the complete series.

First time around, I read a lot of the saga out of order. Because each book stands alone, you can absolutely do that and have a great time. I did read certain sequences in order, but often I’d grab whatever I could find next.

I’ve done the same for a few other series (or gone for published rather than chronological order), and it’s an interesting way to read because although you might spoil yourself for events further back in the timeline, the author’s voice changes as you go and there’s this awareness of moving through the world at their pace, with their view of it.

For my re-read, however, I decided to start at the beginning and work forward, and this has its own rewards, especially the second (and in a couple of cases, third) time through. I’ll hear a line or read a scene and think, Aha, so that’s where that came from.

As always, Miles is a joy, Aral is a comfort, and Cordelia is my hero.

Dune by Frank Herbert

The 1965 Chilton edition with original cover. Yes, I own this.

This was my second read-through, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first. I think a large part of it was that I have grown as a writer and a reader over the past ten years, and found a lot of Herbert’s prose and story structure problematic. His views, too. The pacing felt grossly uneven at times, and while he labors over the politics, he scrapes some plot points so scarcely, I nearly missed them. Perhaps would have if I hadn’t read the book before and the story wasn’t such a part of our culture.

There were parts of the book I very much enjoyed, though, and the world-building will always be phenomenal. I’m looking forward to the upcoming movie and interested to see what updates it will bring.

Regardless of my feelings this time through, I’m still very attached to Dune. For me, it’s one of the pillars of science fiction and deserves a place in our literary canon.

Featured Image Credit: grandfailure, Depositphotos

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