This year has been a bit of a bust in terms of books for me – normally, I’m not exactly a heavy reader, but this year was pretty sad. I started it halfway through R.A. Salvatore’s The Lone Drow and I’m closing in on the end of it much less than halfway through the subsequent The Two Swords. In the mean time, I did read a lot of comics and graphic novels, the highlights of which were probably The Walking Dead, Fables (and Jack of Fables), and a few surprises from Marvel (The Sentry springs to mind, as well as Brian K. Vaughn's run on Runaways - after he left, it's all downhill). I also finally got around to picking up Natsuo Kirino’s Out, which was pretty good. I wasn’t entirely pleased with how it ended, but the rest of the book was great. I continued reading Yakuza, something I’ve been doing on-again/off-again for years, mainly due to leaving the book in places I can’t get at it – and once again, it’s in England and I’m in Japan.
The big news, then, would be that I got a Kindle just before I left the country. I should point out I’m a huge fan of books – the actual physical object, books. E-books just aren’t comparable. On top of that, many of the books (or e-books) I’d actually like to read simply aren’t available on the Kindle, or if they are, they’re expensive enough to make me hesitate about springing for a digital copy. Having said all that, though, I’m really impressed with it, especially the screen. I think it takes actually seeing the E-ink in action to appreciate what actually makes it special, that it really looks like printed text and not at all like a digital screen. But, much like Steam has me impulsively buying PC games, access to the Kindle store – through the oddly magical, free 3G connection it has – has me impulsively purchasing books.
The first – and not so much impulsively bought, as planned – was Kim Stanley Robinson’s Galileo’s Dream. I’m a tremendous lover of KSR’s books, and I hadn’t realised Galileo’s was out till I searched for his other stuff on the Kindle. It’s pretty awesome, though for a long time whilst reading it I was actually worried he’d jumped the shark – the initial tone suggests something wildly different to some of his other stuff, which sits much closer to hard sci-fi. I guess it’s like a weird combination of the alternate history and mysticism of Years of Rice and Salt and Blue Mars’ prophetic far-future.
Post-Galileo’s Dream, I picked up Jake Adelstein’s Tokyo Vice. I’d seen it mentioned a few times in a similar vein to the highly-academic Yakuza, but wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to read. Then I read a piece of his, interviewing some yakuza as they played Yakuza 3 (well, Ryuu ga Gotoku 3, I guess). It was pretty funny, and had me interested in reading more of his stuff. Tokyo Vice turned out to be just as funny – in parts. Other parts make for some pretty hard reading. I don’t want to suggest that any of it is fictional, but it’s all pretty sensational, and if true means that he had one insane career as a journalist working for the Yomiuri in Japan, covering the police beat.
So with that weighty piece behind me, I decided to try out something much lighter and, perhaps, trashier. I’ve been watching Castle, Nathan Fillion’s series where he’s a writer shadowing an NYPD detective to find fodder for his crime novels. It’s not exactly high-brow, but Fillion is always great to watch, and as the series goes on it actually gets pretty good (pretty much from the second episode, actually – the first episode is written very broadly). At some point, they released a tie-in novel supposedly written by his character, Rick Castle, that matches up with the book he releases in the series. They’ve actually released two, now, but I’m only reading the first at the moment. You know what? It’s actually kinda good. It’s pulpy, sure, and it may not appeal to anyone who doesn’t watch the series – but for someone who does, it’s got some fairly humorous in-jokes, from the way the characters are incredibly thinly-veiled clones of the series characters, to the tone that is suggestive of those kind of alternate reality episodes of various series: everything is kind of amped up, and characters and relationships are sort of super-focused or exaggerated versions of the ‘actual’ ones from the series. It’s strange, but enjoyable.
I think after this I’m going to read Alastair Reynolds’ Revelation Space. One of the managers at work saw my Kindle, and noticed I had Galileo’s Dream on it when I was showing him how it worked, and suggested it. I downloaded a sample (a very welcome feature of the Kindle, I might add), and liked it, though the formatting is very off for an e-book – a worthwhile point to bring up, actually: there definitely needs to be some more vetting of e-books, I think. I’ve encountered a lot of errors and weird formatting already, and I haven’t even read that much on it. It’s never made anything unreadable, but Revelation Space has perhaps the most annoying screw-up: every paragraph is separated by a space… much like this blog. But in a book, it makes for peculiarly-paced reading, feeling as if every paragraph is the end of a section, and struggling to pick out when a new scene does start. I guess I’ll see how it goes.