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35 of 50

  1. Alexander, Lloyd — The Black Cauldron
  2. Anthony, Piers — Letters to Jenny
  3. Cooper, Susan — Over Sea, Under Stone
  4. Proulx, Annie — Close Range: Wyoming Stories
  5. Kincaid, Jamaica — Lucy
  6. Christie, Agatha — The Unexpected Guest
  7. Dick, Philip K. — Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
  8. Cooper, Susan — The Dark Is Rising
  9. Cooper, Susan — Greenwitch
  10. Shaffer, Peter — Amadeus
  11. Anonymous — Go Ask Alice
  12. Cooper, Susan — The Grey King
  13. Martin, Steve — Shopgirl
  14. Cooper, Susan — Silver on the Tree
  15. Gaiman, Neil — Stardust
  16. Gaiman, Neil — Coraline
  17. Le Guin, Ursula — A Wizard of Earthsea
  18. Le Guin, Ursula — The Tombs of Atuan
  19. Le Guin, Ursula — The Farthest Shore
  20. Le Guin, Ursula — Tehanu
  21. Merton, Thomas — The Seven Storey Mountain: An Autobiography of Faith
  22. Alexander, Lloyd — The Castle of Llyr
  23. Zelazny, Roger — Lord of Light
  24. Card, Orson Scott — Ender's Game
  25. Clarke, Arthur C. — Childhood's End
  26. Grahame, Kenneth — The Wind in the Willows
  27. Dahl, Roald — James and the Giant Peach
  28. Lewis, C.S. — Out of the Silent Planet
  29. Lewis, C.S. — Perelandra
  30. Milne, A.A. — Winnie-the-Pooh
  31. Card, Orson Scott — Speaker for the Dead
  32. Bester, Alfred — The Stars My Destination
  33. Greene, Graham — The Power and the Glory
  34. Gaiman, Neil — Neverwhere
  35. Ballard, J.G. — The Drowned World

It shouldn't take me three times as long to plow through a 170-page book as it did a 370-page book. That's a reflection of both how lucid Gaiman's writing is and how impenetrable Ballard's is. Ballard seems to be one of these authors who is incapable of expressing a thought without numerous dashes, commas, colons, semicolons, and parentheses interrupting his sentences, so that by the time you reach the conclusion of the thought you have to look back to see what it was.

Maybe the denseness of his prose was intentional. The story tries very much to be a futuristic Heart of Darkness in a world reverting to a primordial state after fluctuations in solar radiation have caused temperatures to sky rocket and sea levels to rise, making earth between the polar regions mostly uninhabitable. Ballard even gives us a Marlow character (Kerans) who is making both a physical and psychological journey from the civilized to the primitive and a Kurtz character (Strangman) with his mythical persona exploiting the land and people around him. Conrad's prose was purposefully dense to evoke an atmosphere of languor which is an essential aspect of his novella; Ballard's prose simply made his story nigh unreadable.

I found a lot of Ballard's ideas interesting early on. It's worth noting that some of his thoughts on biology (specifically on memory imprinted at the subcellular level) foreshadowed later discoveries in genomics; however, most of his science feels extremely dated, the "Achilles' heel" of hard science fiction.

I have another Ballard book on my shelf, and I'm debating now whether I really want to read it. I bought Crash quite a while ago in anticipation of the movie, not realizing that it was only the 1996, not the 2004, movie that is based on this book. I still haven't seen either movie, but I feel no rush to read the book so I can watch the movie.


BTW, my sister commented to me last week, "I hear you're reading a bunch of kids books in order to read your goal of 50 books this year?" I want to address that, lest anyone actually believe that's the case. I have read a few children's books because I have been interested in reading them for some time. While The Wind in the Willows, the Cooper Dark is Rising books, and the Lloyd Alexander are children's books, they are of considerable enough length that they are only slightly faster reads than your average adult novel. Yes, James and the Giant Peach and Winnie-the-Pooh are extremely fast reads written for an even younger audience, but I've been wanting to rediscover Dahl and Milne for quite some time. Anyway, currently I am four books ahead of pace; unless I decide to read Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver this year instead of next, I should finish well over 50 books, which makes the idea that I'm reading something only for the sake of reaching my goal patently absurd.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
ayelle
Jul. 28th, 2006 03:18 am (UTC)
*seethes at your sister*

As if length defined a children's book. Or ease, or simplicity. If I ever meet her I might be tempted to lob copies of Inkheart or Eragaon or the His Dark Materials trilogy at her head. I also seem to recall that Silver on the Tree is nearly 400 pages.

*continues to fume over society's casual, ignorant trivialization of my life's passion*

It's the sort of thing where I can't even really argue with somebody because the fundamental assumptions are so completely different. I even get antsy when I read you defending your reading of children's books, because in my head that's like having to defend the merits going to college and getting a degree. How can I even have that conversation? Gahh.
spwebdesign
Jul. 28th, 2006 08:57 am (UTC)
If I ever meet her…

You'll get your chance. We'll both be in Boston next week.

Come to think of it, you two should meet, since she lives in San Diego (with my parents).
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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