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This week I’m recommending Lost Canyon by Nina Revoyr. This was the latest in my kick of reading fiction set in the Southwest. Indeed, I only picked it up because I thought it was set in Nevada (it’s actually set in the Sierra Nevada mountains). I could definitely keep on with this theme until I run out of selections. Sense of place is really important in Southwestern fiction, and I am loving that aspect of these reads. Read my full review at my blog Books Worth Reading.
Not full reviews or even necessarily recommendations, just some notes on what I’ve been reading.
I will never read all the dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction out there, but I keep trying. This month I read a very early apocalypse story by Jack London: The Scarlet Plague (free to read online). This short story feels like an ur-story for George Stewart’s Earth Abides (also set in San Francisco). It doesn’t really have a plot; rather, it’s just a description of civilization’s quick fall from disease and a meditation on how easily humanity could return to savagery. Frequent readers of apocalyptic fiction will recognize a lot of ideas that were later fleshed out by other writers, but London should get credit for being one of the first. This might also be considered an early steampunk story, as well. London’s vision of the future–the plague hits in 2013–includes dirigibles and steam power, as well as some radically altered version of U.S. government. However, it’s also terribly classist and sexist. But it’s short enough to read in one sitting and would be of interest to anyone studying this genre of fiction.
I also read Margaret Atwood’s latest dystopia: The Heart Goes Last. (I linked to the NYT review, which I pretty much agree with.) Not every book by a favorite author can be great (with the exception of Jane Austen). Inevitably, a disappointment comes along, and here comes one from an author who is a personal hero of mine. Atwood’s messaging regarding security and freedom is pretty heavy-handed, the sexual content is more than a little disturbing, and the end just left me cold. It feels like a throw-off and certainly in no way resembles Atwood’s more masterful dystopias, Oryx and Crake and The Handmaid’s Tale.
I do have a book recommendation to post soon, and I am just starting another post-apocalyptic novel: Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins.
Adam Grant explains why putting things off may lead to more creative work (as long as you don’t leave it till the last minute).
Ursula K. Le Guin once again proves why she is one of my favorite authors of all time by taking down Oregon’s largest newspaper for their uncritical story of the occupation of public lands by armed militia. Read her epic letter to the editor here.