What I’ve been reading lately, part 42

Career of Evil — Robert Galbraith

A re-read of the first Galbraith that I read. Rowling (for it is she) remains as compellingly readable as always. Definitely worth reading. My original comments stand.

The Clocks — Agatha Christie

A rather disappointing specimen in which the eponymous clocks, initially seeming to be a bizarre clue to an intriguing murder, turn out to be pretty much a red herring. It’s a shame, really, as the setup is interesting: a typist is hired to do some private work, and on arriving at the house where the work is to be done finds a dead body in the drawing room: the body of someone unknown to either the typist or the resident of the house. From this premise, a fascinating story could be woven; but The Clocks is not it.

A Caribbean Mystery — Agatha Christie

Given how little I have to say in praise of most of the Agatha Christie novels I’m reading (including this one, which is contrived and slight), you might legitimately ask why I’m still reading them. The answer is, they’re fun. And they’re easy reads. That’s worth something, isn’t it?

Meltdown — Ben Elton

The story of a well-off city trader — not an arrogant cut-throat, a perfectly nice bloke with a nice wife and kids, who happens to work in that industry and who has got too used to all the money. When the flow of cash is cut off, things have to change, and the adjustments are not easy. All this is told in Elton’s customarily engaging way, and I enjoyed the uncomfortable sense of being drawn into empathy with someone who I would not instinctively like. Not one of his best or most striking novels, but still well worth reading. I bet I’ll re-read it some day.

Dead Man’s Folly — Agatha Christie

I don’t remember a huge amount about this one. I know the setup is just begging for a murder: Christie’s Mary-Sue Ariadne Oliver sets up a murder-themed party and is shocked — shocked I say! — when someone is murdered for real. The resolution of the various mysteries is more than usually convoluted, but I suppose does more or less make sense once explained. Not one of her best.

At Bertram’s Hotel — Agatha Christie

I know I read this, but I don’t remember anything much about it.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet — Becky Chambers

I can’t explain why this one didn’t really work for me. It has all sorts of things that I usually enjoy: a small starship crewed by a handful of interesting characters of different human and alien races, some solid hard-SF background, some unexpected plot and character developments. Yet somehow it felt like a slog to get through. I feel bad about this. Maybe it just landed at the wrong moment. There is nothing obviously wrong with the ideas or the craftsmanship.

Dinosaurs — Walter Jon Williams

A standalone short story that I remember nothing about. Wow, these are some pretty insightful reviews, huh? Let me level with you: it’s partly because I read these books quite a long time ago, but I got so behind in blogging about them that I don’t remember much about the less memorable ones. I write about most of the books I read as I read them, so I have a stack of What I’ve Been Reading posts more or less ready to go, but I want to stay in chronological order, hence this weak-sauce backfilling.

Artemis — Andy Weir

Now this is an interesting one: Weir’s second novel, and his followup to the stellar The Martian, which has become one of my favourite books and one of my favourite films. Artemis is a first-person story set on the eponymous moon colony in the nearish future, and like its predecessor it’s hard SF with a very technical bent — dealing with how the technological side of life on the moon could actually work. It also has a local-politics-and-organised-crime backdrop which serves as the motor of the incidents in the plot.

If this had been the first Andy Weir book I’d read, I think I would have loved it. As it is, though, I couldn’t help finding it an inferior retread of The Martian. It appeals less than the original because a plot has to be contrived rather than arising naturally from the circumstances; and also because it lacks the marvellous atmosphere of isolation that Mark Watney experienced. I’m glad to have read this, and will likely come back to it at some point. But at any given moment, I am more likely to re-reread The Martian than to reread Artemis.

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