Reading Last Week

Last week I read 4 different but interesting books while Jennifer slew dragons. (We’re a very progressive family that way.) The books were:
– The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis
– Pink by Lili Wilkinson (found via ktliterary.com)
– Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
– and The Dragon Waiting: A Masque of History by John M. Ford

I read Pink first, because it was the most immediately appealing–and because I’d read its teaser most recently. It’s an interesting book, about identity and the chance to change–with the main character as a female Australian junior in high school. There weren’t any fantasy/sci-fi elements, which is a bit unusual for me in my YA reading; Uglies and Leviathan are more my norm. It was fantastic to me–because being a popular female was as different from my high school experience as possible. Still, I had less trouble with it then Jennifer has–probably because Ava (the main character) is close enough that she identifies with her, but the differences are enough to break identification. While, I was able to keep reading undisturbed–exactly as I do when it’s a Klingon or elf I’m identifying with.

I read Starship Troopers second, because it was the most appealing remaining in the stack. I’ve been meaning to read it forever, and remembered the oft repeated “the movie is nothing like the book”. I liked them both, and thought the parallels were strong for two things related only by the title. I didn’t get an overwhelming pro-fascist agenda from the book; another thing that I’d expected from hearing about it for so long. All in all, it was a clean, quick moving, book that did a great job of building identification with Juan.

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine came third. It was a solid, workmanlike narrative that illustrated the height of the housing bubble/CDO/etc. problems, and introduced a few interesting characters to investigate and explore the system’s collapse. The focus on specific characters and the situation’s development over time made for an interesting twist that made the book more personal and less dry. Not many of the details were new, since I’ve heard many excerpts from this book and others tackling the same crisis. For the many people who still have no idea what a CDO is, or who understand that the system was rigged but not any of the details, this is a painless way to acquire more knowledge.

The Dragon Waiting waited for last; its early 80s cover and my lack of recollection as to why I’d requested it put it last on the list. It was an amazing Fantasy–because it’s from the era before fantasy began borrowing from itself. So it’s more an alternate history with solid grounding in historical Europe than Drizzt’s adventures. It was well written, with characters that I appreciated.

One thought on “Reading Last Week”

  1. Welcome back. How long have these books been on your to-do list?

    The reference to fascism in Starship Troopers is largely the result of the interpretation that Federal service is military service and the rigid nature of citizenship– you must complete two years of Federal service to be able to vote or hold office. Though Heinlein claims that 95% of Federal service is non-military outside of the story, I (and others) never got that impression.

    When you read the definition of fascism, the essential elements are “authoritarian” and “nationalistic.” Proponents of the claim to fascism often cite Federal service as being mandatory to vote, serve in office or teach the class “History and Moral Philosophy.” The movie suggested that only veterans could reproduce. (Citizens, the movie suggests, may produce children, but non-citizens may not. However, there’s an inherent flaw in the movie because Rico’s parents do not appear to be citizens and even try to convince Rico from applying for Federal service.) In fact the the government shown in Starship Troopers is a limited democracy, with only those completing Federal service being granted electoral franchise privileges.

    However, when only those who agree with the National philosophy are allowed to teach moral philosophy and history, vote or hold office, you have an effective system for ensuring the national morality is regularly renewed.

    I enjoyed the book, but I have to admit that it was a bit preachy about Heinlein’s military and political philosophy.

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