📚 Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

66/2023 – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Technically a time travel book, but the time travel itself is kind of the least important part, little more than a hand-waved MacGuffin necessary to get the characters in the right places. From there, you have the dual stories of near-future and historical pandemics. And, of course, any pandemic-centric tale can’t help but be read somewhat differently now than it would have been five years ago. In some ways, the near-future part seemed rather prescient, referring to a prior flu pandemic that would have hit in the mid-2010s, only about a decade off from our COVID reality, or the presence of protesters blaming the government; in others, it now seems sadly naïve (now that we know that most people’s reaction to a pandemic too quickly turns to “meh” or outright denial rather than taking it seriously). Both stories are excellently handled, often with a subtle dry humor in the “present day” portion balancing the tragedies of the historical portion.

Me holding Doomsday Book

📚 Here There Be Dragons by John Peel

65/2023 – ⭐️⭐️

Possibly could have been an interesting take on the Preservers, or a fun TNG-crew-in-a-medieval-society romp, but was marred by bad character decisions (we must stay undercover in a medieval human society, so Geordi and Worf obviously can’t come, but sure, bring the Bajoran Ro and the android Data, that totally makes sense) and overly unfortunately stereotypical plotting decisions (Ro, of course, is nearly immediately stripped naked and placed in jeopardy of sexual assault, and Troi is later threatened with the same, because what other peril would women face?). Even the titular dragons barely make an appearance. Any interesting bits are far overshadowed by the rest.

Me holding Here There Be Dragons

📚 Uncanny Issue 55 edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Michael Damian Thomas, and Michi Trota

63/2023 – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

My favorites this issue were Naomi Kritzer’s “The Year Without Sunshine”, Cecil Castelluci’s “We’re Looking for the Best”, and John Scalzi’s “Speed Racer’s Long Road”, which actually has me thinking about rewatching Speed Racer, which I haven’t seen since it first hit video.

Me holding Uncanny Issue 55

📚 A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge

62/2023 – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This definitely holds up, and I really enjoyed re-reading it. From the concept of various zones where FTL travel (and higher technologies) are possible as they get further away from the center of the galaxy, to the exploration of group intelligence with the Tines (packs of dog-like creatures that are singular sentient entities when in packs of 4-6), it’s a really excellent read.

Me holding A Fire Upon the Deep

📚 Escape Route by Cassandra Rose Clarke

61/2023 – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The last of the three Prodigy middle-grade novels. Where the first two were set roughly during the break between the first and second half of the first season, this one is set during the gang’s shuttle trip to Earth. In need of a spare part for the shuttle, they find a mysterious moon that may have the part they need…if they’re all allowed to leave.

As with the rest, it’s another fun, quick adventure. To my (50-year-old) eyes, when reading all three back-to-back, it suffered a bit from having so many similarities to the first book, also by the same author: a search for a missing part leads the crew to a mysterious location where they get captured and have to figure out how to escape with the part they need. But for the age range these books are actually aimed at, the similarities might not be as noticeable.

Me holding Escape Route

📚 House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

58/2023 – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I first read this just a few years after it came out, when it was very much a “thing”. A few years ago I picked up another copy and it’s been waiting for the right time for a re-read; apparently this October was the right time. I really enjoyed diving back into this. It’s definitely not something everyone will enjoy, with its multiple narrators, footnotes-within-footnotes, pseudo-academic tone for one through line, and experimental layout. But it has an incredibly effective sense of eerie, creeping dread, and the unusual structure brings the labyrinthine nature of the house into the experience of reading the story. Fascinating and perfect for the Halloween season.

Me holding House of Leaves