Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Books: January

Salammbo by Gustave Flaubert is the story of an army of mercenaries laying seige to Carthage in the third century BC. I was enjoying it until I lost the library's copy of it on the train. But ... go Project Gutenberg! Here's an online copy of it.

Illium by Dan Simmons took me by surprise. I thought it was a simple re-telling of the Trojan War where the role of gods is taken by time-travelling humans with advanced technology. It's more complicated than that - there's an inter-cutting storyline between three planets that doesn't fully pay off by the end of this first book, but has helped to set up a pretty amazing change in the situation. Favourite subplot: a bromance between two robots.

The Left Hand of Darkness - a simple, ultimately moving book about first contact. Le Guin creates a world that simulataneously feels real and like an parable.

The Four Hour Work Week is filled with some quite inspiring ideas about creating more time for yourself. I'll be re-reading this one more closely.

Olympos is the sequel to Illium (above). If Illium was about exploring the novel's setting, then this is about exploding it into action. There's a game called Sorceror which has a concept called a Kicker: a starting situation that radically upsets everyone's lives and the status quo, forcing unpredictable responses from everyone. Olympos starts with a great Kicker, and continues to place the characters in terrible situations where they must choose, choose and choose again while under time pressures and limited information. It is great stuff, and Achilles is once again a bad-ass.

This stuff has inspired me to give the Illiad and the Odyssey a go.

Mixtape turns out to be a sweet, funny little script. I really liked it and wish it the best in its journey towards becoming a movie.


Anonymous said...

While I'm commenting, let me just quietly advise you to pick your translation of Homer with some care.

The main translation "out there" in cheap paperback is a pretty terrible prose translation from the late 1940s by E V Rieu. I found that impossible.

Fagles is my favourite translation, and I can lend them to you; though they're unweildy in size.

I recommend the Iliad over the Odyssey, but opinion is widely divided on this point.

- Al

Steve Hickey said...

Fascinating! I started with the Rieu and switched to the Fagles (at around about the point that the Trojans storm the wall the Achaens have built around their ships).

I actually found Rieu to be pretty funny, with a pulpy sense of action and fairly easy to follow.

Fagles is awesome. Vivid writing that just flows straight into my brain. Far more serious than Rieu (especially when it comes to the domestic dramas and plotting in Olympos) and I've found it a bit harder to visualise the action clearly. But definitely a better read.