Monthly Archives: June 2017

What I Read in May

May has been an interesting month in terms of my reading. I read some really good books. And I read some stinkers. To be honest, I think I am in a mood for more science fiction and fantasy rather than realistic or literary fiction. I am also reading more books for research. And finding good and useful research texts is hit or miss.

Anyway, here is what I read in May:

I already reviewed Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (which I loved) and The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge (which I hated).

The best book I read in May was Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames. It gets everything I want in a fantasy novel right. Just an awesome book.

I followed Kings of the Wyld up with Avengers of the Moon by Allen Steele and Borne by Jeff Vandermeer. Both books are disappointing. I enjoyed Steele’s reboot of Captain Future better than Vandermeer’s phoned in biopunk new weird novel.

I reread Sappho translated by Mary Barnard. I enjoyed the poems, but the don’t have the same impact they once had.

Keeping with Greek mythology, I read Colm Toibin’s House of Names. There is so much wrong with this novel. Especially the lack of consistency in narrative perspective. A worthy competitor with The Night Ocean for worse book I read this month.

I reread two novel by Kawabata Yasunari this month. Thousand Cranes and Master of Go lack the impact that they once had. This is similar to my experience with the poetry of Sappho. Maybe I am turning away from the literature I once loved.

To round out my fiction reading, I attempted The Root by Na’amen Gobert Tilahun. I like what I read. But taking a few days off to read other things ruined my desire to return to the book. I will return to it in a few months. Hopefully I will love it on the second attempt.

Before I touch upon the research texts, I want to skim over the graphic novels I read. I was not fond of Titans volume one “The Return of Wally West” (I do like the art though), Apocalypse Wars (a terrible idea in three comics), and Wonder Woman volume two “Year One” (the only part of Rucka’s jettisoning of the New 52 Wonder Woman I like is Nicola Scott’s artwork).

Now, what research books have I tackled?

The World of King Arthur by Christopher Snyder is a disappointing look at Arthurian myth. The First Decadent by James Laver is a disappointing (and likely dated) biography of J.K. Huysmans. The Road from Decadence, a collection of Huysmans’s letters is useful for Huysmans scholars, but not for what I want to write. I did enjoy the very useful Aleister Crowley: Magick, Rock and Roll, and the Wickedest Man in the World by Gary Lachman. Less enjoyable and useful is Janine Chapman’s The Quest for Dion Fortune. A. Norman Jeffares’s W.B. Yeats is an interesting if very dry biography of Yeats. The Etruscans by Raymond Bloch is not exactly what I want from a book on the Etruscans. Maybe a newer study/ history is in order? Another disappointing look at an ancient people is Jean Markale’s The Celts: Uncovering the Mythic and Historic Origins of Western Culture. 

I also read Tom Nichols’s The Death of Expertise. I enjoyed the book. Nichols raises many interesting and cogent concerns about current American culture. But I can’t help but point out that Nichols’s writing is hampered by repetition and the settling of political scores (who else is writing outside of their area of expertise besides Noam Chomsky, hmm?)

Finally, I want to return to novels before I close out what I read in May.

I am in a bit of a gay erotica craze at the moment. To satisfy my craze, I read Brad by Ken Smith. Where do I begin? I have so many issues with this novel that I want to do a detailed review. But would anyone want to read a review about a gay erotic novel?

That is what I read in May. On to June.

 

 

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Ranking Star Trek

In honor of Star Trek Discovery  debuting sometime later this year on CBS/ CBS All Access/ Netflix, I want to rank the Star Trek films and television series to date (save the animated series which I have never seen).

Let me begin with the films, from low to high.

13. The Motion Picture is very dull. I’ve watched it once or twice and feel nothing for it. I wouldn’t mind never seeing the film again.

12. The Final Frontier. Has some interesting bits. But Spock’s brother and his search for God is lackluster.

11. Star Trek. The Abrams helmed reboot is a disappointment. Pretty effects? Yes. But that does not excuse the fact that this film has horrendous world building that leads to a horrid plot.

10. The Search For Spock. It has its moments. But a poor follow up to a much better movie.

9. Into Darkness. The reboots need an original plot. And to not whitewash Khan. I do like that the supporting characters are branching off into their own subplots (which the original series’s films never did).

8. Insurrection. The worse of the Next Generation films. My problem with this film is that it takes place during the Dominion War. And the Enterprise is not engaged in the war? Really?

7. Nemesis. A clone of Picard really? Cool battle sequence. And I love the fact that the Romulans realize their mistake and aid the Enterprise in preventing genocide.

6. The Voyage Home. I really don’t like this film. But I do like the fact that characters other than Kirk, Bones, and Spock have subplots, if only minor.

5. Generations. An okay movie. My favorite bit is Lursa and B’Etor. And Whoopie Goldberg.

4. First Contact. I love the exploration of Picard’s character, the Ahab comparison and touches of PTSD are excellent. I even like Data’s continued exploration of his nature. But I wish other characters had gotten more chances to shine. (Data is my least favorite Next Generation character.)

3. Beyond. Damn I like this movie. The effects are well done. The villains make more sense than they usually do. And the cast has finally made the characters their own. And the crew stand on their own separate from Kirk, Bones, and Spock.

2. The Wrath of Khan. What? Number two? Yes. I love Wrath. It is one of the best example of space opera on film. But. . .

1. The Undiscovered Country. I really love this movie. It is my favorite Trek film. I love the usage of politics in the film. The acting is really good. The themes are incisive and well executed. Just an amazing example of space opera on film.

Now. What about the television series? Again from low to high.

5. Enterprise. The third and fourth seasons are good. Unfortunately, the first and second seasons are disappointing in the extreme.

4. Star Trek. Blasphemy! I know. I just am not too terribly fond of the Original Series. There are great episodes. But there are also some terrible episodes. The problem with the Original Series is that it hasn’t aged well (which is a problem with a lot of science fiction over time).

3. Voyager. There are good episodes. And there are bad episodes. I enjoyed it when I was younger. But revisiting the series recently, I must admit that it does not hold up well.

2. The Next Generation. My first experience with Star Trek. I like the series. But I’m not sure how well it holds up. Introduced me to Wesley Crusher.

1.Deep Space Nine. By far my favorite series. It has, honestly, improved with each viewing. I love the extended plot arcs that typified the later series. There are some issues. The Mirror Universe episodes are terrible. The Ferengi episodes are disappointing. But over all, I love Deep Space Nine.

I am a fan of Star Trek. I don’t consider myself a Trekkie, though. But I do hope Star Trek returns to form and produces more excellence. More Trek is always needed.