30 August 2013

A Visit to Earthsea, Part VI: The Other Wind

Mass market paperback, 211 pages
Published 2003 (originally 2001)
Acquired December 2008
Read October 2012
The Other Wind
by Ursula K. Le Guin

My memories of the final Earthsea novel are the vaguest of all six (I'm writing this review up ten months late, which contradicts the whole point of writing these reviews).  I remember liking some parts (the visiting Kargad princess). I don't remember much else. Jo Walton's perspective fits with what I remember not liking. If there's anything to not like about these last three Earthsea novels, it's that they're somewhat joyless for Le Guin stories.

28 August 2013

A Visit to Earthsea, Part V: Tales from Earthsea

Trade paperback, 314 pages
Published 2002 (contents: 1997-2001)
Acquired December 2007
Read October 2012
Tales from Earthsea
by Ursula K. Le Guin

It's odd that this book should leave me cold. Short stories by Ursula K. Le Guin! Come on! I should love them all. Instead, I just kinda like "On the High Marsh," and I don't care for the rest at all. Certainly the most skippable of the Earthsea books.

26 August 2013

A Visit to Earthsea, Part IV: Tehanu

Mass market paperback, 281 pages
Published 2001 (originally 1990)
Acquired August 2008
Read September 2012
by Ursula K. Le Guin

It's depressing, to find out what happened to Tenar after The Tombs of Atuan. One wishes she would have had great adventures, but Tehanu shows that wasn't the case at all. This is a feminist rewriting of the original three Earthsea books-- but it's done by the original author, like if Charlotte Brontë wrote both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea herself. Which I like: it means that when the world of Earthsea changes, that the actual world of Earthsea changes, not some kind of ersatz version of it.

This is the moment that stuck out to me the most, where Tenar reflects on what it's like to be a woman of a different race than everyone else around you: "I wonder what a white woman's like, white all over? their eyes said, looking at her, until she got older and they no longer saw her."

23 August 2013

Review: The Diamond Lens and Other Stories by Fitz-James O'Brien

Trade paperback, 132 pages
Published 2011 (originally 1858-59)
Acquired January 2012
Read October 2012
The Obverse Quarterly, Book Three: The Diamond Lens and Other Stories 
by Fitz-James O'Brien

I'm glad this book exists: "The Diamond Lens" is a magnificent short story and deserved to have been reprinted more (the others here I can take or leave), with an obsessed scientist and a strange new life-form. But this Obverse Books edition could have been done much better; there are many errors of typesetting, including that the type fluctuates in size between stories, and chapter headings are done inelegantly at best. The cover is attractive, but with these interiors, you should probably just stick to Project Gutenberg.

22 August 2013

Review: The Doctor in the Victorian Novel: Family Practices by Tabitha Sparks

Hardcover, 177 pages
Published 2009
Borrowed from the library
Read November 2012
The Doctor in the Victorian Novel: Family Practices
by Tabitha Sparks

Solid monograph overall, but I'd like to focus on one bit in the introduction, where Sparks argues that much literature and science criticism claims “that novelist’s conscious was shaped by empirical domains extrinsic to the imaginative realm we ascribe to the novel. In such cases, proof of a novelist’s scientific or medical acumen can suggest, if indirectly, that literature is substantiated through its relationship to ‘hard’ subjects like science” (10-11). Having read a lot of this kind of criticism over the past year, I've seen what she's talking about crop up quite a bit. Sparks avoids this trap herself, talking about how medical professional characters reshape the marriage plot in the nineteenth-century novel, and it's an admonition worth keeping in mind: literature and science criticism should tell us more about literature than the extent of its accuracy in depicting science.

21 August 2013

Review: Appendices: Being the Final Book of The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

Hardcover, 189 pages
Published 2000 (originally 1955)
Acquired February 2011
Read August 2013
Appendices: Being the Final Book of The Lord of the Rings
by J. R. R. Tolkien

Reading this as my last installment on my The Lord of the Rings voyage is even more of an anticlimax than the second half of The End of the Third Age; the whole thing is polished off with a series of facts and figures. I'm glad this book exists in the abstract: it reveals the staggering amount of thought Tolkien put into his fully-realized fantasy world, which was definitely a first and probably never surpassed (who would have guessed how Shire pronouns would contribute to the perception of Pippin in Minas Tirith?). But I don't know if it actually needed to be published. Well, I'm sure it did, but it definitely didn't need to be read by me.

I know there are people who loved this, but it reads like a less realistic if more consistent version of the History of the Kings of Britain. Which king went to which mountain range to fight which raider when is chronicled lovingly. I did like the snippets of the Aragorn/Arwen romance; too bad that couldn't have been in the actual book.

20 August 2013

Review: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection by Charles Darwin

Trade paperback, 672 pages
Published 2003 (originally 1859)
Acquired and read October 2012
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection
by Charles Darwin

Okay, not the world's most exciting read, but an important one, and let's be honest: someone with much worse prose than Charles Darwin could have ended up writing this one; indeed, there are a couple nice turns of phrase here and there. I like how he claims that science makes the world more beautiful in his closing lines: "There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved" (398).

Though Darwin is very cognizant of the limitations of his scientific sight, pointing out how little we actually see: "I look at the natural geological record, as a history of the world imperfectly kept, and written in a changing dialect; of this history we possess the last volume alone, relating only to two or three countries. Of this volume, only here and there a short chapter has been preserved; and of each page, only here and there a few lines" (288). An animal disappearing from our fossil record does not necessarily mean the animal disappeared from the Earth (277-78). In fact, he turns the sparse nature of the paleontological record into a virtue of his theory, because he comes to view the fossil record entirely differently because of his theory. A sneaky, adept move, I think.

My edition was the Broadview one, which is great because it reprints the first edition of the Origin before it got watered down and bloated, but with the second edition's necessary corrections, though not its substantial revisions.  Less great is Joseph Carroll's introduction, which spends a weird amount of space arguing against Thomas Kuhn for some reason. I must admit I'm kinda biased against the guy, though, because he's an advocate of evolutionary literary theory, which I've yet to see produce interesting results.

19 August 2013

Review: The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin

Mass market paperback, 524 pages
Published 1962 (originally 1839)
Acquired September 2012
Read October 2012
The Voyage of the Beagle
by Charles Darwin

The work of science is often shown as a form of vision, innate to the workings of science, and exploring the various ways in which that kind of vision manifests within the work of the scientist. Though vision is often invoked as a metaphor for the operation of science by scientists and non-scientists alike, it can be an odd one. John Berger opens his famous Ways of Seeing with the statement: “Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak” (7). The metaphor of sight suggests something instantaneous and intrinsic, but much of the writing on scientific sight stresses the need for training, for time, and for judgment.

Charles Darwin returns to the concept of scientific sight several times in The Voyage of the Beagle, most interestingly when contemplating how one looks at a lagoon island: “We feel surprise when travelers tell us of the vast dimensions of the Pyramids and other great ruins, but how utterly insignificant are the greatest of these, when compared to these mountains of stone accumulated by the agency of various minute and tender animals! This is a wonder which does not at first strike the eye of the body, but, after reflection, the eye of reason” (464). For Darwin, scientific sight is a direct contrast to visual sight—it requires reflection to see with it, as well as training. It does not come before words, but rather requires considerable knowledge in order to utilize.

There is not much of a resemblance between visual sight and scientific sight in this instance, except in one regard—its all-pervasiveness. Berger’s formulation that “Seeing comes before words” suggests that it is impossible to not see, that it suffuses every part of the human experience. In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn employs the metaphor of sight for similar reasons, using it to explain his concept of the scientific paradigm: an orientation towards the world so innate that one is almost literally unable to see it differently. Scientific sight, as used by Darwin and others, suggests that the worldview of the scientist is so ingrained that once acquired, it cannot be gotten rid of.

16 August 2013

Review: In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu

Trade paperback, 347 pages
Published 2008 (contents: 1851-72)
Acquired October 2012

 Read July 2013
In a Glass Darkly
by Sheridan Le Fanu

Horror fiction isn't very much my thing, and a lot of early horror fiction especially leaves me cold-- I feel like it's pretty obvious why Dracula took root in the popular consciousness to an extent that "Carmilla" did not. So there are some creepy moments in the five stories collected here, but overall I wasn't too moved. Except in the case of, surprisingly, "The Room in the Dragon Volant," which doesn't have any fantastic elements in it, but is about a young Englishman trying to make his fortune gambling in France who falls in love with the abused wife of a cruel count. This was pretty gripping and creepy in turns, and the characters were very fun.

15 August 2013

Review: Cousin Phillis and Other Stories by Elizabeth Gaskell

Trade paperback, 267 pages
Published 2010 (contents: 1850-64)
Acquired January 2012
Read November 2012
Cousin Phillis and Other Stories
by Elizabeth Gaskell

Five short stories/novellas by Elizabeth Gaskell, my first venture into her non-novelistic work. Pretty typical stuff for Gaskell: a lot of industrial towns, lone women, nostalgia, &c. Like a lot of famous Victorian writers, I don't think she's quite at home in the short story format; the one that works the best here is the longest one, the eponymous "Cousin Phillis," about an engineer's problematic romance.

14 August 2013

Review: Objectivity by Lorraine Daston & Peter Galison

Trade paperback, 501 pages
Published 2010 (originally 2007)
Acquired and read October 2012
by Lorraine Daston & Peter Galison

In their landmark monograph, Daston and Galison examine the visual practices of scientific epistemology in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries, arguing that the development of these practices goes hand-in-hand with the development of the scientific self; these practices are needed because the scientific self is being conceptualized in certain ways (5-7), because “it is fear that drives epistemology” (49). If the scientist is afraid of being self-interested, then scientific sight must become disinterested. Daston and Galison are quick to articulate that their project is a disinterested enterprise itself, concerned with “what objectivity is – how it functions in the practices of science,” not objectivity as a praise- or blameworthy concept (51). It's an exhaustively thorough undertaking, and their concepts almost immediately illuminated for me some of the differences in the way that scientists are portrayed in the nineteenth century, with their distinctions between truth-to-nature and mechanical objectivity. Daston and Galison say that they imagined their “study as a beginning rather than an end” and hope it will lead to other histories being written (6)... one of those histories might be mine, someday!

13 August 2013

Review: Comte's Philosophy of the Sciences: Being an Exposition of the Principles of the Cours de Philosophie Positive of Auguste Comte by G. H. Lewes

PDF eBook, 351 pages
Published 1871 (originally 1853)

Read November 2012
Comte's Philosophy of the Sciences: Being an Exposition of the Principles of the Cours de Philosophie Positive of Auguste Comte by G. H. Lewes

George Henry Lewes presented a vision of how society might be reconstructed partially on scientific lines, with this, which summarized and partially translated the positivist philosophy of Auguste Comte. Comte’s work (originally published in 1838, translated by Lewes in 1853) aims to dispel the conceptions that some had about a scientific plan for society: according to Lewes, positivism’s distinguishing feature is “the absolute predominance of the moral point of view—the rigorous subordination of the intellect to the heart” (8-9). The kinds of objections that writers like Charles Dickens had raised are dismissed when Lewes goes on to say, “The half-repugnant feeling about science, in the minds of literary men, artists, and moralists, is a natural and proper insurgence of the emotions against the domineering tendency of intellect… they reject a philosophy which speaks to them only of the Laboratory. But in Comte, Science has no such position” (9). Science, according to Comte and Lewes, is a tool used by the hands of morality to help all of humanity. The vision of scientific detachment as a force that overrides and destroys morality is argued against by the positivists.

In the new sciences of psychology and sociology, science turns its operations from the material to the realm of the human, of thoughts, of consciousness, of society. Comte calls for the same observational rigor in observing humanity as in observing stars or particles. Lewes hopes for “the study of Comparative Psychology, with a view to the clearer appreciation of our psychical condition” (213). This is important, because just as better understanding the physical universe lets us manipulate and control it, better understanding human thought lets us improve it: Lewes argues that the “foremost portion of mankind is now approaching the positive state… and now only await their general co-ordination to constitute a new social system” (328). Though Lewes later states that he finds Comte’s suggested reorganization of society “premature” (339), he still comes across as sympathetic to the general long-term reform goals of positivism.

Good observation of humans and human nature becomes key to the success or failure of positivism. If sociology and psychology do not adequately understand how human beings thinks, either individually or in large groups, then it would be impossible to reform society on a scientific basis. Lewes makes interesting reading alongside the many utopian texts of the nineteenth century, such as Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, 2000–1887 (1888) or George Griffith’s The Angel of the Revolution: A Tale of the Coming Terror (1893), as well as the ones that examine means of reformation to point out their flaws, like Anthony Trollope’s The Fixed Period (1882) or William Morris’s News from Nowhere, or An Epoch of Rest (1890). And then there is George Eliot’s Middlemach: A Study of Provincial Life (1871-72), which I would argue is in fact a novel with a utopian project, because it examines the ways in which the ideals of positivism do and do not work.

12 August 2013

Review: Menial: Skilled Labor in Science Fiction edited by Kelly Jennings and Shay Darrach

Kindle eBook, n.pag.
Published 2013
Read July 2013
Menial: Skilled Labor in Science Fiction
edited by Kelly Jennings  and Shay Darrach

The title of this book would seem better suited to an academic monograph, not a work of fiction. Not to mention that I'm not sure that "menial" and "skilled labor" go together! But this is a collection of sf stories about labor, the sort of thing that immediately appeals to me. I wish I'd been able to pitch to this!

In execution, though, I often found the book somewhat lacking. Most of the stories here are what we might call "literary sf", which is to say they're pieces of science fiction written by graduates of creative writing programs, and focus on effect and characterization a lot. Which I like, and I often write that way myself, but I felt these stories often tipped over too far into "literary" territory, in that nothing happened. For example, in M. Bennardo's "Thirty-Four Dollars," the only co-worker of a young woman working on a wind farm dies. Someone comes to pick up their electricity, and years later that person leaves her thirty-four dollars when he dies. That's it! There's emotion, but no story, and it's frustratingly typical for this collection. 

The other common difficulty were stories that just got started when they ended, stories that felt like they were beginnings of novels because the writers didn't know how to get to the plot any faster. A. J. Fitzwater's "Diamond in the Rough" and Barbara Krasnoff's "The Didibug Pin" are among those that begin right when something finally happens. I liked them a lot up to that point, but when they ended, I had to go "...that's all?"  "Storage" by Matthew Cherry, about an inventory specialist on a spaceship who finds something strange in storage, almost had the same problem, but it was so moody and so intriguing that even though it ended unresolved it still worked. Which just goes to show that there's nothing you shouldn't do in writing; it's just that if you're gonna do it, you gotta do it well.

Maybe the worst story was slightly different from these templates: Clifford Royal Johns's "Big Steel in the Sky" is a faux news article about a construction project that just  worldbuilds. Could be the foundation for a great story... but it's just a collection of details as is.

There were a few I flat-out liked: Angel Primlani's "Snowball the Rabbit Was Dead" was a fine tale of a girl whose father owns a restaurant coming to deal with mortality (sort of). Margaret M. Gilman's "All in a Day's Work" was probably my favorite, managing to have mood, story, and character all at ones: a group of women who repair atmospheric domes on a space colony dealing both with a crisis and themselves; the end of this story had me on tenterhooks! Other ones were fine, but overall this was a disappointing anthology, a bit of a struggle to make it through.

09 August 2013

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part IX: Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Compendium

Hardcover, 96 pages
Published 2005 (contents: 1986-2005)
Borrowed from the library
Read July 2013
Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Compendium
by Murray Ward, Lou Mougin, Mark Waid, and John Wells

This book comes in a slipcase with Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Absolute Edition, and this is what-- other than the larger pages-- really makes the book "absolute". There's a wealth of special features here, beginning with "Anatomy of a Crisis," Robert Greenberger's writeup (albeit uncredited in the book itself) of how Crisis on Infinite Earths was planned, replete with extracts from contemporary memos. Fascinating to see how far back it went, how it got approved-- and see the note where Jenette Kahn approved the death of Supergirl! It explains a lot of things about the book, in particular why the earlier chapters lack incident while the later ones are jam-packed with continuity references: the editors of the other books weren't into the idea... until it all started selling. Crisis was the first comics crossover event (other than Secret Wars, but everyone in here is always dissing Secret Wars), and much of what the creators resisted at the time has become de rigueur nowadays. In the wake of Flashpoint and the "New 52" especially it's amusing to read that they didn't think they could get away with starting every series over with a new #1!

Then there's "Crisis Index" by Murray Ward, Lou Mougin, and Mark Waid, which first lists the infinite Earths-- and there sure are a lot-- and then gives an issue-by-issue breakdown of character appearances. "Crisis Crossovers" tells you where all the contemporary action was that wove in and out of Crisis. I'd like to read these now: put together a collection, DC! Admirably thorough, and they even explain some of the confusing bits.

The book ends with a few features by John Wells talking about the repercussions of Crisis on DC's stories from 1985 to the present. Again, very well done. In broad strokes, one might say I knew all of the information presented in this book, but there's a wealth of detail that I had no idea about. This is the seventh absolute edition I've read (the others being the first four Sandman volumes, The Absolute Death, and The Absolute Authority), but in terms of extras, it surpasses all the others.

07 August 2013

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part VIII: Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Absolute Edition

Comic hardcover, n.pag.
Published 2005 (contents: 1985)
Borrowed from the library
Read July 2013
Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Absolute Edition

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Penciller: George Pérez
Inkers: Dick Giordano, Mike DeCarlo, Jerry Ordway
Colorists: Anthony Tollin, Tom Ziuko, Carl Gafford
Color Reconstruction and Enhancement: Tom McCraw
Letterer: John Costanza

I've read Crisis on Infinite Earths twice before, I think (see a lengthy review here), but this is my first time reading the absolute edition, and also my first time reading in in context-- I've just come off reading seven volumes of Crisis on Multiple Earths (unfortunately, not eight; I had to skip the latest one because it came out too recently to get hold of via interlibrary loan). That context, to my surprise, really did add something beyond the fact that I recognized many more of the characters this time out: when Earth-3 bit the dust in the first chapter, I knew what  their deaths meant, and the demise of Ultraman was surprisingly touching.

Looking over my old review, though, I must say I have little to add, other than that the earlier chapters dragged for me more than they did last time-- man, is it clear that Wolfman did not know how to stretch this story out to twelve issues. And the later chapters are stuffed with continuity gubbins. On the other hand, the larger size shows that delicious Pérez artwork off even better than before-- man, can he do layouts like no other. There is some absolutely killer page design here. And to think he was working from dialogue-less plots!

Now that I've read more, it's a little odd how the timeline changes happen here. Once Earth-1, Earth-2, Earth-4, Earth-S, and Earth-X are all integrated, no one's history seems to have really changed: Captain Marvel is still around, Supergirl still existed, &c. It's only later, apparently, that they were wiped from continuity. Poor guys-- one imagines a desparate Captain Marvel watching his family slowly wiped from existence, one by one, as the way is paved for Roy Thomas's Shazam! The New Beginning. Or that one day, Superman wakes up and discovers no one remembers Supergirl... and then the next day wakes up and he doesn't remember her, either.

I do have a new favorite moment. When Brainiac and the Earth-1 Lex Luthor create their time-filling alliance of evil, the Earth-2 Luthor is offended that he wasn't picked. Brainiac just disintegrates Luthor-2, which made me laugh, but what nails the whole thing is the way Luthor-1 doesn't even really react. He gives a small smile, says, "Good," and is on with the business of plotting multiversal domination. I love you, Lex.

"...THE DARKNESS IS ALIVE!" is still one of the most chilling things I have read, though.

05 August 2013

Faster than a DC Bullet: Project Crisis!, Part VII: Crisis on Multiple Earths, Volume 5

Comic trade paperback, 173 pages
Published 2010 (contents: 1978-80)
Borrowed from the library
Read July 2013
Crisis on Multiple Earths, Volume 5

Writer: Gerry Conway
Pencillers: Dick Dillin, George Pérez
Inker: Frank McLaughlin
Letterers: Ben Oda, Todd Klein

I had been burning out on these collections, but volume 5 turned out to be the most successful one in a while. The first story here ("Crisis from Yesterday!"/"Crisis from Tomorrow!") is maybe not great-- more heroes fighting each other under mind control (seriously this is the dullest thing ever, stop writing it), but any story that gives a principal role to the Elongated Man is a story that gains my appreciation to some extent. The Huntress, too, which makes this some of my first real experience of the Earth-2 Huntress.

I did quite like "The Murderer Among Us: Crisis above Earth-One!"/"I Accuse...", which forgoes the usual throwdowns for a murder mystery aboard the JLA satellite during the joint JLA/JSA meeting. It's a fun idea, and it lets the personalities of the characters come to the fore more than they're usually able to in these stories.

The best story here, though, is "Crisis on New Genesis, or Where Have All the New Gods Gone?"/"Crisis between Two Earths, or Apokolips Now!"/"Crisis on Apokolips, or Darkseid Rising!" (yeah, really). It maybe is your standard throwdown, but with three issues, the story actually breathes a bit, and the characters' personalities actually do come through. Of course, it involves Darkseid and the New Gods, who are awesome, and I enjoy almost anything that plays with those concepts by default. It's perhaps a standard superhero story, but it's one well told; there's some great stuff in particular with the children in the underground resistance on Apokolips.

Conway gets Darkseid, too.  He's resurrected in this story, having apparently been dead, and he observes: "My brief 'death' has given me a new perspective on life, gentlemen. As I floated in the spiritual limbo where Desaad's uni-cannon blast propelled me, I came to treasure the memory of living things... the soft glow of the sun at dawn, the gentle waft of a breeze across one's brow, even the scent of a flower in bloom. Yes, even a god may be affected by his own 'death.'" Darkseid then pauses for a moment, and smells a flower in his hand. "I shall never forgive myself for such weakness! Never!" he shouts, crushing the flower. Perfect.

02 August 2013

Reading Roundup Wrapup: July 2013

Pick of the month: Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Compendium by Murray Ward, Lou Mougin, Mark Waid, and John Wells. Perhaps a little offbeat in a month where I read the actual Crisis on Infinite Earths, not to mention "The Secret Sharer" and Watchmen, but I really enjoyed reading this book-- a very detailed, very fascinating look at the creation of and impact of the Crisis, on both in the real world and in the DC universe. I must also give a shoutout to Seven Deadly Sins (the first piece of Star Trek prose not written by myself I've read since January 2011!), which contained some great stories by Britta Burdett Dennison, Marc D. Giller, and especially Keith R.A. DeCandido.

All books read:
1. In a Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu
2. Star Trek: Seven Deadly Sins by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore, David A. McIntee, James Swallow, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Britta Burdett Dennison, Marc D. Giller, and Greg Cox
3. A Game of Chess by Altariel
4. Crisis on Multiple Earths, Volume 5 by Gerry Conway
5. From Aldo to Zira: Lexicon of the Planet of the Apes: The Comprehensive Encyclopedia by Rich Handley
6. The New Adventures: Another Girl, Another Planet by Martin Day and Len Beech
7. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Secret Sharer, Transformation: Three Tales of Doubles edited by Susan J. Wolfson and Barry V. Qualls
8. Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Absolute Edition by Marv Wolfman
9. Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Compendium by Murray Ward, Lou Mougin, Mark Waid, and John Wells
10. Menial: Skilled Labor in Science Fiction edited by Kelly Jennings and Shay Darrach
11. Agent Q, or The Smell of Danger!: A Pals in Peril Tale by M. T. Anderson
12. History of the DC Universe by Marv Wolfman
13. Watchmen by Alan Moore

All books acquired:
1. The Superman Chronicles, Volume One by Jerry Siegel
2. Little Wizard Stories of Oz by L. Frank Baum
3. The New Adventures: Another Girl, Another Planet by Martin Day and Len Beech
4. Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy, 39: Doctor Who in Time and Space: Essays on Themes, Characters, History and Fandom, 1963-2012 edited by Gillian I. Leitch
5. Bernice Summerfield #9: The Two Jasons by Dave Stone
6. The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences by Michel Foucault
7. The Professor Was a Thief by L. Ron Hubbard

Books remaining on "To be read" list: 513

Review: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Secret Sharer, Transformation: Three Tales of Doubles edited by Susan J. Wolfson and Barry V. Qualls

Trade paperback, 239 pages
Published 2009 (contents: 1831-1910)
Acquired November 2009
Read July 2013
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Secret Sharer, Transformation: Three Tales of Doubles
edited by Susan J. Wolfson and Barry V. Qualls

This small anthology collects three stories from the "long nineteenth century" about doubles, along with some supporting materials (letter, contemporary reviews, other works by the same authors, related works by contemporary authors). The first story is "Transformation" by Mary Shelley, which begins like much of her work, with a dull life story before it finally gets to the meat-- which is over a bit too fast and a bit too simply. Some good ideas, but when I read a lot of early horror, I feel like later writers do it better. Frankenstein this isn't, nor even The Last Man.

"The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," by good old Robert Louis Stevenson,  is one of those stories you suspect might play out better if the whole thing wasn't completely embedded in contemporary popular culture already.  Shock, horror-- they're the same guy! It's not the only book to have such an affliction, though, and I feel like Dracula has weathered that problem much better for some reason.

That leaves us, then, with the best of these stories: Conrad's "The Secret Sharer." I've read little Conrad before (basically just Lord Jim), but I come away with the impression that I must read more. What an odd, immersive story; you totally buy into the protagonist's perspective, and you feel every hit. The book is unsettling because its protagonist is unsettled, and in the end, I was genuinely fearful for the ship and its crew in a way I haven't been for a long time. A sharply written delight.