As predicted, Fallout 4 dominated my media consumption time this past month. The first three books here I read in the week before the game came out, and the last two I read in the final days of the month, while traveling for Thanksgiving and far away from my console.

  1. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie – It took until about halfway through the book for the story to cohere and reveal its stakes, but once it did I was deeply invested. I’m not sure I found the linguistic handling of gender as mind-blowing as other readers did, though I did think it very clever. This is enjoyably chewy space opera, and miles better than I expect first novels to be. My only real complaint was how many places the plot hinges on coincidence, with multiple characters just happening to pop up again despite the passage of decades and centuries. To its credit the book does at least address the issue, by having the main character ruminate on the dominant culture’s religious treatment of coincidence each time, but I found this gesture to mollify more than it excused.
  2. Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
  3. Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie – I read these last two back-to-back, as one long story, and so don’t really have opinions on them as distinct entities. It says something that I was invested enough after the first book (which I’d owned since it came out but just finally got around to reading) that I picked up and read the rest of the trilogy immediately. And I think I’m glad I waited until the series was finished, because approaching it this way was quite enjoyable. Books 2 and 3 are palpably smaller in scale than book 1; the Space Operatics feel comparatively muted. But the character work being done is in many ways superior to the first book, in no small part because the premise is already established.
  4. Superman: Last Son of Krypton by Elliot S! Maggin – I last read this book back when my age was in the single digits. While it’s set in a very 70s era of the Superman mythos, and the dialog tics feel dated, there is a tremendous amount here that captures things I love about Superman. This Superman isn’t naive at all, he’s brilliant and principled, and his relationship with Lex Luthor has the resonant complexity of myth. Also, rereading it, this is clearly where I learned the word “philtrum,” (misspelled throughout as “filtrum”) which is notable because, when my parents decided to adopt a child when I was 10, Filtrum is what I suggested that he be named. (Also, on the book cover Maggin’s middle initial is punctuated with a simple period, but he often used an exclamation point instead, which I love so much, I refuse to render it any other way.)
  5. This Shape We’re In by Jonathan Lethem – This book was lent to me by Karen Meisner after I told her how much I loved stories in which the plot is dictated by the physical shape of the setting, especially if that shape is primarily linear. My example was the movie Snowpiercer; they’re at the back of the train, they want to be at the front of the train, and all of human society stands in the way: go! I love stories like that, and Karen correctly predicted I would enjoy this, in which the characters are all living in a giant organism, and slowly make their way from the rear to the head in pursuit of goals it would be spoilery to talk too much about. But this is a short piece, probably a novella, and great fun.